Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pink Chicken

True Story! I about fell out of my chair one morning at breakfast when I saw a pink chicken (YES PINK!!!) walk past the window! No joke! And it wasn't a small hint of a pink hue, it was a bright vibrant almost neon pink! I am sure my expression was priceless and my hosts followed my bewildered gaze to the chicken. We all laughed hysterically as they explained that they put pink and even purple die on the chicks because those colors are blind to the hawks!! I took pictures because without them, I knew people would think I was drinking something different than tea that morning, seeing pink chickens instead of pink elephants! :) haha!

Monday, December 8, 2008

What an Awesome Opportunity!

Thank you so much to all the supporters of Project Restore and the supporters of those individuals who went to Namulonge. I also want to thank MedWish International for the awesome abundance of medical supplies. The nurse, Immaculate, was so thrilled to get the much needed items. To Janice, thank you for the baby scale. We got to use it for the first time on a newborn less than 24 hours old (she weighed 6.5 pounds).

This was such an awesome trip, and we were able to help improve the lives of so many in Namulonge, Uganda. Shortly after we arrived, I was abruptly reminded of why we were there. On the way to the church, we saw a man on the side of the road, kneeling over, and drinking water out of a mud puddle. To be so desperate for water that you would drink dirty water from the side of the road is beyond my comprehension. I hope to never have to experience that, and my heart aches for those who do.

The people of Namulonge are so kind and generous. We were showered with smiles, food, tea, more food, more tea, and such warmth. They were so giving. The family I stayed with had no mosquito nets for themselves (in fact one of the small children who lived there had malaria); yet, they made sure we had nets.

Seeing the water flowing from the formerly broken pump, a basket ball court erected, new school books, science supplies, families with mosquito nets for the first time, and a great looking roof were all things I will never forget. What was even greater was seeing those from our team and the people of Namulonge working together to make these things happen. We were able to build relationships and friendships through working together and talking during down time. When it came down to it, it made no difference as to the color of skin, the language, or the socioeconomic status. We were working for one common interest: The improvement of lives. What we were able to do helped those of Namulonge be able to LIVE a little more with a little less "just surviving." That's what it's about. That's what we, our supporters, and the people of Namulonge did.

I cannot wait to go back. I hope I am blessed to be able to do so again. I love the people of Namulonge. They will always have a special place in my heart, and the red dirt will probably always have a place on my jeans and in my shoes.


The people of Namulonge are wonderful !

The people in Namulonge are all so happy, sincere, God loving, gracious, appreciative, generous, friendly and content it is difficult to explain or imagine.

I thank God for choosing me to assist Him and the team in what little way that I could and pray that He will allow me to return to my friends in Namulonge next year.

God blessed all involved (both from Project Restore and from Namulonge as well as our wonderful friend Fred) in this effort. As we all know, God has His own timeline for things and Fred meeting Jami - Jami coming to Newsong - Jami meeting Catherine and Project Restore going to Namulonge:)

I've posted photos and video clips on my MySpace page. If you would like to see them go to MySpace and click on find people then find friends and type in Starr49 then click on the find button. I've been writing a letter a night answering letters given to me by the children (we decided I'd not open them until I returned home) and will mail them with lots of photos for them.

God's Love is overwhelming !

Sekaja of the clan Nvooma and the tribe Muganda (aka Starr)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What An Experience!

First of all, I want to extend a thank you to all those who have supported the efforts of Project Restore. Simply reading the stories here and raising awareness by sharing the information is invaluable and directly supports the mission of Project Restore, I thank you for that.

As we were driving to the village the first day there, I had my first sights of the area. I had a lot of mixed feelings on the way to the village. There were signs of poverty all around, and people trying to meet basic needs, such as those hauling water everywhere. I had some feelings of being overwhelmed and caught myself thinking how can we make a difference when the problem is so vast. I didn’t know what to expect for the week or know if these feelings would change.

One of the children in the host home I stayed in had contracted Malaria when he was around 2 years old. I would guess his age to be about 15 now. I had heard the numbers on malaria before, but I don’t think it really registered with me until I started hearing the stories and seeing first hand what it can do. This child was now physically and mentally challenged, for the rest of his life. What I imagine was once a vibrant 2-year old was now an adolescent that spent most of his time in the house and got around by scooting on the floor. Bitten by a mosquito, infected with a parasite, and a life changed forever. We all heard many stories like this. The 400 mosquito nets that the team passed out meant so much, to the community and us.

Repairing the well that was previously mentioned in the blog was one of the greatest experiences, to see water flowing again, and then the source being constantly used after it was repaired was unexplainable. Working hand and hand with the locales was great, I learned a lot about the general process and basic parts of the well. Just the day before, a group of us walked with some of the villagers down to the water source they had been using since the well was down. It was approximately 1 mile round trip. During the walk, we crossed paths with many people hauling water, mostly women and children. I remember seeing a woman with a baby on her back and a 40lb jug of water on her head. I remember two boys we stopped to talk to that had quit school to haul water. They made about 15-20 trips a day hauling about 3-4 jugs at a time tied to their bicycles. The basic need for water consumes a lot of time and energy. By fixing the well, I know we made a lot of peoples lives a little bit easier.

