Somebody Else’s Kids?

It is 3 am…and I can’t sleep. 

I have images of little dark skinned faces running through my mind. 
We are back on American soil, and at home with our family. Its good to see our boys. But once again the “other” kids seem to have come even closer to my heart. And it would be accurate to say that I miss them. 
This band of boys were at my side pretty much the entire time.
I think they “adopted” me into their gang 🙂
I know that they miss us too. I know because many of them look at me the same way my boys look at me. Big eyed, hopeful, excited to see me, and always expectant. Hopeful for another touch. Excited to just be by my side, and expectant of the affection that in just short periods of time they learn to know for the first time. I miss responding to that hope. I miss being looked at with those hundreds of eager and excited eyes. 
But there is work to be done. 
I have said for a few years now that I believe that God wants me acting and working and loving not on American soil, and not on African soil….but in-between. I believe that I am most effective acting and living between the two. It is ironic that I am an American citizen of about 6 years now that also has retained his South African Citizenship. My home is in America but my blood is African. 
And I have expressed my inner turmoil and battle to work to awaken the sleeping giant that is the American church: equipped with the resources and capacity to give and provide love in its most basic form to a world deprived of the most basic human needs.  Like food. And a place to sleep. And hugs. And also to serve as a conduit to those within the slumbering American Evangelical church who have eyes to see and ears to hear to be able to carry that love to those who most need it – the orphaned and widowed in one of the most poverty stricken regions of the world. 
It is an incredible thing to have found ones place in life. To hear a calling on your life so clear…so obvious…that the only response is to respond…the only way you can: 
In love. In obedience. And in step with Him who first demonstrated this heart for “the least of these” (Matthew 25) and children (Matt 19:14)
Many of you who support our work in Uganda at the Ogoloi and Bukedea CarePoints provided gifts to us to take across for the kids, and we wanted to make sure that we both thanked you for your generosity, and let you know how some of those resources were appropriated. 

The Sponsorship Program

I first wanted to let everyone know how things are going in Bukedea and Ogoloi, because I was incredibly encouraged by what we saw on this trip, just 9 months from when I was last on site. 

The opening of the Bukedea well
 – thanks to your donations
  • First off, we were able to see first hand the “grand opening” of the well that was dug on the Bukedea CarePoint and wanted to say a huge thanks to everyone who contributed to the Noel No-Well campaign last Christmas. Haivng access to clean drinking water is a massive step forward not just for the kids at the CarePoint but for the entire surrounding community, all of whom will benefit. The well is now being used every day (and almost all day). We are establishing a community committee to establish parameters for community use and to establish a small fee that the surrounding villages will pay for its use. These funds will be saved by the CarePoint to be used for future repair and maintenance to ensure the wells longevity. 
  • The kids are generally happy, and well fed. There are a few severe exceptions (some of the kids with HIV and some severe neglect from parents/guardians of children were apparent and are being followed up on – more to follow) but in general it actually appears that the kids are far more lively and active than just 15 months ago when began our partnership with these CarePoints. 
Meal time at Bukedea. The kids receive meals every school
day at lunch and on Saturdays 
  • We were pleased to hear that the kids’ grades are beginning to improve. This is a huge deal, as the primary hope for these kids is through education and their empowerment to break the cycle of poverty that their families exist within. Our staff on site believe that this improvement is largely due to the fact that the kids now consistently have a meal in their bellies and a certainty that they will have one tomorrow, allowing them to both focus at school, and spend more time at school rather than looking for their next meal. 
  • With sponsorship levels in both CarePoints rising, there are now sufficient funds (primarily in Ogoloi but increasingly in Bukedea) to be able to send more kids to secondary school and to pay for primary school exam fees. This is a huge blessing to the families who many times have to forgo school for the kids for lack of ability to pay for these. When we are at 100% sponsorship levels we should have sufficient finds to ensure that all fees are paid for and all kids can attend secondary school. 
  • And the discipleship program appears to be functioning well. We are blessed with incredible staff at both CarePoints (especially the disciplers) who are on site every day at meal times and work with the kids all day Saturday to teach and guide the kids spiritually and practically. 
Meet the Bukedea Staff
Meet the Ogoloi Staff
The kids practicing sewing on cement bags
  • We were also impressed with some of the life skills that many of the kids are learning. In Bukedea the kids are learning to sew (practicing by cutting ad sewing cement bags into shirts and shorts) and actually making their own school sports uniforms. We are working to expand this opportunity by acquiring more sewing machines and other ways to teach the kids how to earn a living. 
All in all, we were thrilled to see the progress that has been made in such a short time. 

Special Needs

There were a lot of dire needs surrounding the CarePoints (there always are). But here are a few things that we decided to appropriate your gifts towards that we felt were the most important. 

1. Peter Pan (Bukedea)

Samuel – Peter Pan

Peter Pan is a gorgeous little boy that we fell in love with last December. His real name is Samuel and he is sponsored by Matt and Tyra Swenson. His name was derived from his little green outfit- cut off green pants and a button up green shirt. We believe that he is likely HIV+. He has 3 siblings who are also adorable. His Father has died of HIV and his mother is also infected. They have been kicked off of their land by the father’s brother (the heir to a mans land in Uganda is always a male) and have taken refuge in her fathers old home (which now belongs to her brother)

Jen (the moms name) is emaciated. And she is suffering from some sort of pancreatic issue. She looks pregnant from swelling, although she is not. When she dies, the kids will be left to fend for themselves as the family they live with has no means to provide for them. The CarePoint is working on a plan to care for them when (not if) this happens. 
We decided to provide some funds to the CarePoint to provide care to this mother and her kids. She is being sent to the hospital for surgery to try and remedy the stomach issue and prolong her life. She is already on ARV’s. We also provided enough to ensure that the family remained well fed for the next several months until our return in January. We will assess the situation at that time, but feel confident that the CarePoint staff will be watching her and the kids closely. 

