Meetings, meetings, meetings...

Our day began early leaving the hotel about 7:45 a.m. to meet with the Minister of Education, Mulindwa Ismael. We were welcomed enthusiastically and enjoyed a  productive meeting. Edward Ssebukyu, deputy commissioner for private schools and institutions, joined the meeting. Both men were warm and helpful in our discussions of the Muko High School project. We learned that the new curriculum will probably not be implemented until 2020, costing 55.5 million US dollars. The government is emphasizing subject matter versus learning areas, so, for example, rather than a general learning area encompassing biology, chemistry, and physics, each subject will again be presented separately.  There will also be a new emphasis on problem-solving and critical-thinking so that students have a more practical education. We were given several examples of other outside countries or organizations running a school.  Mr. Ssebukyu agreed to set us up with a visitation to one of those schools on August 9th as we prepare to return from Uganda.

We returned to the hotel in the late morning where the team caught up on emails and debriefing the first meeting. Sue, Generous, and Diana spent some time planning handcrafts to bring back to the USA.  Just before noon Dave, Karen, and Diana went shopping for a computer for the new library at the Muko Empowerment Centre. The library there will be largely internet based- everyone is excited about its development- largely thanks to the Circle of Blessings. We also went to a grocery store to purchase peanut butter, ketchup, and hot sauce to enhance our meals. 

Speaking of meals, lunches usually consist of a cup of soup, trail mix, peanuts, or other snacks. The team is still feeling the effects of jet lag so a few of us timed a short nap so that the afternoon rest would not affect the overnight sleep. 

At 4:30 p.m., Muwonge Kewaza, an Education consultant that Generous works with in her role with a management school committee for a government school. Muwonge Kewaza has a vast background in Education, including being a Commissioner in the Ministry of Education for Primary Schools. He has multiple degrees in Education and works in standardizing testing for the country. We learned about the three types of schools, 1) Government 2) Private but subsidized by government funds 3) Private and unsubsidized by the government. We invited Muwonge to stay for dinner with us and had the opportunity to learn more from him over Chef Francis' vegetable curry, a roasted fish, Irish potatoes, pineapple and watermelon.

At 6:30 p.m., we went to the St. Stephens primary school which is run by Charles and Joseline, friends of Generous', as a business for the St. Stephens Anglican Church. There were many similarities between our Muko High School project and their situation. They kindly sat with us for almost three hours and answered many of our basic questions. We talked about how a child might be dismissed or "chased" out of school if their school fees are unpaid. We learned that they have to plan for an approximate 20% bad debt. At the same time, they fund 50 out of 350 destitute students who go to their school for free. Charles described his job as Director and promised us a job description for their Headmaster. Charles offered a moving prayer that was very encouraging and tear-jerking for several of us. It made us feel that what ACT is doing is making a difference.

Interesting story - during this last meeting a HUGE bug was flying around, first over Sue's head and then around Karen's feet. Diana interrupted the meeting by saying "Step on it, Karen! " CRRRUNCH! Her foot did not move for about a half hour to be sure of its demise! 

Sending love to you all- more tomorrow! 

There's a gecko in my bathroom!

Blog

 

Our team of six arrived safely in Entebbe on Tuesday evening to cool temperatures of 72 degrees. The trip was long but uneventful in a pleasant way. Generous, our Ugandan Director, met us at the airport and guided us with our twelve suitcases, six carryons, five violins and one viola to greet our favorite driver, Christopher. 

 

Our travel team is made up of the following:

 

Dick Dolinski is founder of The Legacy Center,  a Midland-based "think and do tank" focused on outside-the-classroom factors affecting youth learning and development. His focus will be discerning our involvement in the administration of Muko High School

 

Sue Waechter, our USA Director and founder. Sue is involved in all of our five teams for ACT,  HANDS(Helping Agriculture...) MukoHOPE( Helping Orphans Prosper and Endure), MEP(Muko Empowerment Program) which pays a fair wage to women and men for handcrafts then sold in the USA, HEAL ( Health is Elemental for All Life) , and MUSIC( Muko Uganda String Instruments for Children)

 

Diana Stubig, our USATeam leader for sewing, board member, and MukoHOPE team member. Diana's focus will be on training, sewing, and crafts

 

Joe Oprea, Orchestra Director from the Lowell Schools in Michigan and whose focus will be directing and teaching violins, violas, and cellos at Muko High School. Joe will also work with Howard, our music teacher in Muko

 

Karen Viele, USA Team Leader for MukoHOPE, MUSIC, and a board member. Karen's focus will be teaching music and discernment for development of Muko high school 

 

David Viele, USA Finance Director for ACT and board member. Dave will work with the finances of the trip as well as training for budget and finance in Uganda. 

