In this week's Staff Spotlight, we are featuring Asia Kamukama! From her first encounter with Sister Schools in Primary 5 through fourteen years as a volunteer, Country Coordinator, and now our Admin and Finance Manager, Asia has never stopped growing and learning.
Asia has made the most of the downtime the pandemic has created by reading, taking online courses, attending webinars, and figuring out how to support our Ugandan partners during this difficult time. When she's not working, she enjoys teaching, traveling, reading, and gardening.
Read on to hear more from Asia!
How did you get involved with Sister Schools in the first place?
My story with Sister Schools dates way back when I was in primary five. I used to help offload a container at our neighbor’s (Barnabas) compound who was then in charge of Sister Schools Uganda. After helping he would reward us with a few school supplies. I was always delighted to help and be rewarded with something that my sister who was taking me through school used to struggle with – school supplies. As I got older, I remember asking Barnabas where he got all these books and he told me about Sister Schools. I asked him if I could come help when I was older. Indeed, he remembered, and in 2007 when I was at university, he called and asked me if I could volunteer at Sister Schools. I excitedly said yes. I volunteered for a short time as a school librarian and they took me on as a coordinator. I was very thrilled to work at a library helping children learn how to read and write. My job then evolved from being a librarian to a country coordinator and now Administration and Finance Manager.
What do you to as the Administration and Finance Manager in Uganda?
My major role is to make sure that the organization’s funds are put to proper use and are accounted for. I also communicate with our partners to assess their needs, plan for projects and collect their feedback. Because I love going to the field, I sometimes also deliver materials to our partners.
What is your favorite part about your job?
She said “Sister Schools is one of those partners that have a way of surprising me. They have been here for us all these years and sometimes when you are struggling to make ends meet, they show up and help. They have never left us.” This incident made me reflect on so many happy faces I have seen whenever I approach one of our partners with news that t Sister Schools is going to help them with something like building a literacy center, supporting them with scholastic materials, school fees, etc.
What are you most looking forward to when the pandemic is over?
I can’t wait to get back to our school distributions. The past year has been weird! I have never imagined what Sister Schools looks like without the school distributions. It is usually my highlight of the year! First of all, it is a busy season back here in Uganda and I like to keep busy, then we get to spend time with the Seattle team which is always fun. Then finally visiting schools, enjoying their welcoming presentations, and seeing how excited and wild the kids get when they receive school supplies. I know that for most of the kids, that is the only time they get a gift throughout the year and those smiles always leave me imagining what joy they are feeling deep inside.
What kind of impact has Sister Schools had on our partner schools in Uganda?
I have been privileged to see many of the schools I recruited into the Sister Schools program grow from small schools with few children only about 100 to over 400 students because once they receive support from sister schools, the word spread like bush fire and more students join the school. For me, this is one of the biggest impact Sister Schools has on Ugandan school communities. A small need like a pencil and a book can keep a child away from school. Some parents have way too many children and lots of responsibilities that some of them cannot meet basic school needs like those. And as a result, so many children lose out on school just like that. Now, when a school becomes part of the Sister Schools program, they are assured of scholastic materials for every child. The entire school spreads this message and before you know it, parents gain confidence to send their children to school. Once a child is in school, the school administration then starts brainstorming on how they can; support these children with other necessities, sensitize parents about collective action of educating their children, lobby more support from the government and attract other partners to help them.
If you could tell Seattle partner schools & students one thing, what would you say?
And by supporting children with school supplies, they are changing the world. I have seen students gain hope to continue their education despite the many challenges they face simply because the support they receive from our partners in Seattle is not just a means to continuing school but a message that someone believes in them.