Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cultural Teaching.

As most of you know, I am helping teacher Juliet here at Acheru. I thought I would write a post about what teaching is like here compared to teaching in America. 

Teaching has been one of the areas that I find to be more frustrating than anything else here. It's not that I find things to be wrong here, but it is more of a shift in how to teach here. Back home in America it is ingrained in our heads as teachers to have the students be interactive during class. Answering questions, figuring out answers for themselves, having hands-on activities. Now with the common core in the states the students are pretty much to become the teachers. They are expected to be involved in their own learning and if we as teachers are not implementing the students into the learning than we are "doing it wrong". 

Here in Uganda, not only is the curriculum something to get used to (there is no phonics…for those of you who know how much I love teaching phonics!), but the style of teaching is different. Different…not wrong…just different. It has been very hard for me to put aside my western idea of what schooling is and turn more into a Ugandan way of teaching. Here students very much copy and repeat. There is not a whole lot of interaction within the classroom. For me this is very hard. For the first couple of weeks I found myself being very bored with the lessons because it was me standing up saying something, having the kids copy it, and then repeat it. We worked on one subject the whole day. On the spot I was having to think of  how to teach writing for 4/5 hours. I found this extremely difficult, but at the same time I was there observing and building a relationship with teacher Juliet and did not want to offend her in anyway. 

Recently Teacher Juliet has given me reigns to work with the primary kids. It has given me an opportunity to mix the western and the Ugandan way of teaching. At first the kids were a little unsure of what to do when I asked them to interact or gave them positive reinforcement. After a few lessons on what a "high-five" is and being overally dramatic about them the students really began finding encouragement from it. So much so that after everything they do they now lift their hands in the air waiting for a high-five and give the biggest smiles after they receive their high-five. It's been a good way to show Juliet a little of what teaching in America is like, and how we can combine the two styles. 

The other day we went through all the teaching materials together and talked about how we could use in class. She has observed me using marbles to play the "scoop and count" game with the kids (they just put their hands in the bag, grab as many marbles as they can, and then they have to count how many are in their hands). She has observed me using puzzles to teach kids letters. She has seen me doing multiple subjects in a day spending 30 minutes here and 30 minutes there on a subject. It's a big shift for the both of us, but I am praying that since our friendship is growing that we will be able to work together and combine our teaching styles. To use both of our strengths to give the kids the best education they can get here.

On a side note (my teacher friends will feel my pain on this…): Planning here at Acheru is very difficult. It is almost impossible to plan a day ahead. With the kids constantly coming and going from the hospital, you never know who will be in class. One day I may have 3 or 4 students and the next day I may have no students. Or one day I have a student who speaks some English, and the next day I'm there with students who speak no English. It is definitely teaching me to be very flexible and spontaneous. 

Prayer Points:

1. That the relationship between teacher Juliet and I will continue to grow and that we will be able to learn from one another.

2. That I have patience and appreciation for the days where I find frustration with the differences of schooling.

3. I am leaving on Monday to travel around Southwest Uganda (to Kassese..a town near the border of Uganda and Congo). Pray for safe travels and for the places we are going to visit. On another side note….I'm going on a safari then too!

4. For all the kids here at Acheru and the ones not able to come. We have a very long backlog of kids needing to come here. With limited bedding we are not able to house all the kids who need to come here. We have had to become more picky with who can come. Making sure the more severe cases get sent first.

One day we brought the kites out for the kids

Nancy was a pro!

Elijah and Colin playing "Scoop and Count"

The kids interacting and teaching.

Juliet preparing her lesson.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Another beautiful day in Uganda today. I'm sitting out on my veranda looking out to the hilly farm land. A gentle breeze blowing and the sound of the kids playing soccer from behind the house. Its days like this that I'm in awe of how beautiful simplicity is. 

Saturdays are our days off here. This particular Saturday I woke up extra early, made a "big breakfast", sipped my coffee as I read, and waited for my roommates to get up. Outside sitting on our veranda, waits Colin ( a 4/5 year old boy here who has an ulcer on his knee). Colin and  I have come quite close  these days (even with our language barriers).  He comes to greet us at our house almost every other day and waits at our door for us to come and play. I step outside and we begin our little routine. I stretch out my arms, he stretches out his arms, I shuffle my feet, he shuffles his feet, and then we run into each other for a giant hug. Every  once and a while the kids will come to our veranda. It's always a special moment to see the kids just hanging outside our house. Most of the time we end up just sitting on the steps "talking" with them.  They try to teach me their language, we sing songs, we color, or we just sit. Simplicity. 

