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Cracking Open the Floodgates of Hope

The campus was bustling with parents, children, and staff bright and early in the morning last Monday. Moms and dads greeted each other from across the halls as they walked with their students of various grades into the classrooms. Teachers jogged from office to classroom, stopping to greet each other, parents, and students every ten feet. The principal himself strode around the field, here and there shaking a parent’s hand or patting a student on the head. Slowly first and then with more and more volume, the families came, all carrying some sort of school supply to contribute– a roll of toilet paper, a ream of printer stock, a broom or the like. Bit by bit, the campus slowly filled.

Most families were old hats who had been bringing their kids here for two years. Their kids eagerly ran ahead of their parents. The most noticeable ones were the assorted new moms with little ones in tow. They wandered around or stood pivoting in place searching for a classroom or teacher. Inevitably, they found this one corner of the far building, where a dozen moms with nervous-looking 6 and 7 year olds were lined up outside the classroom door, school supplies in hand, as the smiling first grade teacher unlocked the room. The little students had brand-new pen cases, and were wearing their best dress or shirt for their first day of class. Together, parents and children filed into the classroom, and it began to crowd up fast. Parents sat at the too-small desks squeezed in with their little ones and the teacher’s desk was crowded with people, all giving their names, and showing the school supplies they had brought to contribute to be checked off. It was a bustling, nervously energetic, and happy place to be.

moms hanging out after dropping off the kids.

However, as you look around you can’t escape the reality that this is no ordinary classroom. For these students, their best first-day of school outfit is a dirty t-shirt and the only pair of intact shorts they own. Many girls have dresses that are a size off, or maybe missing a shoulder. Almost all of them are going to wear the exact same thing the next day, and the next. No one has arrived in a minivan, let alone a car. Many have walked over a mile and bear the dust up their legs to show for it. For half these first-graders, this is their first time in a classroom. They have had no preschool to speak of, and their parents who hadn’t finished middle school themselves are unlikely to have prepared them at home. The arm muscles of many of the girls, still so young, look weathered from carrying water, charcoal, or a baby for hours on end. The have no toys, no backpacks, and no lunches. These families are not competing against anyone for status or reputation–they’re competing against their own circumstances just to get by another year.

Moms and kids outside the P1 (first grade) classroom.

Over the course of the week, I’ve been able to speak to many parents, most of whom have no idea why I’m here. If they speak English, they each have told me something interesting about where they come from and what this school means to them and their students. The mother of one of the new first graders said that her little boy was the one who convinced here to apply for this school. At just 6 years old he had heard about it from his friends and desperately wanted to go. One dad said that he was so thankful that his daughter had somewhere to go during the day where she wouldn’t be pursued by strange men and persuaded to marry. The conversation that sticks with me most is one that I had with the dad of a new student. I was outside the school gate as he picked up his son, his only child, and he made a point of walking up and shaking my hand. He told me that his son, Elvis, had been in preschool and had received low marks during his penultimate year. When Elvis heard that he was next to lowest in his class, he told his dad that he was going to work so hard that he would be fifth in his class by the end of the next year. The next year, Elvis finished sixth. The pride that shown from this father’s face as he told this story of his son was like a burst of sunshine. He said he was so proud that he had somewhere the would nourish and encourage his hardworking son. I told him that I worked for Zozu Project, the organization that supported Solid Rock Christian School, and he said “We are so excited to create this opportunity for our kids in this community. I am thankful for your help also. We are all of us working together for these children.” His enthusiasm reminded me of the ownership that this whole community has over this school, that they’re in this struggle of hard work to provide for their kids.

