Monday, May 11, 2020

Living in Extraordinary Times

In the past couple of months, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has gone global affecting people worldwide.  It has created fear, starvation, loss of jobs and without a vaccine controlling the infection, it has left all of us to change our lives.

This pandemic reminds us here in Canada, that we are - deep down - spiritual beings, whether we realize it for not.  Compassion, sympathy and kindness are on the rise.  It has aroused the spirit of community in the health system, families spending time together and has united people in an emotional and spiritual way of taking care of each other.

On the other side of the world, in Uganda for example, things are very different right now.  I can only speak for our Home of Angels and immediate community consisting of  285,000 people.  The President has done a very good job of protecting all these people from the virus and as of today, there are 121 cases of known infections, the lowest in all East Africa.  No one has died that they know of.

But, the pandemic in our Busoga Kingdom is unthinkable.  It's called the "Starvation Pandemic" and many are dying.  Grandmothers crying for help to feed their many grandchildren, fathers killing their children to spare them from starvation and domestic violence on the rise.  Many are coming to our gate crying for help, but out of respect for Edwin and Precious, who are well known in our area, they eventually leave peaceably.

All of us at Home of Angels ask for your prayers.  The virus, for some reason, miraculously has not killed anyone in Uganda but the people are listening to witch doctors now on how to survive until they find food.  Please pray for our home, children and staff that they stay safe in these scary times.  Also for the people we love so much in our community.  Thank you so much.

This is what I've wanted to focus on through these difficult times.  The children, Edwin, Precious and our staff.  Some of the older girls are not in this picture as they are helping our wonderful aunty Joy with the workload.  There were times when a 3-year old child would come to live with us and right away, they were doing chores.  I could never understand this in the early days, but now it all makes sense.  This is a very good example why they are taught so young.  To survive.

The children are listening to the rules concerning this virus and that is mostly about washing your hands.  They don't go outside the gate and no-one comes in, but they need to know how serious this is.  They are learning but still able to play and have fun.

The people in our community are very poor.  They have learned to invent and make masks themselves to try and stay safe.  

The food is in the market downtown Jinja, but for the elderly to walk that far is very difficult.  There is no transportation and besides that, there is no money for them to spend.  Crops were bad throughout the rains again and they are currently in a dire situation.

This is only an example of what the Ptarmigan primary school van will look like.  Thank you once again to the Ptarmigan Foundation for purchasing this vehicle and giving us permission to put a logo on it.  Edwin was designing this when the virus came upon them so the pictures are not the ones they will use.  

The nursery school was all ready for school to start but the virus pandemic hit and we will now have to wait until the President gives permission for the schools to open again.

The Ptarmigan primary school was almost completed, but within weeks of the lockdown, once again the workers had to stop.  They are unable to return until this is all over. We do have an advantage though.  The principal and teachers are working together to make lessons for the children in both schools. They send the lessons to Edwin and Precious to photocopy and distribute and the children's education is monitored from home.

A view of the nursery school and the office

I have to share this picture with you.  One afternoon my doorbell rang and to my surprise two girls were standing there with a box and bags of food.  At a distance they carried it all upstairs and I had enough for two weeks.  I am so thankful for my good friends.  

Please stay safe during this difficult time and we thank you in advance for your prayers.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Coping Under Lockdown

This blog is written in very unsettled times but Edwin and I think it's necessary to always update the good and the bad.  Many of you have followed our journey for years and supported us to help the Home of Angels children experience what a family atmosphere really feels like with hope and love.  You have not only enabled us to grow, but to help these children develop into beautiful little human beings.  Thank you so much for that.

Currently, we are experiencing the COVID-19 in Uganda.  We are in an area outside the town of Jinja where they don't have much chance with the poverty and the new regulations put upon the people by President Museveni.  For us in the modern world, we understand that this has to be done, but for people that really don't understand the global situation, it will be devastating.  Please pray for them.

HOA has had to make some drastic changes to protect everyone.  We had a meeting with the children explaining the pandemic.  Aunty Joy decided to stay for however many months it took for it to end and every child is assigned jobs to help her.  Both compounds have large signs outside the gates saying "Out of Bounds".  We still have our two guards; each one showering on the school compound before work and putting on a new uniform before entering our home compound.  Uniforms will be left with us when their shift is completed.

Until today, Edwin was planning on driving to Jinja for anything he may have missed when he was informed that there will be no cars, bicycles or any form of transportation allowed on the roads.  Everyone now must walk.

