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?