Elvis and his dad

This is a land of struggle. Mothers struggle against starvation, fathers struggle against unemployment, farmers struggle against draught, children struggle against diseases, and everyone struggles against abandonment and loneliness. Most of them own these struggles. They pray and they work and they fight hard, even though they don’t even have bootstraps to pull themselves up by. But as this father showed me, there is passionate faith here in this hot and dry place that one day it will be better. It’s like there is a heavy flood of hope stuck behind huge gates just waiting to be unleashed. Over the last two years, Solid Rock Christian School has cracked open the floodgates of hope. These parents are experiencing the first fruits. But there’s so much more to be let loose! There’s so many more children to sponsor, so many more jobs to create, so many more classrooms to build! Just this year we had to turn away over 80 students because we don’t have the physical or financial capacity. Let’s join with these hopeful, struggling families, for as Elvis’s dad said “we are all of us working together” for the streams of hope to flow in this dry land.


“Do the people where you come from know?”

Richard, the social worker at Solid Rock, and I were going to visit the houses of two brand new P1 students: Fibi (pronounced like Phoebe) and Jackson. We walk through the hot, dusty bush to get to Fibi’s house first. I don’t think I can stress hot and dusty too much. The wind is gusty today, giving the whole arid place the feel of an impoverished western frontier town, but in Africa. It’s the kind of hot and dusty that makes your eyes dry and water at the same time. We approach Fibi’s house followed by the usual smattering of village kids curious to see what the white person is doing there.
As soon as they see us coming, members of the household pull out plastic deck chairs in bright blue for us. Plastic deck chairs in bright colors are a staple around here, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice from even the most meager of households. I have never met people with such a capacity for sitting with guests. These bright plastic chairs make any guest feel quite honored to be visiting.

Fibi and her sister outside their hut home.



Settling ourselves into these two bright blue thrones, Richard and I look around for Fibi. Her mom emerges from the hut and settles herself comfortably on the ground at our feet, as is the custom with respected guests and a limited number of chairs to go around. The assorted women of the household–whether they are sisters or aunts I can’t tell–sit under the eves of their grass-thatched hut to watch and listen. With respect, Richard begins to ask in Lugbara all about Fibi’s family and her household. Aside from the singular english words like “toilet” and “mattress,” I don’t understand a thing. As I’m trying to follow along from the questions on the questionnaire that Richard is holding, I see a small baby, just barely able to walk, emerge from the hut. She’s wearing a neatly made, slightly too-big bright orange dress. Toddling quickly yet clumsily towards her mother, she reaches out her hands and climbs into mom’s lap. Then, mother reaches under her shirt, takes her breast out by her hand, and the baby, with determined grip and thirsty lips begins to suckle. I’m so taken aback at this exposed moment of a completely natural thing that I hastily avert my eyes, but I don’t think the mother minds. It’s amazing how accustomed you get here to things that to us are totally out of the ordinary.         Richard asks to see where Fibi sleeps, so we walk into their hut. As all the houses are, it’s very dark, and as clean as dirt can be. Fibi sleeps behind a curtain that divides the hut in half, on a thatch mat next to her family. No mattress, no pillow. It’s a testament to the poverty here that I look at that and think “not bad.” Richard starts asking about Fibi’s medical history. Though she is but 5 years old, she’s had malaria and parasites. Fibi herself doesn’t smile or cast more than a glance at us. She sits on the ground looking at our feet. She looks sad, lonely. Nothing like her older sister, who has been at Solid Rock for two years and is all smiles and posing for the camera. I wonder if her sister also used to be sullen, and if Fibi too will come out of her shell and be happy at Solid Rock. Their mother is, by what I can tell, beyond thankful. She is so attentive to us, so welcoming to Richard, and eager to accept when he offers to pray for her and her family. I wonder at the fact that people who have so little, and rejoice at the mere chance to send their children to elementary school, can often have so much faith.

Bidding farewell to them, we walk about 100 yards up the road to Jackson’s house. We are greeted in a similarly respectful fashion, and bidden to sit on the one bench outside the door. Jackson’s sister runs up, topless, with some dirty leggings on, wrapping a soiled scarf around her bare chest. She looks at us, and goes inside. A little later, she emerges in a dress. Or, what once was a dress. This dress, in America, would have long ago been destined, not for the thrift store, but for the rubbish pile. The upper layer of the skirt is totally missing from the front and right side, and hanging on by a thread to the left. There is a long rip from the belly button to the back around the middle, so she ties a scarf to keep it up. There was once a white collar that is now the color of red, dusty dirt succumbed to by everything here that once was white. This is the most sorry excuse for a dress that I have ever seen anyone wear, and it was what she rushed hastily to put on when guests came.


