Wednesday, December 10, 2008

an overnight bus ride to island dreams

After 30 hours of flights, layovers and passing in between sleep, Kristi and I have awoken back in the USA. This feeling of awakening has become a recurring sensation as I return from Africa. There seems to be so little that separates these places and yet so much that divides it. I cringe with guilt as I pay 3 dollars for a cup of coffee knowing very well that it could have fed a Ugandan family for the entire day, not to mention that they were probably the ones who toiled the land to grow that coffee and sell it for 25 cents a pound. It can be so hard and yet so easy to justify our living standards especially when we are insulated by a society that is structured likewise. I recently read a study that revealed the world's richest 2% owns 50% of the world's wealth (yes middle class still qualifies us in that 2% category.) anyway...

Kristi and I had the opportunity to go on a little vacation to the island of Lamu in Kenya. We left Kampala on an overnight bus to Nairobi. Initially, we had hoped to get some sleep on the ride but pretty soon into it we realized that sleep would be futile as the bus transformed into a pot hole aiming trampoline that circulated old air, dust and disease. Arriving in Nairobi my legs buckled and bowed from our 16 hour deep tissue torture massage.
From Nairobi we were smart enough to take a plane the rest of the way. In Lamu, Kristi and I had a great time. We were able to spend some much need time with just each other; enjoying long walks on the beach and candle lit seafood dinners.
So here are some pictures from our vacation to Lamu where we spent enough money to feed two Ugandan families for an entire year.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Karamoja Drive By

A couple of weeks ago we went to Karamoja for some needs assessment. Before leaving we heard all the rumors (some true, some not) from Ugandans such as, "oh that place is so very hot", "you should fear the Karamojong, the are very dangerous" and "don't look at their cattle."
Traditionally, every aspect of Karamojong life has revolved around their cattle. It is common knowledge among the Karamojong that all the cattle in the world belong to them and therefore they are entitled to anyones cattle. Frequently violence flares up as cattle raiders steal cattle from neigboring Karamojong and even ethnic groups beyond.
During one of our needs assessment, we asked what development projects would work well in Karamoja. One man stated that we should "start a piggery, because people can't run with pigs"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Melisha's House is Complete!

Last weekend Kristi and I were able to go and check on Melisha's house. We are pleased to announce that the entire house is complete! As we arrived, we could see the joy spread across Melisha's face. She lifted her eyes and her hands to the heavens and started to pray out loud. Kristi, Damali (our coworker) and myself decided to take the 3 grandchildren to the market in order to buy them some much needed supplies. While we rode in a taxi to the market, I could see little Charles with his eyes glued outside the window. Harriet, the eldest, informed us that despite living in Kampala his whole life, Charles had never been to the market. Upon arrival, we had what looked like a children's fashion show as each one of the kids picked out their 5 favorite outfits and a pair of shoes. As a surprise, we bought the boys a bike and Harriet a doll. On the drive back we stopped at a furniture store to get a triple decker bunk bed and a regular bed for grandma. Neither the kids nor their grandmother had ever slept on a proper bed!
Round 5pm, while I was taking pictures of the house, little Charles came up to me and said something in Luganda. When I asked Damali to translate, she said he was ready to go to sleep in his new bed and not wake up...ever!
Seeing grandma rejoice in front of their house, the boys riding their bike around and Harriet playing with her doll, I realized how truly privileged we are in West and how often we take things for granted. I realized that many times we see only what we don't have and never take the time to see what we have been blessed with. How can we get to the point where happiness and joy are completely separate from material possessions and where to give is to gain?
Finally... thank you to everyone who has chosen to become involved in the life of this family. Your prayers and support have completely transformed their lives. You have not only become an answer to their prayers but given them a new hope.

"He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose" - Jim Elliot

Grandma Jaja
The family rejoicing in front of their new house
Charles eating fried chicken and drinking a coke
The family, the builders, Kristi and Damali
Charles and Ivan showing off their new bike
The kids on their bunk bed
The family
The house before

The house after!
Kristi and the kids in the taxi to the market
Me with the kids in the back of the truck

Friday, October 24, 2008

Final Farewell to Kamwenge

Well... we actually left Kamwenge District almost a month ago but since I had left over pictures, here we go. The pictures were all taken during our time with the MET program. MET is a HIV education program that trains local youth leaders to mobilize their communities around topics related to HIV.

In other news...
Joseph Kony, cowardly front-man for the Lord's Resistance Army, is once again burning villages, abducting children and killing civilians. After a short period of peace, he has regrouped in the DRC to continue his campaign of terror. During the last month, more than a hundred kids have been aducted (between the ages of 10-15) and over 5000 civilians have fled into Uganda to seek safety. For more recent news articles see here BBC Article and here New Vision