I took a walk today with Emmy and Aaron. We went further into Kabembe that I have ever been. Our feet shuffling through the dirt roads, children yelling "I see you, muzungu" "bye, muzungu", people stopping to say hello, goats at the edge of the road getting in as much food as they can, and boda-boda drivers passing by.  Simplicity. 

It's almost as if the world stops this one day at Acheru. All the workers have gone home, the caregivers hang out in their dormitories, the kids run around and play. Everyone takes the day to stop and rest. After all the work that the women do through out the week they need the day to rest.  My roommate Aaron wrote a blog about the work of the Ugandan women, and I couldn't express it any better.

 They are some of the hardest workers I know and I never once hear a complaint. We always try to join in their work. I've planted beans, I've washed, Aaron has cut wood, Emmy has made food, We have all carried fire wood. The mothers love it when we work side by side with them. They find it hilarious to watch the muzungu try the Ugandan work. Most of the time we come out bruised and they tell us we need to toughen our skin (which is totally true, since I now have three bruised knuckles from washing my clothes)!

They deserve a day of simplicity. A day of rest

Colin and Me.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My week of traveling through Kampala/Jinja.

Welbe Back! (The Ugandan way of saying "welcome back!") 

I just came back home to Acheru after a week of traveling around the Kampala/Jinja area with Julie, Aaron, and Emmy. What a week of traveling. So many stories to tell, but I will try to only focus on a few of the more impactful ones. If I didn't, I would be writing for days! 

This was my first time traveling around and doing village/home/church visits with Julie. We had quite the busy schedule, and I really got a small glimpse of what Julie does as a living by herself most of the time. I was amazed at the courage she has to enter into some of the places we went. She has such confidence in God's protection as she drives around trying to remember what landmarks (or rock piles) to turn at, and then venture around by foot in slums to find the homes.

Anyways, we started our traveling with being dropped off in Kampala to meet Julie. We spent the first night just resting up before our big week ahead. The first stop in our travels: Word of Life church. Word of Life is a small church in a small village outside Kampala. The roads were so rough that I couldn't believe the car could make it through. We arrived to the church without knowing what to expect. There waiting for us was about 7/8 people who really want to develop a ministry for children with special needs. I have come to learn to ALWAYS have some message prepared when going to a church. Sure enough, this church asked all four of us to share a message with them. Aaron started us off with speaking from Matthew 24 where God speaks to us about loving the least of these. Julie followed with talking about the body of Christ and how we are each a part of it. Emmy went next and talked about how we need to heal spirituality not just physical. I ended the message with talking about how each one of us is made in Christ image.  I thought it went pretty well considering it was on the spot preaching! 

We later went to meet a mother and son in the slums of Kampala. The family has since moved but since we did not know where to we met the mother in their old two room house. It was a family of 10 and they had spent the past 14 years living in a 2 room house that was smaller than my living room here at Acheru. Yet this was the most loving mother I have met. She is the most beautiful person inside and out that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Mama Raymond had a son named Raymond who is 17 years old and has Cerebral Palsy. The love that Mama Raymond has for her son was such a blessing to see. Julie explained to us that it is rare to find a mother here in Uganda who has really realized what a blessing their child can be to them. Mama Raymond had complete faith that God will provide and has provided for her by giving her Raymond. They were just recently blessed to be told of a house that was much bigger and much cheaper to move too. We got to see their new home. Mama Raymond was so excited to have us in her home.

We later went on to visit my old stomping grounds at Good Shepherds Fold. It was so great to be there, but I also really realized how Acheru is my new home and I couldn't wait to be back. I am so grateful that I got to see all my friends at GSF and hold my dear Kenny again! We were able to provide 2 new wheelchairs for Matthew and Sam! After GSF we headed to a church in Jinja where Aaron was asked to deliver the message, and then we were invited to the Pastors house for lunch. A lunch of 5 hours haha. 

The next day we headed to our big adventure. James, the tailor here at Acheru, asked if we could come and do assessments in his village as there are many children with disabilities there. He promised he would mobilize them all to one meeting spot where we could come and meet them. So with Julie, we drove about 2 hours out into the village (all on dirt roads of course), slid through the mud, and arrived to his village. What a welcoming we received! His entire village and neighboring villages had come singing and dancing when we arrived. They had a long welcoming party for us including more singing/dancing, skits, food, and messages. To make it a long story short, we eventually divided the kids into a physical disabilities group and a mental disability group. I went with Julie to asses the children with more mental disabilities. 