 

All team members will be involved in helping to make a recommendation to the USA and Ugandan boards regarding our future work with Muko High School. ACT has been invited by the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese who owns Muko high School to become the administrators of the school. We are proceeding with careful investigation and deliberations, meeting with administration, teachers, support staff, students, and community members to make a recommendation to our boards in the USA and Uganda.  We plan to have a recommendation before this trip ends. 

 

After a breakfast of meat samosas, fresh pineapple, watermelon and omelettes made to order, Dick and Sue left with Richard and Generous Turinawe, (the Ugandan couple who are the Ugandan founders of ACT) for Holy Cross Lakeview school in Jinja- an approximate two hour drive. They met with Sister Beatrice who shared information about the founding of the school, its maintenance, financials, and curriculum. A traffic jam delayed their return to our hotel extending the drive by about two additional hours. 

This was a pretty grueling day for them..

 

Meanwhile, Joe, Karen, and Dave drove with Christopher to downtown Kampala to a music store dealing with Yamaha equipment. A piano was chosen that will operate electrically or by batteries and has many features of rhythmic beats and instrumental sounds. The piano will be used to teach music theory, for performances in churches and for community events, and in the string classroom to keep students together. 

 

Diana remained at our hotel, the Adonai, to complete the sewing on brightly colored vests brought for MUSIC students. The Adonai is a peaceful sanctuary for missionaries. It is always rewarding to meet up with other teams from all over the world and learn about their work in Uganda.  We are fortunate to enjoy the food cooked by our masterful Chef Francis who is from Kenya, and allows us recover from the long hours of travel.

 

The team met together at 6 pm to enjoy a meal of beef and chicken, rice, vegetables, Irish potatoes, pineapple, and watermelon.  We were soon joined by three members of Generous' Kampala Advisory Council and we talked together about beginning a Circle of Blessings type fundraising event in Kampala.  We also asked their advice about running a school, asking them questions like "What makes a good school?" "What are the challenges of maintaining teachers?" " What would you suggest to improve schools in rural areas?""Tell us why there is teacher turnover in a school that pays a fair wage?" The conversation could have continued many hours longer but everyone agreed that the hour had come to allow the Advisory Council members to return to their homes! 

 

Additional stories might be captioned as follows, some related to the seven hour time difference:

 

" There's a gecko in my bathroom!"

 

"I tried to take a nap but fell into a sleep that could have lasted six hours!"

 

" It's 2 am and I am ready to get up!"

 

" It's time for bed, but why am I suddenly hungry?" 

 

Sending love to our families and friends and all who are joining us on the blog!



Sent from my iPad

Today is the Day

Our team of 6 will be leaving this afternoon and arriving late tomorrow night in Uganda. Our main focus for this trip is gathering more data about the management of Muko High School. ACT has been offered the opportunity to manage the school. There will also be lots of MUSIC going on with Karen Viele and Joe Oprea working with the ACT Stringed Orchestra. We would appreciate thoughts and prayers for safe travel and good discernment regarding the High School decision!

It's Art Fair Season!

We hope to see you at our upcoming Art Fairs!

 

June 3, 4, 2017: MCFTA Summer Art Fair, Midland

June 10, 11, 2017: YMCA Riverside Festival, Bay City

June 10, 2017: Red Dresser-Barn Market, Traverse City

August 11 - 13, 2017: Great Lakes Art Festival Marketplace, E. Lansing

August 11, 12, 2017: Michaywe Art Festival, Gaylord

November 4, 2017: Dickens Christmas Bazaar, First Congregational Church, Traverse City

December 3, 2017: Holt Presbyterian Church, Holt

December 10, 2017: Grand Haven Presbyterian Church, Grand Haven

On the road again....

The day began, as most do not, with an air of charged energy.  The serenity was still there but overlaid with a veneer of anxiety mixed with excitement.  We were preparing to return to America.  This meant packing and repacking to fit the handicrafts necessary for ACT’s retail outlets in luggage and under the weight requirement for KLM.  We ended up leaving many baskets behind for the next team to bring.

One reason we struggled was that we had to buy just a few more special items for the shops.  We did what we needed to do and so we packed again.  At last, we were on the road to Entebbe, dinner, and our flights home.

