Archive for September, 2010

September 30, 2010

Third Uganda Day

We woke up early and had breakfast at our hotel in Fort Portal.  It was COLD.  I was kicking myself I hadn’t brought my jacket with me.  Our driver was waiting for us out front so we quickly checked out and headed on the 2.5 hour trip to Ibanda.

The drive to Ibanda was beautiful.  We passed through Kibale Forest/National Park which was just stunning.  Apparently there are a lot of animals in this forest (chimps, elephants, buffalo, antelope, etc) but we didn’t see any.  We did pass by one of the crater lakes – which was just gorgeous.  The mountains in this area are stunning.  It was a rough drive – bumpy, twisty, dirt roads up and down the hills.

We made it to Ibanda late morning.  We stopped at a couple of places to buy food for the orphanage – the grocery store and the market.   I don’t think they see many Muzungu in this area because my goodness the staring and pointing was at an all time high. :)   Danielle was a hit at the market when she started handing out suckers to the little ones.  I think we have video but its on Danielle’s camera.  Will try to get her stuff pretty soon.

We headed over to the babies home and it was so fun to see Sister Christine again!   The kids are beautiful and it was so special to see this place my son spent the first two years of his life at.   I saw the place he slept and all the little friends he grew up with.  I’m thrilled that many of them have adoptive families, including little Nicholas…the little boy who could have been our son.  That was surreal, and it was incredible to get a chance to hold him and love him.   It was so fun to be able to take pictures of the children who are being adopted for their families.

We played with the children for a while then had lunch with Sisters Christine and Edwina.   After lunch we had to make the 6.5 hour trip back to Kampala.   The road from Ibanda to Kampala was…I can’t even describe it.  Just nauseating.  Between the road work and traffic the trip back to Kampala took about 8 hours.  We were able to stop at the Equator on the way back which was fun.   It was dark by time we got back to Kampala and Danielle and I were unsure about getting the taxi back to our guesthouse by ourselves in the dark.   So we found a driver in Kampala and had him take us back to our guesthouse.  Somehow we got a crazy taxi driver who decided that instead of sitting in the traffic jam like the rest of the Kampala, to drive on the wrong side of the road most of the trip home.   He kept darting in and out of driveways to avoid on-coming traffic.  It was a nail-biting, white-knuckle trip but we made it back in one piece!  We were happy to be “home” and get a good nights sleep before our next days travel to Jinja.

Mayers bed was on the right in the corner by the window.


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September 29, 2010

Home

I’m home.  I will continue telling about our journey after I get rested and are able to think straight! Thank you for everyone who prayed, this was an an amazingly successful and incredible trip.

September 27, 2010

Namuowongo Slum

Just when you think your heart can’t take anymore….
Today we went to one of the slums.  Deep into the slums.  A place not fit for an animal to live and yet around 6,000 people call it home.
Many of them children.
This is just ONE of the slums in the capital of Uganda.  There are several.
Today I sat in a wooden shack that serves as some sort of community room, waiting out a downpour.  While sitting there I learned:
About 6,000 call this place home.
There are hundreds of disabled children living in this one slum with relatives or kind-hearted community members.
There are homes in Uganda take will accept disabled children but there is a fee to take your child there, a fee which the people of this slum do not have.
So, what happens to these children then, you might ask? (I did.)
They sit at home.
By themselves.
Day after day while their parents/relatives/caregivers do whatever it is they do to try to scrape together enough money to survive.
It is hearbreaking.  PEOPLE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS!
Or how about the hundreds of other children here, clearly not in school.  Dirty, skinny, dressed in rags, covered in sores and fungal infections.    Why aren’t they in school?
Because even the “free” school here costs too much for the families of these children.  About 22,000 shillings per term I’m told.  About $12 US dollars.  Not including the uniforms that are required and the books you have to buy.  When you can’t find enough money to feed your family how are you going to find the money for school?
Or imagine you are a 7 year old girl in this slum.  Your mother is called “mad” and shunned in your community because she is mentally disabled.  You are a product of rape, as are your siblings.  Your mother is pregnant again.  Not by choice, but when she is raped frequently by unknown men it is what happens.   There is no door on the tiny shack you live in.  Men come and go as they please.  You see things no child should ever have to see.  You don’t go to school.  You are dirty and dressed in rags.  You don’t eat much.  Other children make fun of you.  But despite all that you kneel to greet the strange looking people who come to talk to your family and smile when they take your picture.   You’re beautiful.  You deserve so much more.
I don’t know how to help them.  I don’t know what to do.  But I can tell you, we’re going to do something.  We have to.

Making our way in.

A lady we stopped to chat with for a moment .

I don’t even have words…

Treasured smiles….

Beauty in the midst of such ugliness.