I'm still trying to process my time in that room with Julie. So many children came to us with their parents. Their parents looked to us to solve their child's problems, but we can't. These things can't be "fixed". The only things we could really do was show them exercises to do with their children who had Cerebral Palsy or try to explain as best as we could that their child who has not spoken, probably won't ever speak. Still the parents wanted us to do something. Each time Julie spoke with the parents I would sit in the back in my little wooden chair and just pray for their child. Pray for the parent that they may continue to love their child and know that God made them in his own image and that they would know just how important that is. Three of the children we saw really spoke to my heart. Two of them were boys with Autism. To try and explain to their mothers that this is the way God made him and they could not be "fixed" was so hard. In the states when I have had to be in the middle of the "autism conversation" parents at least know a little about Autism. Here…there is no knowledge. They don't understand why their kid is the way they are, and to try and explain it was so difficult to watch.  There was another girl who was 17 years old and had Cerebral Palsy. She was so severely malnourished that her mother could carry her on her back like a baby. I was in shock when they told me she was 17 years old. How has this child lived so long? Clearly by the grace of God. Again the mother came looking for answers, but all we could do was refer her to a nutrition hospital. We were going to bring her there ourselves, but there were over 60 kids left to asses. It was so heartbreaking to not be able to do anything. 

It's at these times where I really understand what Emmy means when she talks about how feeding them spiritually. Because there is nothing we can physically do to "fix" these children. We have to rely and truly believe that God is going to take care of them, and if we can tell that to the parents then maybe they will begin to believe that too. All I can do here is tell these kids how loved they are, and tell their parents how loved they are. It's so hard as a westerner who wants to "fix" and to "solve" things, but I just can't.

Clearly there is so much more I could write about, but like I said, I'd be writing forever. I am excited to be able to do more traveling with Julie and to continue showing the love of Christ. It's all we can do here. For now, it is good to be back at Acheru and begin my routine of working with Teacher Juliet. We have received many new kids while gone. 

Prayer Points:

1. The children in James' village. Specifically the mothers of the two boys with Autism and the mother of the daughter with cerebral palsy. That they would continue to love their children and see them as blessings from God. 

2. Our week here at Acheru as we continue to build relationships. Specifically we are trying to begin bible studies/praise times for the caregivers here. We are having a hard time getting staff to be more motivated to take charge. We could be in charge, but we aren't the ones who are here in the long run. That we would have wisdom on how to go about this. 

3. Praise- I'm still healthy! No sickness thus far! Even after eating White Ants!
                                                            Mama Raymond and Raymond
                                                                   Matthew in his new chair!
                                        My sweet Solomon! Year three of seeing each other!
                                            My Kenny! I was amazed at how big he has gotten!
                                                      The White Ants we ate at GSF.
                                                      Part of the welcoming at James' village.
Emmy hopped right into the dancing.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Warning...A few pictures are a bit graphic.

Clinic Day. 

Today I spent most of my day in the clinic with Nurse Tom and Nurse Betty. It's in this room, during these times, that I really realize how much pain these children are in. It's so easy to forget that they have severe medical issues going on. During the day their bandages cover their wounds, their pant legs are pulled down, they are running around, and laughing. But inside that room.. the bandages come off, the smiles disappear, and the pain becomes real. Children have wounds where their bones are exposed, they have ulcers that take up their entire knees, they have burns down their whole legs, pins stuck in their legs holding bones together, legs amputated, stitches down their sides, club feet, bowed legs, knocked knees, etc.

Through their dressing changes for their wounds you can see the pain in their face. The stinging feeling of the alcohol cleaning their wounds, the forceps entering in their open wounds to clean the insides, the twisting of the fixators in order to clean around the wound. But you rarely hear a cry. You rarely hear a complaint. They do this without pain killers. Without any numbing. It is amazing how tough these kids are inside that dressing room. It makes me think about how I cry when I have to get a splinter taken out of my finger. These kids tough it out because they see how blessed they are.

We have literally seen the lame walk again. We have see horrendous wounds be healed. We have seen incredible molding of bones in order to correct club feet. God has definitely blessed Acheru with a team comprised of many gifts. We see his miracles daily in the lives of these kids. 

I am learning so much about the medical side of Acheru. Today I even got to help cast a child with club foot! I've helped the nurses clean up after wounds . I'm going to the surgery hospital at some point. It really amazes me everyday. I even sat with the caregivers and made home-made cotton balls (which…if any of you know how I feel about cotton balls…they give me the heebie-jeebies).

