Friday, January 31, 2014

Dealing with Corruption

What ever made us think that corruption wouldn't touch us?  It touches the entire white community here and even though you want to believe that you are exempt from this evilness, it does happen.  We have now been initiated into the reality of Jinja, Uganda.   We come from the free world where we can work as many jobs as we want, where food is given by standing in a line on the street and the government provides programs to help us.  Here, there is only corruption and poverty.  That is why God sends us to places like this… to help the suffering.  Donations such as providing the transport overseas, the container itself and the hundreds of people who gave their time chopping vegetables to provide a high protein soup for the sick are so appreciated.  We are grateful to the organizations who provided us pallets of clean hospital sheets and blankets, pallets of new clothes and schools books, Northview church donating two ovens and new Bibles, all to be distributed to our kids and the people…the people who need it so badly.  Thank you Lord for listening to the many people praying for us…. it arrived.

But before it did, Edwin, his brothers and I were a thorn in their sides for four days as they processed it through the Busia border crossing. We tried to catch every mistake but they are professionals and because of my white skin, they took full advantage.  All we could think about was the food and all the donations you had provided us to make this a better life over here.  We had to continue on and not give up.  But as the taxes and scamming got up over $10,000, we wondered if we were doing the right thing.  Edwin kept fighting and when he got them down a little,  the  next day, up it rose again.  We couldn't win.

On Friday, after many more discussions, they finally brought the container to us.  Just watching it manoeuvring it's way down our dirt road with the people cheering and dancing, bought smiles.  Our children came outside the gate with such joy on their faces. They wanted so badly to be apart of distributing the food and helping the elderly like we had in Alan's village.  The food was finally here.

But to our surprise we still had to keep paying.
The crane set up, the container truck was ahead and when he was signalled to move back to let the crane lift it over the wall,  the man we had hired refused until we paid another $2,000.00.
By this time I was beyond control to think they could just drive away.  This "Jaaja" simply expressed herself and they moved the truck backwards for the crane to hook up.

We were refused paperwork until the last moment and it was then that we discovered the tax problem.
Taxes were calculated on 20 ovens, not 2, on 18 mattresses instead of 3, 54 cartons of toys instead of 4 and 30 hospital chairs which we never had.  The list is too long but that will give you an idea.
The moral to our story is… very sure what you are doing and who you hire when coming into these countries.

They might have hurt us for operating but they did not break our spirit and we are not giving up.

The container trying to manoeuvre the corners.

We ordered a 45T crane to lift it over the wall as it wouldn't fit through the gate.

There were 10 banana trees that had to be cut down for the container to fit but considering the contents, we didn't care.  

Cleared the razor wire but it now will be impossible to turn it on the the concrete pillars we built.  We are using concrete blocks for now.

Just fits and enough room to get things out.

The kids wanted to pray over the container before we opened it up.  Hope lead in prayer and thanked everyone for their kinds hearts to help the poor in Uganda.  She prayed over the hungry people and told God that we were coming with food for them soon.

And then we have our Shaban….our special man that loves everyone, especially the children.  He is now travelling the roads with his new wheelchair and is so happy.  Thanks to whoever donated this chair.  I try to remember everyone but this is a sign of age I think.  Shaban wants you to know he is grateful.

This was such a team effort.  The kids did their very best to help carry everything and what a wonderful job they did.  I am so proud of them and honestly, this is why I will never give up.

Our Joanne….this girl can carry unbelievable weights on her head.  She had her first birthday two days ago and I was so hoping for our new oven to bake her a real cake.  As soon as we get them hooked up, we are going to celebrate.  Joanne would like to thank Trudy and Garry for her first birthday card.

School starts in 3 days so Edwin thought it would be a good idea if we found the box of backpacks and gave them out as a present for doing so much work today.  Alan got his baby chair and the others were elated to get something to carry their books in.  Thanks to Michele, Gina and their team with the Pin Cushion Collective for sending these gifts.

The poor in Uganda have no chance to raise their voice and get out of poverty.  It is our hope to help alleviate some of the hunger and education problems by having our Home of Angels.  We realize that as we receive three to four grandmothers a day begging us to take their grandchildren, the problem is bigger than we realized. We cannot help everyone, but we can do the best with the few we have at the moment.

We would like to thank the Gleaners and ALL our donors for what they have done throughout the past year.  On behalf of the people that go without food in our community, we also send a special thanks in advance.

