Hospice, our wonderful friends!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get pics today except one. The adults don’t love having their picture taken, and it seems… wrong, somehow, to take them of the dying.

James picked us up at Surjio’s Pizzarie and Guest House (great!) and we got a wonderful warm welcome at hospice. We had the morning meeting and talked through the day, learning we would visit one patient on the way to a community day care way out in the village. After a quick cup of tea and some catching up with Shem, we headed out with James, Christine (nurse), Richard (community administrator, like a nurse practitioner or PA) and Diana.

Visiting Richard was quite sad. He’s in advanced stages of AIDS, with Karposy’s sarcoma consuming one leg. While they had seen him just the Tuesday before, they were checking on him because he had been trying to marry his common law wife to settle inheritance issues, and Hospice had been trying to assist him. The priests at the local Catholic church were ok with it, but Richard’s birth and baptism certificates were in another village far away, and there was no one to send, and no money to send them, to fetch them. While the process seemed to be moving ahead at something just a shade over glacier speed, his disease is advancing quickly. As we left, Christine said, “I’m afraid he will not live to see his dream.” That made me really, really sad…

We spent the rest of the day going to, sitting at, and driving home from the day care. It was held in a clinic about an hour away, on wet slippery mud roads. About twenty patients came, and all were seen by the nurses, and a talk was given (a “positive living” talk on “disclosure”, because most of the people there had HIV/AIDS). They were given breakfast (at 12:15!) and lunch (at 3pm). Unfortunately none of them spoke English, and we don’t speak Lusoga, so we didn’t really have much interaction. But when they all danced and sang… that was awesome!

Richard giving the talk. He wanted Ryan to do it, but we were able to excuse her from that (she was very thankful!)


On to Jinja…and Bukaleba

Ryan got in from the States on Wednesday night, and the three of us left and headed for Jinja on Thursday morning. No time for jetlag here! We had a couple of quiet personal days – including white water rafting on the Nile, which was fabulous! – and then headed out to Bukaleba to one of our favorite places ever, the Arise Africa babies home, and our primary school! We were so excited that we were actually spending the night out there, able to really enjoy the kids and the beautiful property (5 square miles), and it was great!

One of the very best things was that one of our sponsored kids, Marvin, who has really struggled after he was found extremely malnourished a couple of years ago, was walking! And drinking his own porridge, and even smiling. This was huge! Also, our favorite child there, Shabila, had been adopted! It was bittersweet – she wasn’t there to hug, but she has a family and lives in NC, so that was amazing. Mostly we just sat with them, played, Ryan drove van loads around to much laughter and excitement. A group of young men from Baylor was there, and we enjoyed them very much as well.

We were blessed with a program from the primary school kids (video to be added later!), and also got to go to church in the primary school Sunday morning. We were sad to leave!

P1 kids doing our program. They came in on Saturday just for us! Flash didn’t work…

Here’s a slideshow of our time there:

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Last Namuwongo day – where did the time go?!

I can’t believe how fast this trip has gone! I have so enjoyed doing something almost every day, really visiting everyone at Ray of Hope, spending time talking about their needs in depth. Sigh. I guess there’s never enough time…

Today we saw Doreen, our other elderly lady. She makes beautiful paper beads, much better than the average, and she’s making a lot of new and creative things. She’s got a huge inventory though, so I don’t think we’ll give her a grant this time – she just needs to sell what she has, and she’ll have a good pile of capital.

We met a new family today (again, without my file, I don’t remember the name of the mom)… What happened was, one of our sponsored girls, Mary, had come to Ray of Hope to pick up some school things, and she was upset. When Christine asked her why, she said that her sister (who is really her cousin) Prossy had been supporting the family for some time, alone, and it was such a struggle for all of them that it made her sad. So Emily asked Mary to ask Prossy to write a letter about her situation and bring it to Ray of Hope, which she did. (When I get home I will scan and post it – it’s amazing.)

Anyway, the situation is this: Prossy is 18, the oldest of 5 kids. Two cousins, who are orphans, live with them. Her mother is unemployed. She used to sell roasted maize in front of IHK (International Hospital of Kampala, which is nearby), but they stopped all the vendors from selling a few months ago and she has done nothing else. Prossy works as a teacher in a primary school, but with no diploma she only makes 100,000 shillings a month (about $42). Their rent is about 60,000, not to mention food, school fees, etc. Obviously, a quite impossible situation! Prossy had finished S5 (secondary school, level 5 of 6), and attended 1 term of S6 but was unable to continue paying fees so she had to leave (she was “chased off,” as they call it, fittingly). They did, however, allow her to take the leaving exam at the end of the term, which she passed. However, she can’t pick up her scores, which are necessary to enter any further programs, until she pays the back school fees plus the exam fee (500,000 shillings total).

