By Kate Culbertson:
On Sunday, August 6th, HCU had its annual field day and I am so happy that I got the chance to take part. This year the team had Hope Center t-shirts made for both the kids and the staff. The t-shirts turned out great and have promoted the values of HCU throughout the Gulu community, turning heads and giving the organization a little bit of extra publicity. Before arriving to the classroom, we picked up some snacks and refreshments for the kids, which for many of them was the only food they received that day. As soon as we walked in and carried the supplies with us, the kids were overjoyed.
Field day is a way of rewarding the kids and giving them a balance between work and play in the HCU program. In the field outside of the classroom, we organized different games such as soccer and tag for the kids. I was so excited to see that all of the kids were playing fair and with a great deal of enthusiasm. Field day is important in teaching the kids how to work well in teams and support each other’s achievements in an environment outside of the classroom.
We continued to pass out each of their Hope t-shirts, which many of them continue to wear on a daily basis. We loved this opportunity to provide positive reinforcement for the children who continue to attend classes at HCU, when they could easily skip. One of our main goals as an organization is to keep these kids wanting to come back with a drive to learn, and maintain a regular attendance rate.
A few older boys who had stopped attending HCU classes several months ago showed up at the field day, trying to take advantage of the fun day of games, free t-shirts and snacks. They realized that learning at the Hope Center isn’t just about sitting in the classroom but is a fun, fulfilling program with numerous activities to encourage growth. We told them that these gifts and activities were only for the children who had been attending lessons, and that if they started attending again they’d be eligible for next year’s field day. The next day we held classes and every day since, these boys have had perfect attendance. This is the kind of encouragement we aim for in the long run; encouragement that gets more and more kids returning to their classes and off the streets. It is key that they stay motivated and determined to get the best education possible for whatever opportunities that lie ahead of them.