Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Africa Has More To Offer Than Just Wild Life...

Africa!  When one thinks of Africa the first thing they might think of is Safari, lions, elephants, Giraffes, or Monkeys. As a little girl I had always wanted to see elephants in the wild, and I knew the place I could accomplish that would be Africa.  I could not imagine seeing such a majestic animal in its own habitat.   This is the way I used to think.  Now that I have been in Africa those thoughts are not what has taken over my brain or my heart. 
Since being in Uganda my thoughts are constantly drifting to the people, especially the children of Uganda.  My children of Mercy Home.  On Saturday I was privileged to visit with the children and bring them gifts and hope from America.  As always when I arrived many children came to greet me before I could even get out of the car.  Those faces how beautiful they are looking up at me pulling at my heartstrings. 
The children unloaded the car which was packed with all the things donated by family and friends from home, plus a few other goodies I had bought here.  I stood back and watched as the children carried all the things to the center of the orphanage.  I could not help but think as I was watching about all my friends and family who participated in this event.  Wishing that I could let each one experience what I was experiencing. 
Before passing out everything I wanted to make sure to give the children a little something to keep with them in their hearts that no one could ever take away.  So I preceeded……. “First of all I love each and every one of you.  I want you to know that all these things did not come from just me, Steven and Alex.  There are many people at home which donated these things to you.  My family and friends took time to invest in you and send you their love.  Love all the way from America!  These family and friends have also donated money so that you could eat and get an education.  These people in America have opened their hearts to all of you to show you there is hope and there is love for you.  They ask that you not give up for they are not giving up on you.”
The children’s faces were full of smiles, some had tears in their eyes while others could just sit quietly dreaming of a better life.
My friends, Susan and Tabu were with me to help me hand out all the things to the children.  We first gave a sack that was filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and a small toy token.  The children were so very happy to get a toothbrush.  They immediately started disappearing so they could go brush their teeth.  Who would have thought that a simple toothbrush could bring such joy.
When it came time to pass out clothes we had the children line themselves up from smallest to largest… what fun this was giving them these things.  The girls were delighted to be handed a new pair of underwear. I imagine this was their first brand new pair of underwear they had ever had.  While the boys were elated to be getting shorts, shirts or one favorite a baseball cap. 
When I thought the giving was finished I was surprised that the children had something to give to me.  The children gathered in front of me and sang and danced for me.  What beautiful voices they have.  I will be returning to Mercy Home so that I can video tape their gift to all of you who participated in giving hope and love to these children.  Stay tuned to have your heartstrings pulled just as mine have been pulled.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Friend Tabu

Traffic is so bad here in Uganda that we have had to hire a driver to take us where we need to go.  Fortunately for Alex and I we have found our dear friend Tabu.  Tabu is a tall thin 62 year old man who has the most beautiful wife, Prossy, and fifteen children.  Not all fifteen children are really his, but he and Prossy can not turn a needy homeless child away from their door.  Maybe this is why Alex and I adore Tabu so much, because he and Prossy have such big hearts.
Whenever Alex and I need to go somewhere we call Tabu and he comes to take us.  This seems pretty simple except for the fact that Tabu lives on the other side of town.  In order to come take us where we need to go Tabu has to walk to where he can find a boda boda (motor cycle) to carry him through the busy streets of Kampala.  Again this does not seem like a big deal, but trust me it is.  I would not be stretching it to say Tabu takes his life in his hands every time he gets on that boda boda to come to us.  Of course we try to make it easy on him by scheduling him a head of time.
At first when Steven told me we were going to have a driver I was less than enthused about the idea.  I did not want to be treated like some stuffy American.  I also did not know what on earth I was going to talk to this man about during our trips.  Well fortunately for me Tabu has plenty to talk about.  You see Tabu loves to tell stories.  He reminds me a lot of my daddy who also likes to tell stories.  Maybe this is another reason I feel so close and comfortable with Tabu.
Tabu has told us many of his stories some involving body parts falling from airplanes, some about his courageous efforts to survive the hardships that Uganda has faced over the years, and some about how he loves visiting his daughter in Denmark and how he is very proud of his children, ALL of them.
So as we travel the streets of Kampala and fight the hectic traffic, Alex and I feel safe and comfortable having our dear friend Tabu behind the wheel.  Thank you Tabu for everything, but most of all thank you for your friendship and care. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What Will Happen When We Are Gone?

