My trip to Uganda

I have just returned from the most amazing trip I could ever imagine.
I've dreamed about going to Africa, and gotten glimpses of what it would be like, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would ever get to experience it first hand.
It was everything I thought it would be and more.

Let me back up and explain a little bit about how this trip all came to happen.
Several years ago, our church entered into a partnership with World Vision.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization that started in 1950 and is dedicated to working with children, families and their communities to tackle poverty and injustice.  World Vision works in nearly 100 countries and serves all people groups.  Not only does World Vision provide emergency assistance, they also work with communities to help develop long-term solutions to alleviate things like poverty and they advocate for justice on behalf of the poor.

World Vision does good work and it's got a proven track record. 
I had the opportunity to see that good work first hand on what is called a Vision Trip.
When our partnership started with World Vision nearly four years ago, the work in Buliisa, Uganda was just getting started.  World Vision worked with the community leaders in Buliisa to identify those children and families that were most vulnerable and those are the children that were registered for child sponsorship.

Through child sponsorship and our gift of $35 each month, not only do the children receive the benefits of sponsorship {clean water, nutritious food, healthcare, education and more} their siblings, parents and the community all benefit from child sponsorship.

Upon arrival in Buliisa, our first stop was a church service in one of the nearly 50 churches in the community.
Despite being over an hour late {road work in rural Uganda is a messy thing!}, the whole church was packed and waiting for our arrival.

The children welcomed us with songs and dancing and sat our team of 12 in chairs as special guests.

Children make up 65% of the population in Buliisa and they were taking up every square inch of the church floor!

Our pastor gave the sermon through a translator and after the sermon, an offering was taken.
First the children's offering and then the adults.
Children came up proudly bringing what they had dropping coins in the bag.
I noticed that some children were bringing bags of food and laying it at the alter as well.
They brought what they had.
This little boy was very proud of his offering and it brought me to tears seeing these people giving until it hurts.

As Americans, we give.
 We may tithe, we may set aside above and beyond 10%, but do we give until it hurts?
Do we give when it's a sacrifice?
These people gave when they had nothing but the pumpkin from their garden that was the food for them for the week knowing that God would provide.
Imagine if the people in your church gave the way that these Ugandan's gave.
Imagine how richly we would be blessed!

When the church was full, children gathered at the windows to listen and hear God's word.
God is moving in Uganda and these people love Jesus!

After church we had some time to spend with the children and these children are the most amazing children you will ever meet.  They want nothing more than to shake your hand and practice their English.
Their eyes light up and their smile is contagious!

We spent a lot of time at the Buliisa ADP {area development project} office.
As soon as the kids in the area saw the trucks with the World Vision logo, they came out in droves to meet us.  This group of children came every day to greet us and spend time with us.
It was a privilege to get to know them better and to spend time with them.

The afternoon was spent at another church service, this time the service was dedicated to the children and while they called it their Sunday school, it looked a little different than our jazzed-up Disneyland attempt at Sunday school here in the states.

These children praised God with all that they had and were thankful for the work that World Vision is doing in their community.  In particular, the advocacy that World Vision is doing on behalf of the children by providing a child protection plan.  Abuse is a common theme, especially in those areas most hurting with poverty, and World Vision is working with the families and empowering the children to stop the abuse.

The most amazing part of child sponsorship through World Vision is the ability to build a relationship with your sponsored child and their family.  The child that we have sponsored is a little boy named Moses.  He is 9, just like my youngest son and he lives with his two sisters and his mom and dad in a family of five, just like us.  

Moses doesn't speak English, though he is learning it in school.
You see, now that Moses is sponsored, he has the opportunity to attend school and because of his child sponsorship, his sisters are able to attend school as well.

Moses loves to play soccer and he helps his father Richard in the fields where they have a very large maize crop.  The water source where they once had to walk for hours to get water {dirty water}, is now just around the corner from their village and takes half the time.  And the water is clean!  Moses was sick when we started sponsorship and now he is a healthy 9-year-old boy.
Moses is a fantastic artist and we sat for hours drawing pictures together.

