Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Oh Happy Day!

Project Hope Worldwide is so excited to announce that our first set of orphans have moved into Calo Me Lare! I think it is so neat that I got to meet each of these kids individually and I know them by name. I know their stories and where they came from. Things can only get better for them now! They now have hope for a great future and a new family with lots of brothers and sisters to play with and mommas to hug their necks!

You can see individual pictures of all the children and read their profiles on the Project Hope Worldwide facebook page here. And here are videos that Helmut shot of many of the orphans while we were in Uganda...

Continued donations to PHWW will fund the immediate construction of an administration building, five more homes for forty orphans and a school! Please go here to make a donation. Thank you for giving these kids hope for a new future!

Common Luo to English Phrases

General Costs to Travel to Lira, Uganda

* Passport and Book - $165 (You can learn more about how to obtain a passport and print off an application online here.)

* Shots - You can read about which shots you'll need on the CDC website here. I think I paid close to $300 and had to get them at the health department.

* Medicines - You'll need to take Malaria medicine before, during, and after your trip. You'll need to get this from your doctor - you can not get it from the health department. I took Malarone and had no side effects. It's supposed to be gentle on your stomach and you don't have to take it as long as the other options available. Several Malaria medicines have really bad side effects so do your research when choosing yours. My doctor also prescribed Cipro (for below-the-waist "issues") and Amoxicillin (for above-the-waist "issues"). It is also good to take medicine for diarrhea, constipation, sleep issues and head aches. My cost for medicine was probably close to $80 or so.

* Airfare - We paid about $1,400 roundtrip from Tulsa to Entebbe. Of course, air fare prices fluctuate often. My family back home enjoyed tracking my flight online. You can do so here and view an actual live simulation of your flight. Pretty cool ;-)

* Car Hire - You'll need to hire a driver with a car. Costs vary but you can view information on this topic here. If your driver is not driving safely, we learned you have to be upfront with them and tell them in a firm, but respectable, tone what you expect them to do or not do. Do not take the bus service. Not safe - enough said.

* Spending $ - Prices are much lower in Uganda than in the States. It's fun to shop at the market but I found the best place to buy gifts to take back home are the stores at the Entebbe airport. You can expect to pay a little more than at the market, but they are typically better quality and they have a great selection of items you'd be interested in.

* Hotel and Food - You can typically expect to pay about $30-40 p/night. We stayed at the Gracious Palace and 291 Suites while in Uganda. We ate most of our dinners at the Lillian Towers Hotel. You can expect to pay about $4-8 p/meal.

Adoko Rd, Lira, Uganda
Plot 8/10 Erute Road Dokolo Rd, Lira P.O.Box 350, Lira, Uganda+256 256473420024 
A 104, Lira, Uganda
Lira, Uganda
Lira, Uganda

Friday, February 4, 2011

One Last Video From Our Trip...

I made this video as soon as I got back from our trip. The songs came to me while I was on the plane home.

The Vision of Project Hope Worldwide

This is another video Helmut filmed while we were in Uganda. It was so exciting to actually see all that Project Hope Worldwide stands for first-hand!

Uganda Update

This is an update our pastor, Derk, brought to the congregation the Sunday after we got back from Uganda...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Day in the Field

This is a video Helmut filmed while we were in Uganda. He did an amazing job and it shows the work Project Hope Worldwide is doing in bringing hope to orphans in Lira.

Sweet Nothings Go a Long Way

One thing I did for my girls while I was away to Uganda was to give them a small gift to open each day - kinda like a countdown until I got home.

I thought I was being so sneaky but the girls and Steve came up with their own countdown of notes for me to open on my trip. I found them in my suitcase on our first night in Uganda. They were so special to me and something I looked forward to opening every morning and re-reading every night. I posted the girls notes to me on this blog on my daily journal entries, but I'm keeping Steve's letters secret ;-)  Such sweet letters and notes that I'll treasure forever.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

We woke up early this morning, ate a quick breakfast then hopped on the plane headed for Oklahoma! It was great to get a good night's sleep last night so I wouldn't be a total zombie when I saw my family today.  The flight was on time and we landed with no problems. I knew I'd be excited to see my family but I guess I didn't know how emotional it would be. 15 days is a long time to be away! The most I've ever been away from the girls before that was for about 4 or 5 days and I've never been away from Steve for more than 2 days. As soon as I saw them at the airport, the girls came running up to me with big hugs and welcome cards. Steve's parents were there, too. Everyone was teary-eyed and we were all so glad to be together again.