September 26, 2010

Second full day…

Oh wow.  Wow. Wow. Wow.
Should I say it again?
WOW.
What an amazing trip this has been so far!
I’m going to back up a little bit – I’ll write about Friday since that is where I’ve left off and it is too much to do multiple days in one post.
On Friday morning I woke up ridiculously early.  3am.  Couldn’t go back to sleep.  I knew that the alarm was going to go off at 4:30 and just couldn’t make myself sleep.  About 4:30 I finally got Danielle up and we got ready to go.  The plan was to leave the house by 5am so we could be at the bus park at 545am to catch the 6am bus to Fort Portal.  That was our plan.  It obviously wasn’t God’s plan.  :)
The trip we were told would take 45 minutes only took about 15.  So we got to the bus park super early.  It was dark and there were a lot of men standing around.  It didn’t seem like the best idea for us to get out and start standing around there in the dark so I asked our driver to stay with us until Linda arrived.  For a fee of course.  He did and we sat there for about 45 minutes while men tried to get us to get out of the car and into their buses.  It is a bit competitive – they all wanted our business.  We were firm and stayed put in the car, but it was a tense 45 minutes.
Linda got there about 6am and the sun was just starting to come up.  We paid our driver and Linda found out the 6am bus to Fort Portal was leaving at 7am.  So we sat and waiting in the bus.  It didn’t end up leaving until 830am.  Ugh.  So there was 2.5 hours on the bus just sitting there.  We finally got going, stopped for gas and then headed West towards Fort Portal.  The road was quite rough for the first part of the ride.  They are doing road construction and the busses aren’t in the best shape in the first place so it was pretty crazy.  We were told the trip would take 4 hours but it took six.  So by time we got there we been on that bus for 8.5 hours.  Not my idea of fun.
The route to Fort Portal is lovely though.  The countryside is beautiful.  Once you start getting close to FP you can see the mountains come into view.  The Mountains of the Moon.  GORGEOUS.  Just absolutely beautiful.
We got to the taxi park in FP, got a couple of bodas and went to the hotel we planned to stay at.  This hotel looked gorgeous on the internet.  Absolutely lovely.  We got there.  Seemed OK from the outside.  We requested our rooms and paid.  Mistake.  Should have looked at the rooms first.  Oh my…they were so bad.  Sooo dirty, missing door handles and locks, holes in the bathroom walls, no screens, mosquito nets with holes, D. and I’s room was right next to a building in progress where anyone could walk right up to our door with no security…just not what we were lead to expect from the internet.  We went back downstairs and Linda tried negotiating for a refund of our money.  I tried to explain false advertising but they didn’t seem to get it.  You know what worked, I threatened to tell everyone on the internet how bad it was.  They chased after us and refunded our money.  Close call…
We checked out some other places but couldn’t find anything open that would work for us so we ended up at a the resort in the area.  Mountains of the Moon hotel.  It was beautiful. Unfortunately we weren’t there long enough to really enjoy it but it was pretty great from what we saw.
After we got checked into the hotel we got to work visiting the orphanages we came to meet.  One home in particular we were just so impressed by and I plan to write much more about them soon.  It is a home for HIV+ orphans.  The children just really touch your heart and they are doing such a good job.
The stories of these children are heartbreaking – some just really stand out.  Like the little girl whose mother died in front of her.  Or the children who have lost both their mother and father to AIDS in the same month.  Or the young  boy who contemplates suicide because he is so mistreated by others in his community due to the fact that he is HIV.  Sometimes the issues we hear about make me feel so overwhelmed.  There are so many needs.  So many children.  So many orphans.
It is impossible for me to help them all.  How do we choose which to help and which we say no to?  What do I do about 17 year old HIV+ orphaned boys who are only in the 2nd grade and who have no family?  Or the precious little ones that are thrown out by their families but can’t be adopted?  Or the hundreds school age orphans who I know will probably not find adoptive families though a family is the one thing they want most in the world?  Their faces keep scrolling through my head.  It is impossible for me to look at these kids and not think of my own son.  How that could have so easily been him.
It is all so fresh and so many thoughts are running through my head.  I’m praying for direction and clarity as we make important decisions and help as many as we can.
More later…
(took me forever to upload two pictures…more will have to wait until I get home!)

September 25, 2010

Wow

We just had the most amazing, exhausting two days. 
We’ve been to the West and back again, visiting homes and meeting with people. 
I have so many stories to tell but not tonight.  We’re exhausted.  I will try to write more tomorrow.

September 23, 2010

Crazy first day…

Hello friends, 

I’m sorry I haven’t written yet. What a journey this has been already…and we only arrived last night. 

I will write more about our travel day later…right now there is still so much to process about today. 

My niece Danielle has joined me in Ug*nda this time and I am really enjoying watching her experience Africa for the first time. She’s been a great traveling companion and is always up for an adventure, which I love. 

