What Uganda taught me

Hello! My name is Kassondra. I visited St. Jerome Cove Center with the Indiana group last year. I was asked to stop over here and write about my experience. I don’t even know where to start, I could tell you about baby Julie, passing out new shoes, the amazing staff, attending a beautiful funeral, teaching the children how to brush their teeth, or even just sitting in a gorgeous country that God created. These are all wonderful memories I carry with me everyday and reflect on when things get a little stressful.

I could go on and on about all the stories of  Uganda but instead I want to tell you about what I learned from my trip.

It brought me closer to God

I had always thought religion was a private thing and I would shy away from talking about my beliefs. God was like a light switch I could turn him on when I needed something and turn him off when I felt like I could handle things myself.

Then came our first night at Cove. Father Tom told us he felt that it would do us good if we all went around and shared how we saw God that day. I had no idea what to say when it came to my turn. I didn’t witness any burning bushes like Moses. The others in my group had described their God sightings as smiles and the voices of the children singing to us. Something so simple but it was God sent. soon I began to seek out God. I saw him in others and in events throughout the days. I began to look forward to sharing every night. hearing if anyone else would have seen God in the same thing I did. Sometimes they did and sometimes it was in moments that no one else noticed. This became my favorite time of day during our trip. we all would end up in tears and sit for an extra hour or two just talking about how great God was.

I still seek out God to this day and I find him everywhere.

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It helped me find my calling

I love Photography. it had always been a hobby of mine. I loved capturing emotions and moments that others would never have thought to do so. Family and friends told me I should make that my career but I was not confident in myself to do so. Then came my trip.

I knew I HAD to go to Uganda but I had no idea how I was going to pay for it. So I started taking family photos for a donation toward my trip. I was able to pay for my trip in no time and yet people were still asking me to photograph them. So I continued to book sessions.

While I was in Uganda I knew the best way for me to spread the word about this great organization and country would be threw my pictures. So I snapped away at everything I could. My hope is that someone will see my photographs and be moved enough to offer some sort of help.

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It made me a better mother

I have three daughters. I am passionate about raising my kids to celebrate how unique God made each of them and how that uniqueness can impact their world and help those in need.

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It made me want to change a life

I know how blessed I am to have food, shelter, heath and education. I don’t worry about the water my children drink or a bug bite causing death. I am able to provide the necessities for my family and also have some left over for special things like dinner at a restaurant, movies, a new outfit or ice cream.

I think of all the children we met that were still on the waiting list for a sponsor. Someone that will send over $25 a month.  It would provide this child with access to health care, a great education, a safe place to live, clothes and food. The look in these children’s eyes told me that they knew how important those things were in giving them a better future.

I came home and knew I could cut back on my extra spending each month. So I printed off the paper and filled out my information to become a sponsor. One of the simplest things I could do but yet it is one of the greatest things I have ever done!

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Uganda September 20, 2012 By Darlene Frantonius

It is now about 10:30 on a sunny Thursday morning. Nina and I just returned from a 1 hour walk. Our hope was to do that each day but time does not allow.

Yesterday I was doing my wash and my two girls saw me. They asked if they could hep and naturally I said yes. After the clothes were washed I filled the basin so that I could rinse them. The girls started to put soap in the water and I stopped them and explained I was going to rinse them. They looked at each other and laughed. When asked why they said “no, you wash 3 times”. Then I laughed and told them I am a lazy American and one washing would be  fine. I was amazed that they got my white socks to look like new. Since I will be going to Kampala tomorrow I told them I would bring them a treat and I asked if they wanted a chocolate bar or juice. Both of them chose juice.