The girls were also excited because the Duggars were at the airport. I don't know how that family gets around with all those kids! I suppose they just learn to watch out for each other!

I spent the rest of the day unpacking, doing laundry, and spending time with my family. I gave the girls a little rag doll and a purse, both made from widows in Uganda. I had a hard time finding Steve a gift while there so he got a coffee cup with a Uganda flag and an "Africa" t-shirt.

While I did miss my family a ton, the trip was so well worth it and I'm so glad I got to go! It truly was the chance of a lifetime! I got to see everything first hand and now I will be blogging for Project Hope, so be sure to watch for upcoming posts - which reminds me, I better get busy! Stay tuned! ;-)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Uganda Trip - Day 14

Sunday, Dec. 12 -

Today's notes from my girls...

I'm sooo glad I had this opportunity to go to Uganda but I'm also sooo glad I'm going home! I've missed my family and friends a ton and can't wait to see them all! We switched planes in Amsterdam then headed towards the States. We were supposed to fly to Detroit then on to Oklahoma but the flight crew needed to change so we made a stop in Boston. Then the new flight crew never showed up so Delta had to  reroute about 200 passengers on different flights! Ugh! We were supposed to be home in a few hours but they don't have any flights going to Tulsa this evening so now we have to stay the night in Boston! :-(

We had to go collect all our luggage - which took forever but thankfully it was all there. Then, we waited in the Delta reservations line for 2 1/2 hours to make our new flight arrangements. The next flight out is tomorrow morning so they put us up at the Hyatt Hotel for our "inconvenience".

I am writing this from my hotel room and looking out my huge window with an AMAZING view of Boston. Here's the daytime view...

And here's the nighttime view. If only we were here a little longer, we'd have to stop by "Cheers!".

But just getting here was great "fun", to say the least! We made our way outside to wait for the Hyatt Shuttle to take us to our hotel. Now mind you, we just came from 90 degree weather in Africa so the 40 degree windy weather was really a shock to our system as we were not dressed for the cold! We waited and waited but the shuttle never came! I'm pretty sure Kelley and I were driving Derk nutso as we were shivering and jumping up and down to keep warm - and the complaining probably didn't help a whole lot, either. So we tracked down an airport bus and we were finally taken to our hotel. The driver was very "friendly" and gladly watched us as we struggled to get our luggage on and off his shuttle without his help.

Then we checked in at the hotel and were given our room keys.

I was on the 7th floor so I wearily took all my luggage and made my way to my room. Just as I was about to go in, I thought I could hear someone in my room and the "privacy" sign was on the door. I thought that was strange, so I knocked on the door and there was a lady staying in my room! Evidently, they assigned me to a room that was already occupied by another guest. At this point, I just had to laugh because I could have easily broken down sobbing right there in the hotel hallway. I was exhausted, hungry, and just wanted to be home.

I made my way to the registration desk and was assigned another room. It was very nice and spacious and the bed looked sooo comfortable, I just wanted to dive right in!

So I ate a quick dinner of Clam Chowder (because when in Boston, you must have chowder!) and showered (felt oh so nice!). This is a picture of me right outside the hotel restaurant. Too bad it was cold outside - the view was amazing! I could have stayed out there forever!

Our flight leaves at 10 in the morning and we should be home by 3! Having this "adventure" today makes me miss my family even more! I really wanted to be home but this was probably a blessing in disguise because at least I can now get some good rest and a shower before I see my family tomorrow. Now I'm really counting down the hours! It's almost 8:30 and I'm about to go to sleep because I can't keep my eyes open any longer! Signing off here and tomorrow I'll be home!

Sorry - being a former "Cheers" fan, I just had to post this ;-)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Uganda Trip - Day 13

Saturday, Dec. 11 -

Today's notes from my girls...

This morning we woke up early and took a boat ride down the Nile River! We saw hippos and crocs really close up! We also saw water buffalo, gazelles, monkeys, wild boar, antelope, and deer. The ride was about 4 miles in length and 2 1/2 hours long. It was so much fun!

