Friday, May 8, 2015

From Darkness to Hope

Our little family of "angels" is slowly increasing.  Thanks to Edwin, who goes far and wide to search for each child, we have recently been blessed with him finding two new little girls.  They are from a village in the north and although they come from the same village, they don't speak the same language.  In time, they will learn English and Luganda and probably have more languages under their belts than you and I.

We are so proud of our kids.  Edwin and I believe that if we include the children into the decision making process, it makes them feel that they are important and it gives them self worth.  We always talk it over first, listen to their ideas and make the decision.  When the child arrives, they have then prepared a welcome program and help that child adjust to a different way of living other than in the bush.  It is very frightening for a child to come into a walled compound where they are not allowed to leave except with an adult or their daily walk to school.  In time they adjust, loving the idea that so many people care for them and they don't have to struggle for food and water anymore.

The rains were 2 months late this year and many people lost their crops.  When they finally arrived, they came with a vengeance but our communities power has been affected.  The roads where we live are mud and not travelled as much, which means it's difficult for Edwin to get to places like the village where our goats are.  We presently have 56 goats and Edwin's father is still planting food for the workers as wages for helping him.  To ensure we receive only healthy goats, they are first inspected by a vet.  I am sure we will have pictures in the next update.

I would like to share the pictures we were able to get and I hope you can see how God is at work in our Home of Angels.

I would like you to meet Maureen, age 5.  After one month of searching, Edwin found this
child in a village north of us.  Both parents died and she was placed with the only living relative she had, her grandma.  Because this elderly grandma is very sick and cannot take care of her, she asked Edwin if he would help and he decided yes as there were no other living relatives.

I would also like you to meet Hadeja, age 6.  She too lost both her parents due to HIV/AIDS.  She went to live with Grandma but she too is very ill.  After time observing the situation and asking many questions in the village, Edwin felt this child would not be taken care of at all when the elderly woman passed.  We want children that have no other relatives to take care of them so he spends weeks searching and when satisfied, we will take them.

Thank you Northview Church

Our second children's home is finished except for some electrical installation.  We are so grateful to Northview church for caring enough to help us bring God's children into a safe and loving home.
Our prayer is that one day a team will come and baptize the kids and workers who have become Christians.

When we started in February 2010, these two men were there to help clear the land for building.  They helped their friend Edwin for 3 years without receiving anything but gratitude.  They are now in charge of 1000 chickens and a large passion fruit orchard and receiving a wage.  I cannot even imagine how we could have done it without them.  Sula, on the left has now changed his name to "Paul" as he has become a Christian and given his life to the Lord.

Couldn't resist this picture.  This is our little Alan.  He loves the feel of having his head shaved
and goes into a trance.  Edwin and our guard Frank (behind) shave the kids every few weeks to prevent any fungal diseases.

Our little Marian is giving out surprises to the widow's children on our path.

In our last update, I mentioned about Edwin spending his wages by helping the widows in our area start a business.  One family in Canada wanted to make a difference too, so they sent money to help the widows plant a garden after their gardens all dried up in the drought.  The rains finally arrived soon after receiving these seeds and they now have maize growing for the season.  Thank you Caroline and Warren for caring to help these beautiful people.

Thank you to the women in Creston B.C. for spending their time sewing 50 pillow cases for the children.  What a beautiful gift....we are very grateful to you all.

I have mentioned over the past 5 years about how our AMAZING kids are always wanting to help a less fortunate child.  This is another example of two children who want to make a difference to other kids who have nothing.  Hannah and Caleb gave up their allowance and also worked for charity, donating it all to our Home of Angels.  Edwin and I are so proud of you both.  Thank you so much.

I wanted to share what our gardens look like after all the rains.  Our passion fruit are thriving and will be ready in the near future.  And also, the kids are getting healthy greens daily to improve their health.  This is just a tiny part of the garden and look how it's thriving.

We know we are so blessed with all the wonderful things happening in our compounds and in our community.  As the rains ease, the people will be coming back into our grass hut to watch the Jesus video and the kids will be able to get out and help people like they had planned.  The sun and heat will reappear and it will be much easier to get around.  I'm excited to show you the goat project next update but in the meantime, thanks for standing with us and caring.

God bless you all....

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

God's Fingerprints

I believe that we are all God's fingerprints...every one of us.  It makes me smile when I think of His 12 little fingerprints that already live in our Home of Angels.  With Edwin and the staff, there are many more, but let's just speak about our little ones for now.  Every one of our kids has a story to tell.  Some are worse than others but no matter what the difference is, they would never have had the chance if God had not chosen them to live in a controlled environment with a family at their side.

