Monday, May 30, 2011
So, what was so different. There was no nice bed provided with clean sheets, cups of tea and food brought around, no medicines supplied by the hospital, no easy transfer to theatre, no nurses checking constantly and no bed for the baby. The equipment you need you provide, so that meant providing sheets, food for the carers and patient, medicines had to be bought (including pethidine!) and even a sheet of plastic to protect the bed! There of course is more that could be said but surfice to say it was not ideal. The nurses were competent and knew what they were doing, breast feeding is strongly encouraged but there simply is not the equipment or the personnel. On a funny note about the breast feeding there was a sign saying "No feeding bottles are allowed in this hospital, only cups and spoons may be used to feed a baby". I think this might be a bit of a deterrent to not breast feeding.
We did not immediately find the correct place and so I did view conditions that were not of the same standard. This included a ward with about 20 or 30 women in it and they were all in various stages of labour. There was not a husband or support person in sight. When I talked about this with African friends they just laughed when I explained what the situation would be in Australia.
Important also to realise that a support person must be there to do the things needed for the patient, that is: their washing, helping move them, cook food for them and looking after the baby. The baby sleeps on the bed with the mother and the support person will be there if the baby cries all night - no nursery to send them too. This person will sleep on a grass mat on the floor by or under the bed.
So, this was my first experience. The next day I had a call from the distraught mother of Mary saying that she was heading to the hospital as Mary had been biten by a snake. It was hard to understand but I realised I would need to go to the hospital. This hospital was one within the Kakira Sugar Mills. Mary had been taken there by her neighbour and thanks to the grace of God she had been treated there. It is only for company people but somehow she managed to get in. By the time I arrived Mary was ready to be discharged and she was well after some treatment and a short stay. This was also a big ward with people but there did seem to be more staff around and certainly all the beds were in full view and attention was being given. Let me tell you how Mary was biten, she was asleep and she felt something cool on her head and thought it was her pillow. Then, she realised it was not and in the fright was biten by the snake. It was reasonably big, about the size of her wrist! The neighbour who was looking after her was somehow able to rush her to the hospital and she is fine.
Then, on Sunday we needed to take one of the children to a clinic. We dropped the mother and child off and the girl was admitted. This clinic is just like a shop you go into and then you go out the back and up the stairs and there is a couple of wards. Rachel was on a drip for malaria, I like the stands they use for drips - a wooden stand with a wooden bar at the top. Nice and stable and no problem to make. From her room there was a beautiful view of the lake and there was just another little girl in the room with her, also suffering from malaria. Clean pink sheets on the bed and basically quite comfortable. While I was there which was probably an hour, there were a number of checks on Rachel by the staff. This was a good experience for me. Yes, our mother did come home and prepare food to take and going to the toilet for the little girl was in a bucket. Also, the cost was not that much 30,000 shillings which included the drip, an overnight stay and medicines. Not much for us that is, but a week's salary for most of the working people we know here!
I did not make it in to visit Peter at the Childrens Hospital in Jinja. Its conditions are far worse than I have described here. More than one child to a bed, no room for the mother to sleep, no vigilant nursing care and the doctor not seeing you.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Some of our life is mundane. There is building work that Ron is heavily involved in both in supervising, buying materials and doing some of the work. There has been a lot more pressure in this regard lately because we have Roger, Sandra, John and Judy arriving next week (tomorrow now as I wrote this a week ago!) and people here, especially Robert are very keen that they are able to stay there and have all they need. Not sure how much will be done but that is all part of the adventure. The rush and pressure has been good though because it will be good to have the house finished so that other things can be done here in the village. Life will be very different for us when we live there. There will not be the constant interruptions (we assume) and we will not be so available. I am finding it hard to think of moving away from the village. This has become a life and though we know people nearby at the house it will not be the same as having the children around all the time. We will still spend days at the village (when I am not teaching) and be involved, just not sleeping etc. The teaching for me has been a great experience. I have learnt so much about Uganda, the way children are taught here, how they learn and so many of the struggles. Unlike Australia, the responsibility to learn is almost solely on the student. To have many students failing an exam is to be expected and failure is just another thing that students have learnt to accept. I had better not write too much about my thoughts in this regard until I have put them together in a more appropriate place. It has and is a fantastic opportunity though to be accepted into a school and have the chance to teach children.