As I mentioned before we were in the process of getting the borehole fixed. When  Ssebo (Mr.) Dan opened the upper unit he found the bearings were shot. That meant that a taxi had to deliver the part on Tuesday morning and an additional 300,000 UGS was added to the bill. So much for no more unexpected expenses. I have to admit it was very interesting to watch them do the repair. So many times here I feel like I am living with Laura Ingalls’s on the prairie.  Prior to the repairs the community was using our well. Often the children jump up and down when they pump and that is what ruins the lower unit. Now we have decided to close it to the locals. The hope is that it will require less frequent repairs. Mr. Dan is also installing two horizontal rods, one above the handle and the other below. It will restrict how far the handle can go and down  and  that also helps reduce repairs.

This week we visited St. Lawrence School in Migeera. They were part of the Library program. We are often treated to music programs when we visit the schools but the one at St. Lawrence was exceptional. I wish you  could have enjoyed it also. The only problem with going there is that I feel like I am in the desert. It is much different from Kapeeka. We also went to St. Jude’s school where we have 10 sponsored children. Three of them will be sitting for National exams in Nov. They all seem to be very smart so we have high hopes that they will score well.

We were just visited by Gertrude, a student at Kapeeka Primary school. She came with her jja jja omusaja (grandfather) and they gave us sugar cane. That will be cut up and given to the children as a treat. I was amazed at how well he spoke English. I asked him what he did that his English was so good and he said he is a framer. He told me he studied at Kapeeka primary where Gertrude attends school. He certainly is a good example for her.

Yesterday Nina and I started the painting project in the boy’s dorm. We were only able to do the primer. Tomorrow we will get the paint from Kampala and hopefully paint on Sat. As I mentioned before it has been very dry for the rainy season but yesterday made up for it. As we were painting in the afternoon the wind picked up, things were blowing everywhere and the rain came from every direction. The dorm has a metal roof and Nina and I were unable to talk to each other because of the noise. Sister Ann told us she was unable to teach so the children just did homework. The only problem when it rains is that there is mud EVERYWHERE. The sponsorship team was in the field and they had trouble getting back on the motor bike.

This Sunday we will go to  mass at the home of Oliver. She is the little girl who died earlier this summer.

Once again we thank you for your interest in COVE Alliance.

Peace,

Darlene

Uganda September 16, 2012 By Darlene Frantonius

It is now 4pm on a Sunday. What started out as a very relaxing Sunday has turned into a challenge.  There seemed to be a problem with the bore hole the only source of water at this time. After our lunch that consisted of boiled potatoes, chapati, beef and a green vegetable that I really like,  the repair man for the borehole came to give us the news. He did not have good news for us. It seems he was able to do a very patchwork job to get us thru today. Then he explained the big problem to us. Tomorrow after he goes to Kampala on the bus to get parts he will spend at least all of the rest of the day working on the well. It  very possibly can go into Tuesday. Since our rain barrels are dry that means the campus is totally dry. We started pumping water to use tomorrow and then the pump seized so now it can not work at all.

Because they need LOTS of water in the morning for both tea and porridge they had to figure out an alternative plan. The government borehole is now charging people to use it so that was out because we need so much water.  All of a sudden Angela, head teacher, was lining all the kids up with gerri cans. When we asked what they were doing she told us they were going to the well and would get water there. So Nina and I went also. It was a pleasant, slightly down hill walk and we kept saying how pretty it was. I can not say the same about the walk back with my gerri can and backpack. In all there were over 300 gerri cans to fill. That sounds like a chore in itself BUT wait until you hear how they did it. The well is at ground level. It is not at all like I remember from visiting my Uncle John on the farm. There we just lowered the bucket on a rope and retrieved water. This well was maybe 3.5 feet in diameter.A young boy no more than 14 years old was in the well to a depth of about 3 feet. (not one of our students) He positioned himself in place by putting his feet on stones on either side of the wall. We then threw  about 6 cans into the well and he leaned forward to fill them and then pass them out. He did this repeatedly for about 45 min. At that point our cook, Godfrey, went in and gave the young boy a break. It is now going on 2 hours since we arrived at the well and not everyone is back.  When we arrived at the well Angela asked the young boy how much he wanted  to fill our cans and he told her 5,000 UGS. That is about $2 US.  We did pad that a bit when we paid him.

