‘PROJECT’S’ UPDATE ~ PART 1!

Imagine! It is now over 5 months I’ve been in Africa with all of my time so far spent in eastern Uganda! Who knew that I would stay this long in one place? I do still plan to move on one day to Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi and beyond… For now, as the time flies by, relationships with the children and adults I am involved with here deepen, continuing to inform, inspire and enlighten me. I am filled with wonder and even amazement some days as I experience life here, learning more and more about what it means on many levels to say that familiar expression you may have heard in movies, the one that is said here constantly… namely that… ‘THIS IS AFRICA!’

Let me begin this update about ‘project’s’ I am involved with by saying THANK YOU most sincerely for the encouragement and support many of you continue to send this way for me and the children I am working with. In addition to tangible results listed below, your involvement and interest in this journey serve often to renew and replenish me and therefore the children, and we are all very appreciating of your Love. As I carry on my way it becomes quite clear that my heartfelt desire is to continue to serve the orphan children I am meeting and these days I look to be shown the way to do that, both well and long into the future! Their number is many, their need very real and knowing this as intimately as I do now, I move forward in trust, holding these children in the very center of this life I am living, right here in my heart!

I have come to understand, speaking VERY broadly, there are two distinct groups of orphan children living in different circumstances in this area of Uganda (and assuredly many other areas in Africa) whom I am most guided to connect with in Love.

FIRST… There are children who are living in what can be described as ‘CHILD HEADED HOUSEHOLDS’. In general, these ‘TOTAL ORPHAN CHILDREN’, usually with the oldest sibling stepping up into a ‘parent’ role, have remained living together in rural areas, with either minimal +/or no assistance from extended family, on land their parents owned up to their deaths. Starting where the children are with what their parents provided them, and by gaining understanding of how they are currently managing their circumstances, I can begin to realize what form of guidance and empowerment they are most requiring. Priorities reveal themselves to be quite simple and consistent… they are ‘the basics’… food, shelter, health care, education and income. Beginning by addressing each area I learn to keep one unwavering eye focused on empowering the children’s ability to self determine and sustain over the long term any improvements I may be able to assist them with in the immediate. I am finding it keeps things clear for me and the children to emphasize often that while I will surely be LOVING them forever, I am seriously wanting to work myself out of a ‘day to day job’ with them and wish to leave the children empowered into their future while I continue on to assist others who are needing the same attention they are now receiving. I am continually asking the children questions like ‘what will you do about this or that when I am not here on a regular basis’ or ‘how will you manage this in the long run’ or ‘what is a plan about this you can come up with that does not involve or rely on me’ or…?

I witness remarkable strength, courage and openness in the children I meet in this kind of circumstance and I see how truly Graced they have been to survive so long on their own, awaiting some one to come around in answer to their prayers. Indeed, I consider being part of that answer a great responsibility and a great privilege all in one!

Once their current circumstances are understood I ask questions about the children’s hopes, their dreams and wishes and then aiming to build upon their resilient foundation, we move forward considering ways to:

1) Create/expand the growing of ample food for themselves on their land; (although there are many different areas, climate and soil conditions etc. here in Uganda, in the area where I have spent my time so far the land is very fertile, water is generally if not abundantly available at times and there is the probability of at least 2 harvests of several different crops per year)
2) Ensure there is adequate clothing and basic household items for the children;
3) Ensure there is safe, solid and secure housing for the children on their land;
4) Provide assistance facilitating access to and education about proper health care;
5) Enable the younger children to begin/continue their education;
6) Support the older children to continue their schooling +/or attend training in a trade +/or initiate or expand an income generating activity on their land;

My overall intention is clear… do the above within a context that showers and empowers the children with PEACE and JOY and LOVE!

SECOND… There are both ‘PARTIAL +/or TOTAL ORPHAN CHILDREN’ who are currently living with either extended family such as a GRANDMOTHER in many cases +/or a GUARDIAN. Here, along with the children’s well being we have the caregiver and their needs to consider as well. I will share what I have learned about those I have met living in these circumstances and describe various project’s I am currently working on to support them, in ‘part 2′ of this project update… soon!

