Sunday, July 17, 2011

Having a team in Suubi house

Over the last two weeks it has been our privilege to in some ways host a team of people from Australia who are here to help with the building of the Village of Hope and to learn a bit about Uganda, another country and the lives of people. I want to tell you a bit about our time with them and some of my thoughts. I hope that by being honest I will not offend because my intent is actually to show how I am feeling.
The day started with punctures in two tyres and so we did not made it to church. Let alone, the fact that Ron had to do some extra things at the house, after the night before trying to prepare and finishing late, but not being able to complete everything because the solar lights gave out! So, we left in plenty of time (or so we thought) on the bus to Kampala. Quick stop at the supermarket for something to eat and then onto Entebbe. Normally, a one hour drive. The rain started and the traffic slowed. A great lightning show but unfortunately with about 80 people killed in lightning strikes in the last month, they have lost their appeal. The traffic slowed, the traffic stopped and we waited, and waited. Rang the hotel where Katrina (whose name we did not have) was stayed and fortunately were able to explain the situation. The plane arrived, the team had to wait. There was nothing we could do. The one hour trip ended up taking us nearly 3 hours!
It was great to see everyone and the trip home in the bus was full of chatting. A good chance for us to hear and talk. For the first part people were able to see Uganda for the first time, unfortunately the traffic was still bad, so by the time we got out of Kampala it was already dark. On arriving in Jinja it was wet, the road was very wet, I have never seen it so wet. So, we trundled people into the new house with limited lighting, and lots of mud! Not a great welcome and hence some of the comments weren't so positive. For us, hard to take but on reflection quite understandable, not only we were tired, they were exhausted from travelling. Fortunately, their impressions improved and so did our relationships.
Suubi House as the guest house is called, suubi means hope in local language, it proved to be a great place. The team was able to meet together, forced to interact in some form without a complete retreat possible but still places to sit quietly and be by yourself. The large table easily fitted the team, managed with Ron and I and struggled when we were added to but was a really nice meeting place too. After all the work (with more still to come) it was a relief that it worked well, and even better seemed to help build relationships.
It is an amazing thing to share a little in the journey of people. Each one came with a different past, some with expectations, others uncertain what to expect, and all came together for the same cause to help the Village of Hope. It had moments when I was uncertain. Comments made hit different spots, showed some of my arrogance (I have been here for 6 months after all) and also reminded me of the differences in our lives here to Australia. Then, there were sacred moments when people chose to spend time listening and caring. Each person of course did this in different ways. The time when the nurse had been faced with a horrific wound that could have been dealt with differently if the mother had had money. Would the wound ever heal? (looking good so far) Or, the compassion that another showed about the things they were confronted with and understood where I was coming from (thank you so much). Or, the recognition that perhaps it was not so simple, there are not easy answers, paying school fees leads to needing to pay school requirements and then what about the uniform and the school shoes? As described in the other post the opportunity to unite a group of ladies with someone who might be able to help them by selling their products - something that has been my prayer for nearly the whole time I have been here. Even, just the chance for people to buy things from the ones who made them. What about the treasured day out with a friend who I could trust, could talk to and understood? The opportunity to have someone else teach the ladies to sew, another thing I have wanted to get on to since the arrival of more sewing machines but have not found the time. Or, having a young girl who has finished her vocational training course now able to use some of the skills in cooking for the team. The awe when a young person thinks deeply about situations and wants to make a difference not just with their money but also what does this mean for my life!
The team made a difference, they built nearly a whole house (only roof to go). However, this was not the most significant thing in my mind. They worked like a team, they let go of their differences and appreciated each other for who they are. They made a difference to many of the people they met. They might have been tired but they still had time for others. Different team members played different roles. It was great to see Andrew freed up to do the administrative things he needed to do while Jordan coordinated the building. Or, that things just got done around the place by Stan. Or, the dancing on a concrete floor at the school devotions after a long day on the work site.
I want to thank them, they encouraged me, they added to the hope that is already here in this house and gave great hope to the community. Their faith shined through their actions and sometimes they used words. So, what started for me in a less than positive way finished in a great way. Hopefully I have grown and learnt from them, I certainly think I have.

