We have a lot to report on the Bukedea Carepoint. We spent 4 days on site and had a great time with the kids. As usual our team went on numerous home visits and several of our team were able to visit with their sponsored kids at their homes for the first time. We also spent a lot of time meeting and interacting with the local community, whether under mango trees or at the local school. As always, we learned a lot, and a lot of great discussions were had. Most importantly, our relationships with the people of Bukedea were deepened, and we were able to celebrate Gods provision for his kids in Bukedea.
The following are some updates we wanted to share with all of our sponsors regarding the progress at the Carepoint.
First off, we were absolutely thrilled to see the change in the attitudes of the local community after a change to the Caretaker role at the beginning of the year. The previous caretaker (the lead staff role at each carepoint) had apparently been a huge block to the community and had been keeping them from being involved. We were overjoyed to arrive this time to see scores of local community members at the site, all celebrating along with the kids and staff at our return.
This is a crucial development, as the long term objective of all of the Carepoints in Uganda is that they be owned and overseen by the local community. From day one we let the community know that this is their project, and that we will not be here forever, but are rather here to lend a hand. The goal is that the community partners with the CarePoint to provide hope for the orphaned and most in need in the area first, but in time effectually changing the landscape of the entire community through long term sustainable projects and initiatives.
And the Bukedea community has officially taken this bull by the horns. The Carepoint committee (a committee of local leaders and guardians of orphans- that acts as the connection between the community and the CarePoint) has taken several proactive steps for the Carepoint, including hiring local community members to begin sewing school uniforms for the kids, planting trees on the Carepoint site, and even working to convince a local neighbor to sell us a small plot of land to expand the Carepoint onto.
The new Caretaker (one of the previous disciplers) is doing a fantastic job, and has been embraced by the local community. In fact, he grew up and lives about a km from the CarePoint and is intimately involved in the local community and lives of the kids as an older brother. For those of you who know Richard, you will be glad to know that he is incredibly proud (in his incredibly humble manner) to be in the caretaker position. I cannot overstate the impact of this change, and how large of a step this is towards the Carepoint becoming the beacon of hope in the region that it is intended to be.
New Land Purchase
Another exciting development is that we have acquired about an acre of land immediately next to the Carepoint that we have been hoping to purchase for some time now. This became possible through the involvement of the community committee. The land is to be used to cultivate crops...certainly not enough to provide for all the kids, but plenty to allow the kids to be taught and mentored in good local farming methods by the Carepoint staff and community helpers. We have needed to be able to expand for some time, so this is a great development. For those of you who have visited Bukedea, the land is immediately to the right of the CarePoint Building as you stand on the soccer field (or well) looking towards the project.
The well that we had dug more than a year ago on the Carepoint site appears to be working well, but the recharge is still a little slow. The contractors who dug and installed it are coming back in a few weeks to look into adding another 20 feet of piping to the base of the well to increase recharge. The goal is that the well is able to handle enough water not just for the Carepoint's daily needs but also for the surrounding community. In the meantime, it is great to see that the kids are able to have fresh water on site during meals, and that the staff are no longer having water bicycled in all day in jugs from a well a km away.
Just before our departure for Uganda at the end of July, we once again hit 100% sponsorship levels for our kids in Bukedea. We currently care and provide for 181 children in Bukedea, and having full sponsorship is crucial to our success...not only because the funds are needed to continue to improve the levels of provision for the kids, but also because every one of them want to know that they have a "friend" (the local Teso word for sponsor) who cares for them.
We have decided to add another 40 kids to the program, and so one of my days was spent profiling kids that had been selected by the Carepoint staff and local community committee for inclusion. This is always a difficult process, and the stories behind the kids faces are many times gut wrenching. After celebrating success and progress for 2 days it is humbling to be faced with the reality that there are hundreds...no thousands...more kids in the area with extreme need. And we simply cannot provide for them all. I guess thats why it is imperative that our plans and solutions provide not only short term relief to the kids, but also lasting sustainable change to the surrounding community so that family trees will be changed. We are working alongside Hope Chest to process the 40 new profiles we have and will be releasing them for sponsorship in a week or two. Here a just a couple of the stories.
Apio Berna and Adongo Ivan Apio and Adongo are both 4 years old. The twins live with their mother, not far from the Carepoint. Their father was gunned down in 2009 by robbers in another region and she returned to her families home in Bukedea at that time after the same robbers burned down her home. She could not however, provide for all of her kids (6 in all), so she gave 2 of them up to neighboring families as voluntary slaves. Since then the two kids that were given away have been severely mistreated, but she has not had the means to get them back because she simply could not provide for them.
We have arranged for the two kids that were given away to be returned and profiled in addition to their two siblings (above) all to be included in the program.
Apolot Stella Josephine Apolot does not know who her father is, and her mother, who has been known to live nomadically and dessert the kids periodically, works at the local market selling water. She has two siblings and is in P1 (first grade). Apolot suffers from encephalitis and her head is about twice the size of a normal child. Although this will unlikely be curable, sponsorship will allow her to get treatment to stop the swelling and prolong her life. She has slight pain during the day at school, but apart from that is just another kid at the Carepoint...
