Hello from Buseesa

Posted on: June 4, 2019 4:00 pm
Tags: Uganda, Volunteer,

Sr. Petronilla with Kayla Drager, who is volunteer teaching at St. Julie Mission from January 2019 through December 2019.

Hello from Buseesa, Uganda!

Thankfully, the rainy season is going strong, so recently we’ve been enjoying cold weather and morning or evening storms. Maybe I should say I’ve been enjoying--most of the locals don’t love the cold, but I’m just thankful for a break from the heat!

I’ve been keeping my mom updated throughout this experience, so that she can share with our parish who has provided a lot of support to the school. These are a few of my experiences and thoughts so far! For starters, this has been the biggest, most humbling, hardest, most exhausting, and most amazing learning experience of my life. 

I am teaching five classes:

  • S1 (similar to 8th grade) math, chemistry, and computer
  • S2 (9th grade) chemistry and computer

Each class has 54 students in it, which is a whole lot when you’re grading papers and trying to stop side conversations. Needless to say, the first two weeks were a huge learning curve for me. I had to figure out how to manage the noise level, address the kids who want to nap during class, not melt into a puddle because its 95 degrees and the sun is coming in bright through the windows with no breeze, and oh yeah, actually teach something useful about chemistry. I learned right away how to pace a lesson, when to allow questions, and when to tell students to hold on to their questions and just listen closely the first time through. I also learned how often to collect homework (because grading 3-4 classes per day, every day, is NOT happening, let me tell you), how to write a test, how long to make a test (definitely longer than the first one I wrote--they finished it in 30 minutes but were supposed to take 1.5 hours).

It’s been an experience, to say the least. Even if the only thing I’m learning is how to be a teacher, I feel I’ve already learned enough that I believe deserves a 4-year degree J but I’ve experienced and learned so much more.

I’ve definitely learned that teaching is my calling. It’s always been my nature, from being the oldest sibling and teaching my younger sisters how to follow my example (both good and bad of course) to being a leader in high school sports and in college clubs. My family has always been very involved in our community and church, so being a leader and a teacher is something that came naturally to me, and since coming here I’ve really gained solid experience in being a teacher specifically in the classroom.

Patience is a Virtue

These kids make me thankful every day for the opportunity to be here, to teach them, and to learn from them. They have taught me how to communicate more effectively and how to explain things in more than one way for different types of learners. And every day they teach me that I need more patience. That’s been one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in myself since coming here. I’ve always been a do-er. I don’t like to sit around, I like to get things done, see progress, and I do not love having to repeat myself (unfortunately, that seems to be 50% of teaching. Haha!) Adjusting communication style and patience is also a huge aspect of living in a foreign environment. It has been really good for me to learn and grow in my patience, in my understanding of different types of learners, in all of those things. My family won’t even recognize me by the time I come home because my patience has increased so much.

Along with learning from the students, the other teachers have shown and taught me about how the school system works here, how to work with 54 students in a class, and other helpful tips. I am so thankful to them for their insight and friendship. And of course, the sisters have been so supportive, helpful, caring, and welcoming to me. They are always around to help work through any problem, and are some of the most hard-working and tireless people I know. Their hearts are so open and so big. I love learning from them and strive to be more selfless, too.


Another major thing that I’ve learned about and reflected on a lot when talking with my mom is water. I love camping and being dirty more than most people (much to the dismay of my mom), so I figured I’d be happy with not having tons of water and not having to shower often. For the teachers, we have an actual shower with a tap in our bathrooms, a sink with running water, and a toilet that flushes (if there’s water).  When there’s no water in the pipes, we fill up jerry cans from the tanks that collect rainwater, pour it into a shallow basin in the shower room, and bathe standing up in the basin. Even when there is water in the taps, it’s not my ideal way of showering, let me tell you. The water is cold, cold, cold, which actually feels quite nice some days when it’s so hot out, and the water pressure is low. Whether or not there’s flowing water, we are essentially bathing and washing hair with a stream of water that feels like it’s poured from a cup. After the initial shock of the cold water hitting your back though, you get used to it and it feels nice most days. No longer do I have the 10 minutes of enjoying hot water freely flowing like I used to.  I now shower using 8 liters or less of cold water and am just happy I didn’t have to collect it from the well. This has shown me how important the rainy season is for the crops and for collecting water in our tanks to slowly ration out over the dry months. I quickly became very conscientious of the amount of water I use for every task and try to minimize it as much as possible. The other day I was watching a movie and a woman was washing dishes with the tap running the whole time. It actually stressed me out. I wanted to reach over and turn off the tap!

Since arriving in January, I’ve learned so many things about life in Buseesa and how to be an effective teacher and leader. I’m so thankful to the students and others who have taught me these things. I’m also grateful to my family for their continued support. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without them!

Suggested links

Donate to St. Julie Mission

Drumbeats: Water Issue

Micaela Dyson
Date: on October 10, 2019

Kayla, I loved reading your post, and totally relate. It is a rewarding experience for all the hardship. You are almost done, enjoy the last couple months! :) God bless you for your "Yes" to God!

Date: on July 9, 2019

Kayla: May God continue to be with you and bless you until we see you again! We love you so much and are so very proud of you! Love you the mostest!!! Nana and Papa

Katie Drager (mum)
Date: on June 20, 2019

Kayla, I couldn't be prouder of you! I can't wait to visit!

Dennis Kushlak
Date: on June 20, 2019

I am very proud of this young lady from my area of Ohio. Her Dad, Mom, and Grandparents are blessed to have aided in forming this wonderful Christian example of LOVE. May God continue to bless you Kayla and your work abroad.

Katie Drager (mum)
Date: on June 17, 2019

Kayla, I couldn't be prouder of you! I can't wait to visit!

Sister Mary Delrita
Date: on June 7, 2019

Kayla, what a beautiful testimony of God's goodness and your generous response! God bless you evermore.

Leave a Comment