As I lay down to rest from a very emotional day at the orphanage my mind continues to keeps going.  I lay there thinking of the children I left behind.  My son Alex comes in to check on me and decides to lay down beside me and talk with me.  He asked me a question that has lingered with now for hours.  “Mom, what will happen to the children at the orphanage when we leave?”  WOW!  What will happen to them?
On Tuesday when we arrived we brought our usual large bag of beans.  That day we had also brought hand soap, dish soap, bleach, a broom, a large wooden spoon, and two basketballs.  As we got out of the car the children came running.  They knew that we had not come without bringing something, but even if we had they would have greeted us with the love they always do.  Many hugs were shared and then we opened the trunk to share all our items.  You cannot image the little and big faces when they see a huge bag of beans appear.  They know that they will eat that day.
Moses one of the older boys that tries to take care of things pulled me aside and with tears in his eyes (as always) says “mom thank you for the beans, we did not know what we were going to eat today.”  You see the children only had about 10 pounds of corn flour left.  They were going to pour this corn flour into water and give every child a cup to drink.  That was going to be their food for today.  This would mean that they would not eat until someone brought them more food or until some of them go out and beg for something to eat.  Worse yet dig through the garbage in the small town to see if there are any scraps of food left behind.  So I had 53,000 shillings left in my pocket (about 20.00 us dollars) I gave moses the money and told him to go to town and buy a 50lb bag of corn flour and bring it back.  (50,000 for the corn flour and 3,000 for the motorcycle to carry him and the flour back.)  This one bag of corn flour and the beans will feed the children for about one week.  A total cost for beans and flour of about 30.00 us dollars.
This is normal life for these children.  No education, no food, no love, and very little hope.  How on earth can this happen?  My heart is so very heavy.
I can not help but think again about Alex’s question to me, what will happen to these children when we leave?  What will happen to Stella who follows me around all day and wants to always give me hugs, Stella wants to go to schoo,l but yet there is no money to send her, she thinks she is 15, but she is not sure because her parents died when she was smaller and she lived with her elderly grandmother up until about three weeks ago.  Stella tells me every time we are there.  “mom, can I go with you?, mom, I want to go to school, mom can you take me with you please?”  Again, my heart is heavy.
Then there is little Bridgette, BabaZ, Brenda and Wren.  Bridgette is about three years old, BabaZ and Brenda are about five to seven years old and Wren I think he is twelve years old.   All these children have absolutely no one, and the sad thing is there are so many more in the same situation.  So what will happen to these small ones when we leave?  I can ‘t bare the thought.  I have to find a way to get them food and an education even after I am gone………… but how????? 
I need to answer Alex’s question, so with tear filled eyes we lay on the bed and I tell him I am not sure what will happen to them.  Some of the small ones who are little will probably die of hunger, or of sickness, while some of the older ones will probably have to resort to begging and digging through trash for their food.  None the less the future does not look very bright for any of them, unless another person steps in.  Alex and I lay there and cry.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What a Day!

As we leave our apartment this morning to pick up a few last minute items before the election on Friday the crowds have already started gathering outside our apartment gates.  A wave of yellow shirts, hats, signs, horns, etc. line the streets.  It is wall to wall people with cars attempting to get through their masses.  Screaming, chanting, whistle blowing are just some of the noises.  When we are stopped in traffic people are coming by the car window chanting for their candidate. 

