Sunday, August 12, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Well, I made it through the 18 hour flight home back to sunny Florida! After going through a 7 hr time difference and only 3 hours of sleep, seeing my family holding a Welcome Home sign was definitely a sight for sore eyes. Although it has been amazing being back home with my friends and family, I cant help but already start planning my trip back to beautiful Uganda for next summer! I find myself counting seven hours ahead now instead of backwards, trying to guess what everyone is doing back in Jinja. I just wish Uganda and Florida were a lot closer in distance!

It feels almost humanly impossible to put into words an accurate description of my summer in Africa. I have had so many people ask me " What was it like living in Africa?". Hah, where do I even begin? Saying goodbye to the girls, the mamas, Mercy and the other volunteers was so much harder than I anticipated. All I can say is thank goodness for waterproof mascara :) I went into this trip specifically praying to God for Him to break my heart for what breaks His... and He did. Being in Uganda on my own taught me so many things. I feel that I grew both spiritually and as an individual. It was the most incredible experience and I am looking forward to what this year holds until I can return next summer!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Can you believe it? My two months here in Uganda, Africa are coming to an end. It has been mind boggling how fast it has gone by. I can go back in a split second to the moment where I was walking on the beach and enthusiastically telling my mom about Amani and my desire to go to Africa for the summer ten months ago. I remember my brother and sister thinking I was absolutely crazy for wanting to go away, by myself, to a foreign country for two months. I was determined to make a difference in the lives of the orphans who's faces I had fallen in love with before even meeting them in person. For ten months, I poured over the internet, trying to find any pictures, videos or blogs that had anything to do with Amani. The thought of spending eight weeks in Uganda was what got me through my past semester of nursing school. I had no clue what God had in store for me or how He was going to use me. I was just willing to go and serve. It's as simple as that. God calls us to go and serve his people, especially his orphans and widows. Through this entire experience, I have met so many amazing people who are simply obeying His calling by being willing to go and leaving the rest up to God. As a side note, if you have ever had the desire to volunteer or go on a mission trip, just do it. Make the time and you will be so incredibly blessed. I love this quote and its so true- "Nobody can do everything but everybody can do something. "

I went into this trip expecting to be doing great things... changing lives. Yes, I think I did impact the lives that were around me, but it was in a smaller, lasting way. I held babies when they cried, providing comfort and love. I gave good night kisses and said Nkwagala or " I love you" to 17 beautiful, little girls every night. I was there to hold the hand of one of my little girls while she received IV treatment for malaria for 5+ hours each day for a week. I was able to pray every night for each girl and tell them that they were so, so special.  I was able to give out clothing to children in a village that probably wore the same clothes almost every day. I bought beautiful, handmade bead necklaces from strong, resilient women that helped them provide for their families. I watched Freida, who came to Amani severely malnourished, grow stronger each day. I saw her sweet smile as I praised her and said her name, despite the many hospital visits I accompanied her on. I tended to her wound dressings and saw to giving medicine to each baby every morning. Above all, I was just there. I believe its the little things that add up, even if its as simple as a smile. I may have changed Africa in a little way, but more importantly, Africa changed me in a huge way!

Thank you once again to everyone who supported me, both financially and with your continued prayers. I am so humbled to have had the opportunity to be submersed in this beautiful  country with its equally beautiful people. Please pray for me as I begin to prepare my heart for the transition back to the states as well as the goodbyes I have ahead of me. I will be leaving Uganda August 6th and will be back home August 7th.  They say that once you come to Africa, it forever becomes a part of you. I know I will absolutely be leaving a piece of me here and in return, Uganda has left its red clay stained imprint on my heart.

* Sorry my computer wouldnt let me upload any pictures for this blog post. We are having some wifi technical difficulties lately. I will hopefully have the opportunity to upload more later on this week!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Meet My Girls!

I wanted to take the time and introduce you to these adorable little people that I have fallen in love with and been taking care of this summer.  Our days have been filled with giggles and tickle fights, singing, continuous diaper and clothing changes, cheeky smiles, outings to town for sweeties, occasional trips to the clinic and goodnight prayers, hugs and kisses. These girls have taught me what it means to love big and have childlike faith and innocence. They have blessed me each in their own individual ways!