I am sure if each of us had to describe this experience in a few words, there would be superlatives charged with emotions.  Now that we are back, it is a good time for you to ask.

Meanwhile, back in Kampala

Sunday the Vocational Training Team attended St. Stephens church to share in the celebration of Director Generous Turinawe and her husband (and fellow founder) Richard's son Jesse's confirmation.  Jesse, along with more than 70 others were confirmed in the church in a service that started a little after 11:30 and ended at 3:00.  The priest while recognizing the VTT near the end of the service said with a smile, "I don't think you have ever attended a service this long."  We agreed he was right!  Jesse is the handsome young man with the bowtie in the family picture below.  

In the afternoon and evening, Dick Dolinski provided training on what makes a good board to members of ACT Uganda's Advisory Board and Suzanne Greenberg presented information on fundraising to Generous and Richard.  

You will recall that sending a team of trainers to Uganda was our "Plan B" when the ACT Uganda team was unable to obtain U.S. Visas to come to Michigan for training.  Reflecting on the time that we have been here and the large numbers from the community that filled the Muko center beyond capacity, we realize this may have been for the best.  Many more than the ACT staff benefited.

Sue Waechter, U.S. Direct of ACT says, "The training was so successful that I think that every time we come we should conduct at least one training session."

A Day of Travel

Good evening to all followers of our blog!  This is Saturday, January 21 and the 6 of us just had a delicious dinner buffet. It consisted of Fish, Chicken, fresh vegetables, Irish potatoes, rice and pasta.  The women are sitting outside on the veranda (where we ate) while I type out this blog. The rest of the women are reading news on their cell phones and the 2 men are calling home. Now Dick, Vanessa, Suzanne and Sue are beginning to play Farkle! 

Our day started with the final packing and poor Christopher (our driver) having to load extremely heavy suitcases on the top of our bus.  We said our goodbyes to the Jopfan Hotel and Christopher drove us 10 hours to Kampala for the last leg of our trip.  All of us stopped at the Equator (which was counted in our 10 hrs) to do a little shopping and have lunch.  It had rained in Kampala before we arrived since we saw puddles.

It is currently 77 degrees at 7 pm and humid.  Most of us are tired from the travel and I don't think it will be a late night. To our dismay, there will be no shopping Sunday, which will be our day of rest.

Last Day in Muko

Today, unfortunately, marked our last day with the wonderful people in Muko. We will certainly miss their warmth, graciousness, and especially, their enthusiasm for learning. 

We began the day with a community dialogue in the village of Nyamiyaga. The leaders and villagers of this extremely high elevation location (8,200 feet!) met with ACT staff and the HEAL team (Health is Elemental for All Life) to identify key issues in the village. The dialogue began by separating the approximately 80 participants into three groups; women, men, and children. Each group was charged with brainstorming a list of issues facing the health of the community. The groups came together and reported on their work. The women identified issues such as alcoholism, a lack of potable water, the care of orphaned children, and spousal abuse. The men noted concerns about a lack of quality seeds, domestic violence, and fees for supporting children's education. The children reported their concerns about a lack of books, disruptive students, and the unaffordability of uniforms. The groups prioritized the issues in two categories; the lack of water, and affording school fees. The groups then developed strategies and actions plans for achieving these objectives.

Upon returning to the Muko center, Vanessa led a group of staff and 32 additional men and women in a training session about community wealth. She spoke to the universality of the desire for health. The key elements of health were discussed as were specific actions to improve outcomes. These included hygiene, vaccinations, exercise, and other important ways to improve health outcomes.

In addition to the group dialogue and training sessions, individual training, consulting and counseling sessions were undertaken by Diana with Guma regarding handcraft marketing, and Tim with Moses following-up on the HANDS (Helping Agricultural New Development and Sustainability) training and field work. Sue also met with Rauben regrading the pilot evaluation of the HEAL program and with Guma about the new administrative/secretarial hire.

Prior to leaving, the various handcraft articles produced at the center were packaged for return to and sale at the US ACT retail stores. Ginny's inventory request was fulfilled.

As it became time to leave, the heavens opened up as if grieving the end of our wonderful journey and we left in the rain. We are heading for Kampala tomorrow and then leaving back for home on Monday. 

