Friday, July 30, 2010

A very special day in so many ways

Hi, it’s Mark

Its been another day of great heat and very hard, always thirsty, sun burns and just dead tired, but far more so another day filled with my “family” more thank
Kelly and Azurah but all my family, our team who Kelly, Azurah and could not love more and our Ugandan family our children not just in our home but everywhere
and greatly so in our village, the site of the Koi Koi House and the whole project.

John and Denise have great expertise in Africa, this is far different for me than anywhere we/The Giving Circle have ever work and I am learning a great deal
from them and all that I can see. Kelly and I feel so blessed to have found them and all this team each and every one of them they are all so special and working
so hard and loving the people of Uganda, REALLY the children.

Our Village “ Why-li- ca” like all of Uganda is so profoundly poor made up of mud huts. They have greeted us as family and thank us always for coming to them,
that means each and everyone of you, they welcome and need us all.

Many of you know the story of my childhood dream to work in Africa also what I dreamed over the last 21 years of naming an orphanage of my love Kelly.

Today is our 17th wedding anniversary. For me there could be no greater joy then watching my love Kelly (Koi Koi) here loving the children and interacting with the village woman and seeing Azurah covered with children hugging them, carrying them around, it's a dream come true.

In our village there was the most beautiful little boy who fell in love with Az and Az with him. The boy in his tattered rags and no shoes and is severely crossed eyed and has the worlds biggest smile. This little one told Azurah through an interpreter “I like you because you don’t care about what I look like”.

There is a group of eve doctors here from the UK who has agreed to see this sweet boy for us.

There is nothing more I could ask for but tonight at the meal the team gave Kelly and I a great cake and gift and a card with notes that brought us such joy and tears.

The days are filled with great joy and hard work and at times, sad news, we just found the test results for one of our teen girls who has been feeling very ill.
She lost both parents to AIDS, with great sadness I must tell you her test was positive.

In our village over 500 children can not go to school because of no funds and no school clothes, the fear is too great that walking too far the children will be
stolen as many are. But with your love and help we will give her and all our children, and all to come, and this village and its people...

So yes it’s been a day crazy heat and very hard work, always thirsty, sun burns and just dead tired and also great joys, OMG I love Uganda.

I'm sorry....

This is Kelly and I inadvertently rejected all your comments by accident. I've changed the settings to not moderate comments as we can't check frequently. If you don't mind, can you please re-post them? Thank you!!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Joan Smith writes, Don't come to Africa

- if you've already determined that people are poor because they are lazy.
- if you aren't moved to do something when you see abject poverty, people who are sick and have no health care providers at all, schools with no resources, school-aged children too far from public education and too poor for private education.
- if you can't tolerate no schedule, standing around waiting, daily detours for cell phones, food for others, banking and people who have so little asking for more than you have to give.
- if you're not flexible with your time, your thinking, your attitudes and your prejudices.
- if you can't see beyond the poverty and lack or resources and see the love, caring, compassion and humanity in life here.
- if your wardrobe can't tolerate red clay stuck to your shoes and clay dust clinging to everything else.
- if you don't want to be awakened by a rooster at 3:30 and 4:15 and 6:05.
- if you can't accept heartfelt gratitude for the smallest gesture of help.
- if you can't say no.

Mark again, its slow but here are more.

Its slow but here are more pictures.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

This is Mark with Some pictures from today.

Village School Visits

Today, we visited 5 schools in and around the village where our children live. As the vans pulled up with all of us in it, we were greeted by all the children running at the vans. When we got out of the vans, the children just swarm you and hug you. We brought them many, many school supplies (things like pencils, pens, erasers, chalk, paper, solar calculators, rulers, pencil sharpeners and more). These are very hard to come by in the schools. We gave each school a first aid kit, in all cases, it was the first first aid kit they had! In addition to the school supplies, we brought a huge duffel bag FULL of jump ropes, kick balls, soccer balls, footballs and baseballs & bats! The kids went WILD for these, literally!

All of this sounds wonderful to you reading it, but I have to tell you that being there, seeing the poverty and the suffering caused me to be greatly overcome with emotion. I had to go to to the head masters office at one point to cry because the children at this particular school were singing for us. One song they sang had to do with their past and all the suffering their families and especially, the children, went through. These children sang with such emotion, acting out the song just as it did happen, that I just couldn't get through it.

The one thing that we saw over and over again was that even though these children have absolutely nothing, they were SO full of love and had huge smiles on their faces all the time. One very small gesture gives them such hope and the feeling of being loved.

I have never been hugged so much for so long in my entire life. I can see why people love Uganda and the people here. No matter how bad it is, they are grateful and so happy to have us here.

At one school, we took pictures of 2 children that need a place in our new orphanage (who will need sponsors once we set that program up). This made these children so happy to think that they will have a place to live very soon.

This is truly a life changing trip, like all of what we do, but in a much larger way.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Group is Trying to Kill ME!!!

After being sick all day from the poison they fed me, they were kind enough to bring me some purple "water" in a sealed Dasani bottle. Turns out its vodka... Please send a rescue team to Hotel Paridise on the Nile in Jinja. There is a 5,000 ugandan shilling reward.

But seriously, it turns out its probably not a good idea to eat jack fruit, eat strange red and black seeds, chew on sugar cane, drink well water that I'm not used to all while being dehydrated and working in the Ugandan sun. Who would have guessed?

Besides my sickness its been a great experience so far. I started to help dig the trench for the foundation of the Rafiki house where the farm hand will live. I'm feeling better now, stay tuned later in the week to see progress (on the house, and my health). Thanks for everyone reading, its with your help that this project and blog is possible.