On a brighter note, here are some pictures that will make you smile.

In 2018 Andy Steiger and Power to Change came to our Home of Angels to do a documentary on the Human Project.  They did such a good job that it went worldwide and they were granted 5 International Awards.  We'd like to share these with you.

Winner Best Short:  Canadian International Faith & Family Film Festival 2018
People's Choice:  Compassion Film Festival 2018
Bronze Award:  Inspiration Short Film:  Christian Family Festival 2018
Official Selection:  Human Rights Film Festival Barcelona Spain 2018
Official Selection:  North Dakota Human Rights Film & Arts Festival 2018

And what would we ever do without our Aunty Joy?  She is a woman who considers each child as one of her own and feels every pain they go through.  She will be with us throughout this difficult time and continue to keep everything in order.  The children will help her at all times.

The children spend a lot of their time making bracelets.  Barbra is teaching Elijah and Yahigha how to make them.  Over the years they've raised their own money to purchase the one thing they love the most and that's anything to do with music and singing.

We couldn't have had a better picture of Mariam sorting beans.  

Joweli, our new compound teacher explaining to David and Sam how to count.  They may be under lockdown but they are still making sure that their studies are getting done.  School is the highlight of all their lives and without it, they continue their studies on their own.

This little one was always doing crazy things.  I went to the avocado tree when I was there and we noticed nails hammered up the tree.  David, our most fragile child thought he could get an avacado if he climbed high enough.  A hard lessoned learned not to do things that can hurt him.  He has decided to stick to learning schoolwork instead.

Eddie and Elijah helping Yahigha carry his bath water.  Yahigha was severely malnourished as a child and has difficulty lifting heavy objects.  Thank goodness for his brothers who are always by his side helping him.

Thanks to our friends Graham and Annie, the children are now able to tell their sponsors things about their life at Home of Angels.  They love to write to their sponsors and believe me, it's well received over here.

When I first met Edwin in 2009, he used to walk to Jinja Town every day to the internet cafe so we could discuss business.  He did that for almost a year until he got a bicycle.  Those were simple days but now, he will be walking again as the President has forbidden any other way to move around.  Thanks to our dear friend Thomas in Hong Kong, he has received masks that will keep him safe and if they obey the rule of staying 4 meters away from anyone outside the compound, they might have a good chance of getting through this pandemic.

As Easter will be upon us very soon, we must always remember that because of love, Jesus came to earth and was born a baby.  Because of love, He received the abuse of the teachers of the law, the crowds, and the soldiers.  Because of love, He suffered and died to be the perfect sacrifice, standing in our place before the Father.  We all live because of love and we can never forget that.

Thank you for all your love for our Home of Angels.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Canada to Uganda with Love

I arrived back into Uganda almost a month ago with a team to find everyone in our Home of Angels well and happy.  Lots of hugs and chatter about school, their "Angel" family and what they've been doing to help the less fortunate.  It's been devastation for many in our community putting up with the rains for the past 5 months and losing their homes.  Not only losing homes but electrical storms that killed many.  It will now be mandatory to have lightening rods on each building to protect the people inside.  When we are faced with difficult circumstances, whether it be sickness, poverty or loss, we place our faith and trust in God.  He is with us in everything that confronts us and He is our strength.

 Edwin and Precious are living on the compound until they can get their home built and maybe, since the school is also being constructed, it's a good thing for them being that close right now.  The children call Precious "Mama" and that's especially good for the older girls to have someone to talk to about girly things.  It's all working out the way it should be.

We have also devised a plan to train the kids for a trade in the future.  We have a few years before they leave but it's on our agenda now.  We want to be one step ahead.

Meet the team that recently came to Uganda with me.  The "Radiant Rachels" and Janet who are being given a tour by our lovely Precious.  We arrived into Entebbe airport at 2 am with all our 8 suitcases missing.  By the time we filled out the forms to recover them, it was around 4 am and off to the hotel we went.  Thank goodness they all came in on the 10 am flight that next morning so we were able to get to Jinja by afternoon for our welcome performance.

With the help of both Rachels, Hope and Desire made 4 home-made birthday cakes for their annual family birthday celebration.  It was good to see how happy they were home with everyone.  These two girls have been with us for 10 years and we've watched them grow into lovely young ladies.