Training, Training, Training...Shopping

Today was a fabulous day filled with learning and organizing!  We started with Sue teaching Leadership Skills through her “Living the Leader Role” curriculum and it was well attend with 27 people with staff and Muko Sub County teachers and leaders.  While Sue was teaching, Vanessa, Diana, Suzanne and Jorrin (Generous’ daughter) sorted the nearly 600 dresses and then Vanessa and Jorrin put them all in bags to prepare them for distribution to the churches!  Then, the churches will distribute them to the families in need!

During the final hour of Sue’s training, Diana sorted baskets according to Ginny’s inventory.  She also worked on cutting patterns for our new stuffed animals (hippos, small elephants, zebras and rhinos).  As Vanessa completed the bagging of ALL of the dresses and short sets for our children, Dick and Suzanne left with Father John from Muko Martyrs (the church that is generously supported by Blessed Sacrament) to visit the Uganda Martyrs Clinic (medical), Muko Martyrs school and church.  It was heartwarming to view all of the buildings, playground equipment, and multiple facilities that Midland’s Blessed Sacrament has made!  We saw that for only $6,000, the parish would have a new roof for the new rectory as well as finishing all of the walls and interior!

In the afternoon, Sue continued her day full of training.  She led a full room of staff and community leaders through her project management training, “Leading Successful Projects”.   Over 27 people learned how to plan and execute their own project as well as the planning history for ACT and its programs!  With 8 hours of training, Sue inspired and educated those present!

After 10 hours at AEC, we headed to several stores in Kabale.  Our team needed to pick up toner for the MEC printer, and fabric for the handcraft program.  We actually had a pleasant experience in the Kabale market purchasing fabric---36 yards to be used for sales in the Uniquely Uganda store!   Our team has truly bonded as a true group of professionals with a common vision and we have truly made a difference already!

PS Sue is going to bed - exhausted! I have waited 1.5 hours for the three photos to upload and cannot wait any longer. I will try tomorrow morning to upload the photos. Goodnight!

It's so late we can't think of a good title!

Computer Training was the beginning of our day today. Diana Stubig spent several hours sharing information about organizing computer files, accessing the Internet and Google Drive where we can share documents with each other. There were about 20 people who continued to file in as Sue, Jorryn and Vanessa kept visiting the copy machine to make more and more handouts. Most of the people from the village have never sat at a computer before. They sat in the secondary seats behind our staff who were at their own laptops learning. We discussed the possibility of opening a computer lab for the community.

 

After lunch (of power bars, peanut butter and crackers), we started Suzanne’s session on Child Development and Child Abuse & Neglect. Again people filed in for the first hour for a total of 27. It was a very passionate session discussing how children develop and what to expect of their ages and then moving into the abuse and neglect portions. This was a very animated portion as people were uncomfortable with the topic but we learned a lot from each other. We discussed corporal punishment and that ACT’s position is that our orphans should not be disciplined in this way – a new concept for many! We encouraged them to try different ways to discipline the children such as time-outs.

 

At the end of our training sessions we are presenting the participants with certificates that is a very important thing for them. They want their photos taken when they receive the certificate and Generous suggested they laminate them.

 

Tim took advantage of the opportunity to return to Daniel’s land which ACT rents for crops to observe the new water pump that ACT purchased to water the crops.

This evening, we attended our third Rotary meeting at the Rotary Club of Kabale held at the White Horse Inn.  It was a great opportunity to share with more Rotarians about the VTT (Vocational Training Team).  Dick and Tim introduced the VTT and the ACT Uganda Team.  Finally, they exchanged the flags…Dick and Tim presented the Acting President with the Midland Noon Rotary Club’s flag.  Then, the entire group proceeded to the dining room for a dinner that included everything from Chicken Curry to Muchomo (pork pieces with vegetables)!