Now back to the borehole problem. Tomorrow they have to take the metal roof off of the pumphouse in order to fix the problem. The liner to the lower pump is destroyed so it needs to be replaced. That means they have to pull the entire length of pipes, about 190 feet, to fix it and also repair 3 pipe lines. I am waiting to talk to Richard to see how much that will cost but he has been tied up all day with the repair man and inteviewing candidates for the grade 5 teacher needed in Feb. and a dorm matron.

I am now going to take a rest and have a drink of BOTTLED water.

Richard said the repairs  are expected to run about 800,000UGS or roughly $400.  Once again it is another unexpected expense. Let’s pray this is the last for awhile.

Peace,

Darlene

Uganda Delegates 2012

By Darlene Frantonius

September 14th

Friday

 

This has been an exciting week for us. We started visiting families on Monday afternoon and continued throughout the week.  As usual we have been given many  many gifts of produce. The pumpkins have been fantastic. They are more like our sweet potato. Matoke, a  staple here in Uganda, is made from bananas. Neither of us have acquired a taste for that yet so when we receive a gift of matoke bananas we give them to the staff and children.   We cherish the sweet bananas however and they don’t last long once we put them out. The families of the sponsored children are always telling us to let you the sponsors know how much they appreciate the support that you give to their children. They are very sincere.

We also started visiting schools that were part of the Library Books Project. That has been so exciting. There was some concern as to wether or not the schools would prepare for the books. I can tell you THEY HAVE. At Balitera School the headmistress told us she was expecting about 100 books so she prepared a small temporary building to house them. She was shock  when she received 1593 books. Upon returning to her school she immediately called her parents group and told them they needed a larger temporary building to house one of the classes.  They are moving the students out of one of the classrooms  and turning it into  the library. She has logged each book by title, author, published date and category. I was quite amazed.

At the Kafampa school the students made up a poem of thanks and put ti to music. I really wish I had a video of that to show all of you.

The Gargano school treated us to music, dance and lawn games. We had a ball as we watched the children suck up water from a basin, run down the field with the water in their mouths, deposit it into a pop bottle that they could not touch and then return for more water. The first one to fill the bottle to the top then picked it up and had to walk with it balanced on their head to the finish line. We stayed for 2 other games and then we had to leave. We invited ourselves back next year and proposed a challenge match between our COVE staff and their teachers  in a sack race.They are also in the process of making a separate building for the library. At this time the books are in the office.

At Kaddunda school the headmaster told us that in the district COVE is being recognized as the school to watch. They are all impressed with the fact that COVE initiated the concept of libraries in the schools .  They had already prepared a classroom to be used as the library.

I had to take a short break as Nina and I went to watch the birth of a healthy baby girl. Our room is next to the labor room and we knew there was a woman in labor. Innocent, the nurse, said she would call us when mom was ready to deliver. At 11pm we didn’t hear any noises from her room so we figured she was early on in her labor and we would go to bed until called. About 5 min. later she said they were ready. The young mom left out a very little grunting noise and the head delivered. From my OB experience and my own I remember the mothers being a little more vocal.

Sat. morning

I am getting ready to work in the garden with the children and Nina is going to wash walls in the dorm with other children. Next week we will start the painting in the dorm.

This is suppose to be their rainy planting season but in the past week we have received very little rain. The rain barrels are empty so we are relying on the borehole. The sky is very cloudy now so perhaps we will get rain today.

Sunday morning

We have just returned from church and learned that the pump is broken. Someone is due here today to fix it. Let’s hope it is a minor repair.

Greetings and thank you from the staff, board and administration for all you do.

Darlene or as Fr. Hilary has named me, Peter.

Greeting on our…

Greeting on our first full day in Kapeeka. Nina and I just finished a 40 min walk so now it is time to get down to business. Our first attempt at a power walk didn’t pan out. We met friends along the way and did more visiting than walking. After that we came back and decided to take a less populated road  thinking we wouldn’t know anyone. Five minutes into our walk we met baby Darlene’s aunt and we visited with her. We really do enjoy visiting with the friends we have made over the past 5 years. 

