Friday, July 29, 2011

A Ugandan Uncle Sandy

One of the exciting developments at New Hope this year is the opening of a special needs class. As well as a daily class for eight children, the coordinator of the program and her team also go out into the surrounding community to educate and encourage families caring for special needs children. One can only imagine the challenges caring for these children in rural villages without running water etc. Often these children are hidden away and have few if any opportunities for education.

Kakande(pictured below) is a 35 year old man who was often robbed and abused living in a village. He now lives at New Hope and has been taught basic self-help skills and assists the special needs class by fetching water, sweeping etc. His broad smile is a familiar sight around New Hope and it is wonderful to see him having a home in a place where he is accepted and loved.

Catriona has been helping out in the special needs class and one of her favourites is Brian a little boy with spina bifida. "I think he's just like Uncle Sandy. He's friendly, really smart and can push himself really fast in his wheelchair." As many as you know my brother has spina bifida so it's exciting to see another little guy who is being helped to reach his potential. They are hoping to mainstream him into of the primary school classes next term. There are many more children in the community that could be reached if additional sponsors could be found. Praise God that these children and their families are being shown the love of Christ in such a tangible way.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Laundry Songster

We are so blessed to have a wonderful lady named Alin working for us in our house. She comes to do our washing (all done by hand) and ironing (using a charcoal iron) and also makes fabulous beans. Alin is from the Congo and has come to live in Uganda to escape the violence in her homeland. She is fluent in Swahili and French and is learning to speak English and the local language here. We discovered yesterday that she is also a wonderful guitar player and songster. Her dream is to one day record her songs in a studio. She and Catriona enjoyed playing together this morning and then she treated us to a wonderful concert before lunch. Enjoy a little bit of this Swahili praise song. It would take too long to upload it all but we'll share it once we get back. We're sure you'll see the joy of the Lord radiating from her.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Maize Harvest

On Tuesday morning the children in P3-P7 were out of classes in order to help with the maize harvest at the enterprise farm. Maize is harvested twice a year and the school children help to pick and husk the maize. Maize is ground into flour at a maize mill run by New Hope and is a staple food used for porridge and posho. For many children from the villages the meal they receive at school may be the only one of the day. The kids and I went to help and learned a little bit about what it means to be a farm worker here. The farm workers earn the equivalent of $1.50 for a days work. The labour provided by the school children not only teaches them the value of hard work but also helps to ensure that the harvest is gathered in.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chicken Anyone?

What does one do when presented with a chicken? We certainly couldn't take it home. Thankfully, unlike some Mzungu (white people) our children didn't have any qualms about eating it. In fact they were thoroughly excited about the idea! Dodo, one of the boys from David family, enthusiastically volunteered to slaughter it for us. "Shall I sharpen my knife?" So on Monday afternoon we gathered with other interested bystanders to watch the demise of our cock. Dodo is an expert. After beheading, soaking, plucking, dismembering and cleaning it he posed reluctantly for a picture. As a thank-you we let him keep the liver, heart and kidneys. After receiving much advice on cooking it we finally decided to boil it for a while and then cooked it up with tomatoes, onions, peppers and some herbs. Served over rice it was a memorable meal! Our kids certainly know where chicken comes from!

Visiting Sam

On Sunday afternoon we were able to walk to the village where our sponsor child and his family live. We had visited his home last year so we were more prepared for the sights we encountered along the way. During the last election campaign the government widened the small track that we had travelled last year to Sam's house into a dirt road. (Politicians seem pretty predictable everywhere!) Although the road now allows for easier travel it was rather disturbing to see how it had been cut through stands of banana trees. With inflation at 14% and many food prices rising these rural Ugandans depend on the ability to grow their own food and so it was sad to see gardens and trees cleared in order to put this road through.