Sorry tried to find a picture of the house as they left it but couldn't, so it is a picture of the team just before loading onto the bus to leave.

Incredible women

I think it is important for me to document about some incredible women here. On facebook I asked people to pray for Jane, who they did not know. I know many people have been so let me tell you about her. Jane is a lady of about 43 years of age, she did tell us but that piece of information I have forgotten. She has three children that are alive, and one who has died. Jane is a widow, HIV positive, suffered from polio as a child and hence wears a caliper and has skin cancer. What a hopeless case! Who should care about her?
Well, first let me tell you a little of her story and you too can become an admirer. I don't know much about her early life and the polio but she was married to a man who she loved. Unfortunately, that man also liked to drink. Unknown to her at the time he must have also behaved badly, can I say, and so contracted HIV. He, like many sufferers did not want to be tested. He finally was tested when he was very sick in hospital, thinking it was a test for malaria. Not long afterwards, he dies and leaves Jane with three young children to rear. Of course, she then had to find out whether she too was infected. The shame of it all for her was that in fact she was. This led to very hard times for her as she had to come to terms with it. She then had her leg swell up and this was the skin cancer (that is closely related to the HIV positive status). Hence, starting treatment with ARV(anti-retro viral) drugs. These are very effective but need time to be adjusted to. So, many pressures for a lady who had previously been active in the disabled society in Jinja helping others. Now, she had so many issues for herself. However, the best part of the story is that she sought out God. She had known about Him from the Catholic upbringing she had but not known the personal relationship that was possible. However, she called to a pastor who went past and told him that she wanted to become a Christian. Jane's faith shines out. Survival for her is probably a daily battle but you would not know it. She smiles, she is welcoming and despite her humble home is very hospitable. Jane gives me hope, she reminds me that it is not the circumstances that determine how she will be but her faith in God. Most of all the characteristic that I love and admire in Jane is that she is not selfish. She has started and been involved in so many groups for others. She does not do things only for her gain. If she thinks that I might be able to help her sister or her sister-in-law she is not backward in coming forward. She does not just do craft for herself, she has a group that is being incorporated. She is aware of the needs of HIV positive people who are disabled like herself, so she started a group and is the chairperson. The help given to the group did not go to her, but she was encouraged by it. So much to give hope, with people like Jane, Uganda can be the nation it should be. For those that saw my Facebook messages about praying for her. Thank you, she is recovered and looked as happy as ever today and thanks you for your prayers. More of this story, written much better and with more details will probably become part of the website and promotional material that Jocelyn will have for her fair trade sales. It was such an indescribably lovely thing to be the link that connected Jocelyn (who was here on team) with Jane's craft cooperative.
On the other side of the world are another bunch of incredible women that have provided a lot of encouragement to me. They are the ladies that have made quilts to be given to the mothers and children at the village. So much work and effort has been put into these beautiful quilts. The children and mothers are so blessed by their work. For these children the quilt is something that they have that is their very own and unlike their clothes something that will last. A quilt is not a necessity and so as to have one is such a privilege and special. Then to think that it was made especially for you by someone across the world is so special. I have looked at the tags on the quilts and think of each of the people, many of whom I knew through Sew Blessed. I cannot express the gratitude enough. Now, each of their beds is more theirs than before. It is easily identified by the quilt that is theirs, made for them.
Two houses had been given quilts a few weeks ago and then on Monday we gave the other two houses theirs. It was with a sense of great excitement because they now knew what they were. It was so interesting to see the different choices that they made as they got to choose the one that they would like. Then, the boys room in particular was transformed. No longer was there any rubbish on the floor, it had to be swept and mopped. All the shelves needed to be tidy. Once the quilts were on the beds, mess looked so out of place that without any coaxing they tidied up. What a testimony of them feeling like they were important and they could have nice things. The same thing happened in each room as they worked out how best to put each quilt on the bed and present it to the full. Thank you ladies, your hard work is not in vain. It is so much appreciated.
Pictures never tell the whole story but hopefully the pictures give you some idea. Also, as an aside I hope that Jocelyn does not mind me telling the above story ahead of time.
Are these the only incredible women here? No, there are so many people with so many stories. I cannot imagine having to cope with situations of poverty, starvation and caring for children when a husband has left, let alone ill-health. However, I will tell you other stories other days, or if you know me, then you will probably get sick of hearing about their stories.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oh dear