Our first flight on Turkish Airlines was very nice. Our flight into Istanbul was beautiful. That may be as close as I will ever get to visiting Turkey. We arrived at Entebbe airport at 3am.The processing thru customs and getting our luggage went very fast. By 3:30 we were outside waiting for Richard to pick us up. Immediately a taxi driver wanted to know if we needed a ride. We told him no that our friends would be there soon. Fifteen minutes later he asked if we had talked with our friends. We told him we know all about Ugandan time so we would wait until 4 am. Well when that time rolled around I called Richard and asked “Richard, are you coming to get us”?” Oh yes, mom, I will be there” was his rely. When asked how long until he arrived he just said he would be on his way. Nina always travels with her Farkle dice so we found a bench outside and started playing. By 5 am we were deep into the game when we heard a voice say “I knew that they would be playing Farkle”. We were surprised to see Fr. Hilary and 2 friends of his as well as Richard.    

Fr. Hilary arranged for us to get a room at the Flight Motel just to freshen up and shower. Being as it was Sunday we needed to clean up for mass. Just by chance his friend, the owner, was there and he told us there would be no charge. That was a nice start to the day. After cleaning up we had breakfast there. I was really ready for a cup of coffee! 

From there we went to the 8am service and then grocery shopping. For those of you who have been here you will appreciate this. Do all of your shopping on Sunday. THERE IS NO TRAFFIC! We made it from Kampala to Kapeeka in record time. Another plus is that Christ The King Church has  a mass every hour. That means no more 2 hour masses.

As usual on our arrival at the COVE Center we were greeted by singing children. Wow, how I have missed their beautiful smiling faces. We spent a little time visiting with the children before going to visit mama Muheeza, Fr. Hilary’s mother.

This morning I was wished birthday greeting by Nina and some  staff members. This afternoon we will start doing visits to the homes of some of the sponsored children. That is always a highlight.

I hope to send updates frequently. Thanks to all of you who help COVE do it’s work.

Peace,

 Darlene 

 

Illinois LINC

Illinois LINC (Learning in Community) is an interdisciplinary, inquiry-guided service-learning course in which teams of students work on projects proposed by community partners. Each section of the course is dedicated to a nonprofit organization that has proposed one or more projects of importance to the organization.
COVE Alliance has been working with LINC at the University of Illinois over the past year on various projects. The scopes of these projects have ranged from developing better agricultural practices, to leadership curricula, from more dependable water and energy systems to using social media more effectively. Stay tuned from progress from the Fall 2012 LINC-COVE team!

Illinois SIFE

Hi Everyone!
My name is Ben Miller and I was able to travel to Uganda this past May 2012 as a part of the University of Illinois Students in Free Enterprise. Our mission was to spread entrepreneurial literacy in the town of Kapeeka by teaching 4 modules to local small business owners and farmers. It was an amazing experience!
For the purpose of this blog, I was hoping to not discuss the academic benefits I gleaned from this trip, but rather write about some of the more personal feelings and experiences I had in Uganda. One experience that will stay with me forever is playing soccer (football) with the kids. As you all probably can imagine, soccer is the most popular sport in Uganda. The kids love it. I played all through high school so I relished the opportunity to brush up my skills and play with the kids at St. Jerome. They played with such passion and energy. It was remarkable to see.
In a culture where the people have so little, it was enlightening to see the smiles on their faces as they played the game they love. They spread this passion to me as they would yell “Mzungo! Mzungo!” as I walked up, signaling that they wanted me on their team.
The facilities they had to play on weren’t exactly the most glamorous. A patch of dirt ground, small bricks for goal posts, and whatever ball they could find was all they had. Despite this, they were happier than any child I met in the States. I learned a lot from watching them play and interact. Truly an unforgettable experience!
Ben Miller