This is Lydia! She is such a sweetie and a good helper to her younger sisters. She is smart, giggly and has a smile that just lights up her entire face. She loves to play "Salon" and has discovered Auntie Brooke's hair is VERY fun to play with :)

This is Alima! Oh my goodness... she has the biggest personality for such a little person. This girl has me laughing constantly. Alima is a born leader. She is outgoing, independent and completely lovable. She will tell you how it is and is never afraid to speak whats on her mind. I love when she tells me how "smart"(nice) I look in the morning and never fails to tell me at night "Auntie, I give you one more BIG hug"...3 hugs later :)

This is Emily! Emily is sweet and sensitive. She has more of a quiet nature but once she is out of her shell, she's a mischievous one! She loves to sneak up and tackle you from behind. Emily is a good listener and usually well tempered...minus occasional melt downs :)

This is Jennifer! She is our resident diva :) This little girl is full of sass and attitude! She is very particular about who is allowed to hold her. We have discovered that during nap time and bedtime, Jennifer is her happiest haha. She is full of laughs and talks. When you see her walk/ cant help laughing :)

This is Jane! Despite constant runny noses and "su su"(pee) on her shorts, this little one is so sweet! She is full of high pitched squeals and smiles. If you are sitting down, Jane will crawl over towards you and lay her head in your lap. She has the gentlest spirit :)

This is Jackie! She is our chubbiest, lovable little girl. We joke as volunteers that she sort of looks like Gloria the hippo off the movie Madagascar :) Jackie is always the first one to make a beeline towards you. She loves to be held or sitting on your lap...whether that means scooting off other kids off your lap or not! She is also known for stealing the other girls food when you are not looking :)

This is Precious! Her name absolutely fits her. Precious is the motherly one out of the girls. She is always carrying around baby dolls and helping undress the little girls for meal time. She is playful and talkative. Trying to brush her teeth at night... sometimes quite the challenge!

This is Rukia! This girl is quite the character! Rukia absolutely loves music. Her favorite song she likes you to sing is Happy Birthday Rukia. You can find her bobbing her head to any beat or laying out in the sun :)

This is Grace! We actually call her Baby Grace because there is an older girl who's name is also Grace. I love this sweet thing! Grace is a little explorer. With a love for walking/ stumbling, she is always on the go. If you catch her getting into something, she will just look at you and giggle. She is the happiest little girl!

This is Peace! She is Grace's twin sister. She is the more quiet, reserved out of the two. We call her Peacie :) Peace is smart and inquisitive like her sister. She loves playing outside with whatever her little hands can grab. Peace is a funny little girl!

This is Martha! Martha is always the first one to run towards me and give me a hug in the morning. I love it when she calls me Auntie Brooke. She is full of laughs and very mischievous :)

This is Mary! Mary loves to sing, joke around and has a slight rebellious streak in her :) Mary is Martha's twin sister. The two of them together can sometimes be double trouble! They are good helpers and love to tickle you.

This is Josephine! Josephine has a twin sister named Caroline. Josephine makes me laugh all the time. She doesn't walk yet but her preferred mode of getting around is scooting everywhere on her bottom. It is the most hilarious thing! She has one of the sweetest smiles :)


This is Caroline! She is Josephine's twin sister. Caroline is always sharing her food with her aunties and mamas :) Caroline is a little bit more fussy than her sister, but when she is in a happy mood, she is the sweetest thing! I have learned that having sweetie ready can cure almost any melt down!

This is Justine! She is such a cuddler! Our nickname for Justine is "Little Enchima"( monkey). She is always laughing or smiling with her little tongue sticking out :) Justine is almost close to walking!

This is Sharifa! We call her Shari :) She is our newest girl. She has only been at Amani for about a week now. She had a rough start here when she got a bad case of Malaria. I definitely bonded with her between trips to the local medical clinic every day. She has the sweetest nature and absolutely beautiful eyes. Every day she is getting stronger and happier!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

More pictures

Sorry ya'll its been a little while since I've last updated. This week has been pretty routine and low key which has been nice because I have been getting over being sick. Being sick in Africa is not fun at all! Prayers for continued health would be great so I can serve and feel 100% during my last couple of weeks here. It is starting to set in that I have less than a month left here in the beautiful country of Uganda. Where did the time go!?! I have come to love each of these kids, especially my girls and a little one named Mercy :) I can't even begin to imagine saying goodbye! I have to remind myself to live in the moment and appreciate the time I still do have here at Amani.

Here are some more pictures for you all to enjoy! Thank you for the continued prayers while I have been here!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Halfway Point

Babies crying. Dogs howling. Mamas singing. Sixteen, beautiful little girls chanting “Auntie Brooke, Auntie Brooke!”. Children laughing. Mercy giggling. Roosters crowing. Goodnight prayers and whispered “I love you”. These are the beautiful sounds that I have fallen in love with here in Uganda.

