The sponsored students in Nakabango gathered on the front steps of the church!
Today was the day we met with the sponsored students in Nakabango. There are 140 kids in the program from Primary 1 level through vocational school. Some of them have been sponsored since Messiah Lutheran began this in 2006! What a joy to watch them grow!
Our packet distribution went as smoothly as it can in Nakabango; they are notorious for being our most chaotic day - a label I believe they wear with pride. The church building is large and ventilation is small so it is always a warm 2-hour process! However, any amount of work is worth the smiles we see as kids are reading letters and looking at pictures from their sponsors. It is a Christmas-like atmosphere and we feel honored to be a part of it! We took the group picture you see above after packets were handed out.
I had the privilege of cutting the ribbon to officially open the new latrine, recently built for the school with funds raised during Celebrate Uganda last year. The Ministry of Education had threatened to shut th school down if a latrine was not built large enough to accommodate the growing school and not able to be emptied. Thankfully, the project is complete - including a hand washing station for the boys, girls, and staff.
Lunch became a working meeting with the teaching staff and leadership at Nakabango. The headmaster gave a wonderful report of some of the accomplishments of the students and staff. He listed challenges as well, but indicated that they were planning on working with parents to develop ways of raising funds to address some of the needs. A permanent structure for the school remains the number one priority.
Twenty-eight students in the P7 class will be "sitting for exams" in early November. This is a nationwide standardized test that determines what secondary school they qualify to attend. The students are studying hard and are a bit nervous! The team promised to put the kids' request for prayer in front of the congregation as the testing dates draw closer!
Ten of the P7 students who will be sitting for exams (Primary Leaving Exams) are in the sponsorship program. We wish them the best!
We said our good-byes and hopped on the bus to visit more homes. Much like our experience in Kainagoga, this was precious time spent getting to know these kids and their families better. While some of the living conditions are difficult to see, watching the parent or guardian talk about the kids they care for is heartwarming. They truly do the very best that they can.
One of the families we had the opportunity to visit with; anyone see Patricia?
We decided to divide up today and take two different directions. Todd, Andy, Henry (the Hearts and Hope Project Manager), Peter (the Education Coordinator), and Nicholas (the H&H accountant) spent the morning meeting with the architect making plans for the new regional secondary school. They also visited the land that has been purchased for the school and one of the few other secondary schools in the area.
Their time was well-spent. Andy and Todd are thrilled that they have more numbers to crunch and we look forward to having such a large project take place in 2015. Many more details will be coming!
Crystal, Violet (a Ugandan friend who helps us out), Mariah (another friend who is a Hearts and Hope employee and helps out during her breaks from the university), David (the H&H Advanced Sponsorship Coordinator), Ronald (the H&H Primary Sponsorship Coordinator), and I started out visiting Betty, a special needs student who is sponsored by a family in St. Charles. Her story was told in beautiful detail by Grant Ehlmann at Celebrate Uganda last year.
She has been at the school since February and is doing well! She was SO happy to see us; you need to brace yourself when you get a hug from Betty! We loved sitting on her bed and watching her open her package sent by the Ehlmanns. We also took her some other items she needed and cookies. Betty is being seen by a physical therapist twice a week and we all felt like she was doing better, both physically and emotionally. She told us that the pain in her arms has lessened. She also recorded a beautiful “thank you” message that we will be sharing later.
Our next stop was the St. John’s secondary school. We have 10 kids from Nakabango who are sponsored and attend this school. It was awesome to see them waiting for us in full school uniform on a Saturday! It was fascinating to see the many buildings that comprise this school and a joy to visit with these kids. Some of them have been in the sponsorship program since it began in 2006 and it was a thrill to see how well they spoke English and what great young adults they have become. Sponsors – you should be proud!!
Next we headed back to Kainagoga and visited the homes of four of the students who are sponsored there. It was humbling to see these kids with all of their siblings and to see where they sleep and where they eat. It was a much different visit from seeing them at school in their uniforms. Each of the homes was built with mud and sticks. Two of the four shared a foam mattress with an older sibling. The other two slept on the dirt floor.
We spent time with each family, asking about their family structure and how we could pray for them. I was touched by the desire each parent had for all of their children to attend school. The affirmation I felt in regards to our work to build schools and provide a way for kids to get a quality education was appreciated! Please know that, if you are sponsoring a child, you are making a difference. It is evident in the families we saw today.
We finished up the day with a quick visit to the Source Café. The dinner group tonight was small, allowing us time to visit with Ronald, Mariah, and Violet. I treasure each of them and we count them as true friends.
Today, we are worshipping in Nakabango and plan on attempting some special projects in the afternoon. Looking forward to seeing some old friends during our visit!
We had the privilege of worshipping in Nakabango on Sunday. It was a thrill to see so many familiar faces. Messiah has been going to this village since 2005; we have watched many of these children grow up - some of them are even teaching in the school there!
The music ministry is important to Nakabango (sound familiar, Messiah friends?) and all ages use their gifts to serve. The addition of a portable sound system filled the church with beautiful music yesterday. Three different choirs lifted their voices during the service!
