Perhaps Too Real?

Our second day in Bukedea was entered into with admittedly less enthusiasm and energy from the team than we would all like, but 6 days with around 200 kids can really make a person feel old.

That said, the team has really risen to the challenge of finding ways to connect with the kids in each of their own ways. There was baseball coaching, nail painting, dancing, and of course…football at all times. The language barrier here is always a struggle, and even though the Bukedea kids have slightly better English than the kids in Ogoloi, it is really only the older kids that we can communicate with in a meaningful way. Wait, I take that back….I think our time just being with the kids and showing them affection is pretty darn meaningful. It’s just hard work trying to make connections across cultural and language barriers. But the group we have with us is doing as good a job as anyone could, and there is no doubt that we all grew closer to the kids in Bukedea today.

There were several home visits today. Alissa, Jordan and Gina headed out with the van (plus a driver and an interpreter) to visit several homes a few kilometers away. For those of you in the U.S. a kilometer is like a mile, only significantly easier to use and a little shorter.

Jordan visited one of the kids his family sponsors (Winifred), Gina visited her little girl’s home (Grace and her brother Lazarus Elungat) and Alissa was able to visit the home of Lydia Apolot (and her siblings – Margaret Apoo and Rose Akiiso). From what I learned at the team meeting tonight (we gather every night after dinner for a debriefing of the days events and to share about our respective days) these visits went very well.

In the afternoon Mark, Anna, Joe and I headed out to visit the home of 3 little boys, one of which is Mark’s son (and Anna’s brother) Mark Jr.’s sponsored kid. There were two other kids from the program living there as well, and one other that I am in the process of profiling for inclusion. The home was really more of a small clan, with 40 people living in a group of huts in a communal setting, sharing dinners every evening, and really exemplifying some pretty admirable family values. That said…the child’s father is dead, and the mother was not there to greet us as she was on her way that day to bury her father (the kid’s grandfather). Even in the best of settings here there is a lot of suffering.

Like I have said before, how much you learn about Africa and the kids we sponsor from these home visits is immense, and you just have to go on one to understand the gratitude and honor involved in your willingness to pay a visit to these orphaned kids’ homes.

The day was filled with the usual fun and games, and got kicked off with some songs and dancing from the kids in the morning. Their dancing and joy is infectious…even for a bunch of tired and sun burnt Americans.
While we were singing this morning, I caught a glimpse of this little girl Rose Acom (sponsored by Jennie and Joel Cardo) wearing some over sized flip flops. It’s really amazing how little these kids have, and how little they care about the petty issues that drive our lives in the west. After all…shoes are things that cover your feet and make it easier to walk on hot sand and rough stones. Right?
The facepaint made an appearance today, turning Anna into an even more African version of herself, and pretty much engulfing Gina’s face at one point – she had to go wash it off before her home visit.

With the team at home visits or at play, I was able to spend a good portion of the day interviewing many of the kids and getting background stories on each of them to bring back to our friends and sponsors. This is really quite challenging work, as the kids are sometimes shy to speak of their family history and parent’s deaths (as would any kid anywhere in the world)….but it was rewarding to know that I will be able to give more details to many of you when I return. As we continue to build our relationships with these kids and the community, I am confident we will know the backgrounds of all of them, but this was a good start for now.

This may or may not make sense to many of you reading it….but when we are here hanging out with these kids it is easy to forget just how tough and sad many of their life stories have been. They play and laugh and fall and cry just like any kids, so it is sometimes easy to forget what they have been through….and go through….every day. But their stories are incredibly tough to sit through. One after the other, to learn about the death and suffering that these people live with is a difficult experience. So, for context, and so that all of you know that these kids are truly in need of your continued support, here are just a few background stories for some of you.

Saidi Bogere 
(Sponsored by Joel and Jennie Cardo)

Siadi is 14 years old and in P5 (5th Grade). His father died of HIV and his mother is HIV+. She is a peasant farmer and works the small 4 acre plot of land that they own, and works in surrounding neighbors fields for them for extra money. For reference sake it takes around 5 acres to provide enough for a family of 5 here, and there are 6 kids plus the mother living in this home. Saidi walks 7km to school every day, and then visits the CarePoint a km from his school for lunch.