After eating an amazing buffet lunch back at the hotel, we packed up our bags and began the "journey" home. And what a journey it was! We were told when we entered the Park to go through the north entrance because that was where most of the animals were. We found the north side is a lot more grassland and fewer trees, so we did see more animals. We took a barge ride across the Nile to get to the south side where the exit was.

I thought the best part of the safari was actually getting to see the waterfalls. They were amazing! The noise alone took my breath away! The water was so powerfully beautiful and strong! Words can't even describe it - it was jaw dropping!

It took us about another 2 1/2 hours to get down the narrow, bumpy dirt rode to exit the Park. It had just rained the night before, too, which made the dirt road really muddy. I was a bit worried we'd get stuck in a ditch or a pothole because our van was sliding all over the place! It was interesting how everything turned from grassland to tropical jungle so quickly. We were soon covered with trees and vines all around us. Didn't see many animals on the south side - just some chimpanzees and tropical birds.

We were so excited to see the exit sign because we had driven for what seemed like forever not really knowing if we were going in the right direction or not. It then took us another 8 hours or so to drive to the airport. I don't think I've done as much praying at a single time as I did during that drive to Kampala. Kelley and I were scared to death - we were literally ducking from cars and pedestrians as they passed us! As I mentioned before, they drive C-R-A-Z-Y here - they drive super fast, often times lanes aren't marked, roads are typically 2-lanes that you have to share with walkers, bikers and those on motor cycles, cars and busses. And it's especially scary at night because there is no electricity which means no street lights. The roads are very narrow and often times are bumpy, dirt roads. We had way too many close calls! Amazingly, Derk slept through most of it in the back seat of our van! When he woke up, I told him he was like the story in the Bible of Jesus sleeping on the boat and a storm came and his disciples were freaking out because of the crashing waves all around them ;-)  It truly was a miracle that we made it to the airport without an incident - PTL!

So I am now writing this journal entry on the plane. We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! We have an 8 1/2 hour flight to Amsterdam. So I'm going to try to get some shut eye and maybe catch a movie on the way home. Will write more tomorrow - counting down the hours until I'm home! :-)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Uganda Trip - Day 12

Saturday, Dec. 11 -

Today's notes from my girls...

OH MY GOODNESS!!! Today was AMAZING! We ate a delicious breakfast at the home of the French missionary family that we have befriended this week. They served french omelets, homemade bread, muffins, donuts, and African Ginger Tea. They are such a hospitable and friendly family - we could have just talked with them for hours!

After our bellies were stuffed and we said our good-byes, we drove about 2 1/2 hours west to Murchison Falls National Park for an African Safari!

I've always wanted to go on a safari but never thought I'd really have the chance. It was so surreal - I couldn't even believe it was really happening! Our van had a sun roof so Kelley and Derk sat on top of the van and I stood through the window as we drove the path. We saw gazelles, antelopes, deer, giraffes, boar hogs and water buffalo.

We drove for about 2 1/2 hours thinking we were possibly lost then out of nowhere our lodge appeared. Oh my word! This is by far the nicest place I have ever stayed at! And I can't believe it's in the middle of Nowhere, Uganda! After seeing such awful poverty and after having such an emotional 2 weeks, it was certainly a site for sore eyes! We walked into the lobby to check in and were greeted with passion juice and cool, wet rags to clean ourselves after our "journey". We then checked into our own rooms and oh my goodness! I am so undeserving - especially after what I've seen in Lira. But it almost made me feel like a princess! Our hotel is called The Para Lodge and it's a 5 star hotel. I seriously think I could probably live here - well, if the rest of my friends and family were here, I could ;-)

The first thing I did was take a shower. It felt so good to have a "normal" shower, it literally brought tears to my eyes. For the first time in almost 2 weeks, I had warm water that didn't stink and great water pressure. I was in heaven! A good shower is very much underrated! Electricity is only on during certain hours but at least we had power - another thing that is highly underrated and I will never take for granted again. More bonuses - I had no crickets in my room, it was very clean and I felt totally safe for the first time since I had been on my trip. And the view out of my window is THE Nile River! The Nile River! So rich of history!

