Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 11: The Walk for Water

You always hear about the water shortages throughout the continent of Africa, and how so many people can be found walking miles for water each and every day.  For most of us, we can intellectually grasp this concept to degree, but do we really get it.  The village of Bulenga is fortunate enough to have a few large wells that can be found throughout the community.  They struggled for water leading up until 2007 when a team of Swedish missionaries opened up the spring for the local community.  Since then, there have been plumbing enhancements that now deliver water to a few residential homes throughout the community.  Having a tap on your property is most definitely a luxury, but it’s not always reliable. 

 This man is using his bike to transport water as a means of income

The larger percentage of the population cannot financially afford to have the tap installed on their property, so they walk to the local wells for water.  They use large plastic containers to transport the water starting with 5 liters up to 20 liter containers.  Most of you are probably familiar with the illustrations seen on television or in magazines of people young and old carrying water on top of their heads.  Although  these illustrations capture the essence of the culture, we are only seeing a small fraction of the real picture.  Today I helped the orphanage transport water from the local well that is only approximately 500 yards from their home.  I made a few trips with Patrick and transported the 20 liter containers, one in each hand.  Now, I consider myself to be in pretty fare shape, but I must admit this walk for 500 yards was no joke.  To put this into perspective, this would be like carrying ten 2 liters of soda in each hand for the length of 5 football fields.

Now can you imagine making this trek each and every day just for water?  As I shared, Bulenga is fortunate because water is readily available.  It can be short at times due to drought, but none the less, it is available.  Let’s take this a bit further.  There are some communities throughout the continent of Africa that are barren and have no wells.  If you are lucky, you will have a low point in a village that collects run off, but even this is not healthy as most of the water in these areas is stagnant and contaminated.  Those without water will literally walk for miles each and every day just to fetch water.  I can’t even grasp the magnitude of the wear and tear these treks leave on their bodies, not to mention the time that is consumed by simply fetching water.  If local wells were available, the time spent normally fetching water could be applied to working and earning a wage.

It is a proven fact that there are springs beneath the continent of Africa that are rich and plentiful, however most communities lack resources for drilling wells.  The western world has been participating in well projects for many years now, and yet we recognize we are just reaching the tip of the iceberg. If we look at some of the core issues surrounding poverty, most of them simply stem out of lack of water and malnourishment.  In order for men to be productive and lively in society, they must first be able to properly take care of their bodies. Without water, productivity will remain absent.

Just to give you an idea, some wells cost up to $5000 USD to install.  This means if 100 people pulled together their resources at $50 USD each, they could literally enhance the life of an entire community.  Beyond this, wells are used as a vehicle to drive in further education and training within a community.

I know the problems are vast, but little by little we can make a difference!

Wishing you all the greatest day!

PS.  I wanted to introduce all of you to a visitor I had last night.  Have a look at this hissing cockroach that was making himself comfortable on my bed.  This one was on the smaller size, on average they are much bigger than this.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 9: Continued- It's the little things and the shocking things

I'm learning that it's the little things in life that really count.  For the last several days a large portion of the village has been without electricity, but life just keeps on moving.  It has only been a little over a year now since this portion of the village has had electricity available, so you can imagine how the people of the community have benefited from having such technology.  A few of the store owners have televisions just outside their shops, and music can be heard all throughout the day coming from all directions.  I believe it was last Tuesday when the power went out, and the locals found themselves reaching back to the past.  The televisions stopped and there was no music, but that didn't slow anyone down.

So this evening just before dusk, there was a quick flicker and everyone stopped for a moment and held their breath......  Then the power came back on.  Wow, you would have thought everyone hit the lottery!  People were cheering all throughout the village, jumping up and down, and celebrating that the power had been restored.  What an experience to see people rejoicing over something so small as electricity, quite an experience to see.  This evening the stores stayed open for a few extra hours.  You could find 20-30 people huddled around the store fronts watching television, and the upbeat Ugandan regatone was being blasted all over town.  The lights were back on in Bulenga, and the people were thrilled!

