Thursday, July 11, 2013

Do a deed of simple kindness; though its end you may not see, it may reach, like widening ripples, down a long eternity. ~ Joseph Norris

Trips take a great deal of planning and team work by many and all involved did once again a wonderful job, both Ugandan team and US. The work we do takes all of us, ones luck enough to make the trip and so many who have not yet and some who may never. This amazing work we do takes every one of us and without even one of you the picture would never be complete. 

The following is but a tiny taste of  the trip and what we are doing. 

For the VERY special team members you saw in the eyes and embrace love of the children and villagers what good we are doing. This thanks to you ALL!
A fantastic team for this trip, our Ugandan family as always most wonderful this year 2 larger with the resent births of baby Kelly to Moses and Cecilia and baby Mark to Emma and Rose.
 On a sad note: We had a loss of a family member to be when our beloved driver/ family member Yaseen and his wife lost a baby 5 months into pregnancy.  We gathered as a family to comfort brother Yaseen , his wife and children.

The team members who are returners we area as always fantastic!  The new members making their first trip, amazing and lets just say the red dust of Africa is deeply embedded in their shoes and the love of the children and people of Uganda deeply embedded in their hearts.
The trips are always magic and for sure never without stress, lots of heat, things not always going exactly to plan, time to time confusion and running around but we always ‘get-r-done’

But that is Africa and that is life, a wonderful world wind of not everything always to “perfect” plan but when we look back we see with amazement what we have just witnessed and what we are and have all as a big family accomplished together for these amazing people so in need and so very grateful for what we all as a family are doing to improve their lives.

Trip outreach and social programs:
Our trips are about several things:
1-seeing first hand what is being accomplished in the on many on going physical sustainable projects we are doing,
·                            Our orphanage the Koi Koi house and our sons and daughters
·                            Our sponsorship program
·                            Our work in Kagoma Gate transforming Uganda’s poorest village and people, the school, kitchen, latrines, clinic, fruit tree plantation and so much more
·                          Our main village Wairaka and all its many projects started and to be including our very large school, clinic, store and farming, micro bank, business and more.
·            Many more programs long term and in time self-sustainable that are changing lives real time and will for many generations.
2- A Family reunion, family members from all places gathering to share love and our good works.

3- the trips are in a large way about the social and outreach programs of TGC/TGCA .
The outreach programs at our villages, local friend schools Busoga Jr and Kiira and  Jinja woman’s prison, sponsorship day and Wairaka village day are days filled with great fun and events.
 Denise heads up much of the planning of and leadership of the events on the US side and did a great job as always. It takes everyone working as a team to pull these off and events brought huge smiles and joy.

Denise will provide a follow-up report on all these events.

Sponsorship Day- Momma Koi Koi heads this up on the US side with the help of many the day was as always most wonderful including the large family/village meal, gifts for the children from their sponsors, drawings and letters. Also what will be the addition of new children to our quickly expanding program.

This programs  is changing lives and is growing fast, while in country our friend Colleen Stevens and family who adopted Mary sponsored 4 kids. Our team members have also requested to sponsor several children.

MOST important from our savings account system parents/ guardians can and have taken loans against the children’s accounts to improve the homes and buy livestock, all loans are being repaid all children in school and healthy.

One family, an aunt and uncle raising many children from daily who died, including Belinda ( everyone loves Belinda) have used a loan  to put a tin roof on a burnt brick structure once started so as to soon move the family from the mud hut into a "house". This hard working and good man and wife are raising all these kids and now have a better life thanks to this program.

 Of course the Ugandan based leadership of Moses and Emma and all our team / family was amazing!  We have the hardest working most dedicated loving team in the world based in Uganda.  Thank you Moses, Emma, Cecilia, Rose, Ben and Pauline (parents to our babies) Paul and Yaseen and our bus driver Brian.

Overview of our projects and the good we are all doing together!

The Koi Koi House and our kids-
The very root of all we are and all we will ever do in Uganda is the 12, the core Koi Koi Kids, the children we fought so hard to save, they represent what and who we are, Compassion, love and an unwavering dedication to help and protect the ones with no voice, the ones most in need.

Children used as a prop to scam caring people, children abused in unthinkable ways, children who suffered so much.
The children who are now so happy, so safe so loved, doing so well in school thanks to the love of all of us. I only wish all of you that have yet meet these children could see just how happy they are now and how well they are doing.
 We have them the temporary Koi Koi House until court is complete this fall. The house is very nice and Ben and Pauline are doing a wonderful job as parents.

The kids are quickly improving in school and yes Samson is speaking great English already.

The kids were most happy by all the things we brought for the house and thank you all, including the mind blowing 5 bikes..  I have to believe you could hear the screams of pure joy back here in the US.

Kagoma Gate-
Amazing is all that can be said. We were greeted by the school children, the school that we all built, greeted by every child in ENGLISH! In but just months the children of the countries poorest village speaking English.

The school:
The school is doing very well so far, the gov is working on its program with teachers to settle in the 3 we have now and settle their pay. The kids are learning fast and new items we brought will help. This will be a growth cycle on all levels, the seed is planted and it is blooming.

