As the days on this mission trip pass, our supply bags are getting lighter and our hearts are getting much fuller.
MBULAMUTI & KAMULI
Our last few village days were spent in the Hearts & Hope partnered villages of Mbulamuti and Kamuli. The team had tons of "known sponsored students" in this villages. This means we have to ensure we gather all the kids of the team’s friends and families to ensure they can greet the students and get pictures for their loved ones at home. When there are nearly 60 of these students to track down, it becomes a fun, but rewarding challenge! The students in these villages were decked out in new costumes and had prepared wonderful dances to share with the team. We were told the students in Kamuli were trying to become the best dance program in all of the surrounding villages since they are also number one in academics! They have definitely improved and you can see it in their faces how proud they are of the effort they put into practicing when they're performing.
The team enjoyed passing out the sponsorship packets and going through the usual program and activities with the sponsored kids. This trip we sent out a few team members to play fun games with the other children who are still waiting for sponsorship, so that they do not feel left out. This created reverse jealousy as the sponsored children were eagerly looking out at the fun happenings outside. By the end of the days, all the children had a blast with the team and vice versa.
In Mbulamuti, one of Kim’s sponsored students was particularly lethargic. She asked him if he was ok and he shook his head no. One of our team members is a doctor, and she knew immediately that the boy had a fever and should be checked out. Kim had the opportunity to take him to a clinic to get treatment and we found out he had severe malaria which we caught just in time!!!
Usually, our sponsorship coordinators will be contacted if there is a medical issue and we're able to address quickly thanks to generous donations to our medical fund from our supporters back in the US. This boy's case, however, was very severe and fast-acting, so it was a blessing that we were able to get him treatment and for his sponsor to be able to see first-hand the struggles these kids face every day. The amount of easily treated diseases that frequently take these children's lives is heartbreaking.
The team also got to visit the unsponsored village of Namwendwa. Hearts & Hope has been visiting this village for years and were blessed to be able to install a well there in 2017. Access to clean water brought about an immediate improvement in the health of the community and every year, we've been greeted joyfully by a multitude of smiling children and community members.
This year was different.
We pulled up to a nearly abandoned school. We looked around, confused as a small group of community members trickled towards benches and gathered to welcome us.
Almost immediately, we noticed that one of the three barren classrooms had collapsed - the wooden beams broken and bent towards the ground. The women of the community began welcoming us with a song as our minds raced with unanswered questions.
As the air filled with the beautiful melody of their voices, a community leader quietly filled us in. "We've had some difficulties," he confided. "Most children couldn't afford the scholastic requirements, like pencils. School started last week and only three students have reported. Beyond that, the parents are afraid the building will continue to deteriorate and may collapse on their children. Even without the fear, they lack the money to pay the school fees. The teachers are still owed three months of back pay and most are refusing to continue teaching until they can be guaranteed payment."
Our hearts broke as we took in the difficulties that our friends are facing. It was a harsh reminder that some communities, no matter how strong and resilient, might not succeed simply due to the extreme challenges they face on a daily basis.
Despite the heaviness of the situation, we were still welcomed with open arms and the people were so grateful with the smiles and joyful singing that we witnessed in the midst of such a difficult situation. We pray God finds a solution for this village so the children can continue to learn, the local teachers can earn a decent living, and the village can prosper and develop further.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to half our team as the rest leaves for a safari adventure. It has been such an incredible week full of emotional highs and lows for this team and everyone feels so blessed to have spent this week interacting with the wonderful people and marvelous children of Uganda.
Thank you all for your continued prayers for safe travels!
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.