These past 10 or so days have been quite a blur. I feel like I have not had enough time and yet feel as though I have been here much longer than 10 days. Time in Uganda is unique and I’ve loved every second of the time I have spent here. This is a summary of the last few days of our trip:
Saturday- this was another meeting heavy day. We broke into smaller groups to discuss more specific topics with the staff in order to collect data, organize thoughts and plan ideas for the future. The day went by quickly and we headed to ‘All Friends’ restaurant for dinner, which is always delicious and a needed change of environment.
Sunday- Nalwire, our last village day, so bittersweet. The route to Nalwire has been improved as far as newer roads being finished. This meant instead of 3 hours, we arrived in a quick 90 minutes, meaning more time with the kiddos- always a great thing. We celebrated church with the people of Nalwire with Bishop Charles and some LCU members and then had a quick meeting with the school village leaders. We don’t yet have a sponsorship program in this village so the meeting was brief. We passed out T-shirt’s and flip flops to what seemed like a never ending line of children and then it was playtime! Some played soccer, others threw around footballs and frisbees, but many kids just stood around and talked to us. Their English is good enough to have basic conversations so that was fun to interact in that way. The questions asked the most by these kids were “What is your name?” and “how are you?”. They tried to teach me some of the phrases in their local language which mostly ended in uproarious laughter at my pronunciation. The day ended with a chicken given to me by one special little girl in that village who I’ve bonded with over the past trips. Although I was terrified of holding this chicken I couldn’t help but graciously accept this gift.
Monday- this was shopping day. We had quite the list of items to buy at “the most sweetest deal” and this task could not have been accomplished without the help of our Ugandan staff. They always know how to barter to the lowest price and I am most appreciative as those store owners sure know how to work the Mzungus out of serious schillings! We ate lunch at the Source Cafe in Jinja and hopped on the bus for a long, traffic filled ride back to Entebbe and onward to the airport.
This trip has been very successful and we are so thankful to you all at home who supported us and prayed for a safe journey. We have 2 more flights ahead of us before we arrive home and continue to support the great work being done in Uganda. Again, thank you for the prayers, I give thanks to God for his protection and blessings, and I give thanks to the beautiful people of Uganda.
Thursday and Friday were as fun as they were long and hot! We hit 2 villages on Thursday, Kamuli and Mbulamuti, and 3 on Friday, Butangala, Nakabango and Kainagoga. Todd and Andy along with our Hearts & Hope staff met with some of the village leaders while myself, Toni, Maj, Mariah and Violet had the (better) task of entertaining the children while getting pictures for the Christmas card.
This part also included seeing our own sponsored children and giving them a small gift which is always a very special time. My favorite part of the meetings we joined had to be when Nicholas told the village leaders that we would not need lunch if we visit multiple villages in one day or “we will die, our stomachs will burst”. If you were to see how high these plates are piled by Ugandans, you would know he is not lying!
Another special moment from these days was while we loaded the bus from Kamuli heading to Mbulamuti, I was told there was someone who had something for me. My sponsored child Jessica got on the bus and handed me a handmade cross necklace and a very used little teddy bear. She had run home to grab these so she could give me something before we left. Such an incredibly touching moment, this little girl, who does not have much at all, gave me 2 of her treasures. Priceless little love offerings, and I am very grateful to her and God for giving me such an amazing child to sponsor.
We had a lot of fun taking pictures for the Christmas card as Violet basically had a laughing competition to see who could make the final cut. Seeing how laughter is very contagious, the task of picking the best smile was not an easy one!
After all the meetings and tasks were accomplished we headed back to the lovely Sunset Hotel for dinner where our nightly heated tournament of Uno ensued with the US and Ugandan staff. Which was always a fun ending to long full days!
Today we had the pleasure to go and see 2 very special ladies, Betty and Patricia. Both have some type of disability but their personalities and overall presence supersede any mental or physical maladies they might have. If anyone has ever hugged Betty or held Patricia you know exactly what I mean.
Betty’s school was first, we saw her classrooms and was told by her teacher that she is doing very well and always asks questions if she doesn’t understand in order to learn better. She is learning how to sow and showed us a pattern she has sown for a skirt which will be finished soon. It’s great to see her thriving!
We then went to Nakabango to pick up Patricia and her mother. We could see her from afar jumping and clapping all dressed and ready to go!