TWO ‘CHILD’ FAMILIES

Over recent months as many blog postings mention, I have been learning with and working extensively alongside 2 families living in rural Bukedea who are headed by children. During the time we have been getting to know one another, my intention has been to put into practice what I’ve described above. Countless Blessings along with your support have enabled me to assist and uplift these families to date in the following ways…

GIDEON’S FAMILY
Gideon 16 yrs , Senior (S) 4, (dreams of being a Vet like his father before him), Martha 14, Primary (P) 6, (dreams of being a nurse), Naume 12, P6, (dreams of being a nurse too! ) older sister Helen with her 2 children Lillian Grace 3 ( can barely wait to start school) and Silis 15 months ~ Since meeting this family, together you and I have:

Supported the entire family with:
~ sugar, salt and soap weekly
~ mosquito nets
~ safe water collection vessels and education
~ access to health care for malaria +/or other treatments required
~ education about HIV/AIDS
~ used clothing for each member
~ a new bike, lantern, digging tool and a deck of cards
~ the hiring of return transportation to see the children at least once a week
~ the plowing of 4 acres of their land to make ready for the planting of maize, cassava, ground nuts, millet and a cash crop, as weather dictates.
Approximately: CDN $180

Supported Gideon with:
~ registration and school fees for first term of S4, starting Feb ‘08
~ a new uniform, socks and shoes
~ school ID, text books, scribblers, pens, a calculator and a back pack
Approximately: CDN $225

Supported Martha and Naume with:
~ new uniforms, socks and shoes
~ school scribblers, pens, math sets and back packs
~ education about and supplies re: feminine hygiene
Approximately: CDN $60

Supported Helen, Lillian Grace and Silis with:
~ a set of beginner readers, a backpack for Lillian and a ball for Silis
Approximately: CDN $9

Family Total = Approximately 810,000Ush or $475CDN

As we continue uplifting this family into empowerment, Gideon, his sisters and I ask for your consideration and support in achieving our present intentions:

~ Sponsoring Gideon with school fees for the balance of this school year and for the 2 years beyond until he finishes senior school (S6) at the end of 2010.
Approximately: CDN $150 for the balance of 2008; $425 for 2009; $500 for 2010;

( 2009 and 2010 fees include the probability of boarding and transportation costs for Gideon as it is likely he will have to attend school in Mbale for these 2 years, returning home on weekends)

( During this time Gideon and his sisters will be working to increase their ability to earn and save income by way of the growing and selling of cash crops alongside their poultry business with the plan that in 2 years they will afford the girls fees when they enter Senior School in 2009 and Gideon’s fees when he enters University in 2011).

~ Sponsoring the immediate planting of the 4 plowed acres ie: seedlings, seeds, fertilizers, etc.
Approximately: CDN $200

~ Sponsoring the initial expansion of the family’s existing small poultry business
Approximately: CDN $175 ( this will provide 10 hens and 1 rooster along with feed and meds for the first 6 months by which time the first hatchlings will be full grown and ready to market )

~ Sponsoring the building of a 3 room brick and iron sheet home*
Approximately: CDN $2,000

* Currently the family of 6 share one aged small mud and grass hut with Gideon sleeping on one foam with Helen’s 2 little ones, while Naume, Martha and Helen share a 2’nd single size foam. Because it has been determined the existing brick home on the land Gideon’s Grandfather willed to him is not stable enough to re-roof as we had once hoped, it is our plan to use that building as a home for an expanded poultry business and to relocate the family from their existing hut into a new 3 room iron sheet home we will build that will serve them all well for many years into the future.

The new family home will look similar to the one drawn on these plans except that it will be a 3 room structure ( one private entrance sleeping room for girls, one for boys, and a sitting/cooking area in the middle) with drums attached to eaves troughs for water collection and storage in rainy season. It will be built of bricks made from local material, secured with metal exterior doors and bars on screened windows, with a one sided sloped roof built with local wood and covered with iron sheets.