I look over at Alex and he is just wide eyed at the commotion. He whispers "Mom are you scared?"  Of course I had to put my mom face on and say that I was not, but a part of me was certainly uneasy about being in the midst of all of this.  Thoughts raced through my mind, especially the one of Steven saying avoid crowds at all cost because you never know what will or could happen.  I was somewhat comforted by the fact that Steven was sitting in the car with us, but it was still a little worrisome.  However it was certainly a sight to see and experience.. I have never seen anything like this before in all my days.. wow....

What normally takes us a five minute drive took us about 30 minutes because of all the traffic and crowds that were gathered.  However, we did finally make it to our store to get food and water to stock up on during the elections.  It took us twice that long to get back to the apartment.

As I sit here and write this the people are still gathered all around our apartment complex.  Microphones are blarring with the candidate making his promises for a better future for all.  One thing about Uganda is they do know how to make noise.  Whenever there is a celebration you can count on numerous microphones being in the center of it all. Another thing you can count on is music being played till the wee hours of the morning, horns on cars honking nonstop and people blowing whistles. 

There is a certain love of whistles here.  They seem to show up at every type of celebration, weddings, parties, elections, whatever the case may be you can always count on someone having a whistle and blowing it nonstop.

Anyway, the elections are Friday and since we are not sure what this will mean my family and I have chosen to live the next few days indoors and avoid the crowds and the traffic.  Alex will have his music to keep him company, Steven has a newspaper stashed to read later, and I well I have a book that I am trying to finish.  There is always the need to mop the floor because of all the dust so I guess I could do that as well.....NOT.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Young Man Named Vincent

On Monday Alex and I started our work at Mercy Home Orphanage.  What an experience we had.  I think we were both a little uneasy about going, but soon we were feeling very comfortable.  All of the children that were there at the time came up to us and shook our hands and greeted us with smiles and thanks for coming to help them. 
Alex and I started out by raking trash and weeds up into a pile so that it could be burned later.  We were cleaning an area so that we might plant some vegetables there later.  We had wonderful help surrounding us.  Not only did some of the larger boys that lived there help us, we also had our driver Tabu, and our lovely friend Susan working with us to make a difference.  We felt that we all made a good team and we could really make this place into a real home. 
I realized after a while that raking was something I was not good at so I left my rake behind and traded it in for a broom.  I went in the kitchen area which is really not any kind of kitchen we have ever seen.  This is a really primitive kitchen.  It has a dirt floor, brick for counters and three piles of bricks stacked three or four high as their stove.  This kitchen was need of some tender love and care and I was just the person to do it. 
However, as I entered the kitchen there was a young man working on a fire to cook the lunch (corn flour in water) for the children.  His name is Vincent.  Vincent has been living at Mercy Home since he can remember.  He does not know his mother or father so this is the only place he considers as home.  Vincent says he is fifteen years old, but there again he is not sure of his age because there are no records of his birth.  Can you imagine going through life not really knowing how old you are, or why you wound up in an orphanage instead of with your parents? Even with this sad story Vincent had the most beautiful smile on his face.  He is so sweet and he and I had a good time working in the kitchen.  We have plans to build a proper stove and cooking area, as well as repair the counters and the walls that have fallen down in places.  We also have plans to replace that dirt floor with a cement floor so it will be easier to clean and more sanitary.  Vincent said he will be right there with me to do all the hard work.
I also found out that Vincent likes to work with his hands.  Later when we were resting he took me to show me his sculptures he had made when he can get supplies, which is not very often.  Vincent said making things really makes him happy, so already my wheels are turning in my head to find a way to help him continue expanding on his artwork. 
We also talked about our love of music and how a person can do so much to lift some ones spirit through song.  So he and I started singing… He sang some of his songs and I sang him some of mine.  It was a true friendship that we were building and I believe that it will last a  lifetime.    All of this in just a few hours…. Can you imagine what is to come?????? I can’t wait!!!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mercy Home