2nd phase:
Our last big push in Kagoma will be the 2nd school block giving  the village a full primary school p1-p7. This will assure ALL children will attend school and have the opportunity and freedom that education offers.
 To date we are p1-p3 the 2nd block will add p4-7 and a head masters office.  Most children over that age of P3 were not seen in the village as they were working the fields. This school will assure NO MORE CHILD LABOR. In meeting with the minister of education the village was warned that once the full school was finished NO child can work as cane cutters and MUST be in school.

PLEASE keep an eye out for our plan to fund this finished school. Just 60k will end child slavery in this village and assure every child an education.

The Kitchen:
Feeding school kids a lunch each day, does it get better than that?   Also used for village events and celebrations including this December we will provide a village wide Christmas meal!
Deworming program: 4 times a year each child will be provided with a deworming tablet with their meal helping to greatly improve the fight against the well parasites.
Thanks to you all!

The Sanitation:
Greatly improved through the first  block , we should look to do 1-2 more units.

The well:
Volume good. I am in talks now with a group with a system that will provide a small chlorine pump at the well  as a villager fills their jerrycan just a push of the button will add the correct amount of chlorine to end the nightmare of waterborne parasites.

After a long but vital battle to acquire the land in the village to build the clinic we start construction any day on the full clinic!!  Much thanks to Moses, Emma and our friends in the Gov!
 On the trip we meet and spent time with our nurse and midwife who will be heading up the running of this birthing center and clinic when completed. MUCH THANK  to Caren and Hope who funded this most important new member of the TGCA family.

The Fruit trees:
Thanks to many the trees are fully funded.  We needed only wait until a piece of land behind the school donated by a Ugandan sugarcane farmer was cut; it was just finished and has been turned over to us. The trees will be planted very soon.

These trees represent what we are, seed planters. The trees will not give fruit this year, perhaps a little next year, but in time these 200 trees will bring to this village great nourishment for generations.  All good things take time but all star with the seed of loving-kindness and compassion.

Changing life in Kagoma Gate though health- education- sanitation-nutrition and the knowledge in the villages they matter and we care.

Our main base and home.  Everything is doing well but mainly still on hold until court is over. When court is over so will be much of our work in Kagoma completed so perfect timing to fully return to this village and projects that have so long waited for us and the promise we bring.

Woman’s prison-
In addition to the social program/ events at the prison this year in part thanks to the Rosie grant (Rosie and Nowhitney family) we repaired/ welded all bunks which were in very poor shape and brought a great deal of food.
To date we have bought matrices for all inmates and children, blankets, repaired sewing machines and bunks.

Pad program-
Going and growing wonderfully.

For all on the trip you know for Kelly and I court was an endless up and down but in the end at last Andrew is our son, he is all of our son. He belongs to us all and each of you are his family. We need only finish up something’s state side and I will head back in a few months to bring him home! Soon we can start treatment for this most special boy.

Our relation and friendship grows with Kirra high through our outreach and working relationship in which each of our Koi Koi kids will attend high school there.

Busoga Jr school:
Moses and I are talking about now the proper way, the most logical and to best address more help there.
I will update everyone as we settle in on a game plan to help this little school we love so much.
Our reputation in Uganda-
Our reputation grows everyday in Uganda. Just days before we arrived yet another news paper article about us and Kagoma gate.  We have garnered the respect of the people of Uganda and its government because of our honesty and hard work. TGC/TGCA is known by so many Ugandans by  the following “ TGCA does what they say they will do”

It has been a long hard battle, the end is near this fall.  Our friend the Gov whip/ member of Parliament assures us again of any help needed. Just before we left I meet with the friend who got me into see the speaker of Parliament, he assured me she has asked for updates and let it be know if we need to see her again we are welcome to return to her office for help.
This is a tiny taste of  the trip and what we are doing. For the VERY special team members you saw in the eyes and love of the children and villagers what good we are doing. This thanks to you ALL!

Mark Bertrand

Friday, July 5, 2013

Last Update from Uganda....

Thursday we ran around dropping off supplies to Basoga Primary School, visited Emma & Rose's home, visited Moses & Cecelia's home...

THEN it POURED!  Rained so much we couldn't take the team on the bus to say good bye to Wairaka!  Yasim took Katie and Az to say good bye to the kids in Wairaka in a car.  That's the hardest part.  Katie and Az came back very emotional as it happens every year. It's so hard to say good bye so we say "see you later".

We also experienced an earth quake night before last.  Interesting.

So, we are all in Entebbe airport right now.  Heading back home.  Long journey ahead of us...we arrive at JFK around 9PM.  Then the Upstate Transit bus will drop folks at Crossgates and the rest at the Bertrand home.

Will post more pics when we can....

Thanks for checking up on us on our trip. Was a great trip and a good team.

Momma Koi Koi

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Andrew Status....

