Empowering HIV/AIDS orphaned children in Africa to a self sustainable future

Catherine Koch

Catherine Koch

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

Season’s Change, The Rains Come…


‘If you observe outside right now’ my friend was saying, ‘ya, in fact everything is just humble and I sense that the plants are praying to the Creator for having rained them. Because if you observe outside there is not any plant shaking around, everything is very still, bowing, grateful to Creator…’

And I do observe and see that’s the way everything in nature appears to be feeling these past few days… obviously reactive in some way at the coming of the rains after a very long, very hot dry season. Even the bugs, some colossal in size and number take energetically to the air bumping into each other and all sorts of obstacles in their path including, as it happened a few times today, my face, as we rode quickly out of town on the piki! (…I can only imagine how it was for my friend in the role of ‘head’ navigator and ‘primary windshield’…helmets in many cases here are merely a concept and, ones with face shields, wow, and, that actually work, whoa!)

Using a public phone at the trading center Gideon had called me first thing this morning sounding panicked, saying ‘Cathreen I am down, I cannot even go to school today, I don’t know why and there is nothing in the hut…’ (meaning he was sick and they were out of food). To the Mbale market we immediately went, where I bought one weeks supply of posho (maize meal), beans, cooking oil, sugar, salt, soap, chapattis, tomatoes and onions and then zoomed off to

Bukedea, 2 bags, 2 boxes and 2 bodies packed snuggly together on the motorcycle!

After testing at the clinic we found Gideon was ‘down’ because of malaria, worms and a lack of sugar and protein… all serious, yet so very easy to come by here, all treatable, all being taken care of now. We took little Gracie along to the clinic as well, because the look in her eyes was just a bit too ‘far away’ and it was confirmed she also had malaria. Change of season here, I learn, can be a vulnerable time especially for rural people who live very ‘close to the earth’ and often become sick as a result, their bodies weakening while taking time to adjust to the dramatic change in rhythm. After treatment for them both we returned to the hut and sat a while watching them eat and noticeably, quickly improve. Thankfully!

We all agreed this was our wake up call to put into immediate action a plan to sustain the family with greater income to afford daily a better variety of food. Along with sugar and salt that I have been supplying and shillings earned from digging for neighbors they have been existing on tea with sugar, salted cassava (starch) and g nuts (a little protein and oils), the occasional small dried eel type fish, with very few vegetables, as until recently the rains have come slowly in their

parts and fresh greens have not been growing. To see them through the time it will take to grow the recently plowed fields into their future food (maize, beans, millet, g nuts, cassava, greens) as well as their poultry business into a financial return, we decided to support Helen’s idea to go into the dry fish business and provided her with 60,000 shillings as start up capital. Market day is Monday in Bukedea and people travel from many miles away with a variety of goods for trade to a huge open field (right beside Gideon’s Grandfather’s land) that has many make shift stalls of tree trunks and branches covered with roofs of dried grass. Here, this Monday Helen will purchase wholesale a pile about ‘this big’ (approx 2 cubic ft.) of smoked telapia fish for 60,000 and retail them during the week from their compound for a profit, she estimates, of around 40.000, which will more than afford to keep them well in a variety of food (and if all goes well provide a health care emerg fund as well as a little savings) until the other plans above kick into full gear. Sounds simple enough I know… and I was reminded once again how, like what happens to the body in the absence of protein and sugar, many, many things here are. It’s usually just a matter of identifying the needed basic ingredient and then, the challenging part for most, finding the way to obtain it… in this context, the start up capital. I figure this idea of Helen’s is win/win… if for some reason the fish does not sell it’ll be a pretty good supply of much needed protein for the family for a while…

A couple weeks ago as we visited in the hut with Gideon’s family (and later again at Betty’s) I said to them all ‘Today I want to ask you to do something for me ok?’ They were very happy and excited at the opportunity. I brought out a bag containing a set of colored felt pens, a pack of wax crayons, pencil crayons and thick paper, 2 pieces for each member. They were thrilled at all the choices and colors! I asked them to each make 2 drawings, one for me, one for themselves. The drawings could be anything they wanted… didn’t even have to be drawings, could be words, in any language, could be any thing they felt like expressing. Ah, they were all delighted and so was I to even imagine what fun they might have being colorfully creative together, let alone in what ways they might actually give voice to themselves on paper!

Yesterday, as we visited in the hut after seeing to Grace and Gideon’s health, I was handed a stack of artwork, photos of which you can see here. (I’ll share Betty’s family art with you another time). Happy, bright, fantastically creative drawings, by each family member, most duplicated exactly with one copy for me and the other for the artist, expressing love, life, family, joy, promise, future…

…and by Gideon, (the only one who did two different drawings giving them both for me to keep) the first, pictured here is ‘his heart’ with a flower in the center and the words ‘I will remember ‘U’ Will ‘U’ remember me?’ and the second, this… a poem, that I share ever so respectfully with you now…

Roots are primary:
first emergings seeds,
Hidden in darkness, yet,
Yet sustaining the whole
As long as I have been,
Your love has been there,
Surrounding and sustaining me

Roots are receptors
Able to receive to appropriate,
That the plant may thrive.
I drink your love like water
And in its abundance my roots,

Happy Spring, Autumn, Full Moon, Sun into Aries AND Easter Wishes to you!!!

Talk about ‘times a-changing’ heh…!

And I become increasingly receptive
In you I am not pot bound.
The deeper I go, the more I know
That there are no limits,
Roots are anchors.

Holding firmly no matter what
the circumstance of wind and weather
As long as your love endures,
I shall not be removed.’

I needed to pause a few times as I read Gideon’s words out loud for us all. When I was finished, I think I may have been feeling like the plants my friend had been observing that day after the rains had come… it seemed LOVE utterly compelled me to bow my head and I remember sitting very still and quiet for some time, feeling totally awash in this gentle kind of reverent humility.

Bountiful Blessings Indeed, Cath xo

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