My Travels in Uganda
I was able to spend 10 days in this beautiful country just a couple of weeks ago! Here at IAN we have been working to improve and expand our program in Uganda over the past year. We have been so privileged to have Robert, who has actually worked with IAN in our Uganda program since the start of this program in 2012, as our facilitator in country. He is a wonderful young man with a huge heart and incredible vision. He has actually just began his own NGO (or non-government organization- a non-profit) that is focused on the needs of those vulnerable- mainly children, youth, and women- in his native region. One of the homes that IAN partners with is located in this region. IAN plans to work alongside this NGO in order to better serve this region and the people of Uganda. Robert has shown his dedication to the children in need in his country and his dedication to working with IAN to help Ugandans and their children! Spending ten days with him was proof to the fact that he is the cornerstone of our program here. Having a trustworthy, reliable, and committed facilitator is the foundation to a spectacular program! We are so grateful to have him!
Robert and Chelsea
Robert and I met with our attorneys and prospective attorneys, several social workers, some regional officials and of course visited several children’s homes! These travels took the better part of our week and took us around most of the country.
Our meetings with attorneys were unbelievably insightful! One lasted close to three hours as this particular attorney let me ask as many questions as I wanted. I believe I may have learned more in these 10 days than I could have learned in a full year here at home! I was also able to meet with social workers who will be doing the groundwork for paper collection for our children. It was encouraging to meet them face-to-face and see their knowledge of the process and their dedication to this work. I also had the opportunity to meet with regional officials to discuss our involvement in their communities. What one regional officer really stuck with me- he made it very clear that there were hundreds of children in his region that were in desperate need of homes. He told me that he did not want to use institutionalization as a solution to this problem, as it is not what is best for these children. He expressed his desire to find these children permanent homes with good families, and that there is just too much of a need for them to all stay in Uganda. It left me feeling overwhelmed at the amount of children that need help in this country, but also inspired that there are so many people out there that are willing to help these children and not settle for institutionalization as an option. Now I just need to find families!
Hit the Road!
We first traveled to a region about 5 hours west of Kampala, where I had a chance to meet with the foster families several of the children we currently have in process. It was simply wonderful to be able to visit the homes of these generous people who held our children in their custody even though they were too impoverished themselves to raise the children permanently. Many also had several children of their own to feed and care for. All of the families I was able to meet were very gracious to IAN for finding forever homes for these children that they still care about and love very much.
Our next stop was to the region next-door to visit with Hope, the director of one of the homes we partner with. This community based organization includes a home and a school to help educate and care for local orphans. We currently have a few children in process who have been referred to us from Hope’s home. I got to meet these beautiful children! It was so exciting to see and hold these precious children of whom I have heard of, seen pictures of, and talked about to the excited adoptive parents!
Then Hope took us to visit her school. Little did I know they had done quite a bit of preparation for my visit, including preparing some excellent dance performances!
Her organization assists these 140 children that attend this school, all of whom are orphans or semi-orphans. Seven of these children reside in her children’s home and the other children live with a guardian of some kind. I was incredibly moved by these children. They were beautiful, simple and in need of so much. Hope shared with me that sometimes she does not have enough money to pay the meager salary for the simple staff of 5 teachers at this school because the children cannot afford to pay their tuition. Their tuition is about equivalent to 2 US dollars per term. She asked us for our support of her home and school. The school is in need of books, funds for teachers’ salaries, and ultimately a new building- as the current building is a simple concrete room of about 100 sq feet used to teach all 140 of these students. Her home is in need of a new roof and new bathrooms for the children. As we continue to build this program we hope to work toward many changes and improvements to help Hope and the children she cares for.
Meeting with Hope
Our next stop was to BOL, another home we currently partner with. This home is run by Shawn and Primrose. Shawn is actually a native Coloradian that I fortunately have had the pleasure of meeting several times before beginning this partnership.
Caleb, Primrose, Shawn, Chelsea, and Robert
Their home is located in a region in the very southern tip of Uganda about 7 hours away from Kampala. They currently have 19 children residing in this home ranging from about 2 to 10 years old. It is a very well taken care of home on a gorgeous plot of land. I had a wonderful time meeting all of their beautiful children- watching them play together and even sing for me as Caleb (the house director) played guitar. This is a wonderfully run home with happy children with big bellies! Shawn and Primrose told me of their vision to expand into another home in the near future in order to house more children. We are hoping that together we will be able to see this home open!
Back in Kampala I was informed of a local children’s home that houses mostly abandoned babies. I met with the director and staff and had the chance to hold and feed some of their precious little newborns. There is such a need for homes for children in this country! I think this home really need our support and we would love to work with them to provide for their needs and help find homes for their children with no one.
On my last day in Uganda we made the trek up to a region about 3 hours west of Kampala.
There is a beautiful and simple home there that we just had the pleasure of beginning a partnership with.
Robert, Elias, Chelsea, Diana their social worker and a staff member.
This home was started by a woman named Lise. Lise and her husband Elias adopted 2 Ugandan children, a road that led them to opening their own children’s home. It is a lovely little place with very sweet and loving children. They even have a little school on site where their children can go to school. We just began this partnership a couple of months ago and are currently working toward making referrals from this home. They currently hold about 15 children, but have the capabilities to hold more than this. With the proper resources and adoptive families, this home seems very capable of helping many more children in this region.
Uganda is such a beautiful country with simply lovely people. Everywhere I went everyone was very grateful to IAN for what we are working to do for Uganda. My overall take away is that this is a country with many many needs. Half of the population of Uganda is under the age of 15, and this was very apparent when traveling around there. There are children everywhere, and you will often see small children roaming the streets alone. From seeing a roomfull of beautiful abandoned infants to meeting many many older children who just long to be loved and cared for- it is so apparent that there are so many children in need of homes here! But not only that, we as an agency have a vision of not only finding homes for children that have none, but to help the communitites these children come from and helping these childrens relatives, friends, and neighboors as well. We have a lot of vision and hope for what we could accomplish in Uganda. We are hoping to see this program grow and flourish so that we area able to have the ability to accomplish some of these incredible projects in regions we work in! And of course to find loving, permanent homes for some of the beautiful Uganda children that are without!