P.S. No cause for alarm, Mom. I'm seriously feeling better.

The Falcon

This is Katelynn, Lauren, and Nishtha. Today was our second day in Jinja. We spent most of the day on the new land meeting with the villagers and digging up the land. Tomorrow we will plant the seedlings for the Moringa trees. It was great to interact with the people who will become neighbors to Julius, Irene, and the children. We loved seeing the well with clear running water for not only the orphanage but the villagers as well. We really enjoyed speaking with the women who welcomed us with a song in typical African fashion. Everyone was really happy to see us and eager to work together. We had a woman's chat and asked the women to speak about their daily lives, including the most difficult part of their day. Most agreed that paying for school fees and uniforms was the hardest part of their daily lives.

Yesterday we met two of the children in the village: a girl and her younger brother, Adam. Nishtha befriended Adam. When we returned today we came with clothes and toys for both children. Nishtha even gave Adam her favorite stuffed tiger and he gave Nishtha a necklace that he made. The girl looked beautiful in her new outfit and was beaming for the rest of the day. Soon a few other children joined us and we played catch, soccer, and hopscotch.

After spending time on the new land, we visited Julius, Irene, and the children at their current home. We brought crayons and coloring books that students from Glens Falls high school made for our trip. It was great to see them all sitting so quietly, patiently coloring inside the lines. We also traced all of the children's feet and recorded their clothing size in order to put together packages for each child. When we came back to the hotel, we filled a backpack for each child with an outfit, toys, pens and pencils, coloring books, stickers, candy, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.

All of you who know Nishtha will be happy to know that she has started to tell her jokes. Have you heard the one about the Falcon?

Monday, July 26, 2010

We made it!!!!

This is John....It's Monday (I think) and we have all arrived safe and tired along with all our 31 bags of supplies which is a feat in itself. Today was truly wonderful as I reunited with the children, Julius, Irene and Bernard, and was able to enjoy the special connection between Mark and Julius as they met for the first time. We all enjoyed each other playing soccer for a bit ten headed up to the land of the future Koi Koi house. As we walked the dirt land, and Julius explained how is dream shad come true, I was reminded of what a group of dedicated people here and back home can and are doing for our family here in Uganda.

I'm cutting this short as its time to eat, and I'm a one finger typer so i will catch up a little later in the week.

Take good care,
Hi Everyone, This is Denise. Ron got us to NY then we were off to London. From the deep recesses of my mind, I was able to help find our way around the city to see the sights. Nancy, nothing has changed since we were there, even the hotel is the same. We met Chris who stayed with Julius in Uganda for 6 months. It was a great day for the team. Then off for the longer flight to Uganda. All went well, but everyone was a bit tired after the long journey.

But then we met Julius and the children and all of that jet lag left us. The children were thrilled to meet us, as were Julius and his wife Irene. Julius is smart and capable and it is easy to see why these little ones are thriving under him. Irene is a vision of beauty as she enters into her last few weeks of pregnancy. Kate taught the children some new songs and they taught us the Mix It song. So much fun and laughter. And a few tears of joy.

Then off to see the land - WOW!!! It is just so lush and green and beautiful. Jackfruit, avocados, and coffee beans are already growing there. The well works great, running water is such a precious gift. We planted a tree to mark our first day in partnership, all together, everyone so thrilled to be working side by side to give these orphans a home and a farm.

We have a great team - and this is just the beginning of our adventure. Thanks for the enormous elephant- heart support from all of you back home. These children need us.

Jinja Arrival

Hi, this is Kelly...I wanted to provide an update as soon as we were able on our first day in Jinja.

The Giving Circle and Team Rafiki (Koi Koi House) Team arrived in Uganda at about 1AM EDT. The trip was grueling and somewhere across the time zones we lost a day! We spent 10 hours in London and had a great time. We expected that we'd be so tired from a full day of activity after the first long leg, but NOOOOOOO we could not sleep until about 3AM Ugandan time with 4 hours left in the last leg of the flight.

Once we arrived, we gathered all 31 bags that we checked for the children, orphanage, schools, village etc. That took about 2 hours to accomplish. In total, we had 40 or so bags to transport from Entebbe to Jinja. Julius and his wife, Irene, along with Bernard met us at the airport with two vans - one for 10 of us and one for all the luggage! Once we arrived, we placed all the luggage in a special room at the hotel for sorting later. We checked in and dumped all our personal things in our rooms. Az gets his own room this trip as they didn't have any double beds in the rooms for us to share.

We then headed to the orphanage to see our children. All I can say when we got there is OMG! We were so overwhelmed with emotion. The children were all over us, just hugging us over and over again. We couldn't hug each other enough!! All we had time to bring to them was a frisbee and a soccer ball. We played for a few hours there with them, singing, dancing, playing frisbee and soccer!

After that, we headed over to the land that we all have purchased for them and to see the running water in the well. The land is awesome. It also has fruit trees already there. We planted a tree today to memorialize our first visit together!

We are back at the hotel now. It's 6 PM Jinja-time (Jinja is 7 hours ahead of the east coast). We'll have dinner at 7PM and then begin sorting the things we brought for everyone.

We'll post pictures from today shortly along with the other team members thoughts.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

We have Water.

The well is finished, your hard work, generosity and compassion has brought clean safe drinking water not only to the land, to Julius and the children but the whole village. Water for drinking, for the farming and livestock. No longer will our family have to walk miles every day with heavy jugs of water.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Welcome friends

Welcome to the Koi Koi House team to our Ugandan family July/Aug 2010

Please stay tuned the stories of all of the team members and pictures and videos of this wonderful trip.

We will arrive in Uganda on the 26th of July.. Check in every day.