The mother of Jackson turns to me and says something in Lugbara. Richard translates: “She is wondering if the people where you come from know what our life is like, how vulnerable we are?” With nothing else to say, I answer, camera in hand, “That is why I am here. To tell them.” As I write this now, I realize that I can’t sponsor all of these children. I can’t donate thousands to build their classrooms that will hopefully be in use long after we are gone. But just like Mick and Elaine a year ago said to me, “come and see,” I can take my camera and in a small way say to those I know “come and see.” $35 a month may not seem like much. But even if you never write a single letter, there is a mom and a child out there whose lives are impacted forever by that gift. The hope that Jackson’s mom has–he is the first child of hers to be sent to school– is palpable. Sometimes I look at these circumstances, and don’t see much hope. But thanks to Solid Rock and Zozu Project, she does, and that hope is worth everything in the world.


To Raymond, from Mick, your sponsor

We met Raymond during our first trip to Uganda in 2013. He came across as a bit of a prankster to be honest, full of energy and always with that infectious smile. Our third trip was in 2015 and was to celebrate the opening of Solid Rock Christian School in February of that year. Joy and excitement abounded as 200 new children were starting their first year. That smile of Raymond’s that was so evident on our previous trips was absent during this visit. The reason, we learned, was that Raymond wasn’t going to be able to attend the school because he lacked a sponsor. As we had developed a relationship with Raymond, our family made the decision to sponsor him. I’ll never forget that moment where we had the privilege to express to him our intent. Tears filled our eyes as he sprinted off to tell the news to his parents. Those tears flowed even more freely when he arrived at school the next day to begin his first day at Solid Rock Christian School.

Raymond in the yellow collared shirt, sitting proudly beneath Mick.

We just returned from a trip to Uganda last week and once again our relationship with Raymond has dominated my thoughts. I no longer saw him as this mischievous prankster that I knew from our earliest trips. Nor did I see the forlorn version that I witnessed before he received a sponsorship. And I didn’t even see the unfiltered joyous Raymond that I enjoyed after he was notified that he could attend SRCS. This version was one of hope and confidence. It was one that read books with ease that he previously couldn’t have hoped to comprehend. It was one that confidently stated “I dream of becoming a pilot so I can care for my family”. It was a version that was just chosen “head boy” which is the Ugandan version of being chosen school president. He is seen as a leader and is looked up to by his classmates. He is a young man who is on his way to fulfilling his dreams.

I had the opportunity to chat with Raymond and look back on our relationship that has developed from that curious young boy joking with the missionary doctor. It has developed to a friendship that led him to look me in the eye and state, “I will always remember that day I was sponsored. It was my best day”. To have the privilege of being a part of someone’s “best” day is the most humbling of feelings. I say this not in a self serving way, as I too count this opportunity as one of my “best” days and an unending privilege. I say this instead as encouragement for those of you who may be considering sponsorship. It is a life changer and one that I now know profoundly effects both the child and the sponsor. I thank my friend Raymond for this honor. I look forward to the day he lands a plane with him at the controls. Go chase your dreams Raymond.


The Vision

Now that we’ve been in this for a few years, it’s about time we started to think bigger. Shana Reiss, a fabulous architect, has generously donated her experience to contribute to this vision of Solid Rock as it expands. Her artistry has put the dreams of our leaders, both here and in Uganda, into concrete goals. While there’s always potholes and bumps in the road when you’re working in the third world, we’re excited to have a road before us to begin walking down together.

Here’s the land as it currently looks. The buildings are the current classrooms.