Keeping Hope Alive

The day began, as most days in Uganda, embracing the stillness and serenity of the morning.  The first stop, at Murole Preparatory School, was truly inspiring.  Head Master, Norman Tushabe greeted us and provided a tour of his school where 74 of our 130 orphans attend.  Mr. Tushabe was a successful teacher at another school when he realized he could be more effective in his home village.  It was then he decided to return.  His last name is his inspiration and means let’s pray.  His prayers are constantly being answered and today his compound includes equivalent of our kindergarten through seventh grade classrooms, a computer lab without internet, boy’s and girl’s dormitories, a piggery, a soccer field, and a multipurpose room under construction.  Mr. Tushabe stood tall and a faraway look descended upon him as he spoke of the future for his school.  “My dream, he announced “is where students excel academically and [are] morally upright and are God fearing.” Next approximately 75 guardians engaged in a stimulating seminar expertly lead by VTT member Suzanne Greenberg, CEO of the Child Abuse and Neglect Council Great Lakes Bay Region.  In addition to a review of basic disciplinary practices, Suzanne guided the group thorough the difficult territory of caning and sexual abuse.  She was skilled and demonstrated alternative methods of discipline via a role play which introduced the idea of “time out” with 2 and 3-year-old children.  Sue Waechter, trained the ACT Uganda staff and a few community members in Creating Strategic Partnerships.  The group actively participated and were ready with examples of relevant application for Muko. The full day of activities ended with a staff and community training at the Muko campground complete with a delicious buffet of local dishes.  The staff gratefully acknowledged the support of their American partners.  Rotary VTT member, Richard Dolinski, was professional in his delivery and appropriate in culturally translating child development.  His presentation provoked much discussion and creative solutions proffered by staff and community members alike. Although it was evident that there is still much work to do, everyone left full of hope, shaking hands, and renewing their individual commitments to the ACT mission and Rotary values.  The day ended, as most days in Uganda, enveloped in darkness with the beauty of a star-spangled sky. 

Cabbages and Crafts

Monday the VTT training team went to work.  Tim and Dick toured many fields with the HANDS Uganda (Agriculture) team.  We got a great overview of the types of crops they are growing and their successes and challenges.  One exciting visit was to a new demonstration garden where the villagers had planted 13 different vegetables, most of them new to the area.  This effort was a result of a community based health promotion program introduced in September by ACT called HEAL.  One of the primary concerns identified nutrition deficiencies as a concern due to limited variety in the local diet.  Another NGO, Hope Seeds, provided the seed.  The goal is that one day, every family has a garden.  In the afternoon we worked together to think about the growing process and identifying improvements for the next crop cycle based on the results of the last.  

The other main activity was Diana and Sue working with the beaders, weavers and sewers.  About 45 village women who work in these areas came to the ACT center.  They learned more about the process of bringing their handiwork to market in the U.S. and what items are most in demand there.  New patterns were introduced for the sewers and planning began to bring a trainer to Uganda to teach them additional sewing skills. Those who have had difficulty with vision while doing their close work received reading glasses donated in the U.S.  The handicrafts the women had produced since ACT's last visit were purchased for sale back in the Uniquely Uganda store in Midland and two other stores in Traverse City and Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  

On Sunday the Lord rested and so did we.

On Sunday, the Lord rested and today so did we. We met for breakfast at the hotel at 7:00 then departed for Muko at 8:00 chauffeured by our trustworthy and reliable driver, Christopher. From Muko, three pairs of our team along with ACT staff went to three different churches. Tim and Vanessa attended All Saints Church of Uganda in the village. The service started an hour later than scheduled and lasted for about 2 and a half hours once it got started. Generous was the guest homilist and gave a sermon on giving. Sue and Diana rode to the Ikamiro Church of Uganda along with ACT staff members. They were happy to see the robes donated by the First Presbyterian Church of Holt (Michigan). A photo of the robes is attached. Suzanne and Dick, along with ACT staff, attended the Ugandan Martyrs Church in the village. They arrived 10 minutes before the scheduled time but were told by a nun who greeted them that the service would start later. She invited them to her home and proceeded to put out a breakfast spread on her table—remember we had already had breakfast at the hotel. We were hospitable and had some tea and a half a slice of bread while engaging in very spirited conversation about Rotary and ACT. Sister is a math teacher in the parish school and will be attending our training sessions on early childhood and youth development. So the time was not all in vain. Four representatives of the concert orchestra played a tune at each of the three churches this morning. The service was also joyous and lasted about 2 hours and 45 minutes.

After returning from church, Dick had the opportunity to visit his and Donna’s orphan, Elisa Niyonsaba. Elisa lives with his married adult sister and her husband in a house at the top of the mountain facing Muko village. The walk to the house is on a very steep, narrow, and dusty path that is highly irregular with roots, rocks, and ruts along its entire length. The trial is a little over 2 kilometers in length (about 1.5 miles) and was even more tedious coming down than going up. A photo of Dick’s shoes is attached with one cleaned off and the other not to illustrate just how dusty the trial was. Elisa and his family were most grateful for the gifts that Dick brought for them. His 96 year-old great-grandmother was present and was especially grateful for ACT supporting Elisa’s education.

Later in the afternoon, Howard Biryomuriwe, ACT Music Manager, led the orchestra in a concert for the team and other local people. This was followed later by a music camp-ending performance of the animated rendition of the traditional Rukiga dance that includes jumping, expressive arm movements, and chanting. This high energy performance was genuinely enjoyed by all.