One of the kids that we profiled has as yet not been baptised, and therefore had not been given a "Christian" name. This process has been in place since the early stages of colonization in the African continent, where most all Africans have a local name, and are then also given a "Christian" (or english) name when they are baptized. (Quite sad when I think about it - as if to suggest that Jesus and his religion is for white men and that Africans must become white before they become Christian...but more on that at another time)
Anyway...little Adokot had not been baptised yet, and when we profiled him the staff decided that a fitting name would be...thats right...Dylan. Another norm of the Teso region is to name your child after someone in the village (known as your namesake) and to be in intimate relationship with that person as your namesake. So, I am quite honored to have my own namesake in Bukedea, and hope to find a sponsor for little Dylan soon.
We are very pleased to report that young Alex, who first came to our attention more than 2 years ago, has undergone corrective surgery for his urinary control problem and is doing extremely well. You can learn more about Alex at the blog labelled "Smelly, Rejected and Ashamed". We hope that this change in Alex's physical condition will allow him to improve in his mental state and demeanor as he is able to interact more normally with the other kids and attend school without disruption. Thanks for your contributions to the medical fund which made this possible.
Janets New Home
Just as exciting, is that Janet (the mother of 3 of our sponsored kids including Peter Pan) has moved into her new home, and is even currently undergoing cancer treatment to try and save her life. We fell in love with her kids 2 years ago, and have worked to provide a future for them in the event that Janet passes away. Here is a brief video showing the new home (the talk of the community) and the land that she now has to cultivate.
We are in the process of raising funds to be able to complete Janets 3 rounds of cancer treatment, and will update you all on this as we progress. In the meantime, THANKS to all of you who contributed to the new home and land for this family. Read more about Peter Pan at the post entitled Mom will be Dead in a Year and A Little Piece of Heaven
We spent one afternoon at one of the two local schools that the kids attend in Bukedea Township, and this turned out to be an eye opening experience. The school (just a km from the CarePoint) is home to around 95 of our kids and our meeting with the vice headmaster was incredibly encouraging. Firstly, it was great to learn that many of our orphaned kids had risen to leadership roles within the school (some were prefects and others class leaders), and that most of our kids were performing quite well in terms of school grades.
I led (pretended to lead) a small class under the mango tree where a couple of the classes meet each day for school. There aren't quite enough classrooms to house all of the students, and the average class size is around 100 students. Yeah, thats right. One Hundred!
But we were encouraged to see that the CarePoint kids were known by the school teachers, were accepted by the other kids, and were even receiving some additional support from the special needs teacher. Our partnership with the schools at our carepoints is imperative, because their ongoing education truly is their ticket to hope and a future. It was great to open this door, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the local schools to help raise these kids to have a healthy future.
Pictures of our Kids
We worked one afternoon to get photos of all of the sponsored kids who were in attendance (some were off at boarding school) so that we can send them to all of our sponsors. We know that you have been receiving letters and occasional updates through Hope Chest and that a lot of the photos are a little ...shall I say....bland? We will be posting pictures of all of the kids on the Facebook Page in the next few days so that you can hopefully all have updated photos of your kids with smiles.
In a few weeks we will be releasing a couple of fund raising initiatives to begin working on some of the next steps at Bukedea. A few of the more obvious needs are:
Sponsorship: We have 40 new kids to get sponsored as soon as possible and we will need all of your help to accomplish this. We know that many of you cannot sponsor more kids, but we also know that many of you know someone who could. As we begin posting the new profiles and their stories, please consider sharing them with your networks and friends.
Fence: We will be working to construct a fence to enclose the compound and protect the crops and chicken coops that we intend to launch later this year, as well as to provide some safety for the supplies and kids during the day. We have $2,000 already raised for this project and have arranged for the community to handle most of the labor for free. We are working on bids for the project which will likely require an additional $2,000
Mattresses: We would like very much to provide mattresses for all 230 kids later this year as a Christmas present. Most of the kids sleep on mud floors, some on straw mats, but many just on their clothing. When we interviewed many of the kids in groups about what would be the most important thing we could help provide them their response was entirely unanimous - Mattresses.
Microfinance Match: We will be working to launch a Microfinance program in Bukedea (we already have one up and running in Ogoloi) and want to provide matching funds to the community savings program. More on this to come....(this is an incredibly exciting development)
Building improvements: We will also need to make some small additions and modification to the multi purpose building including adding bars to the windows (currently just openings in the walls) and installing some lightning conductors. The building has been hit twice by lightning, which in addition to having caused damage to the building, is viewed as a potential curse by the locals.
This recent trip to Bukedea was truly a great one.
I am so encouraged by the progress, not only in the visible and tangible formats (such as the land, the well, and the community projects like the new home for Peter Pan), but perhaps more importantly in the smiles and confidence in the kids, the deepening trust and quality of relationships, and the very apparent recognition in the kids that we are with them today, and will be with them tomorrow.
Although my heart breaks every time that I go back as we are confronted with the stories of pain, suffering, and disillusionment that these incredible people endure day in and day out, it is amazing to see how (even in the midst of that reality) the Carepoint has become a place of joy, hope, encouragement, and ultimately; praise to God. A little piece of heaven, in a world of muck. A little beacon of light, pointing the way to a better reality, and the hope of a better future....and the ultimate renewal of all things. A city on a hill. And a picture of the love that Jesus has bestowed upon us.
Its a beautiful picture...and I am incredibly honored to be a part of what God is doing, in and through all of you as sponsors and advocates of these kids.
....stay tuned for an update on Ogoloi CarePoint next
Below are a few pics of the team in action
And here are a few Albums on Facebook:
|Kristen has a notable chicken phobia|
|Kaitlyn (aka Katie)|