Sam lives with his mother, grandmother, aunt and eight siblings and cousins (it's difficult to be accurate because other family members come and go). Last year they lived in a thatched mud round house. Through the church at New Hope and some other help they now have a brick house with a sheet metal roof that provides them with more protection from the torrential rains which fall here. They are thrilled with this new house and welcomed us with joy into it. One of the girls from the David family came along to translate and we had a wonderful time sharing news and watching the excitement as we gave small gifts to them. We were treated to milky tea with about 3 tablespoons of sugar each and slices of bread. Such generosity when they have so little is truly humbling. Their final gift to us was a chicken caught and presented to David as a gesture of great thankfulness. As David began to pray before we left, the chicken sensing its doom didn't wait beyond the opening words "Heavenly Father . . ." to flee squawking from David's arms. Needless to say we all burst into laughter! The chicken was caught again and given to Keera our translator for safe keeping. We were so happy to have this time with Sam and his family again. Their trust and dependence on God is so evident. They have much to teach us.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

'Tour de Kiwoko'

We had our own version of the Tour de France here at New Hope yesterday. Students in the secondary school competed in a bicycle road race from the school to the village of Kiwoko and then back through a really rough local road to the school. They raced on local bikes which have no gears or brakes and are usually stopped by catapulting oneself off. It all made for a lot of excitement as we cheered the competitors on. Some of the boys in particular were incredibly fast and completed the course in under 45 minutes. We loved how the last riders back received just as enthusiastic a response as the first ones. As they say "Well done!" Enjoy the pictures!

Friday, July 22, 2011

On Being Thankful

Last night as we joined our family group for devotions I was reminded once again of the importance of a thankful spirit. When did you last pray "Thank you God for my life"? I heard that prayer spoken with humbleness many times last evening and I thought how much we take for granted and how little we appreciate the simple gift of life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A is for Africa

Last year we made an alphabet book using an online program based on our time in Uganda. It was lots of fun to make and we enjoyed using it at home to share about our trip. We've been showing it to folks here as well and they're all amazed to see familiar sights and faces in a real book. The kids and I took it into P1 today. Our sponser child Sam is in that class so the whole class was so excited to see the page "S is for Sam." They did a wonderful rendition of the alphabet for us complete with claps and jumping jacks and did a great job learning our names and expressing appreciation. They are taught in their local tribal language but begin to learn the alphabet, simple vocabulary and counting skills in English. The class was truly a joy to be in with an enthusiastic teacher and lots of smiling happy children.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Boda-Boda Taxi Service

Many of you may have been wondering what David has been up to these days. As you can see from the picture he's been having fun using the local taxi service here in Uganda. "Boda-bodas" are a favourite mode of transport here and it's not uncommon to see whole families riding on one of these motor bikes. The name boda-boda originally referred to bicycle taxis but is now used for motor bikes as well. We've seen bodas with bed frames, huge bags of charcoal and according to one witness someone driving with three sheep! People often hire a boda for a quick trip to town and David has needed to do that for some of the work he's been doing in Kiwoko our closest village. It certainly makes a change from the 'C' train!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Seems like every culture loves a 'garage sale.' Last week at church they announced that there would be a bazaar this Sat. in support of some of the youth outreach programs here at New Hope. Everyone was encouraged to donate items for the sale and we managed to find a few items that we didn't need or want anymore amongst our belongings. There was lots of excitement as folks gathered this afternoon to hunt for bargains. We decided against the live chickens that could be purchased for dinner but did come home with a fine pumpkin which tastes more like our squash. Catriona bought a soda (pop is a real treat here) for herself and a friend and John ended up with a teddy bear that had belonged to one of the other missionary kids. "One man's junk is another man's treasure."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cassava and the 7 Times Table

The headmaster of the primary school asked me to make a presentation to the lower primary school teachers about how to use real objects to teach math concepts. Although I was able to bring counters and number charts from home I realized that I had to come up with some practical and readily available materials that the teachers could access here. We decided that the children could make their own one hundred charts and I shared with the teachers today how pebbles or beans can be used to count and calculate basic mathematical operations. As I walked to the meeting I noticed that the cassava plants growing along the path all have seven leaves on a stem. The perfect illustration of the seven times table right outside the classroom door! The root of this fast growing plant is eaten with beans here. Simple supplies like pencils, pens and notebooks are always in short supply so the teachers were extremely grateful for the box of supplies I was able to bring from Bearspaw Christian School. The remedial teacher told me that she had been praying for whiteboard markers since the ones she had were drying up. She was thrilled to know that I'd come with a whole box of new ones.