So, the less mundane. Quietly playing a game(Settlers of course) with Ron and hearing someone calling for Luke (and then us). It was the neighbours. The little boy has Sickle Cell which at that point meant that he was in great pain. He was calling out for us to come and pray for him. His family were in tears and wailing, he had fainted a number of times and they thought he was dying. We went in to see him and pray. We too, could understand their concern. He wanted them to stop crying, his father (God) was going to heal him. We prayed with him and Ron was able to take them to the hospital. An experience that no one would want to have, the hospital is not in any way like ours in Australia. Beds can be shared, if a child dies then it is up to the family to take the child home. We heard of a baby dying in the night and the mother waiting with the dead child all night to take it home. Peter has now been seen (after a number of days), pain killers have been bought (from elsewhere by Luke) and he has a swollen chest that is being xrayed. Please continue to pray for him. One night in hospital he called for a group of us because he was going to die and go to Jesus. (Praise God he came home today for which we are so grateful, we now will be praying for complete recovery from sickle cell.)
Not all our experiences are fortunately so dramatic but if you think about them too much you can become overwhelmed. I have come to know quite a number of ladies who have HIV and are being treated. It is vital with the treatment that they eat well. Of course, due to their illness many of them are not working. So, they are forced basically to beg help of people. It does not bear thinking about that if you don't give them some food or money for food that they too could die. It apparently happens quite suddenly if this is the case. Certainly, we hear very regularly of the deaths of people.
When I was writing the previous I had problems with the computer and it did not save the rest of what I wrote. Perhaps that is best, sometimes I can think too much about things. I am aware that many people are able to be blessed by us being here but it is also such a blessing to us. We love the people and appreciate being accepted by them, the simplicity of so much is great and then we get to enjoy 'treats' all the more. It is hard to know that we are so privileged but so good to be able to help in some small ways. I think the best thing that we do is encourage people that there is hope. There are so many people that believe they deserve not to have what we have and that death and poverty are inevitable. By coming and being their friend I think some people can come to believe that they too are worthy of quality of life in all regards.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Monday the container was finally able to be opened. We had given thanks on the evening of Friday. It was not until Wednesday evening that we were able to celebrate properly as a village and give thanks to God for His provision. So, what does the container mean and why all the fuss? I have been surprised by how much it has meant to me in quite a few different ways.It was fairly full - fortunately the custom agent had to go elsewhere or it could have been a very long process going through every item!
In opening the container I have been reminded of God's goodness and the faithfulness of people. So many of the things in the container relate to people I know and love. A large part of the space was filled with wood and other equipment that came from a house that was being demolished. The deal was that if the house was demolished then anything could be taken. A group of faithful people spent a lot of time, energy and effort in demolishing the house so that things could come here to Uganda. Some of this is wood, bathroom fittings and cupboard doors. These will be used for the roofs of the next two houses and to furnish the guest house that is being built. When I think of this 'stuff' I think of people that gave their time that had not been here and may never be able to come. Theirs was a gift without accolades, without the reward of seeing the children who benefit but one that was a true gift and sacrifice. The guest house might sound not very important but it is hoped that this will significantly help the sustainability of the village. It will provide good accomodation for visitors, teams and others and thus make money.
A large part of the contents was clothing donated by an Australian company. It is good quality but did not meet the requirements of the customers for some reason and so we were given it. This is such a blessing already and will continue to be for people here. There are clothes that will meet some of the needs of the children in the village, lots of the clothes are larger than the children. However, there are so many people in the community in need. I sometimes have to pinch myself to realise that I am living in a place where people often have only one set of clothes. Many people we have met and know, get cold because of not having a jumper. The more we are here the more we realise what a blessing these clothes will be. We continue to keep the connection with the families of the children and so this week while doing so, the children were able to choose a person to bless and take a piece of clothing. This is so good for us, it means that the children get a chance to give, and they love it. We look forward to so many opportunities to bless others. A friend was travelling to a remote village and was able to take a box of clothes. A little boy I know had only two Tshirts to wear both at least 5 sizes too big and with huge tears in them, I was able to give him a new Tshirt - his smile was priceless, probably the first time he had been given a new Tshirt. I was saying to a little girl with not very much how she would get something, she said "Muzungus are good people". I am not sure that all white people are good but the gift of these clothes is from good people.