Not bad for the evening, but what a shocking afternoon it was.  So as we were walking back into town, there was a huge gathering right in the middle of town.  I asked Patrick what was going on because there almost appeared to be some rioting that was taking place, I wasn't sure.  Patrick told me that the people were gathering at the local Law Office for a public flogging, yes flogging.  Apparently 2 young men were caught stealing yesterday afternoon and were arrested.  In some Ugandan cultures, the penalty for such a crime is a public flogging.  Now for me, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word flog, is baton or a stick that is capable of breaking the skin, but not in this flogging occasion. Since this was their first offense for these young men, they were literally being bent over like a child and were being whipped with a belt over the behind.  The biggest part of this punishment was the public humiliation, I think the pain was minimal, although the guy swinging the belt was bringing the heat.  I was in complete shock and didn't know how to respond, especially since this was such a foreign sight to see.  The crowd gathering around was laughing at the situation, I couldn't believe this.  The truth of the matter is that this community loves its people, they want the very best for everyone, even the young thieves that were being publicly flogged or spanked.  This was a small price to pay for the crime that had been committed.  I'm still in shock...  You don't see that back home in the states, hopefully they learned their lesson.

I'm not writing this because I agree with their justice system, but I think it is very important for us as westerners to gasp as much of the picture as we can surrounding this culture.

Just another day of experiencing life in Uganda!  Good night from abroad...

PS.  If you ever have the opportunity to travel to another country with a tropical climate, please use the mosquito nets if they are available.  They aren't the best sight to see and can be a pain, but they work wonders!

Day 9: Children return to school & Meet Simon "Chicago Fire"

What an exciting day for the children as they returned back to school today, all 43 : ).  They march off to school in small groups, as the older ones start around 7AM and the younger ones begin at 8AM.  As you can see in the photos they all look so sharp in their school uniforms, and they proudly walk through the community as it is an honor to be a student attending school.  The private school system is somewhat similar to what we have back home in the states (the system is similar, not the infrastructures).  The younger ones attend only for half a day while the older ones are in school from 7-4:30.  They are served a small meal for breakfast which consists of tea or pourage along with cassava (similar to a fried potato wedge) or chapte (similar to a flour tortilla).  The older children have 3-4 teachers which teach them English, math, science, and social studies.  Just as our kids back home, they are served lunch (posho=similar to smashed rice and beans) and go out to have recess.

They all take their studies very seriously and apply themselves to the best of their ability.  Some you will find studying and reading late at night by candle light.  The opportunity of learning how to read is perceived as gift from God.  Patrick tells me that there are many nights he will wake up in the middle of the night and find a few of the children reading by candle light.  He says once they get it, they can’t read enough- they love it.

Last night, I walked into town with one of the older boys, Simon who is now 15 (Photo Below).  He is such a bright young man and has a heart for the orphanage as well as the community.  He and I developed a bond during my last visit.  We created a greeting between the two of us during my last visit which is “Chicago Fire”  followed by a big smile.  Two years ago his English was very poor, so it was difficult to communicate.  One of the shirts he received last time was a youth soccer jersey from a team that must have been sponsored by one of the local fire departments in Chicago. The shirt read “Chicago Fire.”   This phrase became our common bond : ) 

The amazing news is that in just a short time, Simon’s English and comprehension skills have accelerated to such a degree that he has become an interpreter in his local church. He is interpreting parts of the sermon as well as the Bible.  This young man has dreams of becoming either a teacher or a journalist. He shared with me that he feels it is Uganda’s responsibility to be the best communicators they can be in order to relay the message of their nation to the western world. Simon’s father passed away at the age of 35 of unknown causes, and his mother abandoned the family when he was just a baby.  Simon was found on the streets 3 years ago by Patrick after one year of being homeless.  We had an amazing conversation last night, and celebrated that we could now communicate a bit better.  He shared with me that he will always thank God  that he was rescued from the streets and will never forget where his journey began.  As he was sharing, I envisioned him as a grown man with a family.  I’m confident in this young man’s future, and I know with all of my heart his life is and will continue to impact this community as he grows and matures.  Where will Simon be 10 years from now and what will his life look like? 

Thank you RUHU, TRUAC, and all of the supporters back home. It is children like Simon that have become the fruit of your labor.  Well Done!  I feel we are just in the very beginning stages of something beautiful that is continuing to unfold with each day! 

Opportunity=Education=Empowerment=Impact…… We are investing in the transformation of lives!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 8- The Restroom Facilties

Day 8- Restroom facilities

Just wanted to give you all an update on the infrastructure, and the necessary improvements that needs to take place around the orphanage.  The facility has come a long was since I last visited 2 years ago.  The outer walls of the facility are now 12 feet tall which is an improved security measure.  The grounds are now paved with concrete and are on a slight grade which eliminates standing water.  Having the grounds paved with concrete also helps with dust control. There is now a concrete basin used for a washing station and a raised garden bed for gardening (this could be better utilized).  The home now has electricity which they have access to when power is available (the electricity is very unreliable).   Prior to having a electricity, they were using a fuel operated generator.  Having electricity is much more economical.