With orientation picture:

 

 

What started as a vision for a primary school has, by necessity, grown. The church has become so big they now spill off their little concrete pad on a Sunday, so we include a larger church building. There are young children who walk by waiting to be old enough to go to first grade, so we add a preschool. The current students long to have sports and more space to play, so we add a football field. There’s a lot going on!

 

Right now, the preschool is underway, as you can see here:

Not only is your support and contributions building a preschool, you’re also providing work to local men who are in the construction business.

 

Not included here is the plan to add housing for teacher (a necessity for a rural school in Uganda. Teachers there see housing much like we see healthcare- as a basic employment benefit). Also, in the long-term, a secondary school. That would take a considerable amount of land purchasing and fund-raising, but with the blessing of God, and the work of us both in America and Uganda, nothing is impossible.

Thank you for supporting this journey.

If you would like to see how you can be part of the next step of the vision, outfitting the preschool, please check your options out here: Next Steps Giving Catalogue


Preschool Developments (with Commentary)

The land for the Solid Rock Preschool is being leveled and the foundation is being laid!

Much as the preschool itself is preparation for further education, the plot of earth just adjacent to the current school is now in preparation for a building. Here are the latest photos, (along with my tour-guide commentary)

 

“And here to your left, we have a lovely patch of level dirt. Take note that this is not the natural habitat for level dirt. This is typically the territory where the uneven dirt resides.”

 

 

 

“To your right, we have another patch of level dirt. Note the bricks in the corner, indicating that building is soon to come. Also note the tracks on the earth. Some wild tractor must have been tamed for the creation of this patch.”

 

 

 

 

“Ah, there it is! It seems a local tractor has been tamed for use in leveling this field. It’s species is uncertain, but it seems to be on the older side judging by the dirt-colored markings on its tires and shovel.”

 

 

 

 

“And here we have some strapping young men hard at work digging trenches. Not being a contractor, I cannot provide more context for the trenches.”

 

 

 

“In the distance, notice the current buildings of Solid Rock Christian Academy to the right, and the tarp under which the church gathers on the left.”

 

 

“It should be noted that the construction upon this field is commencing quite rapidly due to the hard work and efficiency of these workers. They are local men, experts in their craft, and certainly hard workers.”

Ok, that’s all I have for tour commentary, and we’re all out of pictures! If you have read this far, you can check out our catalogue of items to fill the preschool with here 

Thank you to those who have already decided to outfit our teachers and classrooms!


“Girl Child Education is a Wasteage of Time”

I still remember when I first went to Uganda, and I visited the classroom on debate day. The 4-6th graders all get together and have a full-on debate, with moderators, score keepers, and formal statements and responses. For those who aren’t familiar with debate structure, there’s a given statement that one side “affirms” and the other side “negates.” Walking into the room, I read the statement on the board: “Girl child education is a wasteage of time.” I was shocked. To my liberal, educated, western mind, this topic was so clearly negated that it seemed taboo to even be up for debate.

I sat down, and proceeded to listen to what the children had to say. Over the hours of hearing these 4th-6th graders talk, I came to understand. This is a very real battle for these girls. While Solid Rock School firmly teaches that both genders are equally valuable, that is not the predominant message of the culture around them. Were they not in school, they could have been “married off” for a bride-price by 16. I don’t believe that the students arguing the affirmative side believed their arguments (it was a class project, after all), but I do think that adults in these students lives do.

One student, Lenia Leaneda, was on the “negative” side. Passionately, she argued for her own equality, and for the right and value of her and her sister’s education. I was in awe. She, a 6th grader, stands up for herself in a powerful way. Being at Solid Rock Christian School gave her the language and the platform to articulate exactly why she was worth it. To know that we who are a part of Zozu Project are a part of breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality, and to see evidence of it standing before me, was humbling. And there are over 100 girls at Solid Rock, with, God willing, many more to come in the future.

Lenida Lenia singing at chapel on a Wednesday

We are so proud and blessed to educate the young people of Uganda, boys and girls alike, to learn that they are all made individually, lovingly, and for great purposes. So while I’ve been told that people’s attention spans these days are short, and no one reads long things, I think that this poem is worth sharing:

For Every Woman
By Nancy R. Smith

“For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong,
There is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.