I'm sitting here writing and thinking I can't believe I'm here and I'm on the downside of our two week trip to Africa. It's been amazing - I've seen much with my eyes and heard much with my ears - much more sadness than I'd like to like to experience, even in my lifetime. But I wouldn't change it for the world. We came and accomplished what we intended to do and even did a little more than what our original goals were set for.

I've seen and I've heard what God wanted me to and now I'm ready to go back home. Of course, I missed my family and friends before I even left Oklahoma but now I go back with new eyes. You can't go to a third world country and see what we've seen and not be changed. I feel like I've always been a pretty "simple" person who doesn't place a lot of emphasis on "things", but especially now, after I've seen so many people do without so much "stuff" - it really puts things into perspective and makes you rethink how you live your life and what you put emphasis on - whether it be the kind of clothes you wear, what school your kids go to, what neighborhood you live in, how big your house is, what kind of toys and gadgets you have, where you vacation, how you spend your free time, etc.  In the end, none of this matters. What does matter is how your life has glorified God and how you pointed others to Him. Americans could be so much happier if they would just be themselves and stop trying to impress one another. We have such an "entitlement" mentality - we think we deserve things and we want everything now - or yesterday. We are impatient and don't wait on God's timing or His blessings. We take too many things for granted, yet we deserve nothing.

I pray that I will always remember my experiences in Uganda. I pray that God will use those experiences to make me a better person and to see things in a new light.

Thank you, God, for allowing me this opportunity of a lifetime!

Two more days and I'll be home! Oh, what a happy day that will be!

Uganda Trip - Day 11

Friday, Dec. 10 -

Today's notes from my girls...

Today we met our Ugandan Project Hope Worldwide friends, Tony and Dennis, at a local hotel for a business meeting to discuss details about Calo Me Lare's future. I wore long shorts and a t-shirt (a big no no here as women who dress like that in Uganda are known as prostitutes!) thinking we would be right back after the meeting. Needless to say, it is now midnight and we are just now getting back to our hotel! So there is no telling what the people of Lira thought about me prancing around their district today ;-) The meeting was great and we're so excited to have Tony and Dennis on our team. They have a passion for helping those in need and are two of the most hard working men I know. They are a huge asset to Project Hope.

After the meeting, we went to meet our last orphan who was only three years old. Her three sweet and caring brothers are taking care of her since their parents have both died from HIV/AIDS. Sadly, we found out when we met her that she just tested positive for HIV yesterday when she had her medical check-up. Unfortunately, Calo Me Lare is unable to accept those that test HIV positive so we weren't able to take her. It just made us sick to our stomach to know that this precious, innocent little girl had already been infected. It's amazing to me how rampant AIDS is in this country - even affecting the smallest of its citizens.

Derk, Kelley and I then went to visit a church that our church back home actually planted in 2008. The preacher is David Papakakiro and it was great to see a church that seemed to be thriving and reaching out to the community.

Next, we walked through Jinja Camp which is part of the Lira District. This is a building we saw as we were walking - of course, I had to take a picture of it! ;-)

Soccer is huge here and a big game was being shown at a local bar so we decided to stop and watch some of it. Tanzania vs. Uganda - let's just say Ugandan soccer fans are a little more reserved than Oklahoma fans of any sport. Uganda ended up loosing and everyone just stood up out of their chairs and left - saying nothing to anyone.  Very interesting.

That night, we ate dinner at the house of Tony's aunt. She fixed a traditional Ugandan favorite dish called malaquan, which is a rich spinach and peanut sauce. We poured it over baked sweet potatoes and ate them with our hands, no utensils - very ethnic ;-) The food was so good and she even left us each a jar of homemade malaquan to make when we get back home!

If you look closely at the picture of her house, you'll see this flyer. Tony is actually going to be the next mayor of Lira in February 2011! We are so proud of him and his hard work. We know he will bring great positive change to their district!

Last night, I forgot to mention we ate an FaBuLoUs Asian-style dinner at the home of a French Canadian missionary family. John Cottrell, his wife Sylvia, and their two sons have traveled everywhere from Cambodia to Europe to Uganda teaching people - not only about God, but life skills to help them obtain a better way of living. They are an amazing family and I really enjoyed talking with them. They are a great resource for Project Hope Worldwide and we were so thankful for their advice and friendship. They are also really into healthy living and I loved getting a tour of their gardens. They had huge banana, lemon and papaya trees and they told us several of the medicinal benefits of many of the plants they were growing. They were a wealth of information!