The picture shows one of the first recipients of clothing.
Then, there is the box of beading materials that I open. I knew about it and who it was from but had not known the contents. It is an extravagant gift from someone to this place. It is a great collection of materials that will help set up a number of people in a business I think. I am praying for the right person and the right teacher but know that God has a purpose for it. As a person who loves craft I love the act of giving this.
Or, the sewing machines. We are so looking forward to using these not only for the mothers in the village and the children but hopefully others. One of these machines I think so fondly of. It was the machine of a friend of mine's mother who died a couple of years ago. The machine is in great condition according to the person we took it to in Australia, much to his surprise - he expected a donation to be in poor condition. This machine has lovingly sewed clothes for family and friends and now will be used for a purpose that would have been close to the heart of the mother. Other machines and other things were found by a person desperate to find things of use for the village and community here. Time and effort and resources to equip people here.
Then, there are big things like a water tank which will mean that there will be more water when the water is off and other times that there won't be the cost of water. A generous donation that makes the using free water possible, making a big difference to the sustainability of the village.
Of course the children like best the bicycles and the slide. These are things so commonplace in Australia but not here. Learning to ride a bicycle is an essential skill but one that is hard to obtain because so few people have bicycles. I know that there was a bicycle that went in by mistake and so one young man doesn't have his bicycle anymore. Let me assure you that when they are allowed out of the shed they are on the move all the time. Bicycles work well for children of some ages but a slide works for the little ones as well. They didn't know exactly what to do at first but now... So much fun to be had. One child when interviewed said they weren't sure about the village until the swings came, then she was happy. It is so lovely for these children to have swings, slides and bicycles.
Then, there was tools and equipment that had been purchased by money given. These of course are important, make a huge difference in the building of the village but are less significant to me. Also, there were second hand tools. There are lots of things that can be purchased in Uganda but good tools tend to be limited and so this are priceless... The older ones will also enable the boys (and girls if they want to) to learn about how to use tools, something very close to Ron's heart.
We had the opportunity to put things into the container that we thought we would need here. Seems we have managed for 5 months without needing them!!! Some of these things are nice to have, a saucepan and a frying pan that have solid bases. A bread machine that makes bread - though twice the power has gone off during the process and so the loaves have not been up to our usual standard. Books to read - where is the time? Knitting wool - not really sent for me but I can't wait to teach the children to knit. A doona - tried it for a couple of nights but definitely too hot for Ron. Another set of towels - great, now it doesn't matter if it rains and the towels don't get dry when I wash them. Gifts and stationary - so nice to have things to give away. Containers for food etc - when we move to the guest house I am soooo looking forward to filling them. Strange to say - we could have managed without it but are thankful for the extra things. On a personal note there was Christmas presents from Anita and that was lovely to receive. The children love the earrings and the lovely smell of Aunt Anne.
So, what am I really trying to say in this blog post. Thank you, thank you to those whose gifts I have mentioned and to those who gave things I have not mentioned. We spent time praying a blessing for you the other night and in doing so I felt quite emotional. We get to give out things, to see people's faces when they receive lovely gifts and can use good equipment. However, it is people that cared enough to give their time, their goods and their money that made this possible. Even, the process of packing the container was very time and energy consuming. Thank you because you have a part in building up Uganda, spreading God's love in a practical way in this part of the world and of giving hope to these people. Our prayer is now that all the goods will be used faithfully and well especially where we have responsiblity to distribute such as the clothing.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Today has been a very special day for us. We had a day off from Village of Hope work today.
About a month ago, a friend of ours here got into some trouble with the international organisation supporting the orphanage that he has been running for a number of years. There have been what appear to us some very big misunderstandings and unfortunately this friend has been treated badly, including a weekend of imprisonment and has had his vehicles impounded and is still required to report daily to the police station and to wait around there for as long as the police wish.
