Rising Star had a great year thanks to the help of many supporters.
The most notable of successes in 2013 was the purchase of land in Uganda. The land is about a half-acre in size and was purchased through the giving at Westside Church’s (Omaha, NE) VBX (Vacation Bible Experience) in June.
The land helps Rising Star to grow it’s ministry in Uganda. Currently we borrow one classroom; about 20’x30’; from a school in the town of Gayaza, making it a tight fit with nearly 200 children participating weekly. The new land will allow us to build a center better suited for ministry to children of all ages. Teenagers who are in upper secondary classes, will no longer have to share space with children in lower primary grades.
The plans for building the new center also include space for music education, a big interest to the people of Uganda. It will also allow us to start other programs for adults, such as English classes for the parents of our children.
On the upper level of the new structure will be housing for Rising Star Ministries founders Matt and Brecka Arnett and their family as they plan to move back to Uganda and serve as fulltime missionaries.
There will also be space to host other missionaries in the future as well.
Besides the addition of a new building. The land will be used to host other sports programs such as netball, basketball and volleyball. These additional sports will help us minister to even more children and draw the attention of more females, who we wish to have a big impact on as well.
In December Jonathan Dodd and Caleb Smagcz; pastors from Westside Church; came to visit Rising Star. Jonathan, who is an avid farmer, helped us develop a plan to make sure the land was used to its full potential. Caleb began planning to bring a short term team in June of 2014.
Helping When Needed
In October we learned that one of the children from Rising Star had become very sick. Sentongo Andrew was living with his aunt and the family was very poor. After taking the boy to several clinics, they finally ended up at the national hospital in Uganda, Mulago. It turned out the boy had intestine issues and wasn’t able to keep food down and was vomiting up everything he did eat. The family was not able to afford surgery leaving them in dire need of help. Not only did they not have money to pay for the surgery, the cost of staying in Kampala is much higher than it is in the rural areas.
Rising Star sent out a message to our supporters and they responded. Andrew had the surgery to correct the problem and the family’s needs were met. Andrew went to stay with his grandmother who lives about an hour away from Rising Star, but we still have kept in contact with him making sure he is cared for.
At the end of December Andrew was invited to soccer camp with his friends and was very excited to be a part of the team again. He will not be able to play soccer for almost a year, but being a part of the team lifted his spirits. When he returns to his aunt’s house, he will begin tutoring and reading programs at Rising Star again.
Education is one of the three pillars Rising Star focuses on and in 2013 we saw great improvements. In August we added to our
small library and began a reading program. The program rewards children for reading books by giving them school supplies. Each book they read is weighted by a star system, the more stars they get; the more school supplies they earn.
Besides basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, we also focus on technical skills at our education center. Training in the past year included how to cut the lawn for the older kids as well as jewelry and card making, cooking classes and more.
In December a new member of the Rising Star team joined the staff. Chanti is a former head teacher at a school and was looking for a new opportunity to impact children’s lives. She took over as our education assistant. She will help make lesson plans for the kids and teach Bible studies as well. She is a great fit to the Rising Star team because of her background and desire to see children succeed.
The Rising Star football teams were again very successful in 2013, winning championships in a number of tournaments. As great as it is to win championships, more impressively is that nearly 30 students from Rising Star earned scholarships to schools.
Although Uganda has a free education system, the public schools are typically overfilled with sometimes over 100 students in one classroom. Though tuition is free, there are still many other costs involved like supplies, books, food and uniforms.
In 2013 we also began starting a program for girls through the game of netball. In Uganda it is not typical to see girls playing soccer, though we do have a few in our program. Netball however is more widely viewed as a game for girls and we look forward to the opportunity to grow this program in the years to come and be able to empower young ladies through it.
For students to earn scholarships to schools means they have the chance to go to schools with a much lower student to teach ratio and better education standards. It also helps take away the costs from the families which allows them to have more money to pay for needs at home.
The Year Ahead
We feel like 2014 is going to be a huge year for Rising Star. We are excited that Matt and Brecka Arnett will be taking their family to live fulltime in Uganda. The Arnett’s are ready to leave now, with the exception of funding. Once they are able to get the funding level where it needs to be, they will set off to Uganda.
Ground breaking at the new site will also soon take place as we begin the work towards a new Rising Star center.
We will continue to grow the new girl’s ministry as well and find more schooling options for our students.
The East African Cup is a cultural event that bring soccer teams from all over East Africa and beyond to compete in a week long tournament, but also have session for players to focus on community building and HIV awareness. Rising Star is hoping to bring a team to Moshi, Tanzania in June to participate for the first time in this event.
We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a mission team in the summer to help with the building of our new center as well as to teach our staff new methods for working with the children.