Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas from Uganda

I can't seem to wrap my head around 30°C  at Christmas time but here I am, burnt and all and loving every minute of it.  I arrived two days later from Vancouver due to the Nairobi airport being closed for a National celebration but after one good night's sleep, I was excited to go to the project and see all the changes.  It had grown so much since I left in March.  The grass was thick, flowers blooming, the trees flourishing and the wall partly plastered.  The house had the first coat of paint on it and Edwin chose the best colour to hide the red dirt everywhere. It really looks lovely.

We decided to invite the children for a Christmas party.  We hired a woman to cook rice, meat, cabbage salad and Irish potatoes.  This was a real treat for them as it was the first time they had such a meal.  Oh, and I can't forget the pop.   But the surprise was a cake for desert that Edwin and Dr. Isaac had made for them.  This was the real treat.  We blew up balloons and let them go up into the air and the kids showed me their Ugandan singing games. Lets just say this was the best day they ever had and even 91 year old Jaaja came and enjoyed himself colouring children's doodle art.

There has been no water for more than a week and we could see the people walking further and further away to fetch their jerry cans for cooking and washing.  Edwin and I decided to open our boar hole to our community to share the wealth of water that we have.  We are still pumping 5000 litres a day and to share it won't make any difference to us.  The levels are very high and all our tanks are full.  We needed to help these people make their lives a little easier.

Huge changes are happening now and we are so grateful to all of you who have sent donations to help us provide this home for the kids.  You have changed lives and it is really evident in the expressions the kids have now. Thanks from all of us for caring.

It's so nice to see these kids so happy.  The only two that are missing are Alan, age 2 and Olivia, age 3 but they wouldn't have understood what this was all about.  These kids know that Jesus was born on Christmas day and families get together to celebrate His birth.  Their joy is what it is all about and it is only the beginning.  We have 20 more kids to find but Edwin and his brothers are being very specific as to who will come to live with us.  They must be a real orphan, no family and more than likely have HIV/AIDS.  For me to see little Joseph (green shirt with white stripe) is a miracle.  In February we almost lost him twice but he is hanging on for his new home and family.  I would bake another 7000 loaves of banana bread just to see this happen again.  If it wasn't for Lorna, we would not have been able to provide this party so thanks from all of us for your huge heart.

We want to say a special thanks to Catarina for the toques.  It may have been 30 Celsius but they never came off the whole day.  Also, to Trudy for the pillow case dresses.  They all fit perfectly and the kids felt so special in them.  Thanks to both of you for your Christmas gifts.

This is real happiness....a whole bowl of food and a pop to go with it.  

We had a few other children that showed up for the party unexpectedly.  Maybe there wasn't a dress for them but we allowed them to join in as we had enough food to eat.  How can you ever say no to a child like this?  They blew their balloons up and watched them sail up into the sky over and over.  It's amazing how they can play together for hours and only laugh.

And then there was the cake.  Everyone wanted to cut it so Edwin let them all put their hand on the knife and slice. I would say each child averaged three pieces of cake if you can imagine.  This was their first Christmas party cake and they didn't want to ever forget.

Because there had been no water for more than a week, we noticed the children walking further than
normal to fetch water.  When this happens we know it's time for us to step in and help.  We are pumping so much water an hour, why wouldn't we help the people in our own community.  Our electrician told us that after 4 hours of filling the jerry cans, that we hadn't made any change to the water level.

Maryanne is taking water to her 91year old Jaaja.  She can't lift the jerry can so Hadeja helps to put it on her head so that she can walk a 1/4 of a kilometre to deliver it.  These two girls will be living with us along with their little sister, Olivia.

The men have been working on plastering the wall for the past 3 days and it is looking so nice.  It's amazing how they are all taking such a personal pride in this compound now.  The hedges are growing and all trimmed, the grass is thick and the flower gardens are all blooming.