Our first day in Ug*nda has been more than I could have expected or hoped. I was concerned that we wouldn’t have time to do much of what I hoped, 7 days here is just barely enough time especially when we’re traveling in-country as well. But today went so well, I do think we are really going to get a lot done while I’m here. 

I am having a difficult time knowing where to start. I guess I can start at the beginning of the day. We had spent the night in Entebbe with my friend Robin. It was lovely to see her again and get a chance to love on her babies…the ones I’ve met before and the new babies that have come. I was concerned we wouldn’t be tired enough to sleep because of jetlag, but we both were out before midnight and got up around eight am. 

After breakfast and visiting with the children we packed up our things and headed over to our first orphanage of the day – a babies home in Entebbe. AAI’s new Ug*ndan facilitator (Linda) met us over there. I had been speaking to the orphanage director for a few weeks and we’re hoping to place on of their baby boys with an adoptive family here in the US. It was a great meeting and was so happy to see the place and meet everyone. We have another meeting with them at the end of the week. 

We left Entebbe and made our way into Kampala and towards our guest house. We hired a private hire (private taxi) for this, as Robin reminded us it probably wasn’t the best idea to try and use public transportation/taxi with all of our suitcases. 

We made our way to our guesthouse, which is lovely. We unloaded and the headed back into town to exchange money and pick up some things at Nakumatt, the grocery store. 

While we had only planned to visit two orphanages today, it looked like we may have enough time to visit three so Linda made the arrangements for us to meet with two different homes this afternoon. We quickly decided how much money per orphanage we could allot to buy food and set out to get all of the donations. We had school supplies, underwear and can candy for these homes but also wanted to purchase some food as we knew that both were quite poor and caring for many children on a very limited budget. We were able to buy sugar, oil, soap, beans and maize for these two homes. 

Our first orphanage of the afternoon was in a slum on the outskirts of Kampala. The children are beautiful. The conditions are horrendous. The staff seem to be trying very hard but they simply do not have the funds to care for all these children they way they should be cared for. They have about 150 children in their school and about 30 of the children are orphans who live there. The entire facility is run-down and falling apart. The “dorms” are so sad and the toilets (which I had to use) are like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The classrooms are very old and they have few supplies. Despite the poor conditions the children, like so many of the children you meet here, are joyful, sweet and so very excited to meet us. They sang for us and applauded enthusiastically when we gave them a small bag of school supplies and enough food for perhaps a days worth of decent meals. When I see a small child kneel on the ground in gratitude when you had them a small piece of candy and smile like you gave them the world…my heart can hardly take it…it is so humbling. It is so hard when I am not able to do more for these children who so need it. There are just so many of them… 

I’m not sure how many of these children will be adoptable, but would love see some sort of sponsorship program with them so they can clean the place up and really take care of these children the way they need to be cared for. 

When we left we took some boda-boda’s out of the slum and back up to the main road. There we were met by a woman named Rose that an adoptive parent had told me about. She runs a school/orphanage for children, most of who are orphans. They have hundreds of children in a large, still very poor but better run facility. We got a tour of the home, met some of the children and had a great meeting. They have many orphaned children in this home that would benefit greatly from being adopted. Many of these children are “double orphans” who have lost both their mother and father to death, many times to AIDS or TB. 

The stories you hear when you visit these homes…it often doesn’t seem real. Discovered in a pit latrine, found on the beach naked right after birth, left for days to fend for themselves, starved by his step-mother, beaten by his father, abandoned by her parents…one heart breaking story after another.

We had a good conversation recently about in-country adoption here. I had heard that is was picking up and becoming more popular but from what I’m hearing that doesn’t seem to be the case in many parts. I had really hoped that many of the little healthy babies could be adopted here but based on things I’m being told, I’m not sure that is a realistic hope right now for many babies. It is something to keep working towards though. 

After we left the last orphanage we decided to call it a day. We got a taxi back into the city to the taxi park. Let me just say…public transportation in this country is not for the faint of heart. We probably spent an hour just trying to get through two taxi parks today and find the right taxis.  I wish I could capture the craziness of the taxi parks for you, but wasn’t sure how smart it was to have my camera out there. You’ll just have to take my word for it. 

We had dinner at a small restaurant off of the taxi park – $11 fed three of us a good size dinner with food left over. Yum. After dinner we made our way back through the taxi parks and found the taxi going to the town where our guesthouse is. Linda got us loaded onto the taxi and said goodbye for the evening. We had to hang out for a bit waiting for the taxi to load the rest of the way up and then we were on our way. We had them drop us at the grocery in the little town where we are staying so we could get a box of bottled water and then took a boda the rest of the way. 

We were so grateful to get back to our room and take a (cold) shower. It was a long, but productive day. Tomorrow we’re headed out of town for an overnight trip to visit several orphanages. I appreciate everyones continued prayers and support. I will continue to keep the blog as updated as possible. 