For every woman who is tired of acting dumb, There is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of ‘knowing everything.’

For every woman who is tired of being called
‘an emotional female’
There is a man who is denied the right to weep and be gentle.

For every woman who feels ‘tied down’ by her children, There is a man who is denied the full pleasure of parenthood.

For every woman who is denied meaningful employment and equal pay,
There is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being.

For every woman who was not taught the intricacies
of an automobile,
There is a man who was not taught the satisfaction of cooking.

For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation, There is a man who finds that the way to freedom
has been made a little easier.”

 

I personally sponsor Winnie Letasi. In her bio, I read that she wanted to be a police officer when she grew up. That’s bravery right there, police officer in rural Africa. I cannot wait to meet her in person, tell her how beloved she is, encourage her in her dreams, and see her grow into who she was made to be.

Elsie

Interested in sponsoring a young girl, or young boy, at Solid Rock?  >>> Check it out Here <<<


The Preschool is Finally Happening!

 

We are so excited to announce that construction on the Preschool extension to Solid Rock School has officially begun!

It’s hard to overstate the need for this expansion. Our teachers were putting in hours of volunteer time on the weekends to bring incoming first graders, who had no foundation, up to speed. Some of the first graders speak some English, but most don’t. Trying to teach a classroom in multiple languages is taxing! Also, many incoming first graders are malnourished, already hindering their cognitive and physical growth.

Solid Rock Christian Preschool will provide meals, community, and instruction to 40 new preschool students this year, with the vision that we will one day serve over 100 3-5 year olds at this facility! We are so excited for not just the kids, but the families that will be reached and blessed through this expansion.

Thank you to all of the supporters of this project for making it possible. You’re making a difference!

Surveying the future location of the preschool back in April, 2017.

 

Overview of the building and latrines nearby that will go in on that plot of land.

 

Artist’s rendering of the front of the preschool building, ready to be filled with kids!

 

Plans for the classrooms, layout and construction, produced in collaboration between Shana Reiss with Reiss Design Studios and a local Ugandan architect and contractor.

Layout of the land

Now that construction has begun, it’s time to get this preschool ready for the kids. That means filling it with desks, notebooks, games, and everything else needed to successfully welcome 40 new students and their families. Read more about how you can help here, or sign up for the email newsletter to get more pictures and updates in the future!

We can’t wait to keep updating you as the project comes to fruition.

Elaine, Mick, and Elsie.

 

 

 

Our Giving Tuesday Campaign is going to provide shoes for all of the incoming preschool students. It’s really simple, a pair of shoes is $25, and it all goes straight to the kids. Learn more here.

 


Term 3 Update from Solid Rock

Written by Richard Aguta, social worker at Solid Rock Christian Academy

“Classes just commenced two weeks ago and teachers are now teaching the children; imparting knowledge and good behaviors to them as said “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” So, Solid Rock Christian School embraces Christian morals and disperses them into the lives of our kids via counseling, teaching the Word of God and societal morals, hence the children’s lives are enriched. Our children have been in their school vacation and many of them have been helping their families with domestic work, since in African culture children are encouraged to be involved in domestic work.

Students back in their classroom after the break.

However, Grade five and six students also attended a school vacation program. The school vacation program was organized for the upper class students to do correction for precious exams, so that in the beginning of third term new topics are taught to them.

During the school vacation, Zozu project staff visited some homes of the sponsored children, and their family members were happy for the sponsorship from the United States, especially those who received family gifts last month. Parents and Guardians heartfully appreciate the service offered by Sponsors and Zozu Project to their children. Your support has restored hope to the hopeless families that were un able to support their children with education, for education is the key to success. 

Thanks to all our sponsors for educating a child in Uganda, Africa. God bless you.”

