Saturday, May 18, 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013

Dear Friends and Family: What an amazing day we’ve had!  Today truly illustrated how it IS more blessed to give than receive.  We gave away so much, yet we’re leaving the village today feeling like WE are the ones who have been given the gift.  We began our day before the sun rose, with the mountains shrouded in mist as we left for Muko, so excited because we knew today we’d be meeting the children!  As we bounced our way out of Kabale (yes, the roads are quite bumpy), we stopped at Hornby and Kigezi schools to pick up several of the children in the Muko HOPE program.  Elizabeth was thrilled that one of them was Eudia Namara, one of the orphans that she and Dave sponsor, and she and Kelsey were so happy to be able to finally meet her!  Elizabeth’s hope is that more sponsors will be able to make this trip to Uganda one day and be able to meet the children they support.  The children really do regard their sponsors as their “American parents” and think of all of you often.  It is about a 40 minute climb through the hills to the village.  The terraced hillsides are very green, and even that early there are people hauling water up steep paths to their plots of land.  We arrived in the village to be greeted by the sounds of children singing and wonderful smells of lunch already being cooked over open fires outside.  We began with introducing the team from Michigan and meeting some of the Ugandan volunteers. The children in the Muko HOPE program sang “greetings to our American friends”, smiling, dancing and clapping, singing that they’d been waiting for us and were so glad we were here.  Francis Girukwayo sang a beautiful song just for our team, speaking of his love for us and how we were showing him God’s love.  It brought tears to more than one eye……  After that it was time for us to meet each orphan individually, taking pictures of each one, getting to know them better and presenting them with the gifts sent by their sponsors.  We didn’t know it was possible for children to beam so brightly. Our volunteers were very helpful, and we couldn’t have done this without them.  Karen and Kelsey then entertained the children and volunteers with several songs on the violin, including “Amazing Grace”.  How wonderful to hear our Ugandan friends join in singing the familiar words about God’s amazing grace.  With all those big suitcases now empty, it was time for lunch, and what a feast it was!  Beans and cabbage, rice, Irish potatoes, matoke, soup, g-nut with small green eggplants, beef with onions, and sodas, prepared by the ladies in the village.  Our hands were washed by Francis, and then being the guests, we were served first.  It was nice to relax for a few minutes and chat with Josiah and Alexander.  After lunch we met specifically with 17 of the 20 newest orphans in MukoHOPE.  Karen welcomed them and their guardians to the program, and we then distributed new mattresses, blankets, sheets, mosquito nets, shoes and storage trunks to each child, all made possible through the support of their sponsors.  What a blessing it is to so directly and positively impact the life of a child!  After this we headed to a bright, sun-washed field where we split up into 6 different groups by ages. Each group was led by a member of our team and a Ugandan volunteer in loud, enthusiastic games that included everything from duck-duck-goose to leap-frog, water games, cup games, and futbal (or what we would call soccer).  Kids all over the world share a love of soccer, and these kids are very passionate about the Ugandan national team, the Cranes.  After a couple of hours of outdoor fun, we headed back to the ACT center, where Kelsey and Karen led a group of students in a violin lesson.  It’s truly amazing how fast these young men are becoming comfortable with what is not an easy instrument to learn. Even when they’re not actively involved in a lesson, you’ll find them sitting outside the building practicing and picking out tunes.  They’ve even taught Kelsey and Karen a Ugandan tune on the violin.  While the violins were playing, Michelle and John met with the volunteers on the agriculture team that Tito (Ag staff) has put together. The abilities and knowledge that these people have to contribute is absolutely incredible. A couple of these men have degrees in sustainable agriculture and many are trained in permaculture, two concepts that the Michigan ACT team is interested in implementing. Giving Tito the Hope Seeds was inspirational to witness. The prospect of new life and growth made these men excited; when new seeds were discovered, they laughed and clapped their hands, thanking us profusely for the new hope we have given them. Perhaps more exciting is the transformation that has occurred behind the ACT office. What used to be jungle has been transformed into a beautiful garden. The men have worked tirelessly creating this wonderful, effective plot with barley, yams, Irish potatoes, beans, banana trees, and more. They have also created a cistern and trench system to prevent soil erosion and allow for water conservation. The steps that have been taken are truly miracles! Along with the wonderful changes that are occurring just behind the ACT office, when the neighbors saw how effective these new techniques were, they worked hard to imitate the principles used by Tito and the HANDS Team. This is a huge step forward and gives John and Michelle hope that the Michigan team’s plans for demonstration gardens will be effective in the future. All too soon it was time to head back to Kabale, with a stop at the market to purchase food to feed those orphans who lived too far way to make the journey home for the night and were spending the night at the ACT center. As last night, the market was an adventure. Alexander once again bargained hard to get us some good deals, and Dave, John, Karen, and Michelle discovered the impressive way that meat is cut in order to give to the buyer! We all look forward to the wonderful journey that awaits us for the rest of our stay in Uganda

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