Thursday, October 25, 2012

Uncle Eric

A common sight:
Uncle Eric with his Bible and crutch.

Last night we had the privilege of hosting Uncle Eric for dinner.  He is one of the teachers in the Special Needs program where Catriona volunteers.  This man's story is one of determination to overcome disability and we were blessed to listen to him tell us about his life.

  He was the second born in his family and was raised by his Mom.  Early in his life his older brother died and his mother lost another baby through miscarriage and was unable to have more children.  He contracted polio and until the age of four was unable to walk.  His mother was encouraged by friends to get him crutches and he soon learned to walk using them.  One day he asked his mother if she would buy him a metal car on wheels attached to a long stick.  These hand-made toys are popular with young children.  His mother responded by asking him, "How will you push it?  You use crutches."
A seed was planted in his mind.  Maybe I don't need to use two crutches and for the next two weeks he taught himself to walk with one crutch.  He fell time and time again but he was determined to succeed and succeed he did.  His Mom saved and saved and bought the toy!
 Uncle Eric went on to describe his early days in a  primary school of 600 students as the only child with a disability.  
 During secondary school his Mom became weaker and weaker as she suffered from HIV-Aids and he had to leave school to care for her until her death.  Relatives supported him for a few years by paying school fees but when they were unable to continue to pay the fees the school he was attending allowed him to stay on.  They would not release his final year results however, without payment for the fees.  For three years he made and sold crafts to try and raise the money needed to pay his debt and eventually managed to save enough and receive his results.  The three year gap meant that teacher's colleges refused him entrance and so he went back to making crafts and selling them through a disability outreach program.
 Eventually his obvious skill and ability to teach were recognised by a disability organisation and he began teaching blind children how to make paper beads and woven purses.  That led to other opportunities to work with disabled children and he has now been a part of the special needs program here at New Hope for a year and a half.   During the last three months he has pioneered a radio program on disabilities on the New Hope Uganda radio station which is seeking to transform the way disabilities are viewed in this community. As we've mentioned before there is widespread misunderstanding and acceptance of disabled children and adults. This program has opened the door to many seeking ways to find help and resources to care for their family members.  How grateful we are for this special man and how wonderful to see how God is using him.

Monday, October 15, 2012

50 Years!

October 9th marked the 50th year since Uganda was granted independence from the British government. On Sunday a group of children from New Hope Uganda were invited to sing at a national service hosted by the Ugandan president. We were able to hear the same group at the celebrations that took place here on Tuesday. Three members from our family group were in the choir including Judah who is the second youngest member of our family. They all looked very 'smart' in their uniforms. The material for the tops had been woven by the students at the vocational school and the outfits were sewn by the students in the tailoring program at the vocational school. One of the highlights of the three hour program was a secondary student reading an essay about Uganda's history and his hopes for the future. It was moving to hear his declaration that Uganda's future development depended on following God's ways. After the program we participated in a tree planting project and the last two days we've been blessed with rain which will hopefully help them to survive. All the children had fun figuring out how old they'd be in 50 years when Uganda celebrates 100 years. Happy Birthday Uganda!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving was a little different this year.  We spent a few days reminiscing over Thanksgivings past - camping at Killbear or Arrowhead (remember the pumpkin pie the chipmunk ate), dinner with the Vandenbergs and Finlaysons, and the last few years dinner with the Mercers.  Oh the turkey, the cranberries, the stuffing, the pumpkin pie . . . Then we gave ourselves a shake and said "Let's do it!"  We invited a fellow Canadian who is studying here and improvised on the traditional meal.  Chicken, stuffing, pumpkin (which in Uganda tastes more like squash), mashed potatoes and brownies for dessert.  After several rounds of Dutch Blitz and tea in a Tim Horton's mug we felt that we had made a new Thanksgiving memory.  Thanks Hayley for joining us.  We truly have so much to be thankful for!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sidonia and Christine

We 'shifted' house this past weekend over to the secondary school site.  Besides the quick commute to the office and the primary school, we will also miss our workers from Auntie Constance's house who have been a delightful part of our day for the last three months.  We have enjoyed getting to know Christine and Sidonia and will miss their lively banter and ready smiles.  These two women work hard to provide for their families and we've enjoyed meeting some of their children who they've brought to work when they were sick or needing extra care.  Sidonia will soon give birth to her ninth child and we hope to visit her when the big day arrives.  They have truly been a blessing to us!

Flying Visit

David brought new meaning to the phrase flying visit by whisking off to Calgary for a few days. He left Sept. 26th and returned Oct 3rd. As well as attending to some residency requirements for our distance education program he was able to do seven different presentations about our work in Uganda.

Thanks to the staff and students of Bearspaw Christian School for welcoming him so warmly and asking such great questions. Thanks too for the load of school supplies that were collected. They are very much appreciated and will be put to good use.

 David was also able to reconnect with our friends at Woodgreen Presbyterian in Calgary and Westminster Chapel in Lethbridge. It was wonderful to receive all the hand-written notes and even a recipe (thanks Gail). Thank you to all of you for your prayerful support.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

School Update

As many of you know, I try and spend about 90 minutes each day at the primary school doing some tutoring.  I've been working with students from the P3 class since school resumed this term doing math and  reading.  These students are instructed primarily in Luganda so teaching them presents the usual challenges of second language learners.  Luganda is a phonetic language and students here learn to read phonetically in their early years of school.  This decoding skill often seems to transfer over when they learn to read in English and they sound very proficient.  Unfortunately comprehension often lags far behind and so I've been working to build in the understanding that reading is more than just saying words.  Working with these children reminds me of my early teaching days in Toronto with ESL students and I'm trying to be as creative as possible to help them.

We've played lots of games of charades and I try as much as possible to connect their reading to real life experiences. Some of the reading material approved by the Ugandan government does a good job of relating to the village lives of children.


   Yesterday I took things a step further by taking a group of girls outside to try and find the plants pictured in their book. We had to hunt for a while but the excitement when one of them spotted a sisal plant was well worth it.

Fibre from this plant is used to make rope and twine.