There are still a few important changes that need to take place immediately.  The first is the bathroom facility.  You can watch the video to get better idea of what my thoughts are. This project is definitely a high priority and is a major health concern.  In order to have the entire bathroom reconstructed, it will roughly cost between $1000-1250 USD.  

Another thought is to upgrade their kitchen facility.  Leading up until this point, they have been cooking on a very simple wood burning fire pit.  They are literally cooking all day long, one meal being prepared after the next.  They also boil their water each and every day.  My concern is the smoke inhalation from the fire.  The kitchen is bellowing with smoke which these young children are taking into their longs.  I stayed in the kitchen for about 5 minutes while they were boiling beans the other day, the smoke in-take was ridiculous, not to mention my eyes were burning.  We could easily improve this situation by installing an improved fire burning stove/oven.  I saw an improved stove at another orphanage, and it significantly cut down on the amount of smoke within the kitchen.  They referred to it as their fancy stove : ).  It would cost about $500 USD to install an improved stove which would minimize the amount of smoke during the cooking process.

I am available to chat via e-mail, or we can discuss matters further when I return to the states.  My prayer is to see these projects completed during my visit.  If you are feeling compelled to contribute to these projects, please feel free to visit our web-site @  We do have a pay-pal option for on-line donations.  As always, your donations are 100% tax deductible.  I will look forward to chatting with you all very soon!

Thank you for standing in the gap on behalf of “the least of these little ones.”


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 6: Time to go swimming- yes swimming : )

Today was a great day of fun!

We have been without electricity for the last 4 days, so it has been difficult to write because I have to travel into town in order to have my computer charged.  The temperatures are nearing 100 degrees during the day and dropping down to around the upper 60’s at night.  It has been HOT!  So check this out, there is a wealthy business owner from the community that installed a swimming pool which they have opened to the surrounding community.  For just under a $1.00 kids are able to swim and adults for $1.50, so I took 24 of the older children from the orphanage swimming last night.  We had a blast, and I was amazed by how well some of the children could swim.  Some of them became brave enough to let me launch them through the air too.  The lifeguard most definitely earned his keep last night.  I laid down the ground rules before we all jumped in, and over the course of 2 hours not one fell out of line.  These children are so well behaved and respectful of everyone around them.  Patrick and William have done such an amazing job raising all of them.  I wish each of you could come and share this experience with me.  My goal is to hopefully bring a team here to Uganda over the course of the next few years so you will be able to experience the children first hand.

Back at the house, everything falls into almost perfect order.  The older ones are assigned to over-see certain responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, water fetching, and gate keeping.  So in an essence, you have the older ones discipling the younger ones.  The home runs like a well oiled machine, just as a well functioning and healthy family should. This is truly miraculous given the childrens' background, not too mention it has only been two years since most have been off the streets.

This morning we all attended the local church. What a sight to see all 40+ children walking through the village 2 by 2.  They all sat so well and behaved through almost a 2 hour service.  The children from the orphanage fill roughly 1/3 of the open aired church.  The children are such a blessing to members of the congregation, and they are all embraced. There is a saying in African culture, “the children belong to the community first and then to the  parents.”  You can observe this philosophy being modeled as you stroll through the village.

I will be uploading some photos of the kids and their swimming experience very soon.  The next blog will be an update on the actual living facility and a few critical upgrades that need to take place soon. 

Wishing you all a great weekend and look forward to seeing you soon.

FYI- I have been showering from a jug for the last week, but was happy to meet someone who has offered me to use their shower facility.  I might have to spoil myself a few times before I leave and accept their invitation:)! 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 5: Continued- Child Trafficking and the Sex trade

Today I learned of the issues surrounding child trafficking and the sex trade.  This epidemic is becoming more common across the globe, more than we realize.  Young girls starting around the age of 11 can be found along the sides of the streets being marketed for sex for as little as 0.20 per transaction with up to four clients a day.  This conversation between Patrick and I stemmed out of the story of one of the little girls which he rescued from the streets.  Her name is Rose, and she is between 11-12 years old.  She was abandoned by her parents and was forced to live in the slums.  Out of her vulnerability, she was taken in by a group of young prostitutes that expressed she could earn a living through prostituting and would also be protected by the man whom was marketing her.  Given her current situation which was living without food and shelter, sadly this young girl saw this as a means for survival.