One of the reasons that Alex and I came to Uganda is to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.  I think we found our place to start making that difference today on a small dirt road about two or three miles off the main road.
 As we drove down the dirt road there were small houses made with homemade bricks standing here and there, some had thatch roofing other had tin for roofs. Outside of these houses you could see children standing staring at us coming down the road.  Some of the children would wave with all the excitement you can imagine.  Alex and I would roll our windows down and wave to each one as we passed by listening to them yelling “ Muzungu, Muzungu, hi Muzungu” (white person, white person hi white person).  This reaction makes us feel almost like we are celebrities passing by a crowd of fans. 
Then there are other sites along the way, a mother stooping over a fire cooking what little food she has while carrying a small baby on her back, a small girl carrying a five gallon bucket full of water that she has carried for miles from the nearest well struggling because the weight of the water outweighs her by several pounds.  An old women carrys a  basket on her head while an old man on crutches with one leg missing hobbles along behind her.
These sights are not uncommon on these dirt roads and I guess eventually an outsider might get used to seeing them, but Alex and I will never get used to it.  It is hard to see how people live here and what little they have.
As we made our way down the ever so bumpy road we eventually came upon “our place” which is called Mercy Home.  Mercy Home sits right off Lake Victoria behind a homemade fence.  As we stop the car and get out we see small children gathered around a water pump filling their cans full of water.  The children stop and stare following our every step.  I can only imagine what is going through their little minds as we approach the fence and open the gate. 
The children are almost afraid to move, they keep watching us as we get closer to them.  Alex and I both say hello and smile, they are speechless.  They just keep watching us.  I want so badly to go to them and hold them, love them, and tell them to come home with me.  My heart starts to ache and fill very heavy.  Alex’s looks like he has seen a ghost, he is so white.  I ask him if he is ok and he says yes, but I know his heart is aching just like mine.
We take a tour of the place and find out that it needs a lot of work.  My mind starts racing with everything that needs to be done.  My first thought is the safety and food for the children.  I start planting a garden in my mind so there is constant food, I start painting to make the place bearable for the children, I start thinking of all the things this place needs and then I stop for a moment and think of home.  Oh how lucky do we have it!
 When I came here to Uganda I was complaining to Steven about the kitchen stove only having one burner for me to cook on and how he only had three forks and three plastic plates, a skillet and two pots.  I feel so ashamed.  This orphanage does not have a real kitchen.  The bigger boys cook the meals over an open fire on the ground. They only have two pots, one for the beans they get from Unicef, and one for the corn flour they mix with water.  This is their food, every day of the week every meal of the day.
So we have a lot to accomplish in the short time we are here.
As time passes I will keep you updated on the progress Alex and I are making on this small piece of land on this old dirt road in this far off country.  But until then, the next time you have something to complain about…….. think of this story and then remember……… Count your blessings,  life could be a whole lot worse.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Entering Fort Portal I was very excited to see our six children that we are helping get an education and live life a little more comfortable than before.  Little did I know that there was one more child in the area that would touch my heart.   

Our car was in need of repair so while it was being fixed my family and I stayed in town at our friend Betty’s place of work.  As we sat in the lobby a small boy came in and approached the desk.  He had no shoes on his feet and it was obvious that he was poor.  As I sat and watched from a short distance I saw him writing on paper and handing it to the lady behind the desk.  She would then write and hand the paper back.  This went on for some time.  As I sat there I wanted to know what his story was so I moved closer and asked the women behind the desk to tell me his story.  She said he was almost deaf and he could not talk.  He was hungry.  I had her ask about his parents and he wrote that they both died and he is living with his sick grandmother.  His grandmother had sent him out to beg for food so he would not starve. 