 


The Image Challenge – We Face it Too

It’s no shocker–image is everything. In the days of Instagram, YouTube, and ever-improving camera tech we are inundated with images of people, brands, organizations, companies, you name it. I know that I can’t be alone in feeling the pressure to only put the good photos up on Facebook–the ones with beautiful lighting that show my family and friends looking happy and gorgeous. Working for an organization, especially a non-profit, is no different. On behalf of Zozu Project, there is a desire to post just the well-lit shots of children and their families that are artfully composed. In America, where the environment is relatively safe and clean, it’s easy to produce pictures like this. Most companies, and a lot of charities, have whole teams of people just dedicated to taking good pictures.

I’ve been thinking about this recently, because a lot of photos we receive from the field look like this:

It’s a little wonky. And slightly blurry. But you know what, I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s ok. While beautiful images can shed important light on the realities of Uganda, the reality these children live in is not that well-composed. It’s messy. It’s dark. It’s dirty and rough. These small, sometimes blurry images show that reality in a different way. While we absolutely love and celebrate the most professional looking photos, and want to share those with you, sometimes all we have is shots like these. It’s easy to forget in an age of high-quality DSLRs and high megapixel phone cameras just how precious a simple image like this can be. The very fact that we have them at all is amazing! We want to honor your commitment as a sponsor by sharing pictures with you no matter the quality, and as Director of Com., I felt compelled to write about it.

We are committed to transparency and honesty with you in all that we do as an organization. In our minds, that is more important than our own picture-perfect branding. When we have images of the kids you support, we want to share them with you no matter what! And as much as I would love to say that all of the photos we send will be pretty, you can expect more gritty, real images from Africa coming your way! Thank you for supporting what God is doing in Uganda through all of us, and may he continue to bless the loaves and fishes we offer.

Elsie


Q and A with A Sponsor – Kaitlyn

[Q: Elsie, Director of Communications for Zozu

A: Kaitlyn, Sponsor]

Your family sponsors Billy and Lee, right? Did you get to meet them?

The very first week I was in Arua, I visited the kids that my family sponsors at their house. I loved meeting their family, and didn’t realize how many siblings Billy and Lee have. They are only 2 of 6! Their mom lives with them and their dad left their family two years ago to South Sudan, and they haven’t seen him since. It was very bittersweet because I just wish I could have helped more, and I wish I could change their living situation. But I know that they are all so loved, which gives me peace.

What was it like for you to see Billy and Lee for the first time? Like, was it anticlimactic, were you nervous, did something change for you?

Honestly, at first it was super awkward. Both of them didn’t know that I was coming, and all of a sudden they were being taken to the principal’s office, so I imagine they were pretty confused. Billy and Lee are both shy and rather quiet, but Lee is almost mute. He is only in P2, so I don’t think he knew what I was saying at first. Plus, all of the kids speak so softly at first, so I couldn’t really hear them, either. But, as I got to know both of them more when I was there, it became very special, and I miss them so much!

Do you have any favorite memories from the tip?

One of my absolute favorite times was the last day I was in Arua. I was leaving the next day, so I was soaking up each moment with the kiddos. All of a sudden a random car pulls up, (I thought it was JP, but the driver ended up being white). I was so curious considering I hadn’t seen another white person for weeks. Then, I look to my right and see a mass of about 20 kids running towards the car yelling “JESUS” “JESUS IS HERE”. I was obviously so confused so I turned to the boy next to me, named Emma, and I asked him who this Jesus character was. He looked at me very confused and answers “the son of God?”. I laughed because he obviously didn’t understand that I didn’t know who this other white person was, or why he was on driving his car on Solid Rock’s campus. You know, I never actually found out who he was!

Another one of my favorite days was when I visited the women in the bead-making group. They are so, so sweet and sit on cloth on the dirty cement ground and make the jewelry. The day I visited, it was very rainy. These women were getting rain splashed on them, but continued to make the beads. Some of them didn’t speak English, so they mostly spoke in their local language. I enjoyed listening to them talk and watch them make beads. Most of their incomes came from those beads, and maybe selling other starches. The women’s children were there and I played with them for awhile, too. Going to Africa made me realize how much I love kids, and changed my perspective about what I want to do later in life.