So. We gave her mom a micro-grant for capital to sell produce, which she plans to do at her sister’s place, a short boda ride away, where there are more people with more money. We extended school fees to the older brother, not in school this term (chased off) – fortunately he is at a government sponsored school, so his fees for secondary are a good bit cheaper than most, at 170,000 shillings a term. And we agreed to both pay off Prossy’s school fees so she can pick up her final scores, and pay for a diploma program at the local college so that she can get an official teaching degree and eventually make the more usual salary of 400,000 shillings a month as a teacher.

Prossy, her mom and brother in front of their home

We also tried to visit Harriet’s mom and Justin’s mom. We sponsor both these awesome kids, and last trip also extended rent help and grants to their moms. We got lost… and then we got lost. So finally we just stood still while Christine tried to find the way. Zeke made a friend!

And lastly we walked through the Namuwongo (official) market and visited two of the Nawezakana ladies who have booths there. And then… that was it!

The produce is beautiful!

After we got back to Ray of Hope, I went through all the business proposals, and decided what to do for whom. They’d all done proposals that totaled 350,000 shillings, but many didn’t actually need that much. In fact, they tend to do better with around 100,000 shillings at a time. In all, we gave about 3.3 million shillings to Ray of Hope for school feels and micro-business grants, and for a future basketball hoop for the Haven kids.

It was just a great visit!


May 14 – old friends

Today we saw one of our oldest – and oldest – friends. These are the 2 elderly ladies for whom we pay rent, Caroline and Doreen. Today we visited Caroline.

I saw Caroline at the party last week and she looks… poorly. She hasn’t been eating much, and is weak, with a persistent cough (part of the HIV symptoms at this point). I was concerned about her then, and we’d committed to getting her a half liter of milk a day, and I was thankful to see that today she’s looking better – and drinking her milk!

Unfortunately (for this picture) I only brought my iPhone today, so it’s blurry. But Caroline is in the middle, and we’re in her home.

This is Rose. When we met her for the first time in March 2011, she was really struggling. She has stage 2 HIV, and was having a lot of problems with her ARVs. She was hawking bras on the street, but it was completely exhausting her and making her sick. Now she has bought a piece of land, is much healthier and stronger, and is doing extremely well. It was so great to visit with her!

A new child in our school fee sponsorship program – isn’t she beautiful? And smart as a whip!

Today I’m struggling with the balance between child sponsorships and the grants. We don’t, unfortunately, have unlimited funds, and 2013 looks to be more cash-poor than 2012, unless we are able to get some help with the hospice fuel costs from local hospices, and the primary school building project from schools. The grants are one time, and I know how much I have to spend going in. The school fees are ongoing, and as of now, less than half of the children we are sponsoring have individual sponsors – the money, in other words, is part of the Ten Eighteen general budget.

We receive report cards and letters from the children, and the difference regular sponsorship has made for them is huge. Many children in Uganda can’t go, don’t go regularly (for instance one term out of three a year), or never go further than primary school before needing to bring in some kind of income for their families. So the ability to go to school, which we so take for granted, is huge.

On the other hand, the women we’ve helped with grants are now supporting their families. While they still need help, especially with school fees or in a crisis (ie an illness or injury), their families are no longer starving. Literally. These women are smart, they work incredibly hard, and they have now tasted what it’s like to bring in a decent income and are rising to the challenge to do even better.

It’s a struggle, really… a balancing act, and one I’m not sure I’ll ever feel I get 100% right…

May 11 – the long walk

Zeke went with me today, and we didn’t know it, but we were going to see Jennifer. Now, we love Jennifer. Jennifer is one of the ladies who has been able to buy land, and she’s doing well with her tailoring business (she received a grant last March). BUT, Jennifer lives way way way down the railroad tracks. WAY down. It’s a half hour walk down there, at a pretty good clip, and that’s if you don’t stop. Which we did, several times. Not knowing we were going there, we didn’t bring sunscreen, and I wore a tank top. Consequently, we are both completely fried. But… anyway… It was a pretty good day!

Two more of our sponsored kids

Mary, another of our old friends. She sews and has a produce stand. Festo, the young man to the left, has been sponsored by Ten Eighteen for 2 years. He was just accepted into Makerere University, and wants to study law!

Katherine, supreme prayer warrior… When Katherine prays over you, you know she has the red phone direct to the throne!

These are Angela’s two daughters, who we sponsor in vocational school. Angela is a hard worker, and has made a business out of filling the needs of 2 communities. She buys used clothing at the Namuwongo market very cheaply, and takes it 7 hours north, to her home village, and sells it for about 5 times what she pays. Then she buys sim sim and little tiny dried peas, Acholi staples, and brings them back to Namuwongo to sell to the many displaced Acholi who live there, again for a large profit. She’s brilliant!