On the outskirts of our kale garden you will find the guardhouse.  We still need to plaster it, install a door and window and put in the floor.  We will also be building a kitchen in this area where the children's food will be prepared.   Edwin has finally given me a job.....I get to paint the gate black with gold trimming.   

The main house is almost painted both inside and out.  We purchased the rest of the paint today so I think in another week it should be done.   These boys brag about being the Canadian boys now because they don't work in the Ugandan time anymore.  Days and weeks for one little job is long gone.....they have learned to move much faster with a good quality of work being done.  Our crew even comes in on days off to work because they are taking great pride in their work.

The ground in the front of this picture will be covered in stone slate.  It is much cheaper than the paving stones and will work well with the water run off.  We have underground pipes taking the water to the end of the property and outside.  The kids house is finished except for a good cleaning.

Global Television has done another story on our Home of Angels and it was recently aired while I was in Uganda. They just sent me the clip so I could put it on the blog to show all of you.  We are very grateful to have the updates done and we thank you Global for caring so much to show the world that a simple thing such as a banana bread can make a difference.

Edwin, myself, Dr. Isaac, David and the children would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Thank you for your prayers and help to make this home a place for children to grow and feel safe.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Introducing the Angels

I wanted to send out one last blog before I depart for Uganda and this one is really special.

Edwin decided to have a party for all the kids coming into our Home of Angels.  They live in different areas but he managed to get them all into one place to meet each other for the first time.  The only kids
that were not there were the youngest ones...Olivia  (3) and little Allen (2).

The party alone was a strange event as none of these kids ever had the opportunity to attend a real "party".   Oh, what we take for granted.  They arrived throughout the morning, very timid and not sure
exactly how to behave, but after time they became friends, played together and had so much fun.
Edwin said it was difficult to separate them to go home.  They wanted to stay but he told them soon they would have their home to come back to.  Trusting him, they left carrying special memories in their hearts and knowing that they soon would have a family and home to return to.  Even though most of them are very sick,  they know they are blessed to have been chosen.

Just to give you an idea of what is happening on our side of the world, I am very grateful to my church, Northview for making the "Pulse".  This is a video telling our story.  After each service, I was there selling banana bread.  The 1st service sold out on Saturday night in 5 minutes.  The 9:00am service on Sunday morning again sold out in 10 minutes but thanks to a wonderful friend who had baked 32, we got through the 6pm service, selling out immediately once again.  Thank you Northview for exposing our story to so many and to Sam and Adam for their expertise in developing it.

Regarding the compound...BC Holstein News has written another wonderful article in their newspaper about us.  Thanks to Karen and Gary Booy and the dairy community for their support in helping us.  You built the wall and now all we have left to do is plaster it and put the rolled wire on the top for protection.

Thanks to all of you for supporting us.  So many people in so many different ways.  I have to say that we owe so much to Save on Foods.  They continue to be our contributor for all banana bread ingredients and without them, we would not be where we are today...Thanks to all of you at Sumas and Whatcom Stores for allowing me to call you weekly for ingredients and you still keep the smile.

Edwin has sent pictures of the compound where changes are evident.  We are moving along into completion and I am sure we will be opening in 2013.

The "Angels" meet each other for the first time and really enjoyed their time together.

The three in the white are brothers and sisters, all sponsored by two people outside Vancouver. Little Sammy (shortest) has been missing for over a year so when he showed up for this picture, I was very shocked and happy.  His Grandma is blind and afraid.  She kept him in a place of seclusion because she was frightened to be alone and used him to do all the work.  Sammy is only 7 years old.   I cannot imagine her pain, but now, when it came time for this picture to be taken, she let him come with the other kids and he had so much fun.  He played like every little boy should.  We now have come up with a plan to keep him and thanks to a wonderful woman who donated money to help a Grandma,  Edwin suggested we might use this money to hire someone to watch over her for a year.  We will let you know if our plan works.