There was a time when each child could hold a knife to frost the cakes but as you can see, its now quite a challenge.  When these kids are older, the birthday party will be the one memory they will never forget.

Eddie, David and Sammy showing off their cake and sodas

"Good Seeds Will Prosper" is what will happen in this school.  If we have teachers as good as the nursery school, these children will thrive.  The little ones in Morning Star have gone from no English to carrying on a conversation in one year.   Why?  Teacher Aidha and her assistants are very experienced and they personally care about each child's education..  

Ptarmigan primary school will be completed for the first day of school with a second floor currently being built.  There are 20 workers doing their best to make this happen by working 12 hours days, 7 days a week.  We have been blessed to have the best contractor in the area and many of the same crew who built the homes in our other compound.

The Ministry of Education has advised us to have an office for the principal and teachers.  We were able to convert and extend the existing building on the property that we used when we had chickens.

The clinic, better know as the "Aide House" is almost completed.  The septic is in and the water tank is ready to be installed.  The only thing left to do are the floors in two rooms.

The clinic will only be for malaria testing and for burns. This past week I was there to witness a woman coming to Edwin for help.  When the floors are approved by the health department, we will be open with a good doctor to help our neighbours.

 One of the planned activities with the Rachels were to make paper plate purses with pipe cleaner ties. This event took most of the morning and it was the little boys that carried everything from toques to chapati in them for the rest of the day.

Thanks to Graham, our new cartoonist friend, the children were able to write letters to their sponsors.
Each sponsor received not only a letter but a copy of their report card and an updated picture.

And a big thanks to Doreen for making all the little people blue shirts.  They didn't take them off until they were forced to wash them.  It was hot and it was the only cool shirt they had. They love them.

As you can see, we have been very blessed with what has been happening in Uganda.  It's because many of you care and all of us at Home of Angels are very grateful.  We've almost made it, but the one big thing yet to do is our church.  Our dream will come true in time but it will be in God's timing, not ours.  By just looking at these faces above, you can see the effect our home has had on these children and they truly call themselves a family.

By the way, The "Radiant Rachels" have a website with the most amazing food.  We sampled it every night as they cooked and Janet and I did the dishes.  They made everything from cinnamon rolls, braided bread, pineapple upside down cake, caramel corn and much more.  Can you imagine the tears when these girls leave?

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Preparing our Angels

Have you ever heard the phrase "Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child?"  Instead of trying to remove all obstacles and prepare the way for the children in our Home of Angels, we are in the process now of preparing and equipping them to deal with the difficulties they will encounter on the road ahead.  No matter what those difficulties are throughout their lives, we want them to be prepared to face them in the strength of our Lord.  To know He protects and fights for all of us as a loving parent.  We are currently in the process of doing just that and when the time comes for the older children to leave and spread their wings, they will be prepared.

Thanks to technology, even I get to watch the construction of the primary school on the same compound as the existing nursery school.  It will be a 2-story structure accommodating 240 kids.  The local school will be closed within the next few weeks due to internal problems which means our children will all have school in February when their holidays are over.  It's also sad to know that 250+ kids in our area will not,  but over time, when we can work out the kinks, we can bring many in.

We have also decided to use the empty apartment on our home compound to train the children for a trade that will help them when they leave.  Education is important, but for our kids and what has happened to them in the past, they really struggle.  When we go back in January, it will be discussed in a meeting how this will all look. We already have some very good ideas and will share them soon.

It's been difficult for Edwin to take many pictures because of the torrential rains but he did manage to get some important ones.

The nurses from the main hospital in Jinja came to our nursery school to administer measles shots.  The other children had theirs earlier in the year.

Our aunty Hadeja is finally healed enough where she is able to come back and help the other aunties with light jobs only.  When her baby died she was in the hospital for two months and every 12 hours, either aunty Joy or Edwin's wife Precious would take shifts to be with her.  She was never alone.

There are currently 15 crew working on building the school.  It was perfect timing because the nursery school children are on holiday and the noise won't affect their education.  A hoe, large hammer, shovel, LOTS of muscle and a 10-year-old wheelbarrow is all they have to work with.

Edwin and the Uganda board decided to move the location to face the nursery school so that the open area at the end will be large enough for the playground donated by the Tsawwassen Rotary.  We will still have six banana trees and our mango tree.  That was one tree we all dreaded losing.

The entrance gate will now be moved to the middle of the wall giving easier access from the road into both schools.

The rocks are delivered in large piles everywhere.

