Today Kailey and I cleaned the kids’ rooms and went through clothes donations. Special thanks to Jjaja Barb and my small group!
The kids came home from school and were beyond excited to see a couple new outfits in their closets. They were running around showing everyone their new clothes could barely sit down for lunch.
They said many many many thank yous and have been wearing their biggest smiles along with their new clothes.
(You can click on the pictures to see them bigger – I’d recommend it for some of the pictures of the girls modeling their new styles. They are kind of hilarious)
A lot of people have asked me why I went to Gulu this summer. The reasons are a few fold. The main reason that the trip was scheduled is because one of the summer volunteers is hoping to intern with an organization that is in Gulu – and since she was already in Uganda, it made sense to help her connect with them. The reason I was so excited to join in on the adventure is that last summer I was able to go to the Acholi Quarters and learned about an organization called Africa Arise. The Acholi Quarter is filled with people who fled northern Uganda, specifically the area around Gulu, for safety during the war. Even if you don’t know much about the war, you probably have heard on Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army and how they kidnapped children to be child soldiers in their army. The tribe that lives in that region is the Acholi people – hence the name of the Acholi Quarters.
While it was good for them to have a safe place to live during the war, the Acholi Quarter is a place of extreme poverty and many other sad realities. Yet it is a place of hope and hospitality. It is a place where God is at work. The people who live in the Acholi Quarter have all been affected in some way or another by the war in the north. Whether they were abducted, raped by soldiers, had people they loved killed, or other awful things, the war has shaped their pasts and affects their lives today. Africa Arise was started to provide trauma counseling, discipleship, skills training and more to empower the people to reclaim the lives they should be able to have today. They were the first organization to provide counseling for the men in the community as well as the women. Many men wept when they first heard that help would be provided for them as well. Africa Arise now partners with and supports a Ugandan based organization with a similar mission. It is called I Live Again Uganda, or ILA. The end goal is to help families resettle in Gulu.
The time I spent in the Acholi Quarter last summer really impacted me and I was beyond excited to be able to visit Gulu and see where these people lived and will hopefully return to soon. I’m excited to share more with you about my experiences in Gulu over the next few days.
We got up SUPER early in the morning so that we could leave the compound at 6am to go downtown and catch the Post Bus to Gulu. The Post Bus is a pretty ghetto coach bus that goes up to Gulu and delivers mail on the way. I was able to sleep for some of the ride, but it was pretty bumpy and long. We would stop at various villages along the way and occasionally pick up some new passengers as we dropped off mail. Each time we stopped, locals would rush to the windows selling various food items, such as skewers of meat, chapatti bananas, water, soda, cassava, and my personal favorite: live chickens. The highlight of the ride was definitely crossing the Nile. It is huge and full of rapids – such an incredible view! The area near the Nile also had monkeys and baboons along the roadside – it was pretty great.
On the way up I sat next to Esther, who read for the whole trip (how she read on the bumpy roads, I will never understand). I tried and immediately felt sick. Instead, I listened to a Grisham book on my iPod (Thanks Callee!!). On the way home, I sat next to Tricia, who I met last summer – she has a ministry in the Acholi Quarter that provides trauma counseling, discipleship, financial training, job skills, and helps resettle the Acholi people back to Gulu. It was awesome to talk with her for the ride back and hear more about her life and her work here in Uganda.
Once we arrived in Gulu, we all took bodas (motorcycle taxis) to our hotel. We all got our own boda since we were hauling our backpacks and other bags to our hotel. It was pretty ridiculous – the line of 10 white people driving through town. We were kinda like a motorcycle gang 🙂
On my first night in Gulu, I was out at a restaurant, iMessaging with the wifi, eating Hawaiian pizza and my friend Rachel told me I needed a more African night.
Well… That night back at the hotel showering, I succeeded. Our bathroom had a showerhead but no desgnated shower space or bathtub. The floor was slanted away from the drain and you had to constantly be kicking the water away from the door to prevent flooding out into the hall. If that doesn’t sound like an only in Africa moment, add in having no lights, so this is all going down in the dark with the door open to try and get a little light from the hallway.
Although I must say, despite this – it was the best shower I have had in weeks 🙂
Kailey and I did some filming this week for a ministry video. I am learning fun new things about my camera. I wanted to give you a sneak peek of the adorableness!
Jessica and I spent the day at Ty Cariad – a super nice children’s home nearby. The others on the team told me that we are real spoiled there, and it is so true. We mopped in the morning, the snacked on some pineapple we had packed from home. We also chatted with the mamas while they prepared delicious egg and veggie panini sandwiches for our lunch. Jess didn’t love the veggies in her sandwich, but a friendly chicken happened by and helped her out with that.
We sat under the tree and chatted and ate lunch until the wind picked up. We helped the mamas scramble and get all the clothes off the line in case it started raining. Jess and I spent a couple hours ironing in the afternoon. We sat on the concrete floor and did our best to get their school uniforms looking good. It is super important that your clothes are ironed and your shoes washed when you go to school. We knew that despite our best efforts, and despite the mamas stopping by and telling us our work was so good, that in reality it was subpar to what the mamas can do. And probably took us twice as long.
Can we send the kids to school with notes that say, “Mzungus tried their best on this. Please don’t punish me for looking unkept!”
Last summer I had a hard time at Sanyu Babies Home. It was hard for my heart to see so many abandoned babies and such a chaotic environment in which I felt so helpless. I felt a little hesitant about going back this summer.
It started out the same: hanging up laundry and sorting clothes.
The toddlers were heading out to the sandbox, so we went out and joined them. There was a lot of craziness (I think I might still have sand in my hair) but the Lord is good, and I felt peace amidst the chaos. I was able to use the time playing with the babies to pray for them and show them love.
In the afternoon we went to API. The street boys ministry meets in a church that consists of a basic wooden frame and some tin for walls and a roof. It is adjacent to one of the slums in Kampala. During the afternoon, the boys have the opportunity to learn life and academic skills, play games together to actually just be kids, and learn from the Bible. They also receive a hot meal before heading back out to the streets. I am so glad that there is a ministry to help these boys, as life has been pretty trauma-filled for them. The ministry also works to reunite them with their family if possible, or connect them with another safe place to live and grow up.
We did some multiplication practice and games with them, as well as played some pretty fun group games. It was delightful to see them run and laugh and just be boys. We also taught a lesson about Daniel and the Lions den, connecting that story to our own lions, or scary things we face in our lives. The boys shared that some of their fears included the local leaders, hunger, being alone in the dark, and snakes. Pray with us for these boys? Pray that the Lord would protect them and provide for them. Pray for the work that API is doing in their lives.
Saturday afternoon, after we prayed away the rain, we headed to the swimming pool.
Despite bringing four large pieces of luggage, space and weight in my suitcases were at a premium. I had seen that they had already been swimming once this summer, and I thought, “what are the odds we will go again this summer?” Well, the odds were pretty good. We went on my second day! The kiddos were a little bit disappointed in me for leaving my swimming costume in America. Sorry!
They had a great afternoon playing in the pool and also on the nearby playground equipment. (Auntie Taylor, don’t worry – we stayed far away from the merry-go-round) 😉
For Saturday’s activities, Jessica and I were running the outdoor play station, which was giant bubbles! Making the mix was a bit tricky with limited measuring tools, but we figured it out. Jessica and I were struggling to successfully make bubbles and weren’t sure if we should hand the wands over to the kids. Turns out the kids are way better at it than we are! It was a sticky mess, but the kids totally loved it!