Monday we made the trek to Kampala to meet up with Chris and Katie Sasser, who were there because their youngest son Logan had misplaced an airsoft pellet in his ear. Despite the circumstances, we were grateful for the ride back to Kaihura (you’ll see why later). The Sassers are missionaries with Global Support, based in Nashville, and are about 2 years into their 5 year stint in Kaihura. Their house has come a long way from the plot of land and various iron windows and doors I remember carrying up from the roadside welders in 2009 with the Nashville team (many in Kaihura send their greetings to you guys, by the way).
Kaihura is like an oasis compared to the day in Kampala traffic, and then the hour and a half long stretch of construction which sent us jumping from our seats to the ceiling as Chris skillfully navigated speed humps and bad Ugandan driving, and I tried not to look at the edges of the road which plummeted straight down into gullies. In Kaihura, the madness stops and you are greeted by smiling faces, little girls bowing out of respect as they shake your hands, and Maureen, one of the cooks, directs you to a table set with delicious matooke (mashed boiled plantains), cabbage, irish (potatoes) and sodas.
We are supposed to begin building a well on Tuesday, but as is common in Uganda, we find out that it is not yet ready, so Matt and I headed to the Home Again orphanage to greet the little ones. I was excited to meet Paige, a sweet little preemie who had just arrived in 2009, and didn’t look like she had grown much over the past 2 years. She has hemiplegic CP, but has recently begun to receive some physiotherapy consultation and the staff at Home Again say she has really improved. Cute kiddo, but she sure does know when a PT is in the room. Stubborn tears aside, she participated really well for me. There was also a little boy named Moses whose grandparents had come by to visit. He was 6, and just recently began to walk. I was able to talk them through some exercises for strengthening and later saw them as we were boda-ing down the street. I love being able to see someone on the street here and greet them with waves and smiles…it really makes the village feel a lot smaller.
There was also a youth conference going on all week, so we periodically popped in and out to hear people speaking (including Katie), and join in some singing. God was definitely all around us this past week, His Spirit seemed almost palpable in Kaihura. I don’t know how else to describe it, but Katie was using the example of faith in God being like knowing the wind is there because you can feel it… and if you close your eyes in Kaihura, I imagine you can even feel God’s touch in that wind. Cheesy maybe. But true.
Wednesday and Thursday were well-diggin’ days. I know Matt was really looking forward to this part, and being able to get his hands dirty. I was almost dreading it because I know I am “She of Little Upper Body Strength” and if Ugandans let you do a task they are quick to take a shovel or hoe back from you if you’re inefficient. However, it really wasn’t that bad. The well was being built in a community called Busanza, about a 15 min drive from Kaihura along some back roads off of back roads, which the community was machete-ing to make wider even as we drove up. What I was most impressed with was the community turnout. There were at least 20 people clearing the roads, and 20-30 more adults and children who showed up to help at the well on Wednesday. I think one of the greatest attributes of the Know Think Act program is that all of the money donated through it really does go directly to each designated project, and then the Sassers or whoever is on the ground at the time, along with a local organization, are out recruiting the community to become involved and supply the work to get it done. Impressive in action.
Their current water source was about a 100 yard hike from where we parked our car, a nice shaded, steady stream of fairly clean looking water. Unfortunately, so low to the ground that many who were there were filling up smaller bottles and then having to pour them into the standard sized jerry cans to hike back to their families. The stream of water was manually diverted and the digging began, and the rest of us began the first of MANY trips carrying the large stones which would line the box well from the parking clearing all the way back to the site. And that, my friends, is how muscles are made…
I remember one trip in 2007 where I carried a pack of TP on my head from main street to Amani’s Vol House… I mean, if the locals are going to giggle at Mzungu, we might as well give em something to giggle at, right? Well, I decided to see what just one trip from the clearing to the well site might feel like while carrying a stone on my head, as many of the women and even the tiniest of little girls were doing. One of the women laughed as she fashioned me a grass wreath for a cushion.
Now, those of you who have known me the past 6 months know of the migraines and neck pain I have been having, and those of you who might be coworkers reading this might acknowledge that the worst thing I could do for my cervical spine would be to put a few kilos of compression through it with stones. But let me tell you this tiny/large, surprising miracle… it didn’t hurt. One bit. In fact, it was easier. What?! And so my trips continued on both days. Rocks on head. A silly-looking Mzungu, inwardly praising for the temporary relief of pain to assist with the task at hand. Let it be known that you CAN carry more weight on your head than in your arms!
We didn’t get to see the finished well by the time we left on Friday, but that was okay. It was great participating, and seeing the process. Also, some of your donations were put through the Nashville Cares group towards that very well, so when we post photos, they’re really your dollars at work, making change. Thank you- webale muno, in Ritoro.
I also got the privilege of working with a woman named Faith (not Kunihira Faith, though she is always a pleasure to see, but this Faith works at the Hope Again clinic) to reinforce a treatment plan for Paige and review some treatment options for other patients she had. She was very quick to pick up the hands on techniques, and even though Paige knew it was therapy time, there weren’t as many tears working with her as this strange, super-white person J
Thursday night we rode to Fort Portal for dinner, and that night after packing up I hung out with Juliet, Robina, Liz, Esther, and Christine… some crazy wonderful girls who live at Faith’s house. It was kind of a Ugandan girls’ night… we painted fingernails, helped take out braids (ouch!), sang praise songs, and then sang/danced to some Ugandan children’s rhymes (Casey, Shelby, you guys might remember the statue game!). Very fun.
I’ve written a ton that you guys are probably skimming, so I’ll save the trip back to Jinja for its own entry. I’m not so great at taking the time to blog here, for obvious reasons such as making every moment here count… thank you for prayers and support. I see it in action every day, and we’ve only been here a week or so. But thank you.