We recently took in Ivan...a little boy from the north that spoke neither English or Luganda.  A child that had Kwashiorkor (lack of protein), or our most recent child, Yasin, a 4-year old that has never seen anything but a mud hut and jiggers.  Look what God has given us....children with no hope and we were chosen to give them a life of structure and love.  We feel so blessed.

We are presently looking for 2 more children.  The 2nd children's home is almost completed and we will soon be able to house another 35+ kids, taking only 2 at a time.  The reason being, the kids we are looking for have suffered with either sickness or no adult in their life.  We will need to nurture them back to health and ingrain trust into them, so 2 at a time is as fast as we choose to go.  The children in our Home of Angels currently are excited to help these new ones to gradually fit into this pattern of living.  That is their past and they understand better than anyone how they have suffered.

I want to acknowledge the children in our country as well.   We have these amazing kids that want to make a difference.  From ages 1 to 5 years at a pre-kindergarten up to kids in their teens wanting to help change a life and when given the opportunity to help, they give it everything they have.  See below what these kids have done to help change our broken world.  We need to acknowledge them in a very big way, because they too see the pain and suffering of other children around the world.  The only difference is, they need an adult to guide them.

Below are pictures that demonstrate how people are helping children, widows and the elderly.  I hope you enjoy them.

There is never enough thanks to Northview Church for helping us to complete our 2nd children's home.  If we can find sponsors for the next 35+ children, we will then be able to house them and take care of all their needs.  Yes, the grass looks like it is dying, and it is.  The rainy season usually starts in February but this year it didn't arrive.  All vegetation is slowing dying.

Meet our newest child Yasin.   Yasin has lived with his 98 year old grandpa most of his life.   All they have is a mud hut and a board to sleep on.  We have now removed him to come and live with us as his Grandpa's health is failing quickly and he will need a good home to survive.  This is what I mean by "God's fingerprints".  Yes, he is a boy...Grandpa never could find clothes for him so all he has is a ripped girls skirt to wear.

Aunty Aidha is at it again....pulling jiggers out of the new children's feet.  Yasin was supposed to come for only a visit but after Aunty pulled out 24 jiggers, he couldn't put shoes on through the pain.  If he had gone back into the mud hut, more jiggers would have entered into the wounds so we made a bed for him and he stayed.  Little Alan, also 4 years old, shared his legos with him so that when the kids were in school, he would have something to play with.  

Our chickens are laying enough eggs daily that we can share them with the community, hospitals and places like Serving His Children.  Ivan's life was basically saved at this wonderful home.  Renee and her team take malnourished children from the villages, teach the caregiver how to feed the child and also teach about nutrition.  Ivan was here 3 times, but this time, no one wanted him back home and she asked if we would take him to live with us.  The answer was immediately yes.  Ivan always wanted to go back for a visit but the idea of taking 120 eggs as a gift made him feel so special.  He was now giving back.

Edwin took Alan and Ivan to the elderly/mentally challenged home where they had a chance to give the people their first eggs in years.

Academics Pre-Kindergarten called and asked if I would come down and speak to kids ages 1 to 5 years.  I figured this Grandma could get down to their level and show them how other kids lived in this world.  I did and after that, they wanted to have a bottle drive.  They raised $182.50 in bottles and called me to present the cheque.  They were so proud.

 MEI school in Abbotsford agreed to host another Mother/Daughter,
Grandma/Granddaughter sewing event.  This evening was to
sew pillow case dresses for our Home of Angels girls and
the many community children that don't have a nice dress.
Thanks Christina and Kim for creating this event.  Everyone
had so much fun, especially the kids....

Kaelin and Courtney really loving this.....

Almost finished

Remember our little Nathan that passed away from AIDS?  His mother and brother were suddenly told they had to move.  Mutesi does not have too much longer with us, but to be sick and have no home was unthinkable to Edwin and I.  We both put together our money and were able to help her put up her own mud hut.  Thanks to some friends, she was not alone doing this.  Edwin found someone in the area that allowed her to use a corner of their land so all that she need to do is mix the mud.

She will have 2 rooms when she is finished

Thank you Marlaina for helping Mutesi.  Edwin bought her soap, rice, poncho and beans with your donation.  

We have a new classroom. We made the old room into another boy's bedroom but this one
is much bigger, a fresh coat of paint and more light.  Edwin is having a discussion with the kids as to what each child is struggling with in school.  I will then plan lessons together with the books they use, to help them at home.  Internet is wonderful when it comes to this.  Thanks again Nina for all the things you donated for this room.  Bookshelves are presently being built along with more tables.

