Sunday, February 21, 2010

I Really Must Be Crazy

So, let me just put this out there for all of blog world to read. I started running a school on $300/month last year. NUTS....... and just to let you know no one can do it. Not even in a third world country. I end up using most of my support money to cover expenses on the school. I'm not bragging, just stating a fact.
Around the time that the school moved out of my house and into an actual building I asked to increase this by $50. Still doesn't cover everything, even though I'm still living in a third world country.
Well, this year, I planned to add 12 children to my school to make the total 24. Well, that 12 ended up being 26............. So, I definitely can't run it on $350/month, not even with adding my support to it.
I again asked for an increase. I figured I could safely raise the amount to $500/month without depleting the account and embarrassing myself. So, today I was working on my monthly budget for March. By the time I finish paying all the teachers and staff, electricity, water, rent, (you know all the really essential things), I figured out that I will have $2 per child per month for food and school supplies. It's going to take more than a miracle for this to happen. Even if I add in my support.......... I keep hearing a teeny tiny little voice in my head saying, "It's never going to work!" But, the crazy side of me, or the part of me that walks in blind faith, is praying that it will work. I'm praying that God will show Himself in a real and tangible way every month by somehow miraculously making sure that every need is met. That I won't fall flat on my ____ and be embarrassed.
Or you could help out and sponsor a child................

Friday, February 12, 2010


I meet a lot of kids. They come knocking on my door. They show up at my school and hang around on the compound there. They tell me their stories, what their life is like. They share with me their hopes and their dreams.

Sometimes it is heart wrenching. I come home and cry, knowing that for the majority of them there is absolutely nothing I can do. My support can only stretch so far. And sponsors are few and far between.

Sometimes, I'm foolish and if I've got some money saved, I'll take a child back to school and pray that by the next term the child will either have a sponsor or money will have miraculously appeared. I've been doing this frequently lately. Hope I won't be kicking myself in the butt soon when second term rolls around.

Deo is one such kid. He appeared at school one day. He had used the shortcut and came through the back way. He was really humble and sat on the veranda until Uncle Charles started a conversation with him. Charles called me over and we spent some time talking with Deo that day. He had quite a story.

I usually test the kids to see how serious they are and it gives me time to follow up and investigate their stories........ So, we told Deo to come back the following week, just to hang out with us. We weren't real sure he would show up.

Why? He's a street kid. Deo lives on the street. He has no home. He has no where that he goes back to each night, no pillow, nothing. His mom died when he was young from the village. He and his dad moved to Kampala. His dad has no real way of supporting them so they ended up in the slum. Deo's dad drinks a lot and soon found a new wife from one of the local bars. Deo told us of how she would treat him. It was pretty horrific. Finally, Deo got fed up and left home. He's been on the street since.

He told us how he is tired of that life. He really wants to go back to school. He wants a chance to be a normal child. Deo has never been to school. He's not real sure how old he is but looks somewhere between 12-14.

Surprisingly, Deo turned back up. He would chat with us, sometimes just sit quietly. I was really feeling like he was serious about going to school. I felt like he's worth taking the chance on. So, we told Deo we'd like to find his dad. He looked skeptical at first but said he wanted to go to school so ok, let's look.

About a week later, we located Deo's dad. He's still living in the slum. The condition is not much better than Deo sleeping outside. He lives by the trench where all the sewerage gets thrown. When it rains that water enters the house. The house looks like it's going to fall down any day.

Deo's dad, on first appearance, looked to be someone I would fear to walk upon at night. Looks can really be deceiving. His dad sat and talked to us for a long time. It's clear that he loves his son, although he may not really know how to show it. He still has the new wife so doesn't think Deo would be able to come home.

Another shocking blow...... Deo's dad revealed to us that Deo's mom died of AIDS. Deo was born with HIV and the dad is as well HIV+. Deo's dad receives ARVs from the national hospital. Deo was also receiving them from the pedicatric AIDS clinic until he ran away from home. He's been off ARVs for an entire year! We already knew that Deo is almost completely blind in one eye, but finding out that he's also positive was somehow crushing to me.

I keep finding myself face to face with children that have been infected innocently. Another way that so much potential is wasted. The majority will die before reaching adulthood. The majority will be too weak to enter the workforce or to remain a productive part of the workforce. It's stopping development on the African continent. How many future engineers, doctors, accountants, presidents, teachers have died way before their time because of a disease which is highly preventable and highly treatable?