The whole bus ride was filled with her shouting “soda!” At every sight of one and frequently yelling my name to wave at me from the front of the bus. When we arrived at her possible school it was amazing to see her mother so happy and Patricia running around so visibly excited. We were told about the curriculum and therapies that they offer and toured the property. The headmaster then had a good conversation with her mother starting with the question “what do you expect from us?” And “how do you want us to help Patricia?”. You could see in her mother’s eyes that she had been waiting for someone to ask her this question for quite a long time.
After the visit we returned to the bus and gave Patricia a few gifts. One of which was a very large bottle of soda. Her face erupted in laughter and happiness. She didn’t fail to carry it off the bus and show it off to her siblings and friends. It was such a wonderful break from the meetings to see these girls and reinforce the mission and reason we are here.
Wednesday was not too eventful with children but very important nonetheless. We had the official MOU meeting and signing between the LCU and hearts & hope which strengthens the partnership and should improve the running of our schools and expansion of our programs in the future. That night we had a banquet to celebrate the MOU and to say thank you to a few Hearts & Hope employees who are moving on. It was great to get together in this way to end such an important day!
The past few days here have been very long and full of important engagments. Unfortunately our blog editing website in combination with the spotty internet have been a roadblock with posting these blogs. Luckily, Todd found a go around and I can continue to share the journey.
We arrived to Jinja Sunday morning and went straight to the village of Kainagoga to celebrate church with the congregation and Bishop Charles. It was very refreshing to see and interact with the children, even for such a short time. It gave us the energy we needed on short sleep to prepare for the staff meetings in the coming days.
After Lunch in Jinja we had a long meeting with Nicholas who heads the Hearts & Hope staff in Uganda and then was informed we were trying a new place for dinner. It was Andy's birthday and what a fun celebration we had! We were joined by our staff, Bishop Charles and our good friend Violet, who is always the life of the party.
The restaurant was right on the bank of the Nile and had a wonderful view of the brand new bridge recently finished in Jinja. There was even a DJ who entertained us with music that ranged from Miley Cyrus to Nursery rhymes! After dinner we had a mini pool competition and I can say playing pool while listening to "Old Macdonald had a Farm" is definitely a first. They brought out a delicious cake for Andy and the owner of the restaurant politely informed us that they were closing and we headed back for our first night's sleep.
Monday was mostly filled with long staff group meetings and individual staff meetings to discuss big changes ahead and voice concerns. We are heading out of the hotel and into the villages in the coming days so we will have more pictures of cute kids to come! Thank you for your prayers for our safety and we appreciate continuing prayers for the remainder of out trip.
As I lay in this bed at Hotel Africana with about 3 hours of sleep ahead of me (and zero sleep behind me) I cannot help but reflect on this journey so far....:
Our flights were very rushed due to a delay during the first leg which meant we were rushing to board before the gate closed on every flight that followed. Luckily, we made our flights and landed safe and sound in Entebbe. Although our bodies made it, our baggage did not. So we are left with what we packed in our carry-ons, which for me meant....nothing. I at least had deodorant and a good attitude so those count for something!
During the baggage delay fiasco we met a woman named Dallas. She was so nervous her hands were shaking as it was her first trip to Uganda, she was traveling alone, and she could not get a hold of her friends. With the help of the team and Bishop Charles she was able to get her phone working with Uganda's network and we invited her on our bus to ride with and to stay at the hotel in Kampala where she can call her friend the next day. To say she was thankful is an understatement.
Through this I learned that no matter the situation in life, God always takes care of us. We just have to find Him, whether that’s in the friendly face of a stranger or the reassurance that Charles’s wife will loan this bum a skirt for church tomorrow ; ). Worrying is just the enemy’s way of putting doubt in our hearts against our good, good Father.
Tomorrow (actually in just a couple hours) we head to Jinja for the beginning of this leadership trip and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for this team under the watchful eye of our Lord.
As we sit at the airport I can’t help but ask myself this question which has been floating around my brain for the past couple months. If you told me one year ago that I would be working for Hearts & Hope I would have laughed in your face saying things like “never” and “only in my dreams”. However, God sure does love to take our “nevers” and turn them into “realities”. I’ve just been pinching myself the whole time anyway.
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.