I have always used the phrase "Kids helping Kids" and I want you to meet Shanelle and Kailie.  They thought the children should have a Christmas present so they purchased a "Ty" Beanie Babies for each child and personalized it by making them a friendship bracelet and tying it around the neck.  They even took it a step further and purchased all the special thread, taught me how to do it so that I could teach the kids to make them.  Thanks also to a third sister Mackenna who wasn't in the picture.  This will probably be their 1st Christmas present and I know they will treasure them.

My doctor is the best.......I go in to get my shots for Uganda and I walk out with bags of medicine.
All this and more expires in 2014 so I know that Dr. Isaac will be able to help a lot of kids.  And then,
to top it off, last night a special person donated the money to ship it over there.  How blessed are we
with people like this in our lives.  Thanks to both of you for making a difference.

The gate is finished and I could hardly wait to show you.  Jenson worked very hard to make it
his own design and we really are proud of it.  Once the paving stones are down, the wall is plastered and the wire on top, we will be opening soon after.  The dairy community of British Columbia took it
upon themselves to accomplish this task and we all thank you so much.  Please keep us in your prayers that we can finish this by May 2013.  

The undercoat is on and the painting has started.  I can see where I left off in my painting job last trip, so I know I will be part of the painting crew in the next weeks to come.  I love the part of being able to contribute physically. The home will be completed by the time I leave and if all goes well, Edwin, Dr. Isaac and David will have been moved in.  I'm excited to witness them do this.

Grandmas are helping Grandmas also over there in a big way and this is just one result.
We have 3 very devoted brothers who come every day and help Edwin.  Never have they asked
for anything, but one day they took me to their hut and I met their blind grandma who had raised them from little guys.  They had nothing and she is always on the bed and I knew we had to do something for the boys to say thanks for helping us in such a big way.  A wonderful lady who has been a part of this project since the beginning wanted to be the Canadian grandma to help this blind grandma.  She bought a pig for them.  This pig had "9" babies just recently and they will now be able to survive in a more humane way.  I find out tonight that we may have more in the coming months.  All it takes is just one of something....and it multiplies.  Baby Alan's grandma used her donation to buy rabbits and oh my goodness... we certainly have rabbits now.  It's survival.  So thanks to all the big hearts who have helped the elderly and the widows.

Christmas time is almost here and I hope that you are all preparing your hearts for the amazing gift of Christ's birth and all that it means.  Whether we celebrate in a country blessed with everything
or in an impoverished nation, we must never forget that we have received a priceless gift and to remember all that He has done for us.  When you give, give from your hearts with gratitude.

You all have done that and we thank you so much.

Merry Christmas

Barb and Edwin and most of all....the Angels

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hope...A powerful emotion

The kids you see in this blog have “HOPE".  They often come to watch the construction and each time they feel a little closer to the day they will live in their new home.  It feels so good to see the happiness on their faces.  I promise to make that day available to all you by creating a blog with lots of pictures.  I want to show what you have done for these kids over the past 3 three years and to feel like you are all participating as they move in.  So many of you have helped to fund us and donated many of the things it takes to run these homes.  I haven't acknowledged some of you yet because it hasn't happened, but I know who donated for each thing and when we buy the item, I will.  Just know that 100% of your money arrived to Uganda.

I wasn’t going to put the gate on the blog until it was finished but I have to show you the progress.   Once the wall is plastered and the gatehouse completed, the children will be able to move in soon after.  In the meantime, we have decided to finish the main house so that Edwin, Dr. Isaac and David can make this their home.  The next step will be the plastering of the wall and the furnishings to follow.

We started this project in June 2010 and even though it feels like a long time baking 1000's of loaves of banana bread, it has relatively been a very short time.   I also want to thank everyone for buying my banana bread and also to the people who have helped me bake.   The biggest thanks must go to Save on Foods.  They supply all the ingredients to make this project grow and we are very grateful to them.  Results of last months fundraiser was 90 lbs sold at Whatcom and 1,400 lbs at the Sumas store.  You helped make a simple thing like a banana bread create a miracle.  Nothing is impossible.