As I was sitting here under my mosquito net, writing this post and listening to music on my phone, this song came on…so appropriate.

“To the widow who suffers from being alone
Wiping the tears from her eyes
For the children around the world without a home
Say a prayer tonight…

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He’ll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3yCod-IfjY

September 19, 2010

Race day

Yesterday was a FUN day.   We went to the US Air force Marathon with friends of ours.  Keith and Josh ran the the 5K while the wives and munchkin cheered from the sidelines.  Last year at the beginning of  the race they had these two fighter jets swoop down over the crowds.  I was excited for Mayer to see that this year, but instead of the fighter jets they had another big plane.  It didn’t go so fast and wasn’t as exciting but it was LOUD and low and Mayer was certainly impressed!  I got some super cute video of his reaction I’ll get uploaded soon.  It was gorgeous weather and we had a really great day.

I leave for Uganda this coming week!  I haven’t even started packing yet.  Yikes!
I plan to keep the blog updated on my travels so keep checking back for updates!

September 16, 2010

Gage Needs a Family!!!

When I found out that Monroe was being adopted and wouldn’t spend the rest of his life (which would likely be very short if transferred) in an Eastern European mental institution tied to a crib,  I cried with joy. 

Please, don’t let that happen to little Gage.  Let’s find him a family! Gage has a $4,500 grant towards his adoption!!!  You can see a short video clip of him here:  http://adoption.adeanthing.com/family-thoughts/gage/

Please email Andrea at bamaroberts@comcast.net if you want more information!

From Reece’s Rainbow:

BOY, born November 26, 2005

SIGNIFICANT RISK, PLEASE ADOPT ME SOON!!

Gage is a very intelligent, happy, and affectionate young man!  

From his medical records:    Cerebrospinal partial Aplasia of the lower part of the spine, partial hypoplasia of pelvis bones, contracture of femurs/thighs/hips and knees.  Likely common diagnosis of Caudal Regression Syndrome/Sacral Agenesis.

From his caregivers:  crawls on his hands, talks simple sentences, well oriented in colors and forms and objects, eats independently.  Very smart and handsome little boy with great potential, in great need of a loving family to understand and take care of his medical needs.   If anyone is considering adopting Gage, here is a website you should see:

http://www.johnnyeckmuseum.com/

 
Johnny Eck had the same condition as Gage. He led a full and rich life, and even though his ways of making aliving is controversial, we have to remember that the times were different then. Anyway, this man made lemonade out of the lemons life handed him. How wonderful if he could be an inspiration for someone to pursue adopting Gage.
 
MORE PHOTOS AVAILABLE

 UPDATE!  (June 2010).  Gage is blessed to still be at the baby house.  He is facing the institution this year.   he continues to develop well cognitively and socially, and he is well loved at his orphanage.   From his caregivers:  The child cannot walk, he can sit comfortably and moves around with the help of hands, operates the wheel-chair very well, talks, sings, knows poems, letters, eats himself.

From an adoptive family who visited with him in August 2010:  “I saw Gage again today.  He is so precious and full of life! I can’t stress enough he looks happy and healthy!! I can’t bear the thought of him facing the institution, someone please come for him!   He is a little ray of sunshine, that boy. Always looks so happy and really gets around well – whether it be moving himself around on the ground to play or pushing himself in his wheelchair. Her really lights up everything around him! “
September 14, 2010

Random

I’m leaving for Uganda in a week.  (Can’t believe it).   I’ve got a plan.   We are going to be RUNNING from the time our feet hit the ground.  It’s going to be crazy, exciting and exhausting.

I plugged my phone in this evening and downloaded a bunch of camera phone pictures.  I need to start carrying my real camera with me more.  Camera phones just don’t cut it.   But here is a sampling of life here recently…

It was “Balloon Mania” or something like that at the mall the other day.  Fun!

Who knew there were so many different kinds of greek yogurt?  There was a purpose behind this photo, it wasn’t random.  :)

Went for a long bike ride with Fred.  Hills are not my friends.
I walked my bike more then I want to admit.

Mayer decided to color on the door at my moms house.

I ran over this guy in the driveway.
Somehow he survived and was relocated away from the road and cars.

Blowing bubbles at Track.

September 10, 2010

Tickets booked

I am headed back here in less than two weeks.

I’m excited about going back.  Loving the orphans.  Seeing my friends.  Setting up an awesome program that is going to 1. help already orphaned children find adoptive families  2. work to prevent other children from becoming orphans.

But man, I am going to miss my baby boy so much!  Eight days?!   I know he’ll be happy home with Daddy, Chelsey and Jjajja but it will be so hard to be away from him for that long!

Prayers much appreciated.  Keep you updated!