Tomorrow we will be training the field people in Agricultural practices and the Muko Empowerment Program people in handcraft marketing. The week is full of training activities in all the subject matter areas represented by our team. As they say in show business, “stay tuned.”

First Day in the Village...

We met at 8 am for breakfast while we waited for Christopher to pick us up and finally make our first visit to Muko!  This is the day we all wait for we begin our travel to Uganda.  Four out of 6 members of our team have never met our Ugandan ACT staff. The travel on Christopher’s bus was about 45 minutes, going up a mountain on winding roads.  The view is incredible as you see the terraced hills that are beautifully farmed by the village people.  You will also see many people walking along the roads, carrying water in large plastic containers, baskets on heads with produce and animals walking freely.

When we arrived at the Muko Empowerment Center, we were greeted by musicians playing on their violins and cellos.  The staff was ready and waiting for us as well.  It was an amazing and tearful experience.  The village was so happy to see us.

We spent the afternoon going over the agenda for the week, Tim, Dick and Vanessa then walked the Muko market to look for fabric for vests.  Meanwhile, Josiah, Diana, Suzanne were driven by Christopher to make a home visit to see Precious Arinda (Diana’s sponsored child).  That experience is indescribable.  The whole family waits outside for you in anticipation, then lead into their home.  We visited for one hour, took pictures, shared pictures and left with a promise to see everyone in church tomorrow. 

Dinner was at 7 pm and it is always an experience with all of the new experiences with Ugandan food.  It is 9 pm (we are 8 hours ahead of Michigan) and people are either calling home or retiring to their room. 

Stay tuned for our training information  beginning tomorrow!

What would you attempt, if you knew you would not fail?”

“What would you attempt, if you knew you would not fail?”

January 10, 2017:  What a day!  Our mission began on Tuesday, January 10th (1p.m.) as we all gathered to load our suitcases at the Uniquely Uganda store!  Of course, it was blustery and snowing!  We were blessed to have Katie Brinklow chauffeur us down to the Detroit Metro Airport amidst rain, snow and high winds!  Katie is the Youth Coordinator for Memorial Presbyterian Church and a former Muko Team member. Thanks a million Katie!

Our journey started in an airplane from Detroit Metro Airport scheduled to depart about 6:11p.m.    We were not surprised when we were delayed about one hour.  The plane was packed!  The seven hour flight to Amsterdam and then eight hours to Entebbe was followed by our 45 minute drive to Kampala check out the pictures of the beautiful Adonai House where we stayed for two nights.  With the unloading of our suitcases and unpacking---we were able to get to sleep about 2 a.m.!

January 12 2017:    After just a few hours of sleep, we all meet for breakfast at Adonai House---pancakes, eggs, fresh fruit, and coffee.  Chef Francis made a delicious breakfast and we enjoyed every last morselJ!  Our task for the morning was to exchange money, and bring donated cell phones to be unlocked.  In the afternoon, we spent several hours in the Fabric District as we were crammed in a small space  (7x10) lined with women at sewing machines and fabric.  The aisle was just wide enough for one person and there were 15 people in there!  It felt like 100 degrees as seven sellers yelled for our attention, calling us “Mama”, “Mama” while showing us their fabric--gorgeous African material.  The funniest thing is that I don’t sew BUT I will be looking for someone who does when I return!

Following this outing, it was time to head to the Kampala Rotary meeting at the Grand Imperial Hotel.  Dick and Tim shared our mission here and introduced the Vocational Training Team.  Dick described the critical training that we will be providing on leadership, early childhood education, child abuse and neglect, community building and so much more!  At the end of the presentation, Dick and Tim exchanged their Rotary Club banner with the President of the Kampala Rotary!   Next, we met with the Port Bell Rotary to discuss their projects and give them more details about our training.  Before we ended, Dick and Tim exchanged the Midland’s Noon Rotary banner with the Port Bell leadership.  When we arrived back at the Adonai House, we enjoyed dinner by Chef Francis and delicious chocolate cake with Generous’ family to celebrate Josiah’s 10th birthday!