So, we got through the hard part with getting legal guardianship granted after 3 years!  Now, we find out from the US Embassy in Kampala that there is a form/application that must be done from the US from US Immigration Services where you have to have background checks, finger printing, home audit etc...which we DID NOT know about. Several months ago we started this process but Andrews age issues caused much confusion.   So sad, so close.   This process can take 2-3 months.  Moses will explain to Andrew as after court was over, he asked if he can leave "right now" (well, made sounds mostly and used his hands to motion a plane taking off).  This is so disappointing.  We will go home and get this started right away.  I have a contact in the US for an immigration attorney for whom I've emailed immediately to see if we can expedite in any way (and also make sure we haven't missed anything else).


An Overview from Mike P...

Hello, this is Mike P and this is my first trip to Uganda. I taught, with Sam's help the DNA > RNA > Protein class at Kiira High School a few days ago. The beginning was pretty tough, but by the end,  there were some students that really got the subject matter. Both Sam and I stayed after class and we each had a small group of students around us that had fantastic questions. They really understood what we were teaching. Two of the kids I was talking to want to be doctors and a third wants to be an engineer. They are hungry for science knowledge. After we got done with the science talk they had questions about where I live. Do you have agriculture? Do the cars stop when you have snow? I explained about snow plows. The seasons changing was a fascinating thing to them. Much laughing about snow too high to drive in.

I also did some music at the school. They really didn't get Hank Williams, but they definitely got Twist and Shout - especially when Andrea joined in and starting twisting. The kids erupted in laughter.
I also taught a business skills class for adult women who make crafts and sell either to directly tourists or to shops. They need basic help with banks accounts, etc.

And finally... the kids... Frankly, i've been dreading writing about this. The poverty here is simply overwhelming. The villagers of Kagoma Gate, where The Giving Circle built a school and a kitchen, are basically slaves to the sugar cane industry. They live in mud huts with thatched roofs. Wiiaraka is not much better. It's really hard to see children living in these conditions. Most of the children are filthy or their clothes are filthy and many smell of just about anything you can imagine and most have a smile that will knock you over. They are so happy we came and just want to be picked up and hugged. And they laugh and giggle when you show them some attention, and when you ask how they are, they say: I am fine. And then there are the one that don't have a smile. It's difficult to think about why they aren't smiling. Sometimes you can get them to smile, they might just be a little more shy. They really want to laugh, they they just need a little help.

I did two drawing session with the kids. One with the sponsored children and one with non-sponsored kids. If you're ever searching for a definition of chaos, try to picture getting 100 kids, 15 at a time to draw a picture. Again, some were shy, but all really wanted to do it.
I really don't have the words to describe what goes on with the kids. They are so loving and so grateful we're here. I can't help but think that what we're doing is too little. What effect can these things have? What effect can my being here for 12 days have? Mark says don't worry, we are throwing a tiny pebble in the water, creating ripples that go on and on. I have to believe that's true.
Denise brought the fixin's for bracelet making and one morning at Wiiaraka she made bracelets with a small group of girls. One of the girls was Violet,  who I met earlier in the day. Later in the day, Violet gave me her bracelet. 

How can i thank her for that? It was such an act of friendship and kindness and love. Violet was wearing ripped and dirty clothes that didn't fit her. On a second day we went to Wiiaraka, Violet wanted to show me her home. She took me down to her home where I met her sister Hope. Hope was older and she told me Violet was the youngest of four children. When I left, Violet and Hope ran into the corn stalks growing next to their home and pulled off 6 or 7 ears of corn and gave them to me. Later that day I was playing with Violet and a younger girl named Sadia. At one point Violet referred to Sadia as her sister. I thought she was kidding me and trying to put one over on me. I told her that Hope said she was the youngest in the family. Both of the them got quiet and Violet said that Sadia's parents were dead and that her parents were taking care of Sadia. I think I know where Violet got her loving nature.

Although many of the kids we work with speak English, most, especially the young ones, are just learning it. They're learning it because in Uganda, learning English is a step towards making a better life - and that's what the parents want - they want their kids to have a better life than the one they've had. It's the same thing that parents all over the world want for their children. And then there are the kids who don't have have parents anymore. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

And more pics....

Painting Kagoma Gate Kitchen Building

Kagoma Gate Friendship School Rules

Katie running the soccer game in Kagoma Gate

Dancing at Kiira High - Our Kalimu in front!!

Momma Pauline, Poppa Bernard, Baby Denise and Denise

Little Monica - so beautiful

Mark after our dinner meeting with the Minister (Parliament Whip, President Museveni's right hand man)

Taken on the dinner cruise on the Nile

Taken on the dinner cruise on the Nile

Emma and Danielle on the dinner cruise on the Nile

Some Pics...

At Kagoma Gate (Andrea getting ready to sew)

Kagoma Gate - Alyssa, Dave and the girls donated this little one her new clothes

More clothes for the little ones from Lys, Dave and the girls

Momma Koi Koi and Little Monica messing around

Little Monica and Kalimu - how handsome is he!!

Az messing around with Little Monica


Our Doreen!!!


Giving the keyboard to Busoga School! Soooo happy.

Paul, Rose and Azurah