Hi all who follow this and who have thought maybe I had lost interest. Actually, there is good reason. For the last two weeks prior to this week, I have not had a lot of access to my computer because great work has been accomplished by visitors here. Hank and Louise have been staying and needed a computer a lot of the time and then being busy the other times it was just too hard.

Let me start by telling you a story about the stuff that has involved them. Louise came as a nurse who is an experienced midwife but they had some time in Aceh where she was involved in a medical clinic. She had the task of looking at the medical needs of the village and seeing what would unfold in the way of maybe a medical centre. At this stage that is not on the cards but great work was accomplished. Through Louise meeting with many people including Women of Hope, the associated HIV positive group and other contacts etc. a group has been formed to develop work in the area of Village Health Teams. These have existed to some extent but have faded out and with the cost and distance of medical assistance could provide valuable primary health care. It has been a big learning process for me. I have seen a person with a purpose and determination accomplish so much in a short two week period. [A bit of a challenge to me with the thought of education and the enormous needs in our community.] God has worked significantly in it. One particular example is that one day I was walking out of the gate and a car went past, the driver waved. I waved back, not sure who it was. He then reversed and spoke to me. I recognised him but had no idea who he was. It turned out he was the LCV (LC five) which is pretty high up in the governmental system here. LCI is the lowest and then after LCV I think it goes to the parliament. Anyway, I had met him when he spoke to the Women of Hope to drum up votes. So, I invited him to meet Louise, an offer he took up and so we met with him and the meeting with other people ensued. He was very directive of the health workers and is prepared to speak on the community's behalf to the Director of Health etc. Seems like with the help of a great YWAMer in Fred who is involved in community development training in Rwanda and Tanzania that things are on the move. The benefit will be training for one or more of our people (mother or other) in the village in basic health needs. Then, the benefit to the wider community will mean that there is a first point of call. Each health worker has about 20 households that they keep an eye on. So, please pray for this venture. I know I could not have arranged such a meeting so what does God want from this. I have also told the LCV I would like to meet him to talk about education!
Hank is a much quieter personality and just potters around investigating. He has a speciality in irrigation. Well, he might be quiet but he found a leak in our pipes and has fixed it. We can even have water in the admin centre when others are using water! And, the water costs will be reduced. Thank you Hank. He also investigated water needs and has drawn up a plan for what will be happening. He and Louise have now gone on safari but Hank has changed his return ticket in order to come back here for two weeks to get all the watering stuff happening. Helps that the irrigation business at home is not under pressure due to rain and we are coming into dry season.
So, you can see that God is bringing people here with different skills and abilities to help us and the community. Sometimes I am prone to feel like I have not achieved that much. Ron definitely has with continual movement with the building and the Suubi House (our new home and more significantly the guest house). Things are not stationary. That is not to say that I feel like I have been useless just not productive in a way that I like to be and am used to being. However, I have learnt a lot in the six months. I think I understand a lot more about the people here, how they think, many of their needs and I am becoming more bold in being directive in ways to improve things without taking away from who they are. However, before that ramble the point I was going to make was that I can see that God has used us to help many people often by bringing others here or by being the distribution centre that passes on gifts from people to people in need here. So, now the challenge is to see what God wants me to do in the education area, how to facilitate change where necessary, to develop people's skills and to seek God for ways for education in a country that cannot afford traditional education. Again, please pray for direction and creativity because I know these are needed.