We will have an update on the next blog regarding the goats.  Edwin has been so busy trying to put everything together at the home that he and David haven't had a chance to go to the village and take pictures for the blog.  As for now we have close to 50 goats that have cleared the vet's inspection and are rapidly growing.

Thanks again everyone for helping us.  It looks like we are so close to the end but we still need to find donations for operating costs and sponsors for the kids.  Please contact me if you find it in your hearts to help us to help the children.

God bless all of you

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gentle Witness

For the past two weeks I struggled to find the words for this blog.  I want to express why Edwin and I have committed ourselves in making a difference in the lives of orphans, widows and the poor.  It is very obvious that God is leading this journey.  Edwin, a young man who had little and an old lady (according to my Pastor) that just knew she was being called to Uganda but didn't know how to make it all happen.  We soon learned that by relying on Him for everything, miracles started happening.

God blessed me with this "Gentle Witness" named Edwin.  We had the same dream….helping the poor.  We struggled but never felt defeated and have never looked back.  I couldn't raise enough money to pay both construction and wages so Edwin, just one year ago received his first shillings.

Little did I know until my most recent trip, that his wages were being used to bring people out of poverty, not for himself.  He spent months looking for young kids to send to school.  He paid their school fees and bought their books, but the rule was…they had to repay him.  Most of these kids live with their grandmothers and finding food was always a struggle.  Edwin set the kids up in small businesses and today they are all going to school, have food and they are able to save for necessities.  The same happened to the woman who came to us at Christmas begging for food.  We had enough food for 100 kids but wouldn't you know….it seems we had enough to feed over 180.  One month later he found this same woman and her family, helped the older children go to school and set her up in a business to sell cassava chips on the street.  All money was repaid.  Another case… a grandmother that has many of her grandchildren living with her.  He set her up to sell porridge in the mornings on the street and she now can feed everyone daily.  Who knows how many others he helped, but the moral to my story is….Edwin does this for God only…he doesn't speak about it, he just does it quietly.  A very "Gentle Witness" and I can proudly say that he is my grandson in Africa.  Aren't we all just different shades of brown?

We are all so proud of you Edwin for your dedication and honesty.  You are setting an example.

This lady came to us at Christmas and asked if we had any food left to feed her.  She was so weak.  This is the lady that Edwin later helped.

I taught the girls to make banana bread and Mariam with the huge proud smile had taken some
to an elderly lady who is almost blind and alone.  The kids watch over her to make sure she is OK.

Thanks to Northview church, we have started to complete our 2nd children's home.  

Edwin has become a role model for raising chickens in our community.  I think he studied every book
written in Uganda and also had very good instruction from Canada.  Thanks Dan

Junior, Saika and Joseph sort the eggs daily when they are not in school.  The small and cracked ones go to our neighbours, while the better ones are being taken to places like the children's hospital as a donation. We are also helping the old people in our community and of course our children get eggs regularly.  Our main goal is to help the suffering and this kind of protein over there is a dream come true to those who can't afford it.

This is the beginning of our of passion fruit.  The poles are up and the plants are thriving but to utilize all the land, kale has been planted below as it's another source of protein for the kids.

Sula and James hard at work putting in all the top poles

Each passion fruit vine will hold approximately 100 fruit.  The juice from this plant is so healing for a sick child.  You can also see the kale has been picked below and probably inhaled with their normal diet of rice, pocho and beans.  Greens are a real treat for them.

The fence is up for the goats.  Edwin's father and the villagers completed 7 acres of fencing to raise these goats.  The pay was in the form of food instead of wages.  Everyone is happy and proud of a job well done.  We owe this goat project to our wonderful friends in Hong Kong. 

OH my goodness, I miss these two.  They have become such best buddies.
Alan in the red with our newest child, Ivan

This was a very tearful event but you would never know it.  I left 30 minutes after the kids sang my farewell songs.  I don't know who cried harder.

Thank you everyone for helping us to make this Home of Angels a place where the "Angels" find so much hope and love.  Some of these kids were so sick when they came to us, but now you can see how healthy they have become with such happiness on their faces.  You all helped to make it happen and we are grateful.  Currently, the 2nd home is being completed and this will allow approximately 35+ more children.  The kids won't come all at once but according to the level of trauma and sickness.  We must also find sponsors for them.  If any of you would like to sponsor a child in the future and help him/her to become one of our "Angels", please email me and I will send you the information.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Joys and Excitement of 2014

2014 has been an amazing year.  Early in the year we made a decision to start our sustainability programs rather than bringing in another 35+ children right away.  The reason being, many of the children we are choosing are sick and for us not to give them protein and the other nutrients they need, it would have hindered their development.  These are a few of the programs that are in progress at the moment.