The men take large hammers and smash them one by one until they look like gravel.

You can imagine the hard work this all entails but you will never hear a complaint because of the gratitude they have for the work.  7 days a week from 7am to 7pm.

Our nursery school teachers are amazing.  They really care about the children's education and will provide a party at the end of the year to celebrate their enthusiasm and good grades.  We will also be hiring the same quality teachers for the children in primary school.

I honestly don't know how Edwin does this.  He can go to the market and choose exactly the right size of clothes and shoes for every child.  He can look at a foot and can tell the size or length of the dress or skirt and honestly, they're really lovely.

I really want to express how much we believe God is in full control of this project both in Canada and in Uganda. The CRA processed our charity application in only 2 months which allows us to accept donations in other ways than the cheque.  We are blessed to have a place for testing malaria and to help burn victims.  (lots of pictures in the next blog) and also the perfect location to train children for a trade.  It's all about "Preparing our Angels"

Without all of you helping, we could not have done any of this.  Thank you so very much for helping us to change these children's lives.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Mending Hearts

It's been almost 10 years since Edwin asked me to help him build a small and very humble home for children.  I did and as the children arrived over those years, we grew and we found many creative and practical ways of showing them unexpected love, patience, and kindness.  God pours His love into our hearts to flow out to others' lives.

The children that live at Home of Angels ask so many questions.  Where did I come from? How old am I?  When is my birthday?  This is the reason that a huge birthday party for all of them together means so much.  I notice sometimes that the name of the child I tell the sponsor is not the same as a report card name.  This is because of culture and sometimes they may have up to three names.

We've been in existence since 2009.  Some of these kids have been with us ever since then.  When we started the construction , we let some of these same kids come on our property to eat weeds before it was cleared. That was their staple as they grew up but of course we always added rice and vegetables to spice it up.  Now, thanks too many of you, these same kids have a home, go to school, and they are loved.  Maybe they don't have the same brain as you and I because of eating weeds every day, but they work their hardest to be the best.  Edwin and I are so proud of EVERY one of them.

I've always tried to send monthly blogs on both the changes in the children as they grow and different situations that happen at our Home of Angels.  Oh my goodness, when I received the children's pictures today, I almost fell over in disbelief.  Not only had they grown, they are so happy and healthy.  No wonder every child wants to be an angel in our community.  They all want to have their hearts mended too, but we can only love and help them when needed.  And we do!

The first message I ever received from Edwin was, "Jaaja, can you help me feed some kids in the garbage dump?"  I didn't believe a word of it, but me being me did it anyway.  After feeding them, he sent a picture of the party on the street with the women that helped him.  The children even had Christmas stickers on their foreheads.  From there, we decided to build ONE home for children who wanted to be called "angels" instead of "orphans".

10 years later, here is Sula spraying the maize that we use to feed the children.  I know...that word spray but since we keep losing the crops to a disease called "wilt", this is necessary.  The land was lent to us by a friend and it looks like this time we might have a good crop.  Global warming has hit Uganda also with very harsh rains.

Look at these beauties....Zakia and Eva.  These two girls came from such dire circumstances and I remember so well how frightened they were when they arrived.  I was there when Zakia came and I arrived the day after Eva came.  I had a card or letter from each sponsor and I remember Eva sitting in the corner, tears streaming down her face.  I will never forget.  The other kids had someone to care for them but she didn't yet.  This is how the kids feel when you sponsor them.  They honestly feel love for the first time.

Meet Yasin, Davis, Elijah and Jimmy.  It's so good to see Jimmy smile.  He arrived with his twin brother Derek in 2014 but Derek soon died and was laid to rest in his village.  Jimmy attended his funeral but the tribe he belonged to had to mourn in the bush for one month and Jimmy came back to us very different.  It has taken a few years for him to return to the real Jimmy.  We believe witchcraft was involved. Jimmy now prays to God at praise and worship every night before bed and we believe the evil ones have been eliminated.  Jimmy is back.

These little guys have really grown.  Meet Frank, Alan, Silas and Eric

Tracy, Ratisha, Bridget and Chloe

Here we have Joanne, Barbra, Lovisa, Joweli, Betty and Precious

Meet Eddy, Sam, Yahigha, and Paul.  I remember last time there when little Sam was alone so much and Eddy (with his arm around him) said he was going to be his friend.  He still is and I'm so proud of him.  Sam has had a very rough life and is not strong.  Because of Eddy, everyone helps him.