One of the Nawezakana ladies selling jack fruit. I really dislike it, but it’s very popular.

We picked up this lovely young lady’s school fees, plus bought her a mosquito net

This photo is from March 2011, the first time we made the long walk to Jennifer’s. It’s waaayyyyyy down – you can’t even see it yet, and this is at least halfway there.

May 10 – Partying with the youngsters

Today we held a party for our basketball camp kids (although half the kids weren’t at the basketball camp, and many who were weren’t there!). It was GREAT! These are such great kids, and the Fathers House kids came down with us, plus Jack came and brought two other basketball players. We gave away lots and lots of great – and greatly needed – stuff: tee shirts, ground nut paste (like peanut butter), bread, washing bars, a kilo of sugar, friendship bracelets, candy, hugs… The meal provided by Nesco was fabulous, and we ended up serving 79 instead of our estimated 58, bringing our total for the week to 126 people fed a great, nutritious lunch (including meat, which they rarely get). It was kind of like the loaves and fishes – I told them to serve to whoever came, and somehow we had enough food for them all with a good amount left over!

It was easier to just put the pictures up for you – enjoy!

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May 9 – visiting the community (slums) of Namuwongo

Today we visited with 7 women and discussed their business plan proposals. (I will update with the names later – I’m out of town and didn’t bring that file! duh!) It looks like we’ll be seeing around 20 ladies, so remembering who is doing what is going to be tricky! I’ve asked Christine to make me photocopies each day so that I can write notes to myself when I get back to Father’s House, otherwise I’ll never remember! I think half of the women we’re seeing are ones we’ve given grants to in the past, so those will be easy, at least.

The market for the paper beads is very flat (at best), at least for the necklaces. It seems to me that other items made with them, especially bracelets, purses and earrings, are doing ok. So our main challenge has been to move the women out of that business and into something that a) has more profit, and b) has a steady market. The beads are a LOT of work – the photo below shows beads drying. It takes about 5 coats of varnish to be ready to craft the jewelry, not to mention the many hours of cutting paper and rolling beads. All for about 1,000 shillings each at the market, if they can even sell them. The US and UK markets are saturated with necklaces as well – many people have been coming here in the past couple of years, and they all seem to bring beads back to sell.

Beads drying on a rack

Our business plans are now favoring the hawking of, or a stand for, fresh produce, especially in two locations: on the main walking thoroughfare through the community; or down in the slums themselves, at or near the lady’s home, where fresh produce normally requires a fairly long walk to obtain. We have several ladies who have already made good businesses from this. While it does require going to the Nakawa market on Mon, Wed, and Fri each week, EARLY in the morning, to get fresh supplies, it is much needed, and it is a product that must be purchased often. A number of the ladies are looking for grants to get started in this one way or the other, or to expand what they’re already doing by bringing in more/varied produce, as well as little dried fishes that are a staple.

Agnes, who we met on our very first visit, has a new produce stand in a great location. She didn’t have much yet – one of her (7) kids had gone to the market for her and hadn’t gotten back. But I know she’ll do great, as she has with everything she’s done so far.

Another area that is popular is cooking food for those passing by. Call it a “walk through”. Some of the ladies make items for the morning and lunch, and some for the dinner and later night folks. (People are walking around until quite late at night, trying to do the errands they can’t do while they’re working long hours in the day, and usually 7 days of the week.) Popular dishes are a maize/bean mixture, fresh fruits cut into individual servings (like jack fruit), or posho with beans.

This is Morette. We gave her a grant to add a second cooking pot of her maize/bean mixture. This will more than double her capacity, and she was almost sold out when we visited with her.

One great thing we have discovered is that 3 of the ladies that we’ve given grants to in the past have been able to buy small plots of land in Namuwongo! Now, don’t think of your one acre lot and big house – these plots are teeny tiny, the size of your living room, or two bedrooms or your deck. But they can build a house (there are no loans here – you build when you have money, and stop when you don’t, but you are debt and rent free when it’s done), and be free from the pretty tyrannical landlords. It’s a very big deal!

The green plot of shorter grass behind Christine and the lady helping us with directions is land that a two-time grant recipient, Rose, has bought.

It was a good day! I’m sunburned and tired, but it is just so great to see how far our old friends have come, and to know what a difference a small grant can make for the new ladies. Of course, we can’t help all 20 this trip… That’s the only discouraging thing. I’d like to give them all grants! But we’ll do what we can, pray about who most needs help now, and visit the ones we weren’t able to help again next time. In the meantime, if you feel inspired by these wonderful women and want to donate for a grant, please let me know! We have all the business proposals, and can pass that on in our next wire transfer!