This has made it impossible for him to continue to provide food for the children in the orphanage, which is over an hours drive from the place where he, and us, live. No worries you might say, the international organisation that has been supporting his orphanage, and who collects sponsorship for a number of the children in that orphanage, would ensure that the children in that orphanage continue to be fed. WRONG! The only visits that have been made to the orphanage by people working for that international organisation have been to remove a number of goats, and to remove a pump and pipes attached to the bore to allow the crops to be watered.
In fact it is our understanding that the only food that has been taken to the 40 or so children in this orphanage over the last month, has been taken there by us, with some financial help from some friends at home. When we arrived today at about 12:30, we asked how long ago was their last meal. They replied that they had not eaten for one and a half days. Despite this, the children were incredibly patient, helped us to unload the food, and waited while Anne prepared Posho and Beans for the first time.
After lunch we were taken on a tour of the property by several of the older children. What they do have is a large crop of pineapples, as well as significant plantations of maize, cassava, matooke, sugar cane and coffee. None of these are ready for harvest yet though so they don’t help with the food shortage.
After the tour, some of the children performed a number of songs for us, welcoming us to their home and thanking us for what we had done. These kids are holding up amazingly well. They are a little bewildered, not knowing the situation exactly, and unsure as to why their food supply has become less reliable, but they have no bitterness in them and they continue to thank God for what He is doing for them. We felt very privileged to be in this place at this time and to be able to help in our small way. Times like this make it hard to think how we are going to fit back in to our 'western' life at the end of the year.
Clearly this is not a good situation, and we will continue to monitor what is happening there and do what we can to help. Please pray for our friend to be “released” and for him to have all of the things that belong to him and his orphanage returned to them, and for the children at the orphanage to be looked after.
Unloading the food from the car
As I said, today we had a day off. The comments in this post are purely mine, and have no connection to Hopebuilders or the Village of Hope who we are here working with. This is not because Hopebuilders have an issue with what we did today, but purely to say that this is a private concern of ours. I expect that individually we have the support of all of our friends involved with Hopebuilders for our actions today, but I can in no way implicate any of them in any way of supporting the suggestions that I have made about improper treatment of our friend.
At church and the village there was no mention of Mother's day though I had ascertained that it is celebrated in Uganda on the same day as Australia. We were able to have some lovely conversations with some of our children. In a conversation later in the day a local pastor expressed that celebrations are done very well in Australia. It is great that we celebrate our mothers. It is lovely to be celebrated but I do believe I was richer this year for not having to be 'spoilt' but appreciated. There was no pressure to buy something for me, (though Trudy did buy me some roses!) but the sentiments shared were very meaningful and a great blessing. It is so good to celebrate but great to keep the important the important. Thank you my very special children for who you are and all you mean to us.
I did get to celebrate motherhood in Uganda though. We had a lovely lunch out, people dropping in to catch up with us about various matters in the afternoon and then a great supper (tea) with the children. I really love Sunday nights for this. In Australia we would often gather as a family and we have continued to do this with a bigger family here. One of the mother's was away at her niece's wedding, look how great she looked in this photo. (Sorry for the aside but I did not want you to miss out on that). So, since there was a need I got to bathe one of the younger children which of course is fun when you don't have to do it. We shared a great meal - I do like African food except posho and small fish! Then, a great time of worship together. There are children all over you and clapping and singing. In the singing, praying and devotion I managed to have four children fall asleep on me! They were all little ones and they seem to manage it no matter how uncomfortable - not what I remember - our children always wanted to be part of the action to the very end! Then, I helped out by putting some of the younger ones into bed and tucking them in - they manage to sleep with a blanket, we have not resorted to one yet. It was such a great day for me. So often I think I practised on our children and now I know so much more. The children of all the different ages are a delight. Yes, they are not perfect but it is so nice to be a part of their lives. I think I am really a JaJa (Lugandan word for grandparent) of lots of children.
