Friday, August 19, 2016

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August 18, 2016 

... Now fast-forward almost six years to August of 2016, and we are planning a return trip to Africa! Yes, today (August 18/2016) Linda and I purchased our airline tickets to Uganda! We will be flying out of St. John's, NL in exactly 169 days. On February 4, 2017 we will travel from St. John's to London England, from London to Nairobi Kenya, and from Nairobi to Entebbe Uganda, where we will hire a "matatu" to transport us from the airport to the Banda Inns B&B on Tank Hill in Kampala, resting up for the night before heading west across the country to Ezra and Marjorie's home in the village of Kitojo (south of Fort Portal) the next day. 
Purchasing the plane tickets online was a lesson in futility, as with one glitch after another it actually took a full six hours to complete the transaction! We ended up having to pay an additional $1,200 over and above what we had planned, but we are thrilled nonetheless to have our tickets in hand! It will take us about 30 hours to make the journey to Entebbe, Uganda, and we will be in the country for 37 days, returning to Canada on March 14th, 2017; a 31 hour return flight stopping in Brussels and Montreal, before touching back down in St. John's. We are so excited to see our dear friends Ezra and Marjorie and their family after a nine year absence! 

And we have even more good news to report! Linda and I have decided to begin supporting five new orphans, commencing in September, 2016. You may recall that in 2007 one of our supported boys, Hadadi, had a baby sister; (their mother tragically died during her birth) we asked Ezra and Marjorie if this girl, now almost nine years old, may be a suitable candidate for our sponsorship and they agreed. We do not yet know the identity of the other four children, but Ezra will be getting back to us soon with the details. It costs us 300,000 Ugandan shillings (about $115) per year, per child, to keep them in school, and they are provided with all scholastic supplies, pens, books, paper, etc, school uniforms, soap, and many other personal items; everything they may require is covered by us. 
Also, we are making a donation of 1,000,000 Ugandan shillings to KIDA, to aid in the construction of Kitojo Hospital's new children's ward. In addition, we are presenting Moses Asaba with a money gift of 500,000 shillings, to assist with his medical school expenses. You will recall that Moses is employed as a practical nurse at Kitojo Hospital, and is currently studying to become an RN. We are so proud of Moses; he has come a very long way from that shy 16 year-old boy we met back in 2007 who was selling his poles of sugarcane for fifty cents!

August 22, 2016 

Ezra emailed us this photo, taken today by his wife Marjorie, showing Hadadi's little sister with her grandmother standing outside of Kitojo Hospital. Even though she is putting on a brave smile for the camera, Ezra believes she is showing symptoms of malaria, and when asked if she had seen a doctor, she replied that no, they could not afford one.

I have instructed Ezra to see that she receives immediate medical attention. Last time we saw her (in 2007) she was just a newborn, as seen in this photo of Linda with the baby in her arms. 

August 25, 2016

Today we sent a wire transfer to KIDA in the amount of 2,250,000 Ugandan shillings to cover the next six months of our children's sponsorship, plus our donation to the children's ward construction, as well as the money gift to Moses Asaba. The new wire transfers (now through Western Union) are a very simple, streamlined process; just a matter of going to our bank account online, entering the name of the payee, the currency and amount, and then hitting the "send" button. It doesn't get much easier than that... and the total fees to send the equivalent of almost $1,000.00 around the world was just $17.10, including the conversion to Ugandan currency.

We are waiting for the details of our new supported children, but Ezra is currently in Kampala attending meetings with senior health officials, so we must be patient. Our orphan support commences in September. We have asked Ezra and Marjorie to oversee the distribution of Moses Asaba's money gift, to help ensure that it is being used where it is most needed. More to come later.

August 27, 2016

I was having trouble getting to sleep last night, so I ended up surfing the internet instead. At some point I started thinking about what small gifts we could bring along for the children when we return to Uganda in February, and the first thing that popped into my head was stickers. We discovered back in 2007 that everyone loves stickers... and not just the kids... many adults were also ecstatic to receive a handful of stickers! 

So I visited a great many websites in an effort to buy these in bulk, and at a reasonable price. I ended up getting 4,200+ high-quality ("puffy 3D") stickers with a cartoon/Disney theme that I am sure the kids will love, plus 4,860 smiley-face ones, for a grand total of 9,060 stickers. After paying for them, my next search was for children's wristbands... you know, the colourful silicone ones that everyone is wearing these days. I am thinking that this may be a completely new thing in remote Western Uganda, so I ordered 400 of them, in all colours, and with various sayings printed on them. We can hardly wait to see their eyes light up when we hand them out! And of course everyone loves balloons, so I bought a several hundred of these too. 

Last time, we brought along one of those ball-toss games with the tennis balls and the round paddles. (which are lined with velcro to aid in catching the balls) It was such a big hit that we just have to bring more of these along this time, so you guessed it... these too will be getting squeezed into our suitcases, along with the stickers, balloons and wristbands. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that we will also be bringing along 60 digital wristwatches, as well as several decks of playing cards!

September 27, 2016 

Saturday (Sept. 24th) was OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) day at KIDA; the day when all the children's personal and scholastic supplies are dispensed. It was also the day that we learned about our five new supported kids. Their names are:

- Sarah Niwamnya (girl age 6, in nursery school)
- Jamiru Kabagambe (boy age 7, in grade two)
- Shakilah Kyalisiima (girl age 9, in grade two)
- Criscent Murangira (boy age 13, in grade three)
- Samuel Natukwas (boy age 14, in grade five)

You may have noticed that some of our kids have not advanced as far in their schooling as their age would indicate; this is due to a number of factors, including problems within their families, poverty preventing them from becoming enrolled in school at an earlier age, and also some health issues associated with HIV, which is the case with Samuel, who was born with the disease. 

We will be mailing letters out to each of our kids, and when they arrive in Uganda Ezra and Marjorie will hand them out. Ezra emailed yesterday to say that the kids too will be writing to us, and once these notes and drawings have been gathered up he will mail them to us. We have learned over the years that postage to/from Uganda is notoriously unreliable and slow, so it will take over a month for them to receive our letters, and for us to receive theirs. I have included a group photo showing our five new children as they were receiving their supplies, which include kerosene, (for lights and cooking) petroleum jelly, (for cracked feet) laundry soap, bars of soap, pens/pencils, exercise books, paper, toothpaste, toilet tissue, food containers, cups, lunch boxes, and many other necessities. Also a couple pictures showing above items being distributed amongst the children.

Ezra (seen at left) personally spoke at length with each of our kids about positive living, and the importance of taking their education seriously. It was made clear to them that for our support to continue, they must remain enrolled in school and work hard at their education. (one of the biggest issues in this part of the world is children dropping out of school)

Ezra and Marjorie presented our money gift to Moses Asaba, to go toward his next semester's tuition. You may recall that Moses was one of our original supported kids who went on to study to become a nurse. He is currently employed as a practical nurse at KIDA Hospital, and is studying to be a registered nurse. 

In other news, Ezra and Marjorie have accepted our invitation to travel with us to Murchison National Park in northern Uganda for a three night stay at the beautiful Paara Safari Lodge, which is situated close to the border of South Sudan. Our family stayed at Paara back in 2008 and we had such a wonderful time. We will be going on safari, as well as taking a boat cruise up the Nile River to the base of Murchison Falls. We will also be bringing them along with us when we travel to Bushara Island in Lake Bunyonyi in the south of the country, near the Rwandan border. We will be staying there three nights also. We took Ezra and Marjorie to Bushara Island last time we were in Uganda, and we had so much fun that we just had to return! It was their first holiday in all the years they have been married!

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