You hear of these stories from time to time, but the concept just seems so surreal and is hard for us as westerners to comprehend.  If you met Rose, you would first be caught by her beautiful smile and kind demeanor.  You can tell she longs for the father’s love and deeply wants to be accepted.  Thankfully Patrick rescued Rose when he did as she was only (saying only doesn't even seem right) being sold on the streets for roughly 6 months.  He had been working with her for about 6 weeks, and said enough is enough after she shared she had been severely beaten and raped by an older man.  There are so many other stories such as Rose’s, and shockingly enough most Ugandan run organizations view these poor, down trodden young girls as a disease which they do not want to get involved with.  It is easier for them to ignore the stories and look the other way.  Where there are some helpful programs, they are truly few and far between.

Rose is only 2 years older than my daughter Madison.  I couldn’t imagine any child being in these kinds of situations which Rose has had to endure.  I know this is is heavy stuff and difficult to read, but the truth needs to be communicated and something has to be done!  As I shared this info with Jenny last night, I found myself choked up and unable to speak for a moment.  It is one thing to hear the stories, and a whole other to meet a child who has actually lived it.

I am hopeful for Rose because I know she is now in a safe environment filled with love and affection, and her future has already become brighter.  She has a place to lay her head down each night without the fear of being beaten or abused.  She has only been at the RUHU home for 6 weeks, but I am assuming her time spent at the house is the very best life she has ever experienced since child birth.  I am grateful for Patrick’s heart for these street children and his determination to see them raised up out of a place of despair and into a place of HOPE.  Your efforts back home are making a difference in the lives of many. Thank you for all of your love and support and may you continue to be blessed in all of your giving! 

Day 5: The Children are Amazing!

Sorry for jumping for all over the place, but it very difficult to prioritize what to write and what not to.  There's so much to take in from cultural differences to similarities.  But I feel the most important understanding that I am gaining is that the only true difference between Americans and the Ugandans, is the color of our skin.  Ok, there are most definitely some cultural differences too, but most importantly I'm referring to human tendencies, feelings, desires, and dreams.

Over the course of these past few days, I have been spending time just reflecting on the children at the orphanage.  Two years have passed since my last visit, and it is so neat to see the spiritual growth and development of character within each of the children.  They all have such unique personalities just like our children back home.  They sing and dance, play soccer, read, run, enjoy eating, the laughter from them is contagious, but most importantly they love and want to be loved.  Each of them has such a compassionate heart!  They have dreams and aspirations to become the very best they can be.  I can see the positive effects the RUHU home has had on each of them.  During the last visit, there were a few that could barely look me in the eye.  The abuse and abandonment these children have endured is more than most of us can imagine, and yet they are now moving into a direction of hope, filled with joy, and are unconditionally loved.  Patrick and William meet these children where they are at, and the RUHU home has been a catalyst to help restore their self-worth, security, and trust.  It is most definitely a journey for most of these children, as healing doesn't come over night, however with each day there comes more personal growth and development.

The family dynamics are absolutely amazing.  They all pitch in and do their chores around the house, the older ones looking after the younger ones.  They are learning life skills such as good manners, reading/writing, how to cook/sew, washing clothes, prayer and devotional time, and the importance of being there for one another.  I can see a bright future for each of these children, and the cycle of poverty is being broken off from them.

The other night me and 5 of the boys were wrestling, we had the greatest time.  I was picking them up over my shoulder and power bombing them onto the bed,  and pretend power driving them into the ground (dads you understand the moves I'm describing).  We laughed so hard that my stomach hurt, but it was such a good time.  I couldn't help but think of my own kids and how we do the same things back home and how their reactions of crazy dad are exactly the same.   These are just kids, designed just like our own.  In that moment I felt my perspective on the world around me beginning to shift.  To my confession, leading up until this point my focus on the 3rd world was centered around the poverty and not the heart of the people. These are people just like you and I, not projects and not objects, but real people. 

I believe if we stopped for a moment and looked beyond the projects that needed to be implemented in the 3rd world, and began looking at the heart of humanity, this would grant us all enough motivation to reshape the face of the world.  For a long time I used to pray, God bring a miracle to these people; although I believe my prayers were sincere, I have finally recognized the greatest miracle that could ever come to the face of the earth, is us, man kind- Creation is the greatest and most beautiful miracle on the face of the planet, "We truly are the hope of the world."

Tomorrow I will be discussing the progress of the chicken project, and how you can help us take steps towards self-sustainability.  BTW- I'm sorry there aren't as many photos as I would like there to be on the blog, the internet connection is terribly slow and it is difficult to upload.  I will work on getting some videos and photos uploaded later this evening.  Stay tuned.