Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sole Hope

Yesterday, another volunteer and I spent the morning/afternoon with an organization called Sole Hope.   Before I left Florida, I found out that a friend knew one of her friends was interning with Sole Hope and happened to be staying in Jinja as well. I'm telling you, we live in such a small world :) So, I was able to join her and some of their team at a Jigger removal clinic in a nearby village.

Sole Hope focuses on providing hope and freedom from foot related diseases through education and medical relief. One disease that is very common is Jigger infestation. Jiggers are a type of sand flea that lay their sac of eggs under skin. This is caused by the dust and dirt accompanied by not wearing shoes. It is very painful for the infected person. If left untreated, it can get infected and result in gangrene or amputation.

I wasn't sure what to expect on this clinic trip. When we arrived at the village, we made a little assembly line of wooden stools for us to sit on and benches across from us. Two people were in charge of washing the feet and inspecting for suspicious Jiggers, three were removing them and the rest were taking progress notes. Since it was my first time out, I started with washing the children's feet. This may seem strange, but for me it was such a humbling experience washing a child's dirty feet. All I could think about was the passage in the Bible when Jesus washed his disciples feet. It was a depiction of ultimate servitude for myself. In Africa, some kids do not own a single pair of shoes so you can only imagine some of the conditions of their feet.

What I was not expecting was that the majority of the children refused to sit down to have their feet washed and inspected. I learned that having Jiggers is viewed as shameful and a lack of cleanliness. Because of their pride and embarrassment, the children would rather endure the pain rather than having their jiggers removed in front of their peers. We had a man translate for us and he would bring children that he knew had jiggers or other foot conditions. He brought this young girl to me that had her left foot completely wrapped but she refused to sit down. Instead she just walked away. It broke my heart...

While we were waiting for more children to come, I spent some time with the village children. There is just something about playing and loving on village children. It's hard to explain but its one of my favorite experiences in Africa. During my time here, its funny learning some of the things village kids are fascinated with. For example, they are so intrigued by arm hair haha. My blue finger nail polish confused a couple of them as well :) Overall, it was a great experience! I am hoping to be able to join them on another clinic before I leave.

Friday, July 26, 2013

First Week Back!

Can it be that I have already been here for a week? It is unreal how fast time flies by. My first week back has been amazing! It has been great being back Amani. The kids have grown up so much!

When I got here, I found out that Amani now has a full time nurse. I am so happy to hear this! It turned out that her visa was expiring and she had to leave the country for almost a week. The timing was perfect and I have been able to fill in for her temporarily. Please pray for these kids and their health. It seems an infection is spreading around Amani and a ton of the kids have been having high fevers and coughs. We have taken a few of them to the clinic in town to rule out Malaria. Also, one of our little babies has Bacterial Pnuemonia.

Besides helping out in the clinic occasionally, I have been helping teach preschool! Amani has a great person setting up preschool every morning. After about 45 minutes of playtime at stations, we break the kids off into small groups. In my group, I have Christopher, Brian, Charlie and Danvir :) These boys are so smart and very eager to learn new things.

After preschool, I am assigned to the girls room again!! There are a lot of familiar faces but a couple new ones too. It has been fun seeing the changes that have occurred in a years time. Since I am with the girls, this also means that I get to spend time with Mercy. Last summer, I fell in love with this little girl. If I could have adopted her, I would have :) She is so big now. She still has the same exact infectious giggle and big smile. Also, she is now talking! It is so much fun hearing her sweet little voice saying Auntie. She cant say Auntie Brooke yet, but I am working on it :)

I will upload some pictures of the kids for you now. This morning, another volunteer Sarah and I are going to help out at an organization called Sole Hope. A friend back home told me that one of her friend is interning with this group here in Jinja. We were able to connect and I am excited to see what kind of work they do in Jinja! We are heading out to one of the villages this morning for a three hour clinic. I know they work specifically with removing jiggers from their feet and providing education on jiggers and wearing shoes. I will write a specific blog post about it tomorrow.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Weekend Adventures

Hello everyone! It seems I am adjusting to Ugandan time very nicely. I have not had any trouble sleeping or waking up at odd times during the night! Thank goodness :) This weekend has been really busy which is the way I like it.

