Projects in Uganda
WCKA began its service partnerships with Soft Power Education and Soft Power Health in 2004 on the school’s first trip to Uganda and the White Nile.Soft Power Education is a locally based non-profit dedicated to building and refurbishing schools and education facilities in the communities surrounding the White Nile. Soft Power Health has established a medical clinic along the Nile and also works on malaria prevention and education in rural communities throughout Uganda.
In 2004, WCKA raised money to fund the building of the Endowoza Pottery Center and the training in ceramics of 9 local apprentices. During their time in Uganda, WCKA faculty and students worked alongside the apprentices to build the Pottery, hauling water from the river, laying brick for the kiln, mixing clay, and tamping down dirt floors. One afternoon, students and apprentices sculpted each other’s heads and shoulders as a way to encourage interaction between the two groups. At the end of the semester, World Class and many members of the local community attended a party to dedicate the center and celebrate the first round of pots fired in the kiln. During their time on the Nile,the group also helped lay brick for the Soft Power Health medical clinic that was then in the early stages of construction.
Upon returning to Uganda in 2007, WCKA took on another project with Soft Power Education – this time to construct hand-washing facilities at a local primary school and educate the students on the importance of hygiene for overall health. As in 2004, with the help of the wider WCKA community, students and faculty raised funds to help build the facilities. While at the Nile, the group spent a day at the school, clearing ground, laying brick and visiting classrooms to speak with the students. During their stay in Uganda, the WCKA group also accompanied a Soft Power Health education team on a village visit to learn firsthand about malaria prevention and education. For more information on these projects, please visit http://www.softpowereducation.com/pottery.asp and http://www.softpowerhealth.org
Justinos Armiento Kindergarten, Jalcomulco, Mexico
World Class has been visiting Mexico since 2003 and enjoying the warmth and hospitality of the town of Jalcomulco. Jalcomulco is nestled on the banks of the Pescados River in the mountains outside Xalapa, Veracruz. Traditionally a sugar cane, banana, and coffee bean growing area, the citizens of Jalcomulco have started to tranform their economy to encourage ecotourism. With almost 20 successful and locally-owned guide companies, the local economy has been doing well.
Justinos Armiento have great teachers and nice classrooms, but the outdoor play area was rocky and strewn with litter and broken glass. World Class staff and students worked for a half day, clearing approximately 2 cubic yards of rocks and litter, and then tilling about 2500 square feet of hard-packed soil in preparation for planting grass.
Later on in the week, World Class students were invited to spend time with the students of Justinos Armiento. We practiced counting (in Spanish and English), taught songs, and played games with the students, and then joined them in their daily flag salute. Several instant friendships were made between World Class and local students, leading to being recognized and welcomed on the streets of Jalcomulco.
Village Litter Initiative
In the winter of 2007, WCKA pioneered the first kayak academy trip to the amazing rivers of Yunnan Province, China. During their three-week stay on the Salween River, the group participated in a village litter initiative in the community of Dimaluo. Trash is a big problem in rural China in particular and many villages have no system for collecting or disposing of trash. Working with a local resident who had recently begun to try to educate his village and the surrounding villages in the valley about the negative effects of littering, WCKA participated alongside local children and adults in a day-long trash clean up and stayed the night in the village.
Along with interacting with the villagers during the clean up, students and faculty also had the opportunity to play games with the children, visit several family’s homes and play in the evening’s pick up basketball game. Before leaving, WCKA donated funds towards permanent trash receptacles and trash collection, as well as youth environmental education materials for the village school and library. WCKA will follow up with this project when they return to China in the spring of 2009.
A Cleaner Future for Dimaluo
Words by Elsa Schroeter
This journey brought us to Dimaluo, a small village in the Nu Jiang (Salween) Valley, about two hours upstream of our base for paddling in Gongshang. Here, we completed our semester service project. The service project included a trash cleanup throughout the village and along the beach of its water source, a tributary to the Salween. After many years of carelessly throwing out all kinds of garbage, from broken glass bottles and candy wrappers to worn out shoes and broken dishes, the village of Dimaluo is beginning to feel the environmental impacts and is looking for a change. Progressive environmental activism is rare in rural China. Aluo, a local mountain guide and entrepreneur, is the driving force behind this new perspective on sustainable living in isolated villages.
Life in Dimaluo had a sense of timelessness. Cows and pigs and chickens and goats roamed the dirt roads and pathways with the freedom of an established resident. Quality work was done efficiently, and staying at the guesthouse was relaxing and pure.
In many villages like this one, it would seem pointless to spend hours bent over, picking up garbage and throwing it into the bamboo baskets we carried on our backs. Most of Yunnan’s river communities are filled with trash, and people continue to litter, but this was a different case. With the support of the Paddle-A-Thon fundraiser, new efforts are being made toward waste management education, and trash cans will now be placed throughout the village. It was a rewarding experience to help with the first stages of these changes and to see the enthusiasm in the local residents, like Aluo and his family, who plan to sustain the project’s momentum.