But, I'm not a person that gives up easily. I don't easily succumb to these odds and shy away from these children. They have HIV but are not HIV. They still deserve a chance. They deserve hope.

So, after several meetings with Deo's dad, it has been decided that when Jackie goes back to get her refill on meds Monday, Deo will be accompanying us. We'll be meeting with the counselors and doctors there to get him started again on a new treatment plan. After a couple of weeks, hopefully he will be stabilized on meds (or at least a plan in place), and I'll be taking him to school. I've already contacted the Christian boarding school where my kids that board attend, and someone there is willing to monitor him taking his meds. I'll be responsible for taking him to the hospital until we feel he is ready to take on that responsibility alone. And, the person at the school, let me know to talk to the pastor about a possible opening in their home or at the very least, for Deo to remain at school during holidays to prevent him being on the street when school is not in session.

I'm excited about the possibilities for Deo. I'm excited that although he's almost grown up that he's going to get a chance to attend school. I'm excited that he's willing to face this disease head on. I'm excited that he has hope. I'm excited that he's willing to fight!

Please pray with me that I'll soon find Deo a sponsor. He's a loving kid that deserves to know someone is there cheering him on, someone that cares for him and is praying for him.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The words to this song ("Faithful" by Brooks Fraser) sort of fit where I am at in my thoughts at the moment, some things I've been wrestling with........

When I can't feel you, I have learned to reach out just the same
When I can't hear you, I know you still hear every word I pray
And I want you more than I want to live another day
And as I wait for you maybe I'm made more faithful

All the folly of the past, though I know it is undone
I still feel the guilty one, still trying to make it right
So I whisper soft your name, let it roll around my tongue,
knowing you're the only one who knows me
You know me

Show me how I should live this
Show me where I should walk
I count this world as loss to me
You are all I want
You are all I want

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Youngest Victims

I love math and statistics. I know most people do not so I don't normally post a bunch of statistics. But, today I want to, mostly to show the need. Maybe someone else will be a numbers person and hear the cry of the countless innocent victims, mostly being left unheard.

I found these on the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation website. Most of them come from the UNAIDS AIDS Epidemic Update (2009).


Nearly 1,200 children under 15 years of age are infected with HIV every day, most as a result of mother-to-child transmission of the virus. Without treatment, 50% of newborns infected with HIV will die before their second birthdays.

An estimated 430,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2008, approximately 16% of the total new infections. 390,000 of these children were in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 90% of all new child infections worldwide.

An estimated 280,000 children died in 2008 of AIDS-related illnesses.

I could continue. The numbers are staggering and the disparity between sub-Saharan Africa and the developed world are staggering. It's not fair and it makes me angry.

Children living with HIV became personal to me several years ago when Nakato came to live with me. I had no idea she was infected. By the time I knew, it was too late. They say ignorance is bliss. In that case, ignorance was death.

At that time I was hurt. I chose to harden myself to it and not really deal with it. Then Jackie walked into my life. She touched a special place in my heart. I can't really adequately express in words how much she has changed my life, my heart, my world.

I look at her and daily see a living, breathing miracle. She shouldn't be here. Daily I am reminded to not take any minute that God gives me with her for granted.

I had a sober reminder of that a couple of nights ago. One of the kids in my school died rather suddenly (after being sick only 4 days) to AIDS related complications.

One of the ways Jackie blew up my world was to ignite a passion in my to work with HIV infected/affected families. The majority of the children that I have added to my school this year are affected by HIV in some way. They've lost a parent to the disease. Their parents are living with the disease. And quite a number are themselves infected.
This has brought several "stupid" comments from a number of people around me.
"Why are you wasting you time on those kids. They're just going to die."
In Uganda, children are often stigmatized, or worse yet, left alone to die, if they have any condition that would make them a "less productive" member of the family. It's not just HIV, but sickle cell, physical deformities, blindness, deafness, etc. Families don't want to "waste" their money educating a child that will not be able to give them something back.
But, these children were infected innocently. They didn't choose it. They didn't choose to live a lifestyle that would expose them to the virus. It was passed to them unasked for. Sometimes by mothers unknowingly infected by unfaithful husbands. Sometimes by negligent mothers. Sometimes a mother afraid of the stigma of going for treatment.
In my mind, I've learned to treat HIV as any other disease. Yes, Jackie takes lots of meds and I worry when she gets something even as simple as a cough. But, if she had been a child diagnosed with diabetes or asthma, other chronic treatable diseases (which can also kill), would I have ran from the responsibility. No, I would have just dealt with it, given the meds and moved on with life as normal. So, in this case that is what I've chosen to do as well.
We're all going to die. Not one of us is promised to be here tomorrow. Yes, I know some of these children will die. I know that God will give me the strength to endure and handle it. I also know that some of them will live a long and productive life. They deserve to have a normal childhood, just like any other child.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I had a conversation with my downstairs neighbor this afternoon. We've had a few conversations over the year that we've both lived here, mostly guessing as to whose apartment will be the first finished, all the dust and noise the carpenters made, etc. Nothing too deep. I had no idea that she really noticed me or what I'm doing much at all. Guess it's hard not to notice the gangs of children moving up and down the stairs and in and out of my apartment, though, especially during school breaks.

