Day 3 in Ogoloi

Ogoloi Day 3

Our third day in Ogoloi started off slowly. It’s always fun to arrive a little earlier in the morning before all the kids arrive. Things are a little more peaceful. You can get more one on one time with the kids, and you get a feeling for the village on a normal day.
I often think about how fun it would be for me to bring just my family for a couple of weeks and spend time in the village just hanging out.

The day got started pretty quickly with some games with the kids while we waited for some of the new children to arrive for profiling. Matt, Tyra and Joe headed out for a home visit right away and the rest of us got to work, playing.

Jordan taught the kids that white men can in fact…jump.

…and Mark gave the kids a run for their money in a game that we have not yet named.

Jordan and Joe led a brief Olympic games – Ugandan style (think Gangman Style) – (if you don’t know what that is believe me, you are better off)

Profiling New Kids

I was able to steal away to one of the Mango trees after about an hour to begin profiling some of the kids that are being added to the program. As many of you know, we have all 120 kids sponsored and are in a position to add more. The community has made several requests for others to be added and it was a great pleasure to inform them that we were finally in a position to do so. I had made a commitment to them in August that we would work to add more kids as soon as we had all 120 kids in Ogoloi and all 160 in Bukedea sponsored.

So, I began the tedious process of interviewing the kids. It is difficult because the kids are typically shy when they first enter the program, and there is a huge language barrier to overcome. Some of the kids speak better English than others, but many of these orphaned kids are not progressing in school….yet :)….and barely speak English. We work hard to get behind the scenes of the kids lives in order to share good info with sponsors, however, the kids at this point have already been selected by the local staff as those that are in most need and their family and living situations have been verified.

The stories (as always) are difficult to grasp, and spending all day learning about the hardships that these kids and their caregivers are enduring is pretty draining work. But I am thrilled that we have these 20 accounted for and can begin working to find sponsors for them. Although these guys will not be up on the official website for sponsorship, here are a few of their stories. If you would like to sponsor one of these kids please let us know and we can arrange to reserve their profile for you.

Anna Janet Epidio
Anna is a gorgeous 7 year old who is currently in the equivalent of 2nd grade. Anna’s Father was a soldier during the war against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and brought his wife (Anna’s mother) back to Ogoloi from a then LRA stronghold called Kitgum. Anna’s mother, Grace, was abducted 3 different times by the LRA and each time was lucky to have been freed by government forces before being taken to Sudan to be a sex slave for the army officials. It was in this context that she met her husband, Anna’s father. He passed away 3 years ago of HIV. Many of the soldiers in the war contracted HIV from their interactions with woman as they traveled. The woman would sleep with the soldiers for food.

Anna’s Mother has also contracted the virus and is currently on government supplied ARV’s (anti-retro-viral drugs). Anna lives in her home with her mom and 4 siblings, all of whom have been tested for HIV and show up negative. Although this family is blessed to have been left about 12 acres to farm as peasants, the mother is beginning to ail more and more and is struggling to work enough to support the family. We are glad to have Anna in the program

Raymond Opapira and Richard Oteko
These brothers are both being admitted to the program. Raymond is 10 years old and is in P7 (7th grade) and his little brother Richard is 7 years old and going into P2 (2nd Grade).

These boys’ father was also a soldier during the war against the LRA and died of HIV when Richard was 1 year old. I asked the boys what they knew of their father and it was very little.  Raymond (the elder of the two) has no memories of his dad. Their mother is alive, but is also HIV + and currently on ARV’s. She farms a small plot of ground on loan to them in order to feed their family.

Norah Akello  
Norah is the younger sister of Anna (above) and her story closely mirrors that of her sisters. She is 5 years old and in P1 ( 1st grade)

Actually, we were told that she was 4 by her mother, but she admitted after we pressed a little that she was unsure of her actual age (believe it or not this is common), and that all she knew was that Norah was born approximately two and a half years after her older sister. So we think she is 5 🙂

Ivan Oseking
Ivan is an interesting little boy. He is deaf and dumb, but attends the local school and attempts to learn along with the other kids. He gets by on a little sign language and reads the black board along with the other kids. He is 8 years old and working to pass out of P1. Ivan is the nephew to Immunat Josephine (sponsored by Rick and Marsha Swenson).

This boy’s father abandoned him and his family at a very early age and when his mother remarried a few years later she too left the kids behind. He is being raised by his Grandfather and Grandmother in the village who are struggling to make ends meet.

Kevin Asalo
Kevin is actually a girls name in this region, and this little lady is a complete sweetheart. She is a little timid, and was filthy dirty when I first met her, but she is very cute.

Kevin’s father also died of HIV/AIDS and her mother is HIV+. When we profiled Kevin the mother was away at the local clinic picking up her weekly dose of ARV pills. The mother has 6 kids but only 3 of them are living with this family. When she came back to Ogoloi at the death of her husband they split the family in two and she left two of the kids with the father family. The two little boys living with Kevin have both tested positive for HIV…And Kevin has yet to be tested.

Amoding Lillian
Amoding is the younger sister of Doreen Atim – (sponsored by Bailey Schafbuch). She is 4 years old and apparently already attends the local primary school, which we had to verify…but apparently is correct.

Her father also passed way from HIV and she has tested negative for HIV although her mother in full blown HIV Aids and is sick at the moment. A very sweet little girl.

These are just a few of the kids we profiled this morning, and each and every one of them has a sad story to tell. We are excited to get them in the program and will hopefully have them available on the Ogoloi community page in the next week or two. In the meantime, if you would like more info please let me know either on the blog or at orphansofteso@gmail.com

Home Visits

We had several home visits during the course of the day. I can’t summarize them all but here are a few that I was able to download info from the team for.