Of course by now my heart was breaking.  I wanted to talk to him so I tapped him on the shoulder.  He looked at me with the biggest eyes I have ever seen, but these eyes were so full of hurt and pain.  These eyes I will never forget.   I can not imagine what this little boy had been through.  I told him I loved him by pointing to my heart.  I am sure he understood by the look on his face.  Yet this still did not change the fact that he was hungry.  I suddenly remembered  I had bought a snicker bar in Amsterdam on our way here that I had not eaten.  I took the snicker out of my purse and gave it to him.  Obviously he needed it worse than I did.  I also had almost a full bottle of soda that I had been sipping on that I gave him.  He seemed so happy.  He immediately opened the snicker bar and ate it very quickly.  It was a sight I will never forget.  I asked the women if she could find out his name so I could keep it forever in my memory.  His name is Turee.  I wish I would have taken Turee to the store to buy him and his grandmother groceries, but I was so overwhelmed by the moment that all I could do was cry.  However, I will be going back to Fort Portal and I hope that I will see Turee again.  I have asked our friend Betty to keep her eyes out for him. If Betty spots him I asked her  to let me know and I will send money for her to take him to the store.  Turee…. a name, a face, a boy I will never forget and I hope as you read this you too will not forget him. 

Remember, Turee is just one of many children who are hungry so I encourage all of you to do something to change the life of a child.  It doesn’t have to be anything big just a simple hug to let them know they are loved, but please do something…..

Monday, January 17, 2011

Is It a Towel or a??????

I could not help but think about my dear Mother in Law, Jeanne as we headed for the swimming pool at the Alcholi Inn hotel in Gulu, Uganda.  You see one of Jeanne’s favorite things to do is to sit by the pool in the summer soaking up the beautiful sunshine.  As we entered the courtyard it seemed pretty much like any other pool setting.  The pool was a nice size and the water was cool and refreshing.  It felt very nice on a hot day.  However, when I asked for a towel it became clear that I was not in the U.S.A.  This very lovely young lady offered to help me in finding a towel.  I thought nothing of the wait but then the “towel” arrived.  The young lady came over and handed me my “towel” along with about four others.  I guess I must have had a very confused look on my face because Steven was laughing at me.  You see these were not towels at all, it was a sheet that had been cut into towel size pieces which the locals call “wrappers”.  You know sheets do absorb most of the water and they are cooler when wrapped around your body.  In fact I was thinking the next time I go to our neighborhood pool I might take a bed sheet instead of a towel.  What do you think Jeanne?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Night of the Living Mosquito

There have been very few times in my life that I can say on a January night a mosquito would not let me sleep... Last night was one of those nights.  I secured the windows and doors before settling into bed for the night. ( I must admit I am a little nervous being here alone with Alex while Steven is on one of his week long journeys, but I must remain tough for the boy.)  Mom's have their way of sounding like they are under control without anyone suspecting a thing.... or at least I think so... You see normally Alex goes to his room and We go to ours, but last night given my little nervous issue I calmly mentioned to Alex if HE got scared HE could come into my room and be with me... all the while hoping he would jump at the chance just so I would not have to indure the night alone.  Yeh he did...so we locked the door behind us and off to bed we went.  Sleep finally came after a while of talking and tossing and turning, but suddenly I was woken up by this buzzing.  At first I thought my ears were ringing so I shook my head and tried to go back to sleep... buzz buzz buzz... I knew then I had more company in my room than just alex... unwanted company at that... I got up turned the light on and tried to find the little pest unsuccessful I turned the light off hoping that he would leave us alone.  NOT SO... a little later buzz buzz buzz....that was it... I started waving my arms swating and hitting the air... (Alex woke up and said mom are you ok) I said yes go back to sleep... Maybe I got rid of the pest... sleep came but I am sure while I slept the mosquito was filling his belly with my delcious blood.  Again, awake.... buzz buzz buzz...that was it I started hitting and swatting again but this time with language not repeatable for the internet (sorry mom)... Alex again woke up..."mom are you going crazy?"  Yes honey mommy is going crazy now go back to sleep....I never did find that pesty mosquito but I guarantee you today I am out for the kill.