Anyway, today myself and the night watchman were moving mattresses, bags, cases, etc. out of my apartment the short walk over to the school. Her first comment was "You're one strong lady." I thought she was just saying something about the fact that I was the one that was moving the things physically myself. Her point was different.

She went on to ask me how I kept doing what I was doing, mostly without the help of a big organization backing me. She asked me what kept me going, what kept me from giving up.

She kept saying that I was so resilient. That's not really a word that I would normally throw out to describe myself. I would use something like shy, quiet, nothing special, etc.

And honestly, I don't know what (besides God) that keeps me going. Life here is hard. The need is enormous. The hurting around me is devastating and there is a limit to what I can do. I've watched children, friends, co-workers die. I've seen things that can't be put into words. But, I love it here. I don't want to be anywhere else.

I've been told before that I was a fighter. It seems life has never been simple or easy for me. I've always seem to have a stumbling block in my way. It seems things have always been harder for me than those around me. I remember my high school principal telling me on numerous occasions that I am a fighter and that she admired my never giving up.

I wish I could see more of this in myself. Most of the time, I'm comparing myself to others (not something I'm proud of doing) and thinking that I'll never measure up. I look at the missionaries around me that are doing really big things, and see that what I'm doing is like only a drop in a bucket.

I've slowly started to realize that although the things I do may seem small and insignificant, possibly to one individual they are meaningful and making a difference. I know that was the case in my life. Every mountain that I had to climb, there was someone climbing it with me. My high school principal and her daughter, one of my teachers, never let me give up. Maybe that is what drives me. Hoping that for a handful of these kids it will make a difference. Hoping that they will find a way out of the chaos they live in. Hoping that they will have a better future than what has been behind them.

But, the thing that keeps me here, and keeps me going, the most: I feel that I am right where God wants me to be, doing exactly what God wants me to be doing. And His grace is sufficient for every situation, every mountain to climb, every tear that falls, every failure, every heart break, and every downfall.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I don't know why I'm always drawn to help teenagers, girls most especially. Possibly because I see the danger that they face here and want to help protect them. It's becoming more difficult as I have way more kids needing help than I have people lining up to sponsor.
A few days ago, two girls knocked on my door. I'm trying to stop people from coming to my home looking for sponsors so I sent them over to the school. I told them it would be a while as I had an appointment somewhere else first. A couple of hours later when I reached the school, I found them waiting patiently. They told me their story and I told them to come back with a letter of recommendation from the headmaster of the school as well as a letter explaining themselves to me. I can't take these girls back to school at the moment due to not having enough sponsors. I've already got 20+ that I've accepted into my program that I have no sponsor for. Possibly when you read what they wrote, God will lay it on your heart and you would desire to sponsor one or both of them.
Here is what they wrote:
My name is Pauline. I am aged 16 years. I was born in a family of four children, one sister and two brothers. My father and mother are still alive. my father had his own house and there was a man who came saying the land on which the house was built was his. My father was taken to court and he was arrested. When he was in prison, my mother took me to a church and I started studying. When my father came back, we started renting a room. Unfortunately, he could not manage to pay rent so we were chased away from the room. My mother went to stay with her friend with my youngest brother. These friends used to sell alcohol and my mother used to drink. My sister and other brother were helped by a Muslim man at the mosque. I had a friend who took me to the old man who I now stay with. I don't know where my father went.
I got sponsorship from the church up to when I finished primary level. When I went back to see whether they can help me join my secondary level, they told me that they only help children in primary, not secondary. I lost hope because I was left hanging with no one to help. I didn't know where my father was. My mother a drunkard. My mom fell so sick and she was taken to the village with my youngest brother.
The old man I stay with has no money, even feeding us is a problem. So, he told me to go back and try again. I went back and they told me that I had no sponsor but since I have no one they will fundraise for my fees. I was sent to school. Sometimes they could pay late or half of the money or simply forget so the school demanded the fees and I was chased from school.
I call for any assistance. Please help me achieve my goal. I would like to become a doctor and treat sick people and children. Please, I don't want to become a failure. I don't want to move around the village and end up in marriage. I don't want to become a housegirl. I promise to study and be among the best. I promise never to discourage you. I will make sure that your money is put in proper use. I will never do any stupid thing to annoy you. Give me hope that one day I can become a useful person. Help me become like other children I admire and dry my tears. I will keep my promise as said above. I will make sure that one day I will help children like me. Let me hope that my application will be considered.
Your friend,