Because of our wonderful friend, Natasha, who took it upon herself to find an online fundraiser to raise money for our Home of Angels, we raised almost $8,000.  We have received the money and I would like to acknowledge all of you that donated.  Thank you to my daughter and her many friends who came on board to make a difference in our project in both Canada and United all made a huge difference to so many little lives. We want you to know that you are welcome to come and visit us at any time.

Thanks also to Janita, who made and provided all the brochures for handouts.  Thanks to Joyce for donating the labels that go on each banana bread loaf.  What would we do without you both?   It made such a huge difference for promotion and enabled many people to contact me.  

So many "Thank you's" to such an amazing team.  God bless you all.

This is the entrance to our compound.  The guardhouse has to be finished and more concrete to be put
on but when I get there in a few weeks, it will be fully completed.  The outside of this gate has some
special designs thanks to John our contractor, so I have a surprise waiting.  This Jaaja is getting very excited to see and counting the sleeps.

The inside of the house is painted and now comes the base coat on the outside.  This will be also
completed when I get to come.

The concrete road curbs have been placed around the gardens to separate the grass from the paving stones soon to be put in.

The crew are building a retaining wall with stone slate along the front of the main house.  Steps are being built along the entire wall leading to the road and pathways to the children's home.   We have a problem when the rains come and with the work done in this area, it will be controlled for the future.
Sometimes these things have to be done for the longevity of the compound but at the same time, gives a beautiful appearance.

I would like you to meet Catarina and her friends, Lourdes and Julie.  Catarina volunteers with Days for Girls in Coquitlam making sanitary kits for young girls.  She has made us 50 kits to take back to Uganda so the girls won't have to hide one week out of each month.  These young women living in the remote villages do not really understand what is happening to their bodies.  I have learned to teach the women how to make these by hand and will have clinics in our community to show them.  In the meantime, we are very grateful to Catarina for all her hard work and Lourdes and Julie for helping to assemble the kits.

Here is a sample of what is in each kit.  It has a washcloth, pair of underwear and a shield that holds the pads.  The shield snaps under the panty.  To wash them, there is a small bar of soap with a giant ziplock bag to use a their mini washing machine.  A pretty drawstring bag holds everything inside.

We will be having a fundraiser when I get back in January and there will be a silent auction.  A very devoted couple who have supported Dr. Isaac with all his medicine to help the children, decided they
were going to take it a step further and donate something to this auction.  Carolyn has made a beautiful Fairy quilt and it is lovely.  Thank you Carolyn for all the work put into this.

Hadeja, Maryanne, Olivia and Jaaja

Grandma and Grandpa in the Lusoga language means “Jaaja”.

Jaaja and his three grandchildren really tug at my heartstrings.  Jaaja lost his daughter and also his wife a brief time later and was left to raise his 3 grandchildren at 91 years old.   We promised we would help him by taking the three girls when we opened.  Jaaja has been a Muslim for 91 years but because of all the gifts given to him by a wonderful lady, he is now a Christian.  He couldn’t understand how so many people were so kind to him and who was this Jesus that gave him food occasionally?  Wow, this is what it is all about.  Thanks to Melody and her family for sponsoring Maryanne and another thanks to Barbara for sponsoring Hadeja.  They are so happy you care about them and they promise to make you proud.

Alex and his Mom Mutesi

Alex has been through so much.  We have seen him lose his father, his brother Nathan and now Mutesi his mom is very sick with HIV/AIDS.   Nathan was our first little angel and he was taken last year by cancer.  We thought he would pass with AIDS, but the cancer was the cause.  This little boy will always be with us and never forgotten.  My daughter and her family sent money for a bed for him to be comfortable on at the end.  His brother Alex will come with us when it is time.  Thanks to Amanda and her family for sponsoring him and making him feel loved.  He treasures your pictures and letters you send him.