BETTY’S FAMILY
Betty 17 yrs, ( completed up to mid primary level at school until parents died, dreams of being a tailor) Moses 15, P5, ( has not attended school consistently since the passing of his parents and is several years behind children his age, dreams of being a Doctor) Morning 10, P5, ( dreams of driving a ‘piki piki’… swahili for motorcycle… just like the one we arrive on when we visit!) Peter 8, P3, ( dreams of being a math teacher) Cousin Rose with baby Stella 20 mths, ( when Stella was born with hydrocephalus both were abandoned by baby’s father and it was at that time they came to live with Betty) Grandmother ( weak, prone to sickness ) Since meeting this family, together you and I have:

Supported the entire family with:
~ sugar, salt and soap weekly
~ mosquito nets
~ safe water collection vessels and education
~ access to health care for malaria +/or other treatments required
~ education about HIV/AIDS
~ used clothing for each member
~ a new bike, a ball and deck of cards
~ new blankets, sheets and foamies
~ 2 large cooking pots
~ an emergency care package of food
~ millet and maize for 3 months while Betty is at school
~ the hiring of return transportation to see the children at least once a week
~ the plowing of 4 acres of their land to make ready for the planting of maize, cassava, ground nuts, millet and a cash crop, as weather dictates
Approximately: CDN $450

Supported Betty with:
~ enrollment in a 3 month tailoring course
~ 3 months of lunches while at school
~ a back pack, tailoring scissors, tape measure, thread and fabric
Approximately: CDN $140

Supported Moses, Morning and Peter with:
~ new school uniforms, shoes, socks and belts
~ school scribblers, pens, math sets and back packs
Approximately: CDN $60

Supported Rose and Stella with:
~ Transportation costs to and from hospital in Mbale
~ Medication for Stella
~ Shoes for Stella
Approximately: CDN $15

Supported Grandmother with:
~ a framed picture of herself which she requested and hopes will be viewed after her death
Approximately: CDN $4

Family Total – Approximately 1,140,000Ush or $670CDN

As we continue uplifting this family into empowerment, Betty, her brothers, Rose, Stella and I ask for your consideration and support in achieving our present intentions:

~ Sponsoring 90% of the outstanding balance for the operation to treat hydrocephalus that was performed on Stella, leaving Rose with a realistic 10% amount to pay off.
Approximately: CDN $400

~ Sponsoring the immediate planting of the 4 plowed acres ie: seedlings, seeds, fertilizers, etc.
Approximately: CDN $200

~ Sponsoring the purchase of a sewing machine and start up fabric for Betty once she completes her sewing course end April ’08
Approximately: CDN $150

~ Sponsoring the building of a 3 room brick and iron sheet home (as above)
Approximately: CDN $2,000

To try and put into words how the children feel about the Love being extended to them seems challenging for me… she who so enjoys to write!
I witness changes in their very beings, I see their smiles, hear their laughter and feel their embraces. I know they are amazed that we have even shown up in their lives let alone that we care about and value them and their happiness.

One local man in the trading center near where the 2 families live said to my friend the other day…’I am so grateful for the way that lady is helping those kids because those kids were really in a bad mood and she has really wiped their tears.’

That same friend, who interprets for the children and me, says it this way…
“like, now, the way their lives are changing, they are very happy, according to the connection they are having with you… cause like the other day, the families were saying they are very very happy, they are so grateful. They were saying that your assistance is really appreciated, they have said that if you leave this country they will always Love you and never forget you…’

Perhaps it is our Martha who sums it up most simply for us…As my friend and I were riding out of their compound on the piki the other day, she was running alongside us laughing, saying ‘bye-bye bye-bye!’ I called out to her ‘Martha I Love you!’, to which she replied in her very best English ‘I Love you too Cathalin, I Love you like a feeesh Loves waaater!’

THE CHILDREN AND I THANK YOU
FOR
THE GIFT OF YOUR
LOVE!

Cath xoxo

About Catherine Koch

Founder and President of Love Is The Answer, a Canadian registered charity serving orphaned children in Africa.
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