My name is Winnfred. I am 15 years old. I am writing this letter to ask you to help me in my education. We are 10 children in my family. I am the 8th. My father died of AIDS when I was 4 years old. By then we were staying in the village.
My mother had no job so she decided to come to town with three children who were young, me and two little sisters. When we came, she had no food, job, or house for us to stay in. One woman helped us by letting us stay with her but she didn't give us food so we could feed on leftovers from hostels. One day people gave my mother some money and we went to the market. We bought tomatoes and we could sell them to get some money.
I think after something like two months, my mom rented a house and brought my sisters and my brother from the village because no one could help them there. One day a friend came and told my mother that there is a church which is helping children in education. My mother took us there and we were given a chance to study.
We started studying. When I was in primary 4, my mother died. It was my worst day in my life because I had nobody in this world who would look after me and my sisters plus my brother. One day one of my mother's friends decided to help me by staying with me. So we started separating. Two sisters of mine were married so my two young sisters were taken by one and the other one took others.
Last year 2009, I finished my primary school and I was among the best candidates in Uganda that did well. I was in Division II.
So this year, I am to join secondary but I have no fees because the church which has been helping me has stopped. They said that what they have done for me is enough. But, I want to continue with my studies so that I finish and I become a lawyer to help my sisters and street children.
That is the reason why I am asking for your help. I wish you sweet dreams and wonderful days only. My God bless you and your family and friends.
Your friend,

Please let me know if anyone would like to sponsor one or both of these girls or any other child. Of course before admitting them officially into the program, a thorough investigation has to be done to verify their stories. But, somehow I believe them. I've admired their persistence and determination in continuing to pursue a chance of being sponsored.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Seems It's Going To Be Another Nutty Month

January was absolutely NUTS! There was nothing normal about it, from the weather to death to kids seeming to lose their minds (ok, not really, but teenagers are not NORMAL).
And now we've entered Feb........ and it's looking a lot like not Christmas but a repeat of Jan. (hopefully without anyone dying though).
I've got parents flooding my home and school asking for sponsors. Now I have a waiting list of over 100 children. No way I can even touch that for the time being. Seems they will be waiting for quite some time and some of them waiting not too happily.
Then a disgruntled employee. This has been going on for quite some time. Anything anyone says he's ready to argue and go even further by abusing you with his words. Finally, today I've had enough and asked him to leave. He has until the morning to get out, probably not wise as everyone around is a bit fearful at the moment of what he might/could do. Since leaving the school at 6 in the evening, I've been called back there 3 times to deal with him. Not sure how many times it will happen tonight......
His brother is coming in the morning to put him on a bus back to the village, around 6 hours away. I think everyone will breathe easier after that.
One bright spot in the day was meeting little Vincent. This little guy captured my heart immediately. As soon as he saw me, he ran up and grabbed my hand, as if we were old friends. I was going to do a home visit before he is officially admitted into the school and he happily held my hand and escorted me to his home. His home wasn't such a bright spot as it's just a bunch of iron sheets nailed together with a dirt floor. Also, he and his mom are HIV+ and of course his dad is no where in the picture.
You are probably asking where is the bright spot in all of this???? Well, all of Vincent's papers are filled out, signed and stamped by the correct people and he is going to begin school on Monday! He's going to get to learn and get breakfast and lunch every day. Plus, I'll get to see his beautiful smile every day!