Gary Kaplan recently took a trip to Bwindi, Uganda. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) is in southwestern Uganda. The park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and is situated along the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift.
This was the second time that Gary’s outreach missions had taken him to this part of the world. Gary had been in Bwindi many years prior in 2010. But unlike the first time he was there and simply understanding the village as a whole and bringing them clean drinking water, this time Gary Kaplan alongside his family wanted to take some real time in the communities and learn from the people to really understand their wants and needs. The children of Biwindi were the most important on his list and he knew going back to that same part of the world a second time he wanted to delve in deep and really get to know the kids of Bwindi, find out what they really needed most, and learn what made them tick.
During this second round and most recent mission vacation to the small African community, he did exactly as he had hoped. Gary took some time to know the children of the village and asked them what they felt like they lacked and needed to be their most successful at school. The kids offered up their ideas to Gary, while their schoolmaster requested something else altogether.
The schoolmaster was focused on a schoolhouse for the children all over Bwindi. In this community specifically, the church owned all the land in the community and in an act of kindness, gave part of their land to the school to build their schoolhouse on it. Sadly, the community desolation was so entrenched that when Gary Kaplan first laid eyes on the school, it was little more than the land the church gave them in the first place. The current schoolhouse sported wood slatted floors that had huge holes the kids could step right into and no real ceiling. The schoolmaster was so excited to think that maybe Gary could provide the assistance needed to build a real structure in which to educate the children of Bwindi.
The children of the village, on the other hand, were simply interested in the necessities. They were interested in the things that most of us take for granted each and every day. Shoes, socks, banana, apple, rice, paper, pencil, chicken, beef were some notable desires of the kids.. Gary answered the children’s call and ended up serving 600 kids a meal of a lifetime: chicken! The kids were ecstatic over the dinner that was outside of the usual Massa which they ate everyday.
Southwestern Uganda has two seasons throughout the year. No summer, fall, winter, and spring for them. The people that lived in the communities around Bwindi experienced the rainy season and the dry season. There was not much in between. Gary’s second mission trip to the area landed him there right in the middle of Bwindi’s dry season. Part of the outreach effort of he and his family was to circulate throughout the community and offer good, clean water to the kids to wash their hands and feet thoroughly. This effort during the dry season was met with excitement from the kids who were happy to clean up before their school day.
Speaking of schools, Gary Kaplan did not forget about the schoolhouse.He did indeed help to give the children in Bwindi a proper structure, a good school building in which to learn. This ended up becoming a much bigger project for The Kaplan Foundation and certainly the biggest part of Gary’s second mission in Bwindi.
Many children had to walk miles to get to school everyday, so Gary and the Kaplan Foundation not only built a schoolhouse with floors and a roof (something their old location did not provide), but they provided money and the means necessary to build two dormitories. The new dorms offered refuge during the school week to one hundred boys and one hundred girls that would no longer need to walk those miles home and back to school every night and morning. Gary Kaplan along with his family and foundation also took care of the extra meals that would be needed to serve the kids since they would not be going home in the evenings.
The Kaplan Foundation first provided water for a community and in their second time around added to that mission by creating a same and clean place from which the children of the community could truly sink into their education. I wonder what Bwindi will receive the next time The Kaplan Foundation comes back to Uganda on a mission. A waterpark?