My daughter can now say the words chin and eyebrow. She can say strawberry too. If I was more on top of things I would have a Wonderful Word Journal to chart the new words she says each week. It would be decorated most likely with polka dot scrap paper that Uganda doesn’t sell. I’d put stickers on it maybe. Instead, I choose snuggling and naps and hand washing our underwear. I do a few other things too, and I suppose one day I’ll pay for my shortcomings. Micaiah will discover her baby book is merely a paper bound booklet with scribbles and photos randomly thrown in. I suppose, for now, it will go in the ever so ambiguous category of “Cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Regardless of my need for improvement in recording her brilliance, she is rapidly learning each and every day. It’s the most fun. She has spent only 19 months in this crazy world, and already she has seen where the elephant, hippopotamus and warthog live. She’s watched giraffes walking across the plain. She’s felt the fur of cows, goats, sheep and rabbits. She knows them all by name. When she’s at school she plays with Angel and Ronnie and Fred. She knows the boys and girls, almost all 32 of them, by name. She is growing up faster than I knew she could. In the afternoon she paints with water on the back porch. Furiously she works with her tongue out. (Oh, she can say that too!) At night when we pray she is the first one to softly speak out people’s names to remember and at the end she chimes in with the sweetest and most sincere
She is busy. She is beautiful. She is the best kind of exhausting.
Lately people have been asking us about her future.
“Where will she go to school? Have you started looking? What will you do?”
The truth is that we haven’t spent much time debating this topic. In fact, it is a decision Abdul and I made before she was even born. It is already decided, and it is something we work toward every day. In the early days of dreaming and planning to open the doors of a school in Africa, we started by saying,
“It must be good enough to send our own children to school there.”
And so our work began. We named it. We crafted a mission statement. We had a logo designed. We rolled up our sleeves with our dear friend and now teacher Sylvia and cranked out curriculum ideas. We spent 3 years working and learning in local schools. And then in January this year we opened our doors. Terra Nova Academy Preschool was our decent but humble start. We currently work with 32 African children from the neighborhood where we live just 10 minutes outside Kampala, Uganda. Next year we will add a Kindergarten class.We hope to grow as our students grow. Our dream is to offer classes through the high school level.
Some of our students’ families have struggled to afford school fees. Some of their families struggled to find school programs that value language development and creativity. Some of our students have only one living parent or none. Many of our students live in one room houses. All of our students are beautiful and bright and beaming with potential. And they all need and deserve to learn and grow in a safe place just like my daughter. No, we didn’t start Terra Nova for Micaiah, but in some ways I suppose we did. We feel as passionate about giving the opportunity of quality education to children in our neighborhood as we do about creating it for our own children. We get up every morning and work at giving our students the best we can! We’ll be doing it when Micaiah starts school too, and hopefully long after she has grown.
I think about the words of our school motto, and I am reminded of what is most important.
Come to learn. Learn to Love. Love to live.
That is our hearts’ desire for our students at Terra Nova. It is what we want for the vulnerable, ignored, abused, and under-served children in Uganda and the rest of the world over. And it is our deepest desire for our own children too. So, yes, our daughter has a school to go to, and between you and me…she is so Terra Nova ready.
Find out more about our work and our school by visiting http://www.terranovaacademy.com.