Oh my goodness, look at Junior.  He is one of our original kids and was so little at that time.  He's a giant now and I only come up to his armpit.  We are so proud of how he turned out.  He's a good role model for all the little people there and we'd love for him to continue working for us in the future.

OK, so we have an idea for the FUTURE.  Only an IDEA.  We don't want these children, at age 18, to just have to leave with nothing.  They will never survive on their own and no matter how much schooling they get, usually they won't find a job.  We've seen this so much in our area.  When I go there, we bake and everyone gets a turn.  We bake mostly banana bread.  This picture is Precious with her cupcakes   The girls approached Uncle Edwin and I about starting their own bakery where they could make and sell different baked goods.  They love to bake and they feel this would help them in their future.  Everything begins with a thought, so we'll really think this one over very carefully.

Mariam and Zakia made 8 loaves while I was working on the computer and forgot about them.
It honestly was better than what I make.  They want so much to keep going with this.

So, with this thought in mind, what would it look like if we made these cinnamon buns also?  We'll be leaving in January and it's holiday time for the kids to be able to teach them.  Just an idea but without ideas, how can you ever make miracles happen in the future?

Thank you everyone for helping us and thank you for having patience as we learn the ropes to be our own charity.  We are so excited for the future to help others who cannot help themselves.  Without  God and all of you, we could never accomplish any of this.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

A Time for Everything

This is another exciting time for Home of Angels.  We have received our own CRA charity status and are now registered as a Canadian Charity under the name of Jaaja's Home of Angels Society.
Charitable Registration Number 84713 3907 RR0001.

Since 2015, God has blessed our ministry by granting us the privilege of partnering with Kuwasha International Development Society.  Without the benevolence of the board of directors, their lawyer and accountant this could not have been accomplished with such precision.

The official transition date is October 1, 2019.  We ask for your patience while we transition from one set of operations to another.

We have set up several avenues for you to continue your support.
  • Preauthorized withdrawals.  We can arrange this with you.  Request a PAD form to complete and return with a void cheque.  We will start the month following your request.
  • Online electronic fund transfers or EFT.  You can arrange that with your bank.
  • Canada Helps. This is a credit card only method.  A simple online step-by-step process.  Once you are on the Canada Helps website, go to Jaaja's Home of Angels Society and it will be self-explanatory.
  • And yes, we still accept cheques.  Please make it out to Jaaja's Home of Angels or JHOA if that is easier for you and mail it to:
         c/o Barb Giraud
         #96-32691 Garibaldi Drive
         Abbotsford, B.C.  V2T 5T7

We care deeply about you and thanks for being such a big part of our "Team".

Here are some pictures that we'd like to share with you of our home and the children.  The rainy season is there again and it's been difficult for Edwin to take many pictures.

Edwin was given a piece of land by a friend in our community to grow maize and vegetables on.   We recently lost a crop due to heavy rains but we decided to try once again with only maize.

This was the last crop of maize we had and it lasted us for a good period of time.

Thanks to our friend Thomas, the Aide House is now in operation and many are being helped.  This house is only used for testing for malaria and for treating burn victims.  Most people can't affort the 5,000 shillings for a test.  We can at least do that and they will know 100% if they have it.  It will be up to them to get the medicine but once they know it's positive, they always seem to find the money for treatment.

The "rainy season" is the same as our winter here, but not as cold.  These uniforms keep the children warm in the classroom as 70 degrees is cool for them.

I have to show you a picture of one of our exciting fundraisers.  This is Rob, the manager of the Save on Foods in North Vancouver.  Rob takes great pride dancing around in his blow up banana costume.  This Scottish group of men ended up playing in the store and danced up and down the aisles with the banana.  No wonder this store is so busy with entertainment like this.  We sold out of banana bread very quickly.

Another repair for Mutesi's house once the rains hit again.  Our very special workers ran to her rescue to seal it up with mud before evening came.  We've watched out for this lovely lady and her son for many years now.

For four years we've partnered with the Chilliwack Secondary school.  The students have a kiosk in the main hall and we help them provide food to sell at lunch and break times.  Steve, their teacher and his family have an organization in Nigeria and with us in Uganda, it's called the African Cafe (AfCaf).  They continue to share the profits with us annually.  

Thanks again for following our story and for your continued prayers and support.  We have many exciting things to come in the future and hope you will be with us to hear about them.