The Negotiation

Ogoloi Day 1

Our arrival this morning at Ogoloi after a 30 minute drive down a long and bumpy orange-colored dirt road, and another 10 minutes through the bush, was met with the usual dancing and singing and fanfare. The kids always meet us about half a mile down the “road” (really more of a path) and we have to pull the van over and walk the remainder of the way with the kids singing and dancing as we go.

As usual we were marched down the trail to the CarePoint where we were met by the second group of singing and dancing mothers and caretakers who had been expecting our arrival all morning.

The Kids

Juma manufacturing toy trucks.

The kids are in great spirits and appear to mostly be in good health. There were a couple of cases of malaria in the kids but they were all on meds and recovering. The kids with HIV are all taking their ARV’s and are responding well. This is one of the many benefits of being an orphan in the the program, as it would be highly unlikely that an orphaned child in this region would be able to afford the simple medicine needed to help them recover from Malaria. Crazy to imagine that tens of thousands die every year from mosquito bites requiring about $10 worth of meds.

We bumped into Juma, a fantastic kid that has been in the program but recently left the region due to changes in family. He is back in the area, apparently recovering from a broken arm and leg (you can see the bend in his wrist which was not set very well). We are told that he fell from a Mango Tree. Juma suffers from epilepsy and is struggling in school so we need to see if we can arrange for him to be back in the program, however it might be a struggle as it sounds like he is moving in and out of the region trying to work for people in order to survive. It’s a touchy situation, and we can’t control the outcome…but it was good to see him still around making his toy cars with beaming pride.

I found my 4 buddies and we went to their “ore’s” (homes) again for a brief visit. My aTeso vocabulary is getting pretty substantial and I am able to communicate about a quarter of the time in their language which is an absolute blast – though still limiting. It is terrific how pleased they are they we are working to know their language, and you can tell that they understand that we are here for the long haul.

The Team
Our team took off like champs on their first day, overcoming the language and cultural barriers like seasoned pros.

Mark took a walk with some of the boys to check out the well and spent a significant amount of his day having his leg and arm hair played with. (they have little to no body hair and find ours fascinating)

Anna (who was mistaken for Ally more then once by the kids – her big sister who came just a year ago) hit it off with a bunch of the kids, getting her hair braided. She also spent most of the day with her sister’s sponsored child Mary Apio.
Gina was a champ despite the fact that I found her about an hour into the morning looking absolutely petrified with about a dozen kids surrounding her…all trying to hold her hands at the same time.  She soon got the hang of things, and had a great first day. She also was able to spend a lot of time with her sponsored child Patricia Apio
Alissa pulled out some music on her portable “beat box” and got the kids singing and dancing. Who would have guessed :). She also was able to connect with her child Lazaro. From the summary she provided at this evenings meeting after dinner it sounded like it was an emotional experience, and several of Lazaro’s family even asked questions about Tristan (Alissa’s son). They apparently had studied all the info in the photo albums she had sent last time. It was fun to learn about and moving to know how much they value their sponsors. They sincerely pray for us daily.

Jordan connected with his sponsored child, Isaac Omoding. He and Whitney sponsor Isaac as well as two more kids in Bukedea. It sounds like Isaac was shy, but opened up when Jordan shared photos with Isaac of him receiving his album from us (from Jordan and Whitney) on the last trip.

Tyra went straight into “momma mode” and spent a lot of the day conducting interviews with kids that are sponsored by many of the friends and family members that she has “coerced” into sponsoring kids. She really has done a terrific job of helping mobilize new sponsors so I am glad to have her with us this time, as Jen (my wife) is not here and Tyra is doing a great job filling the big shoes that Jen wears here administratively. That said I am still wishing my wife was here with us terribly.

Matt (Tyra’s husband and my brother in law) kicked off the day with his usual ridiculously unsustainable high energy sporting activities that he somehow always seems to sustain over the 8 days. Not to mention that he was dressed in Jeans and a long sleeve shirt.  This picture is of him taking some of the boys and Damon (his 9 year old son) to the drinking well.

Here is a picture of Damon, a big fan with all the kids. He is now officially the youngest person ever to come on a Hope Chest trip to Uganda at any of the CarePoints. He is being a real trooper, despite the fact that he is still licking his hands when he eats (a fact that is driving Matt insane).

Joe played grandpa to several of the kids that his family sponsors in the CarePoint and got to know some of the older boys as well. From the sounds of things he is working to reform the local government and (for those of you that know him) start several new businesses in the area.

And I got to spend a little time with the kids just chilling. I found Jinny’s guitar still in great shape from our previous trip and was pleased to see a couple of the boys doing a fantastic job leading songs on it with the kids.

The Negotiation
The current CarePoint building

Around noon we arranged for a brief “20 minute” (read 2 hour) tour of some of the land options that we are considering closer to the school for the new CarePoint site. The current site is owned by a local pastor and serves as a church and we are now eager to locate a permanent site for the CarePoint closer to the school, having raised enough funds this Christmas to begin construction on the infrastructure for the CarePoint. Joe and I took some bicycles and piki-piki’s (small motor cycles) and headed out with several community leaders to go and visit some of the sites. A couple are available as free donations from the community and two others are available for sale. There is a lot of politics involved in a transaction of this nature, and we have been working on this negotiation for well over a year so this was a momentous occasion.

After the brief (read long) tour, we headed to the mango tree for a 30 minute (read 2.5 hour) discussion with the recently formed community committee that is in place to help promote community involvement in the CarePoints strategic objective and to facilitate increased support and involvement from the guardians of the kids – most kids live with a relative of some sort and we always work to ensure that the kids are being cared for at their homes. The discussion was a big success, with some masterful negotiation by the “big man” Joseph Elotu and some back up from myself and Joe. Long story short…we will be working to acquire the piece of land we wanted right next to the school in the next few weeks with a lot of support from the community. The price will be decided shortly, but all signals point towards an amicable ending.
Community Committee
This is a huge (read huge) success for us and for the CarePoint. The gratitude and level of involvement from the local community and its leaders is really encouraging and is a testament to the proactive and long term approach that we (and Hope Chest) are taking with these CarePoints. It will be very different to gather with the kids in a new location in a year, and I will miss the gorgeous idyllic location that we currently utilize, but this is a massive step forward for the long term objectives for the site and for the ability to continue to create sustainable opportunities for the CarePoint to become increasingly self dependent. For any that aren’t aware, our goal is not to be here in a decade, but have the community facilitating the entire program itself.
Tomorrow will be another long and interesting day. We kick off with the world’s most lively church service, and follow up with a meeting with the community. All the local Tata’s and Papa’s and caregivers will join us for an interaction. They always love the opportunity both to thank us for our involvement so far and to learn more about how the program will develop. They are always incredibly grateful and it is extremely humbling.
After that, we will begin some of the home visits with the team members who have sponsored kids taking the opportunity to go visit the homes of their children. These are always moving meetings and I will be excited to fill you all in on how they go.
I will begin the process of profiling the 20 or so new children we will be adding to the program. This is always a tiring process, but also fun to interview the kids and learn more about their stories.
I will work hard to post photos each night on the Facebook page (click here) so please check back often to see if you can find your kids. We will also do out best to sort through them (it will be about a Terra-byte of info) and send picture to you all when we return.
Thanks so much to all of you who support these kids through sponsorship and donations. We are so grateful and cant begin to explain the impact that this is having on their lives, and on those of the community around them. It is an incredible thing to give ones life to “living out” the gospel in this small way, and so gratifying to see the fruit of this work. We are so grateful for all of you! Seriously. Thanks!

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