January 13, 2017:  Waking up to the beautiful noise of mocking birds and a delicious breakfast was the perfect way to begin this day!  Immediately after breakfast, we began to load our suitcases (12, 50lb) bags to the van as today we head to Kabale.    The trip to Kabale from Kampala was about seven hours!  However, we first stopped at an amazing market – the big Kampala Market where the locals make purchases (only open on Fridays) where Sue W and Generous would shop for dozens of items to use in the village and Vanessa, Diana and I enjoyed shopping for beautiful wares.  We were blessed to have Dick and Tim along as they were kind enough to carry ALL of the goodies that were purchased!  With our tight schedule and desire to arrive in Kabale before dark, we only had one hour to shop in this huge marketplace!

We headed to Kabale about 10:30am and with just two stops to stretch and get some cold drinks, we arrived at our home for the next 10 days—the Jopfan Country Hotel (check out the picture below).  We each were given a double room with a television, our own bathroom/toilet and hot water in the shower!  The team enjoyed some wine as we sat on the hotel’s porch with a view!   Next, we had delicious meals such as Chicken Curry, Egg Curry, Spaghetti Bolognese, Pork Chop and Grilled Chicken.  Our evening together concluded with reorganizing our luggage so that we have ALL of the items for our children, choir robes, music stands, violins and viola!

PS We cannot seem to get our photos to load! We'll keep trying...

In Kampala...

We arrived safely with all our faculties (although exhausted to be expected) and with all our luggage (I sometimes consider this a miracle!) Yesterday we went to the Kampala Rotary Club meeting (2 actually) and purchased fabric which is an experience to be described in detail later.

We are at the hotel waiting for Christopher to arrive to visit the Kampala market and then off to Kabale - our all-day drive. More soon! Sorry this is so short. Christopher just arrived and we need to load the van.

Off to Muko Again! January 10, 2017

A new team is leaving tomorrow evening for Muko. This team is a Rotary Vocational Training Team - known as a VTT. It is comprised of some Rotary folks and some non-Rotary folks, all experts in their fields. This team will be providing training for the ACT Muko staff and other community leaders in topics such as Leadership, Board Development/Advocacy, Early Child Development, Child Abuse & Neglect, Computer Skills, Agriculture, Marketing, Public/Community Health, Project Management, Partnerships, and more! We have a very full two-week schedule. The Midland Noon Rotary Club, the Midland Morning Rotary Club and the Bay City Rotary Club are sponsoring this wonderful opportunity for the ACT Staff to learn more about their work and share in cultural exchange in these topics. 

The members on this team are Tim Dyste, Sue Waechter, Diana Stubig, Suzanne Greenberg, Dr. Vanessa Brooks Herd and Dick Dolinski. Arrival in the village will be this coming Saturday. We will continue to update our adventures daily if we have power both electrical and energy to stay awake! 

September 22, Kampala and Travel

Generous graciously invited us to her home this morning, where she treated us to "Second Breakfast" -- samosas, tea, and juice. We visited with her family -- Richard even came home from work for a few minutes to say hello (and goodbye).

Dave and Generous went to the bank to exchange our excess shillings for dollars; then they spent some time working on accounting issues.

The rest of us went to the Kampala Crafts market. On the way, we passed the Parliament and other government buildings. The craft market is big, colorful, and a little on the touristy side, but it was great fun and they have very good prices. Almost everyone spoke enough English so we could manage without interpreters. They called out from their stores, "Hello, friend! Come and see me! I have everything for you!" Besides "Friend," I was addressed as "Sister" more than once. And in one section of the market, Larry and I were consistently called "Papa" and "Mama."  (Couldn't be the gray hair, must be how tired we look by now...) Some of the salespeople were extremely persistent (I'm trying to be polite here...) but some were very good -- once Sheryl started looking at children's dresses, the saleswoman asked how old the child is and what's her favorite color, and promptly brought out the perfect dress. Sue was able to buy several more baskets in sizes the MEP women hadn't made. She also picked up some stuffed animals, some more earrings and some angel ornaments for Christmas. (Hint: there aren't many angel ornaments, so if you want one, visit the store early!)

Back at the hotel, we had lunch and then packed the extra baskets, etc. in the remaining duffel bags for transport. The day is one of the warmest we've had yet. By 3:00 pm we were hearing growling thunder and the wind was picking up.

We will be leaving for the airport soon. If anything interesting happens (we sincerely hope nothing does), I'll try to keep you updated. Otherwise, we'll be traveling...

Twabakunda! Webere munonga!  We have loved you, and have loved spending time with you! Thank you very much!

Below:  Craft market; jacaranda tree.

