Tuesday was spent in eastern Uganda in a village called Nalwire, near the Kenya border. It was a beautiful drive along Iganga road. We arrived in under three hours and spent the bulk of the day with these new friends.
We met in a mud structure that serves as their church. Everyone was surprised at the cool temperature inside! We were entertained by some dancing from the school choir and then proceeded with some activities with the children.
Chrissy met with the younger kids inside one of the classrooms to let them paint. We were so impressed with their skills – and their ability to keep the paper dust-free! The older girls made headbands and painted nails, while the older boys moved across the road to play, what else, soccer! Mary and Kelly spent time outside playing jump rope and reading books to the nursery students.
We had the opportunity to deliver some shirts donated by Lutheran High School in St. Charles, Missouri. There is a lot of Under Armor being represented in Nalwire today! The bright, neon colors look beautiful on the kids and it was a thrill to replace a rotted shirt with something new.
Margaret, the leader of the women’s group, invited us to visit her home. We took a short walk through some tall grass and hedges to the clearing where she lives. She was a most gracious hostess! We were also able to visit another set of homes that have immaculately sculpted bushes in front. It was fun to visit with the women who live in these homes as they shelled beans for their dinner.
Messiah Lutheran Church in Weldon Spring, Missouri also provided funds to purchase six goats to be donated to the women of Nalwire. They will breed these goats and pass along the offspring to other members of the congregation. I believe it may have been the first up close and personal encounter with a goat for some of the team!
As we left, we went knowing that it was our last full day in a village for the team. Always a bit of a sad time. The team is tired – physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are times that you don’t really know if you can “feel” anymore. I do know this team is leaving behind a lot. They have spent their energy wisely and most likely, left a little of their heart. It has been a joy to serve beside them.
Today, we are heading to Nakabango for a brief visit to the school. Then it will be back to Jinja for some lunch and shopping and then on to Kampala. We are thankful for good health for everyone and safe travels.
Saw this guy and some friends along Iganga road!
Our days always begin by picking up cases of water in Jinja. Yesterday was no different, but we also had shopping to do for Betty, a beautiful girl with some challenges, including mild cerebral palsy, who goes to school in Jinja and is sponsored by the Ehlmann family. Tonya, Violet, Maj, Mariah, and Ronald roamed the aisles of the supermarket finding all the requirements. The rest of the team enjoyed an ice cream treat while we waited.
What a great day in Butangala! If being greeted by hundreds of singing children waving eucalyptus branches with drums beating in the background is on your bucket list, you need to visit Butangala! This village is a bit further off the main road than most that we visit so it always seems the anticipation is a bit ramped up by the time we hear those sweet voices. These kids never cease to take our breath away.
We began our visit with a walk around the perimeter of the recently purchased land. Many thanks to Butangala’s partner, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wentzville, Missouri for your generosity that made this happen!
We enjoyed some speeches by the church and school leadership and amazing dancing by the girls. The headmaster in Butangala has a reputation for encouraging music, drama, and dance. It is evident in the short time he has been in this school that he has had a huge impact.
After introductions, we had the chance to present two sewing machines and cabinets to the women’s group. Funding was provided by some friends of Hearts and Hope at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Peoria, Illinois. This gift will be one more way that they women can support their families. Thank you, St. Peter’s!!
We were presented with a goat as a gesture of thanks (it’s been quite a week of livestock for us!) Their generosity was touching, even if the goat’s life was short-lived….
The afternoon was spent with our usual projects. I told the team I could have stayed on the bus – they didn’t need me anymore! Shelby, Charlie, and Susan had a chance to help make soap with the women, culminating with songs from Shelby and Charlie, and a robust dance from the latter. I have been touched by the response from the women; I truly believe this is life-changing for them.
The younger set gathered with the “middle school” girls under the eucalyptus trees for some precious time of sharing. They made headbands, bracelets, and painted nails. Some things are universal!
Sweeties were delivered and it was time to leave. Anyone who visits this village marvels over the beautiful views of the surrounding hillsides. We stand in awe!
Our last stop of the day was Betty’s school. No surprise that she was waiting in the school yard for us when we arrived. The hug that she gave Tonya is not something I will soon forget. Her curled arms wrapped Tonya in a bear hug to beat all bear hugs. It was, indeed, a “moment”.
We toured a bit and then went to the dormitory where Betty stays. Watching her take out each treasure from the slightly-oversized J that Tonya brought her was mesmerizing. We all stood by as she and Violet put each item back in her trunk and lock it up. The entire room was brought to tears when Betty pulled out a special photo given to her on a previous trip. It is the Ehlmann family with Betty photo-shopped into it – the perfect family portrait and obviously something she treasures.
We left with not many dry eyes on the bus and returned to our beloved Sunset Hotel. It was our night to go to the All Friends pizza kitchen restaurant – always a fun evening. We shared dinner with the Uganda Hearts and Hope team and I had a chance to visit with Nicholas’ wife, Jackie. I love the chance to learn more about our staff and their lives here. They are a hard-working, dedicated group.
We are heading east today to the village of Nalwire. They have no partner and it is striking example of what most of the Hearts and Hope partner villages looked like before they had partners. Prayers for safe travel and a productive day are appreciated.
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Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.