Connecting Amidst Difficulties: PA to Uganda – Members Share COVID-19 Commonalities

Meet two teachers, one, an art teacher from a Charter School in Pennsylvania and the other a part-time teacher in the Masaka District in Uganda. At this time, there are only 227 cases and no deaths reported in Uganda, however, the lock-down is creating great hardship on people in poverty who work day-to-day for income and necessities such as adequate food. Enforcement is extremely strict.

Meet Alexander Kenneth, Uganda

This 21-year old young man volunteers his time to spread the messages of Interdependence through parts of the Masaka District in Uganda. He believes in fostering equity in education, healthcare and governance. He sets aside part of his salary for these projects. He has teamed with Melissa on a cultural exchange of hexagons.

April 24, 2020

“Okay, Beth – yes Uganda is on shutdown, all schools are closed, business etc. And the intergenerational project is on hold…

Oh! Still you need to be more positive and safe on your side, Beth, over there. Because here in Uganda things are not yet worse like other countries but we are following all the restrictions given by the government and we are staying home, no movement – everything is locked

Uganda is somehow fine as per now, and our lockdown expires soon on 21 of May. But I don’t know when the government will open the schools.

But immediately when the schools are opened up I will start from where I stopped with the HP.

Also, Melissa sent the hexagons from the kids and hopefully they already reached, but I haven’t yet picked them because of transport means [all are locked]- but I will be patient on that!”

May 19, 2020

[In relation to our inviting teachers to upload their hexagons on in a Project labeled “Hexagon Project 2020.”] “…today, I have uploaded the 20 hexagons of Happy Years school, Masaka. My plan was to upload three schools today and confirm the art works on Artsonia tomorrow. I have spent a lot of time with the parents, telling them on how to react on the permissions which are pending right now. I sent 2000 [ugx currency] to parents who have email addresses to buy data bundles to help them access the website and parent permission.”

Alexander Kenneth conducting a Hexagon Project workshop with his Happy Years School students

Meet Melissa Cruise: 

March 20, 2020

Melissa teaches art to grades K – 8 at The Howard Gardner School in Scranton, PA.  She has participated for several years as both teacher and Hexagon Project volunteer, assisting at community-based workshops.  She also developed an environmental curriculum guide for the Eastern PA Coalition on Acid Mine Reclamation which can be found on our website. Melissa has co-presented and presented at state, regional and national conferences as a member of PAEA and NAEA and USSEA.

Melissa was collaborating with Alexander before the shut-down.  Now she is teaching art remotely to her students, grades K – 8, at Howard Gardner. She wrote the following about their collaboration.

“With Alexander, I went over the geography and showed the kids where Masaka is in Uganda on the map. I showed them their flag. For many it was their first pen pal experience so we talked a lot about what is ok and not okay to write about. We talked about diversity and keeping it culturally appropriate and how the kids over there do not have access to the same video games as our kids. They all were paired with a same sex partner and around the same age. The kids mostly discussed their favorite foods and families. I asked each student to write a letter on one side and make them a picture on the other side. Alexander sent me music that the kids made and we also listened to that in class. We exchanged photos of our kids with their hexagons.  Which both groups really enjoyed seeing who they might be exchanging with. I played my kids a Youtube video with kids from Uganda dancing while they wrote their second set of letters. Mine were impressed with their handwriting. 

It was only 40 minutes that they got to write and draw so the letters and artwork were short and simple but they were also nervous and excited. As I only see mine once a week we were really trying to pack as much in as possible. But they were really happy to get their hexagons back from the kids and laughed at some of the questions (like are you married, do you have kids) but were surprised that so many said their favorite food was chicken and chips.  

It was a really great experience and I know many in my class really enjoyed it so far.” 

Melissa’s 5th grade students with their exchange hexagons ready to send to Happy Years School in Uganda.
This image from Uganda is cropped using Canva for our special COVID-19 Instagram project @nterdependencehexagonproject. See our “How to” Blog and encourage your at-home students to upload their hexagons!