After the service, we passed out soccer uniforms, given to us by the Lou Fusz Automotive soccer club, and shoes, purchased in Uganda with funds donated at the Celebrate Uganda event last year. Wow - it's difficult to convey how happy these boys were! The image of them playing barefoot in a tournament with no uniforms a few years ago stuck with me so this was a personal thrill for me as well. Thank you to Tim Hennessy for making the connection between Lou Fusz and Hearts & Hope!
We took team and individual pictures of the boys and watching them put on their game faces was awesome! Truly a highlight of the day.
Next we had the chance to do a quick project with the women. Many times they are the forgotten ones; they work so hard to care for their families but show up on Sundays looking radiant. Their hands are calloused but their smiles can light up a room.
In the afternoon, we did a special project with the community that we will continue to work on today. I won't share too much but suffice it to say, it involved music, dancing, video and lots of laughing and smiles. Stay tuned!
We visited with the women in the sewing center and saw some of the secondary students they are training to sew. I LOVE the attitude of these women. They have been making beads for a long time and we have sold them in the United States but we also discussed with them that we have a limited market and our sales could not be relied upon. The very next report I received from them showed that they were going to now start a catering service to support themselves. They have used proceeds from the sale of jewelry through Messiah to purchased two large chafing dishes and 4 small pots to begin their business. They still need two large pots to complete the necessary list of start-up items - and I mean BIG pots. Three feet across and over 3 feet high - can you imagine? The cost is high; the larger pot will be $250 and the smaller, $200. The women sent us home with beads and a few other crafts; their skills in making these items have improved drastically over the years!
We also visited the piggery started by the youth in the congregation and the passion fruit project that the disabled ministry has begun. They have also started work on a chicken coop to house poultry in the near future. Again, we LOVE the work being done by many members of this congregation to become self-sustaining.
We headed back to the Sunset Hotel after that, hot, dirty, and honored that we got to spend this day in this way. Andy, Todd, Crystal, and I appreciate your support and your prayers. We know there is much work to be done and thank our families for the opportunity to be here!
Today, we head back to Nakabango to deliver 140 sponsorship packets. I expect nothing but organized chaos and lots of smiles!
The soccer team looking sharp - thank you, Lou Fusz and Messiah!
Patricia has a new baby brother! The piggery in Nakabango.
Our First Day in Uganda
First - the great news; Andy is well again and arrived at the Sunset Hotel around 1:30 this morning. Thank you, God, for giving him good health and safe travels!
Our first day began later than we expected – which is to be expected! Last night (early this morning) we agreed to leave the Hotel Africana at 10:00. At 11:30, we still had no bus and no Henry. A few minutes later, Henry arrived, apologizing profusely. It seems he had stopped by the bank to get some of our trip funds withdrawn and was told the bank had no money. This was a bigger shock to us than it was to Henry. He simply went to another branch and withdrew the funds.
We traveled to Jinja, stopping by the Hearts and Hope office to pick up 1 of the 5 boxes of candy we had asked our staff to purchase. Over 5,000 pieces!
We arrived in the village of Kaiangoga around 2:00 to the sounds of happy voices. Almost 200 students attend this extremely-dilapidated school; thankfully, the new headmaster seems to have the skills necessary to run the school well. We will be so grateful to find a partner congregation for this village of joyful, hardworking people!
We enjoyed a song/dance/drama program by the kids and then had the chance to hand out packets to the sponsored children. Smiles all around! We did a couple of projects with the kids and the women and then enjoyed lunch outside the school office.
Our "lunch" was around 5:00pm so we watched dozens of kids making the trip to the well in Kainagoga. Amazing to see how much use this well gets! Thankful to our donors for making this happen a couple of years back.
We also had the chance to dedicate and "initiate" the new latrine! No pictures available.....
We had a wonderful dinner - in the dark! It rained and the power immediately went out. Todd came to the rescue with a flashlight (see? there is a reason we put this on the packing list, teams!) Power was restored about 30 minutes later and we enjoyed a great evening with the Hearts and Hope staff.
Today, we are dividing into separate groups. Todd and Andy are meeting with the architect of the new secondary school while Crystal and I are heading out to see Betty at her school here in Uganda, visiting a secondary school in the area, and then making some home visits in the Kainagoga area.
We are grateful for the well wishes and prayers! We are indeed blessed to be a part of this work!
Twelve bags, mostly sponsorship packets, are packed and ready to go! Almost 350 packets are heading to Kamuli, Nakabango, Kainagoga, and Butangala. That's a lot of smiles! Thank you to the many sponsors who brought or mailed in a special message and treat for your sponsored student.
The leadership team of four will leave Wednesday afternoon and arrive in Uganda late Thursday evening (mid-afternoon here in St. Louis.) We are looking forward to visiting all of the Hearts and Hope schools, meeting with village leaders, delivering packets, and spending lots and lots of time with the kids.
Your prayers for safe travel and for our families are appreciated! Watch this blog for updates of what is happening during our time in Uganda!
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.