Thanks to everyone who donated towards our chicken project. We were able to purchase and successfully raise 1000 layers and 1,650 broilers so far.  The layers will be laying eggs very soon and the broilers are selling as fast as we can raise them.  David has established a good market for selling our eggs, in fact so good, we are thinking about just raising layers in the future.  The children will also benefit from the protein they so desperately lack.

We recently planted a large passion fruit garden that will be starting to produce fruit in the near future.  Our gardens are full of vegetables and greens and our maize crops are the best yet.  We were able to store some for future use.

As soon as the concrete poles and chain link is installed, the 200 goats will be purchased and we can start raising them to sell.  The sale of meat on the international market will be another source of income to help with our costs, and in time these goats will multiply.  Thank you again Thomas for this wonderful donation.

In the meantime, it is the Christmas season and we truly rejoiced.  We shared the story about the birth of Jesus with many and at the same time were able to feed both the elderly and the children with soup from the Gleaners.

We have been blessed once again by Northview Community Church.  Funds have been put in place for us to complete our second children's home along with funding to finish our team apartment.  All of us at Home of Angels thank you very much for caring and hope you will be one of those teams to visit one day.

Edwin's father (75 years old) has generously volunteered to let us use his 30 acres to raise goats.   In order for that to happen, we have had to set up concrete poles and chain link on 7 of those acres to keep them contained.  We had 3 trucks of concrete posts and 4 trucks loaded with chain link make it's way through blinding dusty roads to his remote village north of us.  George was there to meet each truck to help unload, while his village friends were working to install the fence.  No one asked for wages as George had planned to pay them in food that he himself planted in his gardens.

George also planted a banana plantation for me a year ago.  He planted 300 trees and it will reproduce to 600 trees in a period of 2 years.  Once he heard we had two ovens, he assumed I would need bananas in Uganda to make banana bread.  I have started and have it almost perfected.  I am now in the process of teaching our girls to bake this bread and with the results I am seeing, they might have a little business going here one day.  It's better than mine.......

Our little Ivan is so excited to be able to go to school in February.  Edwin is working with him to teach him is ABC's and his 123's.  The other kids are also working hard with him every day to teach him the basics.  He is now one of our "angels" and will get lots of help to catch up.  

Our showers went in last month thanks to Sandra Sequira and her friends.  What a blessing this was for the kids.  Jowell wanted to experiment first and feel the water falling on her.  It's amazing what we take for granted in the Western world.

We had a HUGE Christmas party for the little people in our community.  Only the little ones were invited.  We started preparing the Gleaner food the night before and at 6am, we met together again in the cookhouse to finish cutting the cabbage and onions.  Guess who got the onions??  Aunty Aidha and Aunty Joy love working for us and continue to give endless hours in helping the less fortunate.

We have 20,000 children in our immediate area.  I was so worried how Edwin would ever pull this off without a riot.  We could only invite approximately 100 kids but little did I know Edwin had a plan.   He went to one area and told the mothers that he needed 40 children.  They all knew him so 40 appeared within minutes.  No one knew where they were going but because it was Uncle Edwin, they trusted and followed.  

By the time we finished, a total of 177 kids had eaten and enjoyed a soda.   Before they ate, Edwin told the story of Jesus and how it was His birthday today.  That's why they were celebrate His birthday.  He explained the importance of the meaning of Christmas and as he spoke there was silence.  Sula, one of our workers then preceded with a prayer to bless the food.

OK, your right....I was having far too much fun here.  Every one of these kids said thank you and were the happiest we had ever seen them.  Next year we will definitely do this again but increase the numbers to 250 children and also show the Jesus video.  The rains came this year so we were unable to do that.

Now it was time for our 2nd Christmas party for our Home of Angels kids.  Again with balloons, meat, rice, matoke and soda, they were so grateful.  Little Alan even say "fankyou" three times.

Thanks to a generous donor, the elderly and mentally challenged home just down the road from us had the chance to celebrate with food at Christmas also.  The oldest gentleman in the front is 96 years old and this was his first real Christmas.  He insisted because he was so old that he get 2 sodas.  No one argued.

We would like to express our thanks to all of you, whether it be following our journey, donating to special projects, sponsoring a child or just helping me with a banana bread sale...."Thank you".
We have a wonderful team of people that are very dedicated and we are so grateful to you all.
Please remember that as of January 1, 2015, all donation and sponsor cheques are to be written to TOIS.  You can send them to the same address which can also be found at the top of the blog under donations.

God bless all of you and we wish you all a very Happy New Year 2015.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Exciting Times

We would like to share with you some wonderful news.