Saturday was my first full day here. Every Saturday morning, the volunteers have a half work day at Amani then the rest of the day off. I briefly saw the kids and they are SO big! I am so excited to start full time tomorrow and see how much they have changed. Saturday afternoon, a couple of us went to The James Place Kids Club. Tina Weir is a full time missionary here in Jinja through HEAL Ministries. She does a lot of outreach programs in the villages and nearby orphanages. Every Saturday, kids from town and local villages come for games and a bible study. We had over 300 kids! It is so much fun interacting with the kids. I remember sitting down and kids will just surround you. I had maybe three kids sitting in my lap, two girls braiding my hair and another one fascinated with my blue nail polish :) This is one of my favorite things about Uganda. The children are so welcoming and loving. For example, I could be walking around the compound and all of the sudden there is a little person holding my hand. Or two or three kids fighting over who gets to hold your hand :) After the bible study, we had  a local village team of dancers come. It was really fun!

Today (Sunday), I went to church at Worship Harvest. It was great because we were able to bring a couple of older kids from Amani to church. I brought Alima :) She was shy at first but by the time the service was over, she was either in my arms or sitting in my lap. Oh how I have missed her bubbly personality and infectious laugh!

Later in the afternoon, Becky (a volunteer I met last year and is back again) and I joined Tina's team and we drove to Canaan Children's Home. This is an orphanage that give orphans an opportunity to have a Christian education and safe place to live rather than begging and living on the streets. It gives them an opportunity to have a chance to thrive in the Ugandan community. These children are not adoptable. Unlike other orphanages I have visited, the ages are from three years old all the way to young adults in their early twenties. It was really fun socializing with the older kids. Right now, Tina has a creative arts team with her. So today I was with the older girls and played music and danced. My favorite moment however, was the praise and worship time we had. We all sat in a circle in the middle of the room where the girls sleep and sang worship songs. Last week at church back home, we sang the song 10,000 reasons. Today I sat among 20 Ugandan young women and sang the very same song. It was beautiful moment reflecting that worshipping God can be just as fulfilling sitting on a concrete floor surrounded by nothing but voices and an acoustic guitar.

At Canaan, I met this young boy who seemed automatically attached to me. His name is Gaster and he is 12 years old. He has the sweetest personality and would never let go of my hand :) He told me that he loves basketball and want to be a pilot. I had asked him if he had brothers or sisters and he said yes, but they do not live at Canaan. I can only imagine how hard it must be being away from them.

Overall, it was a great first weekend!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Greetings from Uganda!

Greetings from Uganda! My African adventure started before I reached Uganda.This time around I have gotten a taste of delayed flights, missed name it. Once I landed in Detroit, I discovered that my next connecting flight to Amsterdam was delayed by 2 1/2 hours! This also meant that I would be missing my connection flight to Entebbe Uganda. In other words, I was temporarily stranded in Amsterdam. This was a little nerve wrecking for me, especially traveling by myself. It seems that God is already using this trip to stretch me and pull me out of those comfort zones I love so much.

After spending three hours waiting in line to rebook my flight, I had to keep reminding myself that God is in control and everything happens for a reason. Instead of arriving in Entebbe at 10:15pm last night, I was hopping on a plane to Kenya last night and arriving in Entebbe at 9:15am this morning. I was just happy that I didnt have to camp out in the airport. :)

So, despite the unexpected chaos life sometimes brings us, today was a nice reminder that He's got me and all is well. I now get to arrive in Uganda during the day and I get to make a quick pit stop in Kenya! It wasn't the itinerary I was expecting, but sometimes you just have to let go and go along for the ride :)

I arrived safely in Entebbe despite another hour delay and got to the guesthouse in Jinja around 3pm. It feels so good to be back! I was welcomed by Mama Josephine ( one of my favorite mamas from last summer)! After taking a little nap, I joined the other volunteers for dinner. It seems like a really nice group of girls and I am excited to get to know them better.

Tomorrow is a work day at Amani. I am so excited to see the kids! I also found out that I was assigned to the girls again :) Hopefully after tomorrow I will have some new pictures to share!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Uganda here I come!

Just wanted to write a quick, short post before I leave! The next time I will be updating, my feet will have landed on that red soil I've missed so much. All the suitcases are packed ( which i've discovered not going over the 50 lb limit is truly a fine art) and ready to go! Please pray for smooth travels and that myself and my two suitcases all end up safely in Entebbe :) My flight leaves Orlando at 4pm and then I will be arriving in Entebbe on Thursday at 10:15pm Ugandan time.

I know my time over there is going to fly by and I am SO excited to see what God has in store during this trip!  I will do my absolute best to update with stories and pictures as often as I can.