Before I left Moses' village, he presented me with a chicken.
It was the most fabulous gift I have ever received!
Not because I needed a chicken, or could have even taken the gift home with me, but because of the sacrifice that was made to give me one of their flock.
A food source for them.
I carried my chicken {named Opie} around with pride for the rest of the day.

These are the children that our group on the vision trip sponsors.
It was the most amazing visit and it certainly takes that child on the fridge from a picture to reality.
Our letters now that we have met, will have so much more depth to them.

A trip wouldn't be complete without me doing something crafty.
I taught the kids how to make friendship bracelets and had the best time!

One of the most amazing parts of our trip was getting to visit the health clinic that World Vision has established in the area.
The whole goal of community partnership is not to build a community that is dependent on World Vision and their help, but to encourage sustainability and community responsibility.
World Vision provided the funds to build the building and because the building exists, the government now supplies the vaccinations and the medicine that is most needed.

Every day, over 100 children are vaccinated in this clinic, and in the next wing, women are offered prenatal care and 8-10 women daily deliver babies in a sanitary environment.

My dream has always been to be a midwife in Africa.
So having this experience with the babies in the clinic was over the top more than I could have imagined!
I had the opportunity to weigh the babies.

And I was able to administer oral polio to some little ones.
The clinics services are totally free to the members of the community as long as you can get to the clinic.

I met some of the most amazing children.
This 15-year-old girl was called Gloria.
She spoke amazing English, could read and write and she goes to school.
She wants to be a nun when she grows up.
I met her as she picked greens for her family.
Isn't she beautiful?!

While we were in Buliisa, we had the opportunity to go to the large community market that only happens twice a month.  Our group wanted to support the local community and while I was hoping to find locally made handcrafted items, the market was almost entirely made up of food items.

Just more evidence that this community is working to exist and live.
I bought fresh avocados {twenty cents each} and a huge bag of groundnuts {peanuts} for a dime.

We visited one of the local schools that is sponsored by World Vision.
There are nearly 700 students that attend this school!
World Vision has worked to build housing for the teachers on campus and in the past five years has decreased the teacher/student ratio from 1 teacher for every 95 students to 1 teacher for every 35 students.

The children shared a program on sanitation and the things that they were learning on how to keep their homes clean and malaria-free.  They also showed us how to make a tip tap.  A tip tap is a handmade water station that encourages handwashing to prevent the spread of diseases.  Each child in the school knows how to make one with sticks and items they can find around their village.
The students at the school are encouraged to bring what they learn home and teach their parents, and this method of teaching is very successful.

One of the school rooms.

Isn't she beautiful?!

Our afternoon stop was to a school that wasn't quite as large as the first but that is also supported by World Vision.  The whole community came out to this celebration since we were having the ability to dedicate the borehole that was made and funded with money from our churches walk for water.

This little boy named Stephen even made a tie out of notebook paper so that he could look his best!

A borehole is a deep water source that is dug and is equipped with a hand pump.
This particular borehole provides water for over 1000 people in three nearby villages.
These are just some of the faces that benefit from the water in this borehole.

Ted and Paula Kramer were two members on our vision trip.
Three years ago they lost their son Michael to a preventable disease and they turned their mourning and loss into a cause.  It was their desire to help prevent other childhood deaths that were preventable.  The easiest way to do that is to provide clean water to a community.
As a church, we have joined them in their crusade to raise the funds to build boreholes in Buliisa and it was an honor to see them dedicate this borehole in Michael's name.

What a blessing it was to see this borehole and its clean water benefiting so many people in this area.

I am still processing the things that I learned and saw on this trip, but if there is one thing that I would want to share with you it would be how wonderful child sponsorship is.
Through child sponsorship lives are changed.
For only $35 a month {a little more than a dollar a day} you can change a child's world for good.
It's as easy as visiting this link, and selecting a child.
It's amazing what good work World Vision is doing in the lives of children and their communities.


Michelle Paige said...

What beautiful words and pictures! So many precious children! What an experience!

Randi Jo :) said...

great post Rachel! :) Can I use some of your pics on my facebook???

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