God has opened yet another door for our Home of Angels and we are very pleased for many reasons.  As of January 1, 2015, we will be working together with the Timothy Outreach International Society (TOIS).  TOIS is a Christian charity that operates schools, clinics, community development and other ministries in Uganda.  Throughout this past year, we have gotten to know some of the TOIS principals in Canada along with the leadership team in Uganda.  We feel that God has paved the way for the connection between our two organizations and we will be able to work together effectively to develop and operate ministries that show God’s love to some of the most needy people in Uganda.

Effective January 1, 2015, all donations and sponsorship money should be sent to Barb Giraud, #96-32691 Garibaldi Drive, Abbotsford, B.C.  V2T 5T7.  Cheques are to be made out to TOIS and Home of Angels written on the subject line below. Tax receipts will then be issued by TOIS.

We have had a very exciting past two months and we are all looking forward to Christmas which is almost upon us.  The children have chosen to stay together for Christmas where we can all celebrate the birth of Jesus together.  Presently they are  attending a Bible camp in Entebbe with Dolly and Welli, our dear friends originally from Abbotsford and having the time of their lives both learning and making new friends.

We have a new little boy named Ivan who has recently come to live with us.  Ivan is 11 years old and has come from a village in the north where Serving His Children has an outreach.  It was a difficult start for him but today, 3 weeks later, he is thriving with his new brothers and sisters.  We realized with Ivan that in the future, when we bring in other children, we must do it slowly to give each one the individual attention they need to adjust. It is mandatory to have this time to accomplish the transition for these little ones. Most of them have come from very difficult situations and they need a lot of love and encouragement.  We feel so blessed that God has given us this gift of bringing hope and love into these children at our Home of Angels.  

We would like you to meet Jeff and Shannon Dyck.  They are the leadership team already established in Uganda by TOIS.  Jeff and Shannon are originally from Canada and with their 4 lovely children, are now living in Masaka/Kibaale.  They both are very knowledgeable in running both the Kibaale Community Centre and the Timothy Outreach International Society in Masaka.  They have already been instrumental for us with advice towards running an operation such as ours.

The day finally arrived when we greeted little Ivan at our gates.  Renee and her team from Serving His Children brought him over to live with us as Renee realized how happy our children were and he would have a good family to live with.  We are so grateful to have this little guy (with Edwin).  He has struggled with the unimaginable but with a lot of love and encouragement, he is already adjusting to his new family.  We are looking for sponsors for him if anyone would be interested in helping him.

What's a welcome without a party and cake?    

How could anyone not want to belong to this family?  We just have to keep remembering that they were all scared the first time they entered that gate.  They seem to feel each child's fear and make an effort to change it with a smile and a hug.

The girls are all learning to sew.  Each day we learn 2 new stitches and they are tested at the end of each week.  I am now watching them teach the Aunties what they had learned that day.  Edwin and I will be setting up a sewing room to teach them on a machine next.

I never thought I would be doing this here.  OK, so what does a person do when they have an entire banana plantation of 300 trees and the bananas are everywhere?  Bake of course, but I got smart.  I thought of teaching this art of baking to the girls.  Today I did and they loved it.  Matter a fact, their bread was better than mine.  They shared one loaf with everyone and will plan to practice again tomorrow.

Mariam celebrated her birthday on December 10th.  We baked a birthday cake and while surprising her, Desire poured water over her head as this is the tradition.  Couldn't resist this picture of shock.

Our passion fruit is getting tall and already flowering.   To utilize every space possible, kale has been placed between the plants so that the children will have their greens for nutrition.

These are our 300 broilers that are now ready to be sold.  Because it's the Christmas season, they are selling very quickly.  We have another 200 birds that will be ready for sale at the end of the month with one purchaser requesting all of them.  

Our first load of 40 birds going out of the compound.  Yes, you are seeing this correctly and they are being transported all the way to Kampala like this (80km).  They have since returned for another 100 birds for the same journey.  Apparently our birds are very tasty.

These are some of our 1000 layers.  They will be ready to lay eggs in 2 weeks in their new nests and we are very excited to see the results of our labour.  Thanks to David we will have an outlet for the eggs but what is more exciting....we will have protein for the children.  We are still in the learning stages but we are so proud of our few workers who have kept them alive and in good health.  Many people here will lose 1/2 their flock to disease, but ours are still in tact.  Thank you James and Sula.

Exciting times are still to come and we are continually witnessing what God has done in the lives of these children.  They sit and chat together about how they are going to help the next child or how they will teach the new ones the alphabet if they have never gone to school.  It truly brings tears of joy.