Robert Okello 
(Sponsored by Danny and Jessie Vasquez)

Robert is a 6 year old in P2 and also lives 7km away from the CarePoint. Robert’s father died of HIV a few years ago, and the mother is also HIV+. Robert’s sister is Agnes Akia and is also sponsored. The family of 7 (mom plus 6) lives off of the produce of just 1 acre of land and most days, the only meal Robert eats is the lunch provided at the CarePoint after the 7km walk from home to school.

Solomon Okwalinga
(Sponsored by Hans and Colleen de Bruin)

Solomon is an extremely bright boy. He is 12 and in P4. His father was an alcoholic and died from an overdose when Solomon was 5. There are 4 kids in their home, and their mother has severe breast cancer which appears to also have spread to her leg.  When the father died, the family was chased from their (the husband’s) land in Soroti (near Ogoloi) and they had to relocate to Bukedea. They currently live in a tiny hut in town with no land. The mother works to cultivate other people’s land and the family makes around 7,000 shillings a week from her labor (approx 3 dollars a week). Obviously, without the program Solomon would not be eating or attending school

Phillip Adusa

(Sponsored by Jay and Morgan DeVries)
Phillip is 12 and in P4. There are 7 kids in his family, and one of his siblings is in the program (Joyce Akarot). His father was poisoned, a common occurrence in Bukedea. I did some research and from what I can learn the people poison others with various chemicals taken from the local factories, but most often with a substance found in Hippo bile (of all things). I am told it is deadly and kills in minutes.

The mother remarried after the father’s death and left the kids with the grandmother. Although this sounds terrible, it was in part in order to be able to make a living (as she had no land) and be able to help provide for the kids. She sells and manufactures some local brew (beer) and uses the funds to help support the kids.

Oliver Acom 
(Sponsored by Ryan and Alli Kauffman)

Oliver is also an incredibly bright little girl. She is 10 years old and in P5. I am told that her father died from witchcraft…meaning he was cursed by someone from jealousy or some vendetta. (who knows what this really means?).

Her mother had to leave and head back to her family home and left her 9 children with the grandmother. 2 have since died and 7 remain. Oliver is the youngest. Recently, the grandmother was also chased from her land (at the death of the grandfather the land reverted to some other uncle) and has had to move about 20 km from the CarePoint. Oliver is only able to visit once or twice a week by bycicle, and we are looking into providing boarding fees for her in Bukedea so that she can stay in the area and continue to benefit from the CarePoint.

 Vicky Apio

(Sponsored by Megan Hill)
Vicky is 12 and in P4. She has 2 siblings, one of which is in the program with her (Grace Acam). Her father died of HIV and her mother is HIV+. Vicky has also tested positive for HIV and is currently on ARV’s

She lives with her mother and siblings on a 1 acre plot (not enough to survive), and helps her mom with the farming frequently, both on their land and in other people’s land for money. She mentioned that she would really like to be a teacher one day, and we hope that dream can be fulfilled.

It’s hard to believe, but there really isn’t a child in the program whose story would not shake you. Especially when you hear it from their mouths. I mention this only to help all of you understand that this is real…and the impact that you are having on these kids lives through your sponsorship is just as real. These kids are being provided the hope not just of a meal, and school….but of a future. You can’t imagine the impact that HOPE can have in the life of a child like this, who otherwise simply has no future.

So Thanks!

I have posted more photos on the FaceBook page as always.
You can see the album Bukedea Day 2 here.
Tomorrow is another big day, with home visits, a break out session with the big boys and girls to get some time to chat under the mango trees, and hopefully some time for me to teach one of the disciplers a few worship songs. He is working hard to figure out the guitar that Ally left a year ago and could use a little help. And that’s great….because a “little” is all the help I can provide.

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