But sometimes it can be tiring…both emotionally and physically. Babies crying. Sixteen girls all vying for your attention. Runny noses. “su su”(pee) on my skirt for the second time that day. Arms sore from lifting and carrying a dozen plus little kids. Heart broken for baby Frieda and her reoccurring sores and illness. Restlessness. Poverty. Getting sixteen girls ready for bed. Praying.Praying. and more Praying.

Acts 20:35- And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus. “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.
Those have been some of the hardest moments for myself. I get frustrated that I cannot give enough. I can’t change the fact that some of our kids are HIV pos. and that they are going to have to live with it for the rest of their life. I can’t help but wonder what will happen to some of our kids if they age out of the system before being adopted or reunited with their family. I cant heal each broken heart or illness. In the village, I saw the desperation in the eyes of a mother begging for her child to have a new piece of clothing. My heart absolutely broke in two when we weren’t able to give her something and had to turn her away.

Through the frustration and exhaustion, I am reminded that I serve a God who does not abandon His children. He hears my cries and knows the desires deep within my heart. He understands my desperation to serve and love Him and His people. When I feel drained and used up, Christ renews my strength and patience. I cant even begin to fathom how much God must love us, each individually, after falling in love with all the children here at Amani. I forgot that when loving someone, they take a piece of your heart along with them. As strange as it might appear, I want my heart to be shattered and broken. I want to be challenged and constantly tested in my trust and faith. Through the brokenness, God can mold and shape me.

Smiles from the babies. Alima’s big, tight hugs as she says “ Auntie, I give you one more big hug!”. Silas telling me “I love you more”.  Sixteen girls running and wrapping their little arms around my legs to greet me each morning. Jacky resting her head in my lap and falling asleep while I stroke her back. Watching Frieda getting stronger every day. Singing songs while I tuck the girls into bed. Saying “ I love you” and meaning every word. These are the moments that make me so grateful and blessed to be here. They overshadow the exhaustion and emotional toil. Instead, these moments restore me and fill me with such incredible love.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Spring of Hope

Yesterday, I spent my day at a clinic called Spring of Hope. It is a clinic outreach program that is located in the village Kangulumana, which is about a 45 minute drive from Amani. People living in the village can come to the clinic and pick up medication for epilepsy. Also, physical therapy and occupational therapy is available for those especially with cerebral palsy. I spent the morning counting out medicine and the other half of our group played with the kids. Each pack of medication provided enough for a month. I found out that this clinic was placed specifically in this village because of the large amount of practice of witchcraft within it.  Children with cerebral palsy or any other disabilities were frowned upon. By providing services and training parents with such children, Spring of Hope wants to reverse these wronged assumptions. One of the volunteers from Spring of Hope brought a lot of donated clothes with her. After dividing everything up, we were able to pick out a new outfit to give to children and some village kids close by. It was so much fun being able to see the faces of the children light up when they were given their new clothes. It was even more humbling seeing the gratefulness in the eyes of the mother or grandmother caring for the child.
Now, being outside of Jinja and being in a village meant that there was a language barrier. Hardly any of the people spoke English. I was a little worried about how I would communicate with them since I have only picked up a limited amount of Lugandan since being here.  I have learned that smiles and laughs are a universal language. There was this young girl about the age of 10 or 11 that I will never forget. We were outside playing with the muslim school kids that went to school next door to the clinic. This girl came right up to me, smiled and grabbed both of my hands. She turned over my palms and gently touched my arms, laughing and saying “Muzungu!” She had this quiet, mature nature. As she rambled on in Lugandan, I found myself wishing I knew her story. It is not an uncommon sight to see young children caring for their younger siblings and taking on adult responsibilities. This girl also seemed fascinated with my hair. That day I wore it in two braids and whenever the breeze would blow a few strands into my eyes, she would tentatively brush them out of the way. She had a very motherly air about herself and I am sure she has had a lot of responsibility in her young life.

It is so easy to have your heart break for the people of Uganda.  Next to the clinic there was a set of small brick buildings that I found out were houses. It is really hard to describe it but they were sort of these small common areas, like a court yard where laundry hung out to dry and small coal fires were made to cook food. Anyways, we had walked over there with one of the little boys that lived there. It was exactly how I had originally pictured Africa. There were young women holding these chubby, naked babies wearing only these beaded thongs. Chickens were running around and women were laughing, hanging laundry out on the line. I guess word had gotten around that we were giving out clothes and the women rushed towards us, literally pushing their naked babies into our arms, asking us to get clothes for them. We of course went and picked out some clothing items for them. It was one of those “ Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I am in Africa” moments. I tend to have those a lot :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Typical Routine and Pictures

This is Jacky :) Chubbiest little thing ever!