Today has been very different again. Ron will have a post on this and I haven't seen it so there is probably overlap but hopefully it won't bore you. We still don't have the container so Ron needed to make phone calls there. The guest house that is being built needed to have plumbing supplies bought. A letter needed to be typed up for someone. All these completed Ron, Trudy and I headed into town. First stop was the bank. Not a great move as it seemed our normal bank was having big problems. I waited in a queue for about half an hour while Ron did some printing. A queue perhaps with no purpose as the ATM was not working, the person who would fix it was not there, and no ideas were forthcoming of how long it would take. I felt very Ugandan as I patiently (and I was) waited. However, when Ron arrived back I quickly hopped in the car. We managed to find a different bank that would take our card and allow more money in one transaction which in the long run will save us some money - there is always something good to be found. We then went and bought a whole lot of food as we had been made aware that an orphanage Ron and Mark visited on Ron's first visit was in dire need. This was the second mercy dash if you like, the best part about this one was that we managed to do it in daylight.
I found it very emotional. This is an orphanage that through no fault of the matrons or the children was without food. Money has been given in a variety of ways and yet it was not getting through. Of course there is more to the story. We do not know it all but some that we are very clear on has not happened. We were the bearers of food and supplies. This was not a huge burden for us due to the blessings we have received. However, without us what would have happened... The only supplies that have had of food are from us in the last three weeks. We are so pleased that we are here at this time and have access to money to buy this stuff. I am sure that God knew and cared. It is hard because the children know that other 'mzungus' are responsible for the lack. Yet, it was a great family with 40 children. Matrons and an older gentleman that clearly loved the children and the children loved. Not people who come and go, these are people who live with the children - sharing their rooms. The young men, part of the orphanage, who took some responsibility for us during our visit were great. It was particularly sobering to pass by the graves. It is Ugandan culture to bury family on your land. The boys identified some of the graves and then the last one: "This is of our mother. She died before I saw her." It is such a tribute to the orphanage and the people involved that these children are growing up such fine young people. They love God, they are not selfish, they are caring, they have virtually nothing and yet are happy. We were entertained by the children with song, drums and dance. It is such a humbling experience to be the bearer of blessing to others and to be appreciated so much. These children have been parented so well by those who have had them in their care. The older ones continue the process of looking after the younger ones. It certainly will be a day that we will not forget and a good reminder of keeping the important, important. Our prayer is that matters will be settled and that this orphanage in the long term will be able to be self-sustaining and receiving all the support for which it is due.
Of course, no day is complete without some adventures. The matron had taken one of the children for treatment of malaria and so it seemed that I should be significantly involved in the preparation of the lunch! The kitchen wasn't really what I would call ideal as the smoke was not easily escaping. I know about cooking the posho but the beans! However, some good instruction, lots of help and it was cooked and the posho looked good - not really thanks to me - the mingling was completed by boys who took turns (it is a bit like trying to stir a huge pot of mashed potato and make sure it doesn't burn). This was not the big adventure though. The roof of the home had come adrift in the wind. It was a tall building. The boys were concerned for the roof and because the noise it made in the night disturbed the little children in particular. Also, it looked like more would be lifted and we were concerned with what the result might be. Hence, a trip to the nearest town to buy a hammer and nails. Then, a local ladder was found that nearly made the distance. The photos don't show the picture of getting up on the roof, the sound of the 'tin foil like' roofing iron that is used and maybe even the distance up! I prayed and thanked God for Ron's safety when he was back down.
Another few days in our exciting adventure with God in Uganda. Thank you for your prayers.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Life continues to be interesting, challenging, fun, frustrating, rewarding and busy. There are always so many different experiences in each day that sometimes one wonders was that only this morning. Sometimes it is so many little things. There is almost always lots of interactions with people. So many things to think about as well. I continue to ponder many things and want to know the best and right way forward in all the varying situations.
This last week has seen the deaths of a few young children. This is so hard to comprehend in Australian society when so much is made of the situation when it happens. Here, it does not pass without a lot of pain, grief and heartache but life continues. I think it is easy to talk about people having to deal with these situations so often that it is easier. Perhaps, it is just that they have to, so they do, not easier. These deaths were different but sudden and unexpected in both cases. In one, two children drowned at the lake. They were in a boat and everyone in the boat got tipped out and these two were not saved. For Trudi this was particularly difficult as one of the children who died she has since found out was a little boy she had befriended there. She was taking a children's bible down to him and found out he was one of the two drowned. There are not the luxuries of life jackets, or safety requirements or life savers or....