2. Winnie and her family (Bukedea)

Winnie is a young girl living in severe poverty. She has ten siblings and their small home is in a poor state of repair. Their mother is a widow who is also HIV+ and bed ridden. We appropriated a small monetary gift to the CarePoint to help repair their hut and provide some extra food to the family. 

3. John Elepu (Ogoloi)

John with an Album from his sponsor,
Teresa Becker
John was a sad case. This poor boy was incredibly malnourished and sickly. His legs bore the scars of having been ripped apart by a severe Jigger infestation that the staff have been working to cure, but continues to manifest itself due to the sickening living conditions he is subject to. Johns father is a drunk, who chased the boys mother away a few years ago. She has tried to return to the village to help care for the kids but the father wont allow her to return. The father is spending the families money on locally brewed beer, and is failing to feed the family. John eats only at the CarePoint each day as best we can tell. He has 4 siblings, 2 of which are also in the program. His sister Immaculate (sponsored by my Company – CENTURY 21 Signature Real Estate) does all the work in the family home.

Johns feet are a mess, but have improved
slightly from last time. 
Johns feet are a mess, and he struggles to walk because of the wounds on his soles. We provided him a pair of soft shoes that we believe he can wear, but he struggles to walk in shoes.  
We have provided a small amount of funds to the CarePoint to purchase John a mattress and they staff are already working on trying to nurse his legs and feet back to health. We are unable to provide him additional food or resources directly because we know his father will take them for his own use. We are instead contacting the local community authorities (local council) to intervene on Johns behalf. In a small village like Ogoloi the local town council will act boldly against a parent who is neglecting a child to this extent, especially if it is a child being cared for through the program that the community would love to see expanded. 
We will keep you updated on progress with this family. 

4. Eunice Asio and Deborah Acebo (Ogoloi)

These sisters also have a tough story to hear. The eldest two of 6 kids, these girls are essentially living in a child headed household. Their father died of HIV in 2002, and their mother is extremely sick (also infected). She has also just undergone cancer surgery. 
The girls, who are trying their best to continue with school have had to stay home to care for their mother and to work the fields which is their only source of food for the family. They also had to sell most of their food supply to pay for their mothers surgery, and have no food to feed their younger siblings moving forward. 
We decided to try and help these girls get back to school. We set aside some funds to help pay for the mothers medical needs, and to purchase some food supplies (mostly starch foods like the locally farmed Casava) to get them through the season and put their minds at rest – if only for a few months. 
We have also arranged for two of the younger siblings to be profiled and included in the sponsorship program which will mean that they will have school covered, and have a good meal in them each day. 

Supplies for the kids

In addition to the direct help we were able to provide to some of the most dire needs, we also were able to provide the kids at both CarePoints with some supplies to help them progress through the next several months of school (school starts in Uganda on Monday)

Bukedea

Hello from the kids in Bukedea
  • We were able to purchase school shoes for all 200 kids in Bukedea CarePoint. For many this is the first pair of shoes they have ever owned. We did not distribute the shoes ourselves (we had them delivered from Kampala on our last day) so that the staff and Caretakers at the CarePoint could do so. We want the kids to know that they don’t come from us, but from all of their sponsors. 
  • We were able to purchase school notebooks and pens and pencils for all the kids to use at school. Often the orphaned kids lack these basic supplies and fail at school for lack of the ability to perform basic tasks like taking notes. I know, it sounds ridiculous but I assure you it is true. 
  • We also purchased children’s bibles for the CarePoint…not enough for all the kids to take home, but enough that the staff can use them during the discipleship meetings on Saturday with the kids. We purchased 30 Youth picture bibles and 40 kids bibles. 
  • We purchased sanitary pads for the older girls, who very often don’t attend school a week each month for lack of access to such basic resources. The Bukedea CarePoint social worker on our staff is meeting with the girls to help them know how to use these…again seemingly ridiculous, but for most there is no one to teach them. 
  • And we were able to buy some teaching charts and aids to put up on the walls of the CarePoint to use when the kids gather on Saturdays. 
  • Finally, we appropriated a healthy amount of funds towards the Bukedea school fund to help pay for more of the kids to get to secondary school this upcoming term. Some will be used to buy school uniforms, and some to pay for school admission fees. 

Ogoloi

Hello from the kids in Ogoloi
  • We purchased bibles, again 30 youth and 40 kids bibles
  • Notebooks and pens and pencils for school
  • Sanitary pads for the older girls
  • And the same teaching aids for the Saturday discipleship program
Because Ogoloi has higher sponsorship levels we did not need to appropriate much towards school fees and uniforms which will be provided as part of the sponsorship of the kids. Bukedea is still in need of about 80 sponsorships to reach a sustainable level for these items. 
Thanks
I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to every one who has contributed and helped us accomplish what is being accomplished in the lives of these kids. There is a lot of work to be done, and the team that just returned will attest to the reality that the needs far outweigh the provision. However, the futures and hopes of the kids that we are reaching are being changed in drastic ways for the better, and to that end we continue to labor. 
We are incredibly grateful for all of your support. 
For info on the children, and to view profiles of unsponsored kids please check out the links provided at the top of the SPONSOR A CHILD page. 

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