In March, a group of 4 (Brenda Hudson, Kestyn Hudson, Linda Witt and Amari Hamaker) traveled to Uganda and met up with Arlo Mellish, John Williams and Craig Millar who were already there. Brenda, Kestyn, Linda and Amari took had a 24 hour stay in Dubai where they got to quickly immerse themselves in the middle eastern culture. They went on a desert safari which included dune bashing, camel riding, dressing in burkas, belly dancing show and had a traditional arabian dinner in the middle of the desert. They also were able to go to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. After leaving the richest country in the world, it was a 5 hour flight to one of the poorest. Once in Uganda, they hit the ground running with the many things they wanted to accomplish.
Arlo had been there working at the new vocational home in Fort Portal for the past 8 weeks. She remained focusing there while the rest of the team focused on the orphanange home near the Congo Border. Arlo had her hands full with our 13 kids and new leaders that had recently relocated to the vocational home. She was working hard trying to get the home furnished and organized but during her stay, testing came back the majority of our children failed their government exam. Instead of the students entering into our vocational program, we elected to re-enroll them to repeat their final year of secondary school. So they were off to a local boarding school after figuring out it was too much to have them reside in our home and transport each day. So currently we have two special needs residing in our vocational home attending special programs at a local primary school and two boys in the vocational program.
We had a detour on our first day when we arrived to learn about a woman near the Congo who was in need of her leg being amputated. She had a boil develop a year earlier and was told by a witch doctor to not treat it or the other leg would become infected. This had resulted a horrific spread of infection that left her bedridden and her leg gangrenous and in need of a life saving amputation. See the story titled “Rachael” under the “Stories of Hope” tab to learn more about her amazing story.
While in Ntandi at the orphanage the team members got to work interviewing all of the children. We sat with them individually to learn more about their personal stories, teach about hygiene and taking care of themselves, review their school performance and assess for any concerns and/or needs including health issues. We brought a new supply of vitamins, some other medications along with 6 months worth of soap to ensure the success of our Wellness Program (see current projects). Once word gets out within the village that we are present, many people bring orphaned children asking for our help. The past two visits, this has became quite overwhelming. The need in this area is so great due to lost lives from disease, tribal clashes and lack of basic medical care. There are hundreds of thousands of children in this region that are without parents. We live by the motto, “Helping One Person Might Not Change The World But It Will Change The World For That One Person”.
Always a highlight of our trips is taking kids a shopping trip which we have done for the past several years. They get to spend money from their donors to buy whatever they wish and majority of the time they buy essentials such as sheets, shoes, clothes, bathing buckets, dishes and even loafs of bread. The younger, primary students were taken to the local village in Ntandi to shop and then given a treat of bananas, eggs and a soda. Our children live off of 3 foods each day so we have recently started a food supplementation program to provide some fruit and eggs once a week (see current projects to learn more). We were able to transport the secondary students to Fort Portal to tour the vocational home where they will one day reside and we took them to a restaurant for a meal before their shopping trip at the market. For some, it was the first time they have ever been in a restaurant. We gifted each child a towel which the majority of them have never owned. They also received gift bags from their sponsors which they look forward to all year. All 80 of our children were treated with a anti parasitic medication. Another one of our favorite things to do is to just pull over alongside the road and bless people with random things like clothes, school supplies, food, waterbottles, shoes, small toys and candy.
Although days are busy and exhausting, we took some time to enjoy beautiful Uganda and have fun. We went on a safari at Queen Elizabeth Park, trekked chimpanzees in the Kibale forest, made our usual visit to dance and interact with the very primitive Pgymy tribe. We even made a visit to the local circus where we quickly became the circus.:)
We always leave with lot of unfinished business so immediately we start working from our computers once we return. Fortunately we are able to run many of our programs from home with the help of some of our Ugandan friends. Planning is always in the works for our next trip. Establishing a library containing books and educational games in Ntandi for our primary orphanage kids is on the agenda for our next trip along with transitioning kids that are repeating secondary school back to the vocational home to begin our investment year program (see current projects). We plan to have ongoing education at each of our visits regarding health and hygiene. We also would love to bring someone to teach about gardening, simple sewing and possibly even soap making. We look forward to having another productive trip helping improve the lives of some of the neediest people in the world whom we love so much.