God bless you all.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Calm before the Storm

Hello from Uganda

My trip from Vancouver to Entebbe was one of the best so far.  I arrived to our Home of Angels to be greeted by the children, aunties and workers who had made this a special event.  It was hard to hold back the tears.  The home has been beautifully taken care by Edwin and his staff and to come into such lush vegetation from below zero temperatures felt so good.

The children are doing well but we have had some failures along with successes.  Our little 5 year old Dan is not going to be living with us.  His brother Saika is feeling at home here with his new family but it has been a difficult adjustment.  It will get easier for him as the weeks go by.  He told me in English class last week that Jesus loves him and that He won't abandon him.  For Saika to say these words meant a lot.

Thanks to so many of you who helped us fund the chicken project. We are already working in full gear.  We decided to do one project at a time and since there is such a good profit in chickens and eggs, that is where we began.  Three days ago, 600 chicks arrived from Germany.  Since we are blessed with professional chicken farmers advising us both in Canada and Uganda, we have not lost one to date.  These birds will go to market in 5 weeks and again we will bring in another 600, slowly building it to 1000 chicks as we gain experience.  We are clearing the land now for the 2nd house which will eventually hold 1000 layers.

The container will be arriving into Mombasa at the end of January.  Our clearing agent, Moses will be there waiting for it and break the seal as it crosses over into Uganda.  From there it will be transported to our compound where it will be unloaded and later used as a storage area and office.

Our contractor John has built concrete pillars for the container to rest on.   Because the container is so large and won't fit through the gate, the crane will be lifting it over the wall and placing it onto these  structures.

This is our broiler chicken house.  It is equipped to hold up to 1000 birds for the 5 weeks prior to being sold at the market.  A year ago, we set David, Edwin's brother, up in a agriculture/produce business and we are so happy now that we did.  He is flourishing and is the one who is helping us with our food for the children.  David has approached the local restaurants in Jinja to purchase our birds and many have said yes.  He also is selling  them to the local boarding schools for the meals programs.

Edwin is in the brooder pen feeding the chicks and making sure they have water. 

The children have been helping aunty make matoke which is a fruit that looks like a green banana but is 90% water and very tasty.  Before they built the slab for the container, we had to cut
2 matoke trees down so we are taking advantage of a good meal. We still have many more trees left.
In the 5 months since we opened, I see these smiles just getting bigger.

The children bathe twice a day but sometimes little Alan needs a third….I get to have that privilege and we end up with a splash fight.  This little one has learned English so quickly and every morning I get a
"Good Morning Jaaja Barb" which starts my day off with a smile.

We wake at 6:30am and our day starts with chores.  Roads are swept and scrubbed, clothes are washed and hung and rooms cleaned.  Never an argument.

In order to build a 2nd chicken house, we cleared the land of dried up maize.  The children are picking the maize corn to further dry it and the crew will dig the plants and remove them.  We figure we will have 25 kg to eat when packaged.  If we can plant all this again next year and harvest it along with other vegetables, plus have eggs, it will help us to provide our own healthy food for these children.

Meet Saban, our newest employee.  Saban is physically challenged from polio and has no working legs.  He calls his stick his legs.  As you can see below, our grounds are beautiful.  He washes the floors, he sits up at night with the chickens, he teaches the children culture, he makes charcoal for us so the baby chicks can stay warm…..We cannot say enough about this young man.  He is 3 years short of finishing school because of giving up his school fees for his little brother who is left behind parentless in the village.  No one hired Saban because of his affliction but now with God's help, he found his place.  In other communities, this disability leads to job rejection but at our Home of Angels, we welcome people with all physical challenges.

Welcome Saban!

Thanks to two wonderful people in Langley, we have shears to trim the hedges.  Saban works those shears
like magic and everyone stops for a look.

You have seen what has happened in the past two weeks.  We really do feel like it is the "Calm before the Storm" because as of February 1st,  life will be busy here.  The kids start school, we have friends arriving to help us distribute food and to help teach the local women to sew kits for their young daughters.  Our wonderful friend Thomas from Hong Kong has sent his solar lights for us to distribute only to the poor and with the medicine donated, we are also able to help people in the deep villages.  God is at work and it is really evident by the changes happening daily.

Below is the last Global TV story before I left home.  Thanks Linda and Carl for doing such a good job on this story.  We all love you from Uganda.