Alissa and Lazaro
This was an emotionally charged visit (that I attended). Alissa and her son Tristan have felt close to Lazaro for a long time, and speak of him daily, so it was a big deal for her to meet him and spend time at his home.

Lazaro’s mom gave Alissa a quick tour of their hut (in the background) which sleeps 6 kids plus the mother. The family has two other kids in the program and is truly in dire straits. The mother is a widow, and the land that they live on (less than an acre) is not sufficient to provide for the family. To make matters worse, her deceased husband’s brothers are laying claim to the land and frequently threaten and assault the mother in attempts to have her removed from the land. Unfortunately, in cases like this, many times the men will either win the case with the council (as men typically have rights over wives) or in extreme cases they will even seriously hurt and even kill the woman. We will be working with the family to see what can be arranged for an alternative location for their home.

Eunice Asio and Deborah Acebo
 I met these two sisters for the first time during my last visit and arranged for some additional support for them given their circumstances and was glad to revisit them and their home to see progress.

These girls had stopped attending school in order to try and make enough money cultivating the surrounding land to pay for a surgery for their mother who had developed cancer. We had provided them additional food supplies and worked with the leaders to try and get them back to school. The mother’s surgery was successful (sort of), but the cancer is likely to have spread, according to the doctors, given how late she received the surgery. She is also HIV+ and not well at the moment. The girls did go back to school, however Deborah is now pregnant (also a common occurrence) and will be unable to return to school (policy) until she delivers the baby. She begged (through our translator)  that we would ask her sponsor (Judith Clark) to forgive her for her mistake. In this culture, her pregnancy is a big disgrace and she feels that she has disappointed Judith greatly. She asked us to tell Judith that she promises to return to school after the child is born, and that she will care well for the baby. She hopes that Judith will continue to support her.

The girls were thrilled with their gifts from Jay and Morgan
DeVries and from Judith Clark. 

These are tough situations. Hope Chest’s policy is that young girls who fall pregnant are ineligible for ongoing interaction and attendance at the carepoint, in order to discourage promiscuity in the group, and encourage them to stay in school. Tough Love. However, in cases like this, if the sponsors choose to continue their support, then these girls may continue to receive support in the form of monthly provision of food and other necessities. If she does return to school then support can be provided through the carepoint by way of school fees, school supplies and exam fees.

John Elepu
At our last visit we were appalled to learn of the condition of a little boy who lives with his father in a nearby village. He was clearly malnourished and his legs and feet were completely covered in chiggers (small parasitic bugs that dig into and live below the surface of your skin). He was barely able to walk, and we provided him with some shoes and encouraged the CarePoint staff to work through the local town council to put pressure on the father (an alcoholic who beats and obviously neglects the kids). We had made provision for extra food for the family but were concerned that if we provided it to the father that it might not be used for the kids. Below is a picture of John’s feet 5 months ago.

5 months ago

Johns feet have healed well

The visit to John’s home (sponsored by Teresa Becker) and two of his siblings sponsored by CENTURY 21 (our real estate company) was one of mixed emotions. It appears that the chigger infection has cleared up, but little has improved in the living conditions at the home, or in the father’s behavior. We will discuss solutions with the community leaders tomorrow and see what we can accomplish together to help these kids out. As I have mentioned before, these home visits are sometimes difficult, but always helpful for us to gain a better understanding of what the kids are dealing with, and allows us to make suggestions to the local staff team and social workers on staff with our Ogoloi team for kids who might need additional care and support.

Books and Gift Distribution
We ended the day by gathering the kids together and handing out some of the gifts and books that many sponsors were kind enough to send us over the last few weeks. The kids absolutely loved the books, the personal letters, and the photos that many of you sent. We filled in the gaps with books that we have collected over the last several weeks so that no one was left out. We have literally hundreds of pictures of the kids receiving their gifts and will work to post them in time. For now here are a few.

Peter Atiling – sponsored by Maria Lovin

Rebecca Alobo (sponsored by Stacey Rathjen)
Simon Odong (sponsored by Jess Hanson)

Land Negotiation
There are many more stories to tell, and loads to report back to all of you as sponsors. But I need to get some sleep. The team is already in bed and getting ready for another long day tomorrow. However, there is one thing I am excited to report back to everyone on.

The committee (comprised of local community leaders) that was formed in order to involve the local community in the progress and goals of the CarePoint has successfully negotiated for the piece of land that we collectively agreed would be the best location for the permanent carepoint site. The approx 2.5 acres is very near the school that most of the kids attend, and will be terrific for the goals we have in mind.

The deal has been agreed upon at 2.9 million Ugandan shillings, and will be ratified as quickly as possible by the local town council so as to finalize the transfer. For reference, this means that a bunch of village elders will walk the boundaries of the ground and agree on boundary markers….you know…like from this Mango tree to that large rock, and back up to where the path bends, and back to the Mango tree. Very official. But it works. And we will be glad to have the land in hand, and be in a position to start collecting bids from local contractors for the construction of the site.

We will be discussing with the community their role in the development in the weeks to come, which will include the clearing of the thick brush and thorn bushes that cover the land today. This also is to include them in the process and help them understand that this is a joint effort to provide for the future of their children and their Uganda.

This is a HUGE step forward, and I will be excited to provide you updates over the next few days. Who knows, perhaps we will end up with some extra ground on this side on the mango tree and the rock!

Tomorrow
Tomorrow we head back to Ogoloi for one final day. We have a few of our team headed out for some final home visits, and hope to distribute the amazing dresses for the girls and t-shirts for the boys that were provided by some of our sponsors. We will be glad to show you pictures of the kids in their new attire tomorrow.

But for now, that’s all folks. Thanks for following. Thanks for caring.
And thanks for all of your support.

Don’t forget to check out the pictures in the Album DAY 3 (Click here) on the FaceBook Page

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