I've decided that I am going to devote this entire post to pictures :) I have so many of them that I want to share with you. I have also realized that I haven't really told you my typical day. In the morning I help in the medical clinic at Amani. I usually help give out medicine to the babies, obtain weekly weights and accompany Mama Lois to the children's hospital if one of our kids are sick. Each volunteer is assigned to a category of kids. I am with the girls :) During the day, I help the mamas with lunch, baths and putting the girls down for their nap and later on bedtime. In the late afternoon, we also get a schedule and either have 1 on 1 time, activities or outings. The volunteers get a break from 1-4 and then we are off duty after bedtime which we finish around 7pm. So that's my typical day :) Now for all the pictures!
Baby Grace <3

Mama Knight doing Jennifer's hair

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What I have learned in Africa Part 2

What I have learned and experienced in Africa Part 2

1) Africa has some of the most craziest, unpredictable lightening storms ever. Fun to watch...not fun when it takes out your wifi.

2) I have yet been able to figure out what side of the road I am suppose to walk on here.

3) There is nothing like drinking hot African mochas while waiting out a storm and conversing with a Ugandan who is trying to teach you Lugandan.

4) I think ants have become a new daily food group in my diet :P They get into everything!

5) It no longer phases me when I see two mamas carry in a large goat upside down into Amani to eat our grass and banana peels.

6) I can say that I have swam, rafted and drank a little bit too much of the Nile river for my liking.

7) Having to continuously say goodbye to people I have made friendship with is so much harder than I ever imagined.

8) I am convinced that my name must mean something funny in Lugandan because every time I introduce myself, the person laughs and acts surprised that that's my actual name.

9) I've learned that sometimes its better not to understand what Ugandans are saying. Our boda driver stopped to pump air into his tired and four men came up to us rambling on in Lugandan. We thought they were asking for money but instead were saying that they loved us very very much.

10) Only in Africa would our boda driver find it absolutely vital that we understood how to correctly milk a cow.

11) Chickens really do cross the road to get to the other side. I have witnessed it first hand.

12) After attempting to dance alongside African women, I have come to the conclusion that this muzungu can't shake her hips!

13) Rummaging for clothes at central market in Jinja is the perfect place to find outfits for the 80s party we had.

14) Out of all the foods I could miss, I just want a really good Caesar salad.

15) The majority of people that we meet visiting Uganda are either from Nashville or Canada.

16) The group of Canadian guys that are volunteering at Amani right now are probably very tired of us asking stupid questions about Canada. First automatic question: "Do you play hockey??" or " What side of the road do you drive on?". Times that by dozens of similar questions :)

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Quick side note: So sorry its been awhile since my last post. We had a huge storm the other night and the lightening fried our modem. Soo... until our new modem arrives, I am having to use various internet cafes in town. Gotta love third world problems :)
One of the things that I have really enjoyed about being here in Uganda has been having the opportunity to see and visit various organizations that are making a difference. In bible study this week, we were talking and sharing stories, verses and songs that have had an impact in our lives. One of the girls mentioned how she has been reminded that when it comes to mission trips, God has already laid down the groundwork for His divine plan. A lot of times, we go in thinking that we are going to change the world and make this huge impact/difference in the area we are visiting. We have this mentality that if it weren’t for us, maybe no one in that place will ever hear about the gospel. In reality, God has already had the ball in motion so to speak and we in turn have the privilege of being called and used as one of His puzzle pieces that eventually creates the big, overall picture. Just something to think about :)
Yesterday, we spent the day going to the Friday craft market in Kampala. At first it was overwhelming with everyone trying to sell you their crafts, but it was a ton of fun. I am getting pretty good at haggling! As great as it was spending the day shopping, my favorite part was when we visited an organization called the Akiba House through Bless a Child Foundation. Akiba provides a place for children undergoing treatment for cancer. Akiba means “treasure” in Swahili and that is exactly what each child was. I was amazed at how happy and playful these kids were, despite their illness. Not only does Akiba provided a haven for kids along with their families close by the hospital, but it also instills continued education during their time there.  They can hold up to about 17 children. At the moment, there are 14 kids. It broke my heart to know that for all of the kids, their little bodies were fighting for their lives. We spent some time playing and of course taking pictures with these precious little people. Being there really put things in perspective for me. Not only has God always provided for me, but I am blessed with a healthy body and sound mind. Even though I was only there for a short time, those kids can be added on to the many blessings I have encountered here in Africa.