The entire week was great, just quickly running back some of the memories here; boda boda rides, painting the roof, rain harvesting tank, playing American football, the basketball court, getting the bases ready for the tanks, boda boda rides, and on and on. The last day there, we had the opportunity to offer some words of encouragement to the students. Knowing they face a greater challenge than most in the U.S. do, we tried to encourage them to continue education and dream big. They are beautiful people, who accept and embrace where they are and the circumstances they are in, not knowing to a certain degree how the rest of the world lives and meets basic needs such as getting water, food, etc. While in London airport, it hit me, sitting there with tears coming to my eyes, realizing how difficult it must be to overcome the circumstances they are in, realizing that they face the same obstacles as they did yesterday, many of which are meeting basic needs to get through that day. Living should be more than surviving.

I woke my first morning back at 3 am unable to sleep, so I went ahead and started preparing for work. As I was getting ready, I was thinking every step along the way, how much we have compared to those in the village. The things I typically take for granted, I thought twice about that morning, the refrigerator, electricity, clean water out of the faucet, a toilet, coffee maker, warm house, clothes, a shower, soap. As I picked what I was going to wear today, I looked at the stacks of clothes I rarely wear in my closet and think about how the school children might have 1-2 outfits, 1 of them for school. Its a different world here.

I’m confident that the efforts of our team impacted many people. I hope to be part of more trips like this, and have already found myself thinking, “When can I go back”. We have the ability to make a difference, we made a difference, and we can touch many lives. I encourage anyone interested in these efforts to join us. I know that each one of us can bring something valuable to a trip like this. Every person on our team touched someone’s life while we were there and this was clearly evident when saying our good byes. Though we face a vast problem, we can make a difference, one person at a time.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ok…I have another blog! But this story started way before we left for Africa, actually it started last summer. Newsong Fellowship’s kids’ bible camp took up a collection for our trip to buy mosquito nets for the village of Namalonge. The kids collected a little over $37.00 (WAY TO GO KIDS!!) I started checking out insecticide treated mosquito netting only to find out one net at US retail, cost close to $40.00. Ouch!

A very dedicated Project Restore volunteer by the name of Janice Wall took on the initiative of trying to find a more cost effective netting distributer. After months of chasing different leads, Janice found the organization called Against Malaria www.againstmalaria.com. This organization provides mosquito nets to the Peace Corps. Janice talked to the foundation and explained where the November team was going in Africa and what we were trying to do in way of malaria prevention with net distribution. The organization was WONDERFUL to work with and right off the bat they said they could assist us. We were thrilled! Finally a break through for this initiative!!!

Our goal was to try to secure 400 nets for the Namalonge village of about 3,000 people. We asked Against Malaria if they could provide that many nets. They didn’t even blink … they came back to us with; Yes of course they can provide us with 400 nets, at a cost of ….(get this) …. $4 per net…..and ….. (this is the best part!!)…..Against Malaria has a shipment going to Kampala, Uganda the first of November and our 400 nets can piggyback on that shipment!!!!! I think I passed out when I heard the news!! Needless to say, there was GREAT celebration in the Project Restore office that day, maybe even some tap dance broke out!!!

The paper work was filled out and as the word spread about the netting, some generous donations came in to help cover the expense. You have heard how powerful the day was for the net distribution at the village, and I just wanted to share the whole story with you from the beginning. Is that cool or what?!

Oh yea….the Against Malaria Foundation has also set up on their web site the ability for individuals to purchase netting for Project Restore’s next Namalonge, Uganda! So the story continues……Check it out, it is pretty cool!

Blessings, Love and Peace
Well we are back! And the trip seems to have been a whirl wind of activity! Chalked full of long flights, hard work, red dust, bananas, sleepless nights, tea, big smiles, and a lot of unconditional acceptance and love!

There were so many extraordinary moments that will forever stay with me .... from seeing clean water flow from the once dead and useless water well, accompanied with the cheers, tears and a huge 'water fight' that followed, to the villagers unknowing how to express their appreciation for a mosquito net, a gift that for them, could possibly mean life or death.

The Project Restore team was very focused and dedicated to the tasks at hand and achieved remarkable success with all the projects! However, they never forgot to walk with humility and modesty in a culture that is different from our own. And, the villagers could not have been more kind, accepting and gracious, in everything they did for us! They truly treated us as long lost family!

I would like to thank ALL of those that have helped make this trip possible! From our volunteers, hundreds of fundraising supporters to our financial backers. THANK YOU again for joining us in restoring some peace, hope and love to those in need. Because .... Living SHOULD Be More Than Just Surviving .... and YOUR support has initiated change and helped make a difference in thousands of individuals’ lives in Namalonge, Uganda! Thank you!

Blessings, love and peace always,