Another great day was when JP, Richard, and I spent an afternoon visiting the children’s homes. The kid’s sponsors had sent them money for gifts, so we went to take pictures. I loved seeing how happy and thankful they were. The children’s families bought things like soap, mattress, flour, and diapers.

What did a typical day look like for you?

Overall, a typical day for me looked a little like this: I woke up, and got ready to head to the clinic. Rose [Pastor JP’s wife] made me breakfast every. single. day. She is amazing! I loved her cooking. We would head to the clinic, and each day was different. At times, there were lines out of the door of people waiting to see Rose. One day, I think I tested almost 15 children for malaria. One time I even tested a 9 month old. After being in the clinic for a few hours, I would go and eat lunch with all of the kids. I loved spending time with Billy and Lee. I also grew close with Patricia and a few of the P4 girls she was around. I would go back to the clinic, and it was typical for most of the kids to wait until the last moment to come in to take their medicine. Typically, there would be at least one wound from the kids playing outside. One time a kid even got hit in the head with a rock. After school, I would go and watch the girls play netball. They are so cute! David [the principal] recently told me they did very well in a tournament, which made me so, so happy. After netball, Rose, JP, Johnny, Joel, and I would go back to their house. By this time it was around 8pm at night. I would eat dinner, and then go to bed. Some nights I helped them make beads, too.

You said that going there made you change you perspective on what you will do later in life. How so? I thought you, like, wanted to be a nurse so did something change or get added to that? I’m so curious about what that was like for you. 

So, I have known for a long while that I want to be a Nurse Practitioner.. and I always thought that I would specialize in family, so an FNP. But, after being in Africa and seeing the type of care they receive, I really think I want to go into emergency pediatric medicine. I visited one of the hospitals in Arua and it was baffling. I have been to other very poor countries, like Nicaragua, but seeing this hospital was like a light switch went off in my head. I knew that then that I have to go back eventually and try to help modernize Arua’s health care. That’s when I knew I wanted to go into emergency medicine, and not just family practice. And then I also figured out that I wanted to specialize in Pediatrics, not just family. I have always loved kids so much, and for so long I fought working with them because I didn’t want to limit myself to only working with kids- I wanted options. But, I feel like I really got to know myself more when I was abroad. I learned that what I like most about children is that I can be their advocate. As you know, SO many of the children in Arua live with a distant cousin, or aunt or someone that isn’t their immediate family, and it breaks my heart. Many of them aren’t taken care of well, and I think there is so much education in being a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, because I can educate the caregiver.

And finally, if you don’t mind me asking, how did God show up? Did you get to spend time with him? Did you learn something more about Him and His love or how he works?

Ah, yes! I love this question. So, like I mentioned before, I have been on other mission trips.. I went to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua in high school and for some reason I had a hard time with them. I had a youth leader who told all of us that THESE AMAZING, EXTRAORDINARY THINGS were going too happen to us when we went abroad. When I went to serve, I felt out of place, like I was doing something wrong because these SUPER AMAZING THINGS weren’t necessarily happening to me. But, looking back each of those trips were just preparing me for Arua.

What I learned the most about God is that He is simple. He loves us more than anything, and nothing else in life matters. The only thing we need to do is chase and love Him, and love others in return. I feel like God was really protecting me when I was there. I felt at peace and present this summer- at peace with God, where I was staying, and what I was doing all day. I learned that less is more- less distractions in Arua lead me closer to Him, which was awesome. Little things just don’t matter to me anymore, and I am trying to keep that perspective this semester.

I learned that sometimes the answers are not always there, and that is okay. Honestly, I am still wondering why I was supposed to go to Arua this summer, and I am learning to accept the idea that maybe I never will, or maybe it is as simple as to just love on those people. There you have it! My trip was simple, humble, and the best summer of my life.

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