After tonight's dinner, we went back to the Cottrell's house for a "nightcap". We roasted marshmallows and ate pumpkin pie and popcorn. It was a perfect night to celebrate our last night in Lira! They have invited us back for breakfast in the morning, then we head to Murchison Falls for an African Safari! Can not wait!!!

I learned some very sad and disturbing news tonight. A few nights ago, a "Christian" Crusade was held in a field right behind our hotel. We could hear LOUD music being played until about 4 in the morning! Apparently 30 women were raped that night and 2 died from their injuries! All the while, the "police" watched and did nothing! Nothing?!?! Two weeks ago someone here was stoned to death for stealing someone else's cow, yet a woman here can be totally violated and it's no big deal. What is wrong with this picture?! It is 2010 and still animals are treated better than women here! There is such a huge need for someone to start a movement here teaching women how to protect themselves and to speak out when they are violated. They need to know it is not okay to be abused and that they deserve to be shown respect and treated humanely.

I have to get up early in the morning so I better stop now because I could probably write a book because of the anger I have right now. I suppose it's okay to be angry - it's what you do with your anger that matters most. I suppose I need to channel my "fury" into something positive instead of spending all my time male bashing. So I'll sign off here and go pray.

Sweet dreams! :-)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Uganda Trip - Day 10

Thursday, Dec. 9 -

Today's notes from my girls...

So it rained last night and I have found when it rains here, bugs make a B-line to the indoors! I have to say I was a little freaked out when I woke up and saw bugs on the floor next to my front door and up the wall all along the doorway. Huge grasshoppers were in my room on the curtains, walls, everywhere! There was also another strange type of bug with long wings - some people said they were queen ants, others said they were white termites.

So, being the brave bug warrior I am - NOT! - I kept my distance and got ready in a hurry that morning. I went to breakfast and by the time I got back, the housekeeper had already swept all the bugs from my room - well, almost all the bugs. I still had about 4 huge grasshoppers so I asked the hotel attendant if she had a broom I could borrow to get the rest of the bugs out of my room. She followed me to my room and I showed her where the rest of the bugs were. She proceeded to pick up the large grasshoppers WITH HER BARE HANDS!!! My jaw dropped to the floor. I told her she was my hero.  ;-) Evidently, grasshoppers are a delicacy here. In fact, I saw several of the groundskeepers walking around picking up the grasshoppers and putting them in empty water bottles to cook them up later. They say they taste like shrimp - and no, I did not taste them to find out!

After that bit of "fun", we set out to find 2 more orphans that will be living at Calo Me Lare. We located the first one in a far away village and found out that he also had a twin sister. We didn't want to split them up so we added another orphan today!

Tony Ochen and his sister, Apio Harriet...

In fact, we added 3 new orphans today because we learned that 3 of our orphans had twin siblings. Our numbers are growing rapidly! Because of this growth, we decided we need to hire at least 2 new house mothers and we'll have to get started on building the school right away. It's exciting to see the growth and changes right before my eyes!

The next orphan we found was Tracy. Her father died in 2007 of an illness he had for a long time. Sadly, her mother just died about five months ago from HIV/AIDS. She has a sister, who is nine, but she is also sick with AIDS. Her aunt, who has no children of her own, was taking care of both girls but decided it was too much to take care of Tracy and gave her to a drunk uncle. He was abusive to her and did not look after her well. We knew she had to be removed immediately from that situation so we went to her village with the intention of taking her - and that's exactly what we did. (We did this legally, of course. The uncle signed over his rights and Tracy is now an adopted child of Calo Me Lare where she will live until she is 18 years of age.) The sad thing is that out of all the local villagers, not one questioned what we were doing or where we were taking her. I suppose they saw it as one less mouth to feed and one less child to keep up with.

When we first met Tracy, She was very reserved, scared and even cried for a while. Kelley gave her some licorice and sat next to her, trying to warm up to her.

Our Ugandan helper and interpreter, Dennis, asked everyone to move away from the area so they could bond and develop a relationship. Tracy liked the candy and even sat in Kelley's lap. Almost immediately, she cracked a little grin then fell asleep in Kelley's arms. I don't know if she was exhausted or just relieved to feel someone love on her. I think, probably for the first time ever, she finally felt safe.