The other death was closer to home and quite puzzling. The young boy of eleven, lived at YWAM and had been playing soccer with his friends. He went and ate dinner, even going for seconds. Then, feeling thirsty went for a drink of water, collapsed, blood came from his mouth and he died. He was dead before arriving at the hospital, to which he was taken straight away which was only possible because there was a car available. Suddenly a little life, a young friend, a son is no longer. There is a belief here that it must be God's time. This I cannot believe. There is such a sense that everything is in God's timing and so we must just accept. Now, for me, this is not possible. If it was always that way then what would be the point in praying. Nothing would be changed. Instead, I am determined that the victory that I preached of on Easter Sunday is seen here. That, lives are changed, people healed, the dead raised, that curses are broken and lives are free.
I said yesterday to a group of students that this is a rich country. It is so full of growth, the plants grow overnight. (I am not joking) The soil is so fertile, there is such beauty, the people are friendly and there is so much that is good. Yet, it lives under the shadow of curses, of witchcraft, of corruption, of violence, of sickness and dare one suggest mismanagement (though I suspect no country is not guilty of this in many ways). Most people are not in despair but life is just so much about a process of today. Just now, the farmer received his allowance. He has to now travel quite a distance to where his family comes from. His uncle has just died and he must go to the burial. He must also take his father to the hospital as he is unwell. This is the second uncle to die in the time we have been here. He needs extra so that he can pay for the burial, for treatment for his father. He does not think, I cannot give this money, I have a job and so I will look after them. Michael has a family with four young children, but his thoughts are with the responsibility he has to his elders. We have so much to learn about giving and yet there is also the fact that his family have needs. As I write I think I now understand something he was trying to say about a fund that he has been putting money into. This is a great initiative of the local church. Communication is difficult and can be frustrating between us, I do not know Lusoga and he does not know English.
Sorry, long interruption before being able to come back to this...
Since writing Michael has needed to stay longer in Mbale as his father is very unwell. We pray he might recover. He is hoping to be back tonight. We have also taken a trip to Kampale and obtained a letter that we thought would mean the container being available but there is more... The best part is that we do not have to pay duty since it is for the children. We will probably be able to get the next piece of paper today, or Monday but we never know. The container is important but mainly because of the things that it will mean for the village which will mean more children can come in. Just yesterday we heard from Trudy who is with a group from YWAM in the west, saying can she bring a child back for the village. Due to the requirements of the village and country this is not possible but the need is ever present on a daily basis. One person we met who is working explained to us that he looks after seventeen children, his own and his nephews and nieces that are orphaned. Our help is only helping a country that is endeavouring as much as possible to help itself. Back to the container, our needs seem so minimal in comparison. However, I know that my heavenly father wants to meet our needs and also wants us to meet the needs of others. Each one is important to Him.
On a lighter note, but significant I was just given a note by one of our new boys. It is headed Singing for Village of Hope. He has then written out the song "Thank you, thank you Jesus. Thank you, thank you Jesus.Thank you Jesus in my soul". Each one appreciates what they are given. I was reminded yesterday how hard it must be for a young person to be so uncertain about their future security. Will I be able to go to school next year? What if I fall ill, who will look after me? It is not just the little children that need parenting, it is the bigger ones as well. We thank God for the opportunity we have to help, to call these people our friends and to understand what life means for them as well as share God's love in practical, emotional and spiritual ways. Yesterday, in Kampala, amidst the terrible traffic (with no rules) a car had stopped in front of us. The response of the street sellers was instantly to help. People care about each other and help in any way they can. The street sellers coming up to the car can be fun too. These are just people seeking in any way to make some money to survive. The poorest of these I presume are the people selling soap. They don't have any capital but need to sell something.
We can not take for granted the lives we have or the joy they have despite their circumstances.