Monday, March 23, 2009

Part 2 - Volunteering @ ACF - Week 1

(March 15th - 22nd)

I have been thinking a lot about how I should start telling you all about what I have been going through during this last week. As you all know, I’m now in Uganda doing volunteering work for the African Child Foundation.

I found out about them while doing some online research and after reading all the information on their website (www.acfuganda.org) and exchanging some emails with Rev. Jim Nadiope, I really felt their cause was the one I wanted to help and be part of. For some reason it really spoke to me.

A little background on how the African Child Foundation got started:

A man called Jim Nadiope, a “used to be” member from one of the Royal families in Uganda, could not handle the fact that orphans kids would grow up not feeling LOVED by someone. After getting married to Sarah Nadiope, having 5 kids on their own and adopting 19 more, he and his wife have decided to do something for some of the many more orphans out there (Uganda has a devastating number of AIDS fatalities) that needed to feel loved and deserved a chance to have a decent future. That is exactly how everything started.

Definitely a genuine man:

Rev. Jim’s grandfather, Wilberforce Nadiope, was the King of Busoga Kingdom, one of the three strongest Kingdoms in Uganda during the time it was still a British Colony, and during its independence transition in 1962, the British people chose him to be the first President of Uganda. His father then became the King of Busoga Kingdom (all the Kingdoms in Uganda continued to exist because they are based on cultural traditions and not on government style), and automatically Rev. Jim became the Crown Prince for that Kingdom, since he was the oldest son in his family.

He has never actually agreed with many of his Kingdom’s traditions and beliefs and growing up he has always wanted to become a Minister and work with kids and people in need. When he was 17 years old and his father passed away, he had to make the biggest decision of his life: take over the Throne or go after his dream. So, he decided to follow his heart and move to Kampala in order to start working on what he believed that was the right thing to do during his life time. And YES, he was deserted by his family and his people.

I did asked Rev. Jim if he had ever regretted any of the decisions he made in life and the only thing he said was: "How could I?? I’m sure there is no other way I could live my life and be happier or more satisfied."

Back to my experience in Uganda at the African Child Foundation:

Before arriving in Uganda I had no idea about where the foundation was based and what Rev. Jim and his family were really doing. I did not have much time to do more research and go over the details of my volunteering work prior to my trip. I totally thought I would be based in Kampala and working with the kids and woman in need around that area. I’m sure all of you that know me well expected that to happen, right?

Anyway, it turned out the foundation office is in Kampala, but the Rev. Jim’s house and the ACF school is in Katebo, a VERY rustic village, with no electricity or clean water, only 350 incredibly poor inhabitants and at least half of them carries the HIV virus or have AIDS. The village is located by the Lake Victoria and it is about an hour and half way from the capital.

The community’s living condition in Katebo is so bad and impossible for me to precisely describe it to you all. I’m staying at Rev. Jim’s house, and even though it has a little more structure (clean water and a generator that works from 7:30pm – 10:30pm), it is still extremely different from what I’m used to.

In all honesty, I’m shocked and overwhelmed with everything I see happening around me and it has been only 7 days since I arrived here. This experience has been indeed much more difficult than I could ever expect. I do have my daily breakdowns, my mind is most of the time working at 200 mph trying to figure out what else I can do to improve their living situation, but despite all of the above, I must say that Rev. Jim’s life story, in addition to all the love, smiles, and appreciation I get from the kids and their family members, have given me strength to work harder in order to really make a difference in their lives.

I’m witnessing changes every single day and it is really because of all of you that have supported me in many different ways. For that, I do want to take this opportunity to thank some of you that have gotten involved and helped the cause.

Because of Karen Asfour’s donation, ALL the kids at the African Child Foundation School (about 60 of them) will be able to have lunch every day for the next 4 months -- at least, which hasn’t happened since ACF started activities in Katebo 6 months ago. The kid’s families (about 45 of them) will also get food supplies to make sure their kids will have their dinners as well. USAID donated a truck full of dried food supplement to ACF and they did not have the funds to bring the food from Kampala to Katebo. I’m sure you will enjoy the pictures and videos of their so wanted meal!

With her donation as well I have also manage to fix the water reservoir that ACF and some volunteers built about 2 months ago to provide EVERYONE in the village with drinkable/clean water. The first day they were using it, the container exploded due to the high water pressure. They were able to get another tank, but did not have funds to buy cement and some new pipes to repair the water system. We just bought what they needed and this week it will be finally working. Some pictures with the community using the new and ONLY clean water resource in the village will be posted soon!

Before I left DC, on my way to the airport, Malia Asfour made me promise I would make sure to do my utmost to work on projects to empower the women from the community I was going to be working at. I just want to let you know dear, I have already started working on my promise.
Last week I met with about 15 women from the Katebo village and talked to them about possible things we could be doing in order to make sure they would start bringing some income home for the first time in their lives. What we have decided is that I’m going to get some sewing machines and a lot of material for them to start producing hand bags and hair bandages/scrunchies to sell to the tourists that come to Uganda. I must say that I have never heard so many thank yous in my life and witnessed so much joy and excitement as I did from those women during our meeting. I’m so proud of them and their willingness to try making things better for their families.

In addition to all that has already been started, I have also plans to work on finishing the school’s constructions (kitchen, library, classrooms), use the big land that is available around the school to start a garden that will provide basic food supply (variety of fruits and vegetables) to the kids and their families so they will not have to depend only on donations, get fabric and all necessary materials to make uniforms to all the kids at the ACF school, and work on finishing the construction at Rev. Jim’s house so it will have a more “appropriate” structure to receive more volunteers, which they will really need in order to make sure their incredible project continues to run.

I think the bottom line and the last thing I want to share with all of you is that my time here has indeed been very tough but extremely rewarding at the same time. The people from Katebo are amazing and in so much need, Rev. Jim and his family are just incredible, and it has been really fantastic to be able to be part of their project.



Thank you all of you that have been supporting us!

Much love, Gi

P.s.: Do you also want to support this cause?

If you are from USA or Canada - please do contact Malia Asfour (maliaa@aol.com or 1 703 623-0114) as she is the one helping me with all the logistics regarding the donations over there.

If you are from Brazil - please do contact Carol Costa (ccosta00@gmail.com or 11 8444-2356) as she is the one helping me with all the logistics regarding the donations over there.

Thanks a million!

6 comments:

  1. Gi - Best wishes and much love.

    Justin

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  2. Gi, your blog is great. I just cant stop reading your posts. You make us feel like we're there with you. Congrats!
    Lot of kisses
    Fe

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  3. Gata!
    Quero chorar de saudade e de orgulho de vc ao mesmo tempo!
    I'm sure you know that our hearts are there with you, all the time!
    Keep it up!
    TE AMO MUITO!
    Beijos!

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  4. caros amigos do brasil,
    vamos todos contribuir para esta causa! quem tiver interesse em fazer doações aqui no brasil, me mandem um email: ccosta00@gmail.com
    abraços, carol costa

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  5. It is truly amazing what you are doing...and I am going to do what I can to help you from this side...you are not alone!!! We miss you lots and wish you all the very best and am very proud of you. You are an inspiration....keep up the FANTASTIC work! ANYTHING you need, just name it. Love u!

    Ja xoxo

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  6. Giesel,

    I was one of the people who put the water system in. Can you tell me who is running it now. Is Robert running the system? Pastor Jim contacted me and said they have no water pressure. The first filter, the black one, is clogged. They must clean it or no or little water will get through. Keep up the good work. I have been to Katebo twice in the last year and found living there fascinating )(except for the toilets).

    My name is Tim and my email is: randydog@rcn.com

    ReplyDelete