September 21, 2016, Travel to Kampala

Last night, Sue, Karen, and staff (Generous, Guma, Josiah, Moses, Maurice, Rauben, and Tito) were featured on a talk show on Radio Rubanda. It was a one-hour call-in program that lasted for two hours and 10 minutes. The air time would've cost 2.4 million shillings but we got it for 400,000 because Tito co-founded the station. It was a small recording studio that would comfortably fit three people, so the nine ACT participants were sure there was no air left in the room by the time the program was over!

During the program the phones rang constantly -- and were still ringing at the end, so not all questions could be answered. Some of the questions came from adult orphans looking for help. One particularly difficult question was, "When are you going to serve everyone else in Uganda, not just Muko Sub-County?" Answer (Not verbalized on radio): When the sky rains both money and volunteers to do the work!

The rest of us tried to listen in, but had trouble finding the program, partly because Generous had remembered the station name incorrectly and partly because the station -- only a fraction of an inch on the dial away from the one we thought we wanted -- was hard to find. Plus, the program was almost 100% in Rukiga (which we expected). Wescanned the stations with the hope of recognizing a staff member's voice; Dave M. and Roger found it towards the end of the program but everyone else had given up, assuming it had ended much earlier.

Today we checked out of the Jopfan Hotel. We had requested a special breakfast item --  "chips" (French fries) to go with our eggs or whatever else we chose to order. The chef probably thought we were crazy, but he was happy to comply anyway. The staff all wished us safe travels and we received hugs with our goodbyes. Sue was able to get a recipe for chapatis -- we'd been invited to learn how to make them but we never got back to the hotel early enough.

Procedure for How to Make Chapatis (Joshua, Jopfan Country Hotel)

Mix a scant teaspoon of yeast witha liter of warm water. Mix well with 1 cap (maybe 1-2 tsp?) olive oil and 3 eggs.

Finely grate a carrot, 1/2 onion, some fresh ginger; mix with a bag (??) of wheat flour.

Mix all ingredients together. Cover bowl and let rest for 5 minutes.

Divide the dough into small balls. Roll very thin and flat.

Heat a skillet; add a small amount of oil. Add the chapatis one at a time. Cook the chapati until lightly browned; flip to cook the other side.

NOTE: The measurements are all approximate since we don't know how big the bag of flour was and they don't use cups, tsps, etc. Experiment -- it should feel like a fairly stiff dough.


As we began the long drive, Sue led a devotional exercise in which she asked us each to use our names to create an acrostic with words describing our experiences of the last two weeks. The result was inspirational, yielding words like empowering, humbling, acceptance, opportunity, respect, adventure, love, understanding, serving, and yes, among others. This has clearly been a meaningful venture for all of us.

On the road, we again went through several police checkpoints, but we were required to stop only twice. The first time, the policeman came inside the bus to check Christopher's license and our seat belts. He also asked us if Christopher was doing a good job. We responded with enthusiastic applause -- I wonder what would've happened if we'd said we thought Christopher was a bad or dangerous driver...? The second time, the policeman talked with Christopher and checked his license through the window, walked around the bus looking at the tires, then waved us on.

When it was time for lunch we opened the box lunches the Jopfan chef had prepared and discovered delicious samosas and chips in each one! It was such a thoughtful reminder of our friendships with the staff at the hotel.

Just as a matter of interest, we noticed that the price of gas ranges from 3250 - 3450 shillings/liter. This translates to approximately $3.75 - $3.95/gallon. The gas comes from refineries in Kenya.

New things of interest spotted as we drove included papaya trees, jacaranda trees in bloom, sweet potato stands, a jackfruit tree, a crested eagle, and gardens that are noticeably greener than they were two weeks ago. A little rain makes a huge difference!

As on our trip south, we stopped for a leg stretch and some shopping at the equator. Several people were able to buy souvenirs they had looked for but couldn't find in Kabale. We made it back to the Adonai Hotel in Kampara in just over eight hours.

After arrival, while the rest of us tried to finish packing for our flight or otherwise attended to business matters, a small group -- Nena, Sheryl, Dave M., and Roger -- went for a walk to the Wine Garage and a grocery store. They returned with treasures to share for dinner: South African wine, both milk and dark chocolate bars, and ice cream! The rest of dinner was fantastic too, and Francis, the Adonai's superb chef, has agreed to share his recipe for pumpkin soup.

Below:  Jopfan Hotel; vendors selling 'chicken-on-a-stick' and other foods to bus passengers; roadside sweet potato stands; bota-botas (motorcycle taxis) waiting for passengers.