After she fell into a deep sleep, Kelley carried her to our van and climbed inside. This is a video I shot as we were walking to the van. I even got to meet the "Creator of the Planet" herself.  That was an "interesting" conversation, let me tell ya ;-)

We took her back to our hotel where she continued to sleep on a blanket on the courtyard lawn. After she woke up, we fed her some chicken and french fries. She ate and drank quite a bit for a little girl! Then, Kelley gave her a bath and put some new, clean clothes on her - the very outfit she purchased at the auction we attended last Sunday! Tracy looked and acted like a totally different child. Kelley gave her an orange pop and she loved that, too!

Then we had to figure out what to do with Little Miss Tracy. We knew we couldn't take her back to her village and it wasn't in her best interest if she stayed with us "white people". So, we took her to our Ugandan friend, Tony's, family where she could stay temporarily and be cared for until Calo Me Lare was completed in February. Tony's family has lots of children, mothers and grandmothers that will love on Tracy and care for her as if she was their own.

It was bitter sweet to see Tracy go. We had developed a little relationship with her and she even smiled and laughed some while under our care. I pray for Tracy - that God would protect her and keep her from HIV/AIDS. I pray that she is taught of God's love while living at Calo Me Lare and that she comes to know and accept His love. I pray that she never goes hungry and that she has clean water to drink. I pray that she receives an excellent education and becomes a great leader in her community. I pray for good health and that she is a blessing to all those around her. I pray that she loves, fears, and serves God with all her heart, mind, and soul. This is my prayer for all the orphans at Calo Me Lare and around the world. Amen.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Wednesday, Dec. 8 -

I'm not complaining here. This is just a little list I came up with of challenges on my trip. I've learned it's all just part of the experience and you have to roll with the punches!

* Brushing my teeth with bottled water

* 90 degree weather in December (actually, I think I could get used to this!)

* No internet service = driving me nuts!!!

* Sleeping with a mosquito net. There must be a trick to it because I keep getting all twisted in mine!

* There's only 1 plug in my hotel room that I can use at a time. So, I have to decide between using a fan to cool my room, charging my electronics or using my hair dryer ;-)

* Let's just say I REALLY miss food back home. I'm definitely going to have Ted's very soon after I get back!

* Wearing long skirts. I'm kind of a t-shirt and sweats kinda gal.

* Showering with a trickle of cold water

* It's December and I've only seen a few Christmas trees here but the ones I've seen have been decorated very "interestingly". Let's just say they really like garland hung in a vertical fashion here in Uganda ;-)

* It takes a very long time to get food when you order at a restaurant - sometimes even a few hours. I think it's because they don't have refrigeration & they actually have to go to market and get everything fresh.

* You never know if you're going to have electricity or not. I was told the entire district of Lira was recently without electricity for several months! Can't even imagine that back in the States!

* I can only flush my toilet about once an hour because it takes that long for it to fill up with water again for the next use ;-)

* Our hotel has a small outdoor bar right outside my room and they keep playing really bad really loud country music. I think they are trying to satisfy the American visitors ;-)

Uganda Trip - Day 9

Wednesday, Dec. 8 -

Today's notes from my girls...

Today we had lunch at the Otino-Waa Cafe with two Lira government officials. (Otino-Waa is the orphanage Calo Me Lare is modeled after that I mentioned in an earlier post.)

Project Hope Worldwide wants to establish early a friendly relationship with the government so that they can see we are trying to help promote positive change in their community. We also want to have their complete backing in the decisions we make. We discussed with the leaders what our goals were with the orphanage and how we were modeling Calo Me Lare off of the successfully run Otino-Waa Orphanage.

We then drove out to see Calo Me Lare and the progress we have made so far. They were actually really excited about our project and apparently they've even posted information about it on their government website.

They reminded us of the importance of teaching the children skills that will help them as they grow older and when they go back out to their villages. They also gave us advice on purchasing more land, what to plant on our land, and where to plant particular types of vegetation.

Photo by Helmut Schleppi
All in all, it was a great and encouraging meeting.

Video by Helmut Schleppi