This is Jowan.  She has been separated from her brother Dennis and sister Jowell for some time now as she lives at Agape Children's Home in Mpumudde and her siblings are living with people further north.  We made the decision last year to reunite all 3 children and have them live with us.  Jowan is a gentle little girl who has been through so much but she still continues to put that beautiful smile on her face.

The word "Hope"....this is where that word is really felt.  This is Joseph and he has been very ill.  When Marian and Laury came with me earlier this year, we almost lost Joseph twice.  He was in rough shape due to loss of blood but now he is looking forward to moving into his new home and feeling like he really belongs somewhere.  It's that word "Hope" that is keeping him going. He is not able to go to school yet, but I believe in time, he will.  His neighbour looks after him for now and what a wonderful caring woman she is.  Edwin brings him to the compound so that he can watch the construction and he lights up every time.

Well, the time is coming soon when I will board that plane and head on a long journey across the world.  I am excited to spend Christmas in a part of the world where there is little but where the
people celebrate the birth of Jesus in such a simple and wonderful way.  To bring all the children together and spend time with them and give them one present each.  Probably the first they have ever received but they will be very excited no matter what it is.  Another new experience to humble me.

Thanks to all of you for continuing to follow this journey with us.

God bless all of you.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Children Touching Hearts

As you can see, we have a new blog design.  We can thank Julie and her husband Sean for creating this informative site for us, as it tells our story in much more depth.  Information on how Edwin and I started, media and much more.  Thanks Julie and Sean, you did an amazing job. We are still waiting to finish the donation section but this will be done within the week. If anyone needs help in blogging, Julie and Sean have a small business where they will help you too. Just contact me.

Well, I have to say that this past month has been all about kids...both in Canada and Uganda.  Isn't that why we are on this journey?  To help the children who have nothing in a country where poverty is all they have ever known?  I want to share some stories about our kids in Canada.  We have children that feel the pain of other kids who have nothing and they are fighting to help the impoverished in their own way.  I am proud to live here and be a witness to see what God has done in their lives to change the world.  And then there is Uganda.  The children in Uganda are no different.  They are not so blessed to have what we have, so they must do it in a different way.  Usually, it is to fight for something we take for granted, such as education or food.   Nevertheless, they are willing to work hard for the chance to improve their lives and not just be on the take.  Edwin is giving many of them the opportunity to earn school fees or just to have food, but most of all giving them the chance to feel worthwhile.

The compound is slowing coming together.  We have made the decision to finish the interior
of the main house before plastering the wall.  This is a huge job as there are so many rooms to sand, undercoat and then paint.  Thanks to a team of 7 people who are working hard to finish this difficult job.  The plumbing and electricity are completed.  When the house is fully painted, doors installed and glass in the windows, Edwin, Isaac and David will be able to move in.  The main gate will be finished in another week, so we felt that this would be wise to move our people in to prevent any vandalism.
At that point the entire wall will be plastered and we can move on to furnishing the homes.

I would like to show you some recent pictures taken on both sides of the world.

We wanted to show you a sample of one of the 19 doors to be installed.  

Edwin is cleaning the plaster off the tiles in the kitchen.  The floors are finished and all that must be done now is the installation of the glass in the windows and paint....and of course MY OVEN.  We have had requests from different groups to come and help us.  This will provide a little of our own culture with the oven and make a huge difference for me.

All the plumbing has been hooked up including the showers

Meet Richard.  Richard is a 15 year old boy from a poor family that can't afford his education.  Edwin has given him the opportunity to work to pay for the upcoming semesters.  He is learning self worth and also attending school by working very hard.   I have to tell you....this is a nasty job but this boy is grateful for the chance.

These kids are from Agape Children's Home.  They have had no water for 3 days and Edwin opened up our pumps for them so that they could fill their jerry cans and take water back home.  Agape houses approximately 80 orphans and we always try to be there for them.  We made a decision that we would take Jowan from there and reunite her with her brother Dennis and sister Jowell  to have them all live with us.  Dennis and Jowell are living with neighbours until we can open.

