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Students begin preparations for annual Uganda trip

It’s becoming a staple part of the spring in Plumas County — the annual Rural-to-Rural communities program-led trip to Uganda.

This third consecutive trip to the Kanungu and Bwindi region of southwest Uganda seeks to provide a life changing experience for students in rural Northern California as they learn about another culture, country and see both the similarities and differences facing rural communities there.

This year’s trip will occur after Easter, from April 26 to May 16, and was open to students at all high schools from 10th- to 12th-grades in Plumas and neighboring counties.

This year’s trip will be comprised of 10 female students — nine from Plumas Charter School, including three Indian Valley Academy students who went on the trip last year and who will serve as leads in the projects they will work on this year. The 10th student is coming from Chico.

Sue Weber, along with two other adults, will be accompanying them and lending their own expertise. While not set in stone, the trip will potentially have a Greenville High School alumni who works as a midwife, who will be leading the health component of the trip and the health project.

One of the two projects slated for the trip are renovating a school and developing a clinic. Both structures already exist, but did not have full resources.

The trip participants will also participate in the micro-loan program that has taken place in years past.

The program now has three large donors to help sustain the program, including the Palmaz Family of Genesee.

This spring, students will raise funds for their trip, but also raise funds for the projects they are participating in, the school renovation, the clinic and the micro-loans for small business entrepreneurs in Uganda.

There will be three student led fundraisers in the three Plumas Charter School communities to raise funds for the trip and projects.

The first two fundraisers are a baked goods fundraiser at Safeway in Quincy on Saturday, Feb 23, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Amy Bennett, whose son went on the trip last year, is gathering bakers in Quincy to provide high quality baked goods and breads for the sale.

At the Community Center in Greenville on March 16, there will be a soup and drawing fundraiser where students will present their plans for the trip and put on the soup dinner from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. There are no tickets for the event, but donations of any amount are suggested. People can also bring jars to take leftover soups to go and donate for that as well.

There will be a third fundraiser in Chester yet to be scheduled.

The biggest of this year’s projects is largely about renovating a school in Uganda with more resources.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Uganda is seeing an influx of refugees fleeing South Sudan and the Congo — 62 percent of those refugees are children of school age. Uganda already has major funding issues in regards to schools and education, often averaging a ratio of 100 students to 1 teacher according to the UNHRCR.

In Uganda, only 12 percent of students move from elementary to high school with the lack of resources and finances as the number one issue cited as to why students do not progress further.

Director Weber finds that this trip has been life-changing for Indian Valley students in the past. “It gets them outside themselves and shows them what the world is really like without parents there to do everything for them.” Students have come back from the program with eyes wide open as to what poverty really is and what it can look like.

Weber has also been working for a year and a half to get students from Uganda to Plumas County for a more complete rural to rural cultural and educational exchange. The process to get student visas has not been easy.

One exciting new development for the 2020 spring trip is a public high school in the Sacramento area, which would like to partner with Indian Valley Academy and Plumas Charter on these trips.

“It’s exciting to see people really coming to understand what a valuable life-learning experience these trips and opportunities are for students,” said Weber.

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