Love to Home

I sit here alone in the apartment, Alex and Steven are out for a walk before Steven heads out for another week long seminar.  I am lonely, feeling cut off from the world.  I am feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of being here with just Alex for an entire week. However, I guess I better get used to it. 
I learned something new today.  In Uganda a person buys band width time to use the internet.  Steven bought me bandwidth time four days after we arrived and I have used 80% of it up already.   I guess this means I have to slow down on skyping home… which really sucks because I need my family and friends. 
Speaking of family, I have the most wonderful family on the face of the earth.  I have a wonderful husband, Steven and a fabulous son, Alex, but I have so many more people in my life.  People who mean the world to me, my parents who are absolutely devastated that I am so far away and want me to come home before I even left… I love them dearly… they are my rock and what keeps me going.  I have an amazing mother in law and father in law.  Whoever said that in laws are a pain did not have mine.   My mother in law is absolutely one of my best friends and I miss her terribly.  I also have a terrific sister whom I love dearly, a wonderful sister in law, three outstanding brother in laws, and three precious nephews.  My family members do not stop there even though that is a lot.  You see my husband, son and I are host family to several international students from all over the world…If I took the time to name all of them I would run out of space so I will say this they are my daughters, sons and I have one lovely granddaughter.  Gosh how I miss them.  All my children are so loving and caring and I am proud of all them for who they are and who they are becoming. Thank you all for allowing me to be a part of your life.
As for my friends you all know who you are… and you all know I love you dearly.  Without friendship a person can lead a very lonely and sad life… I am so glad that I have my friends to pick me up when I am down and give me strength to keep going. 
Why am I writing all of this you ask?  I am not sure to be honest with you…. I guess I just wanted to feel close to home and thinking about all of these people makes me feel like I am home.  There is a saying” home is where the heart is”In my case home is where my family and friends are. I left a lot of love back home and I miss it terribly, but I will survive this.  I have already given and gotten so much love in the nine days I have been here. 

My purpose for being here is very simple.  It is about giving of oneself to make the world a better place.  I hope I am doing that… my theme song… “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”  this is my goal..... PEACE ON EARTH....... a very big goal indeed, but I am determined to accomplish it with all your help.  I will end this by saying three very simple words……. I love you.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Where Do I Begin???

Friday January 6, 2011

Where do I begin?  We have been in Uganda now for about seven days and have already had many experiences so it is hard for me to decide which experience to write about first.  I guess I will start with the obvious, our apartment and surroundings.
The apartment is huge and very nice by Kampala standards.  In fact I feel somewhat guilty as we enter the guarded gates.  Lucious green palm trees surround the lovely salmon colored building. Why the guilt you might ask, because within walking distance there are people living in shacks made of mud and straw, discarded pieces of wood and tin and in some cases home is probably just a tree to lay under.  The housing situation here is extremely poor to say the least. However our apartment is very nice and very large even by American standards. 
There is not much in the way of decorative items just the essentials that are needed.  The only complaint I have is in the kitchen area.  I cooked my first meal in my new kitchen and to be honest I am exhausted and throughout the entire four hour ordeal I was so frustrated.  First of all the stove only has one large burner that is electric and one small burner that is electric… the problem with this is that you can’t put two things on together because the pots won’t fit. So I really only have one burner.  The other thing is the oven does not work so I guess no baking for me.
I won’t even mention the fact that I have very little in the way of dishes.  I have one serving bowl and I use lids for platters to serve the food on the table.  Heaven forbid that we might have company for dinner; we would have to eat in shifts because I don’t have but three plates/bowls and three forks.   
I could go on and on about the items I don’t have to make my life easier, but then I would once again feel guilty for complaining because just around the corner there is a women cooking her family dinner over a fire outside and using only one pot.  I can see my mother and mother in law shaking their fingers at me saying “Shame on you for saying this much” “You should count your blessings”.  Hopefully they are still proud of me and will understand my frustration.
            Needless to say life is not easy here for those who live here permanently and as for me well I will certainly appreciate the things I have and stop complaining and make the most of it.
PS. I am sure some of you might want to know what I made for dinner.  Dinner consisted of Dolmas made from cabbage (the stuffing was a mixture of onion, carrots, tomatoes, rice and a little beef), pasta, and a salad with tomatoes, carrots, green peppers in a little salt and olive oil.  For dessert we are having fresh pineapple (which Steven will be cutting up)  Yes that took me at least four hours!!!!!!!