Little Hope is at it again.  Hope helped us in the children's home also.  She lives outside the wall but whenever there is work to do, she is there.  This little girl has 2 baby sisters that she takes care of.  Honestly, I think she wants to be with us sometimes to just have a break from babysitting.  We love her so much.  Rhys and Sebastian help feed her family.  See below

Speaking of Hope..... meet Rhys and Sebastian.  These two boys gave their allowance to provide food for Hope and her family.  This is the second time they have taken their money and brought it to my home so that I would be sure to take it to them when I go in December.  A big "Thanks" to both of you.  I promise to take pictures when Edwin and I deliver the food.

Meet Christopher.   Christopher had his 11th birthday party recently and asked all his friends not to bring him any presents.  His request was that they bring a donation for Jaaja Barb's Home of Angels instead.  He donated all the money to help the children and we all want to say a huge "Thanks" to him for his very kind heart.  What a message he is sending to other children around our country.

Look at these lovely pillow slip dresses.   A wonderful supporter named Trudy arrived to my
house one day with 15 of these to take to the kids.  Thank you Trudy for your kindness and all your hard work.  They are beautiful and will make 15 little girls very happy.

Today, I was invited to a home to watch our quilters in action.  These 9 women, plus many more in the past, decided that after they saw the Global TV story in February 2010, they were going to make 32 quilts for each one of the children.  They have completed 27 to date with 5 more to go.  Michelle, who leads the group is a school teacher and her Grade 12 graduating class made a quilt themselves.  Each square tells a special message to each child at Jaaja Barb's Home of Angels.  It brought tears to my eyes how a graduating student would find these words in their hearts to express.   The quilters have named themselves the Pin Cushion Collective and they are amazing...all of them .  The first quilting day they had over 20 people helping but they realized it was too big.  I have to say, that when people hear about a charity that they can participate in, they come, which goes to show...the hearts are out there, we just have to reach them.  Thanks to all of you for your determination and caring for the kids at our Home of Angels.

The Grade 12 student quilt will be hung in a special place to show that the kids in Canada want the kids in Uganda to know they are loved.   When it's finished, I will post it for all of you to see.

A few of 27 quilts already finished by our Pin Cushion Collective friends

If you look at our new blog, you will see in Events, the 2 fundraisers held this week.

The first was held by Lana from Quik Pik Flower shop in Chilliwack.   She decided to hold a fundraiser in a very special place on a dairy farm where approximately 60 women attended on the rainiest night of the year. Almost everyone showed up in this storm and learned how to create flower arrangements.  It was enjoyed by all and everyone took their own arrangement home.  I want to thank Lana for having this fundraiser and all the women for their generous donations.  It will make a HUGE difference for our building process and Edwin and I are very grateful.

The second fundraiser was with Save on Foods.  For two days we promoted our Jaaja Barb's Home of Angels and sold banana bread in two local stores.  Save on Food donated 10 cents for every pound of bananas sold in both stores.  Without Save on Food, I cannot imagine our growth.  They supply everything for us to bake and are always there for us.   This time we had a nice surprise.  Glen Clarke, our past Premier came to our booth to see what we were doing.  Hopefully he likes the banana bread we gave him.

In the next week will be busy with many speaking engagements and churches to visit.
I have to say to all of you, that without God helping Edwin and I, we would go nowhere.  He has stood by us from the first day,  and without Him, I cannot imagine getting this far.  We just keep having Faith and doing all of us in His honour.

You know, my biggest fear about doing this blog is forgetting to thank someone.  Always remember to pinch me if I did because I would never intentionally do that.  We are just so blessed with so many wonderful people, I am bound to make a slip.  Bless you all and thanks for following our story.  Many of you have been with us since the beginning and have never stopped encouraging us.  It is really appreciated.

Barb and Edwin