"Hearts of Stone, Hearts of Flesh"

I have been very aware over the last few days of the huge challenge faced in trying to reach children who have come from deprivation and abuse. A few of the children in the classes I'm working in are resistant to help or have just shut down (unwilling or unable to learn). I see them with heads on their desks or acting out in various ways and I realize that it will take many people all working together and dependent on God's leading to reach them. Auntie Jane who is one of the family parents here and also a remedial teacher has a wonderful gift for reaching into the hearts of these children. I am so thankful that I have her as a resource to explain the cultural reasons behind some of the behaviours I am seeing. Many of the children come from backgrounds where witchcraft is openly practised and others are suffering from abuse, neglect and the pain of losing parents from death or abandonment. Please pray that hard hearts will be softened by the power of the gospel and that those like Auntie Jane who have such a heart for these children will be given strength and wisdom to carry on.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Little Sam

Some of you may remember a little baby named Sam who arrived at the New Hope baby house around the same time we did last year. He had been abandoned and was malnurished and sickly when he arrived. He quickly became a treasured son and by the time we left he was holding his head up and smiling. It brought tears to my eyes to see him again in Christina's arms today. The girls have been spending many of their afternoons taking the little ones from the baby house out to play. Some of these little ones will return to a parent or relative if suitable care can be provided and others will one day join one of the New Hope family groups. Two of the children in the David family we are associated with were part of the first baby house family. "God sets the lonely in families" Psalm 68:6

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thrilling Transport

A familiar sight around New Hope is Auntie Constance and her red fire truck. Many vehicles in Uganda are rejects from Japan and Auntie Constance's fire truck is one of them. Who needs Calaway Park (amusement park in Calgary) when you can hitch a ride on the back of Auntie's fire truck. Driving at a fair clip over bumpy roads is enough excitement to keep any child happy for a while. Sadly Auntie is selling her truck for a more economical vehicle so our kids were eager to get some rides in before it goes.

School Is In!

The second term of school has just begun here in Uganda and so I quickly became involved helping out in the primary school. Last year I was primarily involved in doing remedial math work with children who were in P5 (similiar to our Grade 4/5). This year the headmaster has asked me to work in the P4 classes so the children are slightly younger and have less English. Teachers at the primary school level teach subjects rather than a 'class' so the children have a teacher for Math, one for English, one for Science, one for Social Studies etc. I spent much of last week assessing children and creating small groups of children who have similiar needs. Most are eager to try something new, keen to participate and grateful for help. I'm thankful for the counters, number charts, white boards and markers that I brought as teaching aides. As well as being great motivators, these supplies are helping me make math concepts more concrete for children who struggle with the rote memorization favoured in the classroom here. Many of these children come to school from the surrounding villages and face incredible challenges which I can only begin to understand.
Last week also had me filling in as a substitute teacher for the P5 class. Thankfully another teacher on a mission team here helped out and we survived the experience. I now know quite a bit about the Ugandan postal service if anybody is interested. When I asked one boy how he thought I'd done he replied "Nobody has ever done it like that before!"

Monday, July 11, 2011

"We are all fine, thank you!"

Greetings from Uganda! First of all our apologies for not getting our blog going sooner. As you can read in the children's blogs our journey taught us a good deal about patience and flexibility (lessons that will serve us well during our time here). After five days of travelling we finally made it to Uganda on July 1st and were thrilled to see so many of our friends again.
We spent the first week in a home on the primary school site and enjoyed sharing meals with a mission team from North Dakota at the guest house. 'Uncle Gary' who is heading up that team was the one who first introduced us to the work of New Hope. For those of you with genealogical interest, Gary's wife and my brother Rod's wife are sisters (got it!) It has been a delight to have fellowship with Gary not to mention it gave us an excuse to put the kettle on for a cup of tea.

On Saturday July 9th we moved over to a freshly painted house(courtesy of the mission team) on the secondary school site. Saturday was also market day in Kiwoko the closest village and David had his first Ugandan driving experience in a van kindly loaned to us. We managed the short journey safely avoiding people, bicycles, bodas etc. and came home with tomatoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes (different from our yams), irish potatoes, lemons and posho and beans. That combined with some items brought from home will make for some interesting meals!

We have been very aware of God's care and protection as we've travelled and settled into our work here. We would ask that you continue to pray for good health, safety and wisdom as we seek to live for the Lord here at New Hope.