Soon I will probably begin working with the teacher more regularly. Right now the Irish family who is here for two weeks, the mother has been working with Juliette. During this time I was able to do more observing and see medically how Acheru works. I can definitely say with confidence that the medical side is not my gift and I respect Nurse Betty, Nurse Tom, and Johnson very much for what they do daily. 

                                                     A few smiling faces ready for school.

                               A new wound. This boy had osteomylitis (the infection of the bone that weakens bones). They had to open his leg, scrap the dead bone out. This thing on his leg is called a fixator. It helps keep the bones in place.
Tom working on Moses.

                                                                              Homemade Cotton Balls!

  This is Kevin. She was burned on her left leg. It caused a contracture in her knee. She could not bend her leg and it was causing one leg to be longer than the other. They placed this contractor on her leg to extend the leg so the bones may continue to grow.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

If we are not serving others we can in turn not grow in ourselves.

My first week in Uganda is complete and it has been a week of many different emotions. When I first arrived to Uganda I was in Kampala attending orientation for Short Term Missions. I got time to spend with my roommates (Emmy and Aaron) and met the team that they had been with for the past six weeks. It was definitely good to have time to settle in and adjust to time, but I also found myself becoming very anxious and was just ready to be settled into my new home at Acheru.

Wednesday I arrived at Acheru late at night, after waiting four hours for our ride (Africa time indeed!). I set my stuff down and Emmy and Aaron brought me down to the center for greetings. The second they saw our mzungu faces (white faces), we were swarmed with hugs and welcomes. What a great way to feel right at home. I came back in and set my room up. 

                                                                                   The grounds at Acheru

Acheru is quite a different environment than what I have been used to. It's quiet. Here there are only about 20 or so kids here at the moment receiving various forms of treatment. A lot of the kids here are being treated for a recurring bone infection called Osteomyelitis. This infection causes the bone to deteriorate. If not caught in time the bone may actually begin to puncture the skin and begin growing out. The kids here have received surgery where they place what is called a "Fixator" on their bones.  This helps to refuse the bone and help the bone grow properly. Other kids are being treated for club feet, where they cast the children's feet to mold them back to proper form. Though these kids have fixators or cast on their legs/feet it definitely does not slow them down. I am amazed every day at what these kids are able to do. One child in particular came to Acheru and was wheel chaired bound. He had a severe case of Osteomyelitis. Two years later he is still at Acheru but is one of the most energetic and active kids here. He is also incredibly smart and passionate about worshipping. 
                                                              Colin, John, and Frances
                                              Frances, Resty, Joanne, Lillian, & Olivia at School
Painted Nails!

It is also different here because these kids come to Acheru with caregivers. So there are many more adults around than I have been used to. This is an area of relationship building I would like to improve. It has always been easy for me to build relationships with the children. Its my comfort zone and where I go to. I would love to be able to spend time with their caregivers and get to know what life has been like for them, and what they have had to struggle with. Today I was able to spend time with the mothers by painting their toes/fingers. They all were so excited and then we began a photoshoot with them and their children. 
Colin and his mama

Frances and his caregiver Harriet.

Language is different here as well. At GSF everyone spoke english. Here people are coming from all over Uganda. There are people who speak Luganda (the language of central uganda) and people who speak achuele (spell check..?) which is a language from the northern areas, or Lau (spell check again..) which is another language from the north. Some but not every speak English. So naturally this makes it harder to build relationships with the caregivers. 

The staff here at acheru are another group I really want to build relationships with. They are the constant here. Kids are being discharged here and there, and kids are arriving here and there. The staff stays. They are my neighbors here. My first week I have been observing what each staff members does in order to get a holistic idea of what Acheru does. There are nurses, physical therapist, a teacher, a casting doctor, administration, a cook, security guards, a tailor, and other various jobs. I continue to pray for the building of these relationships. Some of these staff members I will be able to visit their home churches which will be a good time to get to know them!

Lastly, my job here in Uganda has changed a bit since arriving. Acheru is a very well established place. Really they don't need us mzungus here but they appreciate the help and welcome us with loving arms. Emmy, Aaron, and I have decided that we would like to travel around Uganda with our field leader Julie. Julie travels around Uganda assessing villages, providing trainings, and making home visits for places with children with special needs. I am excited to be able to be more of a hands on part of her ministry. Julie pretty much does it all on her own. Acheru will be our home base and we will spend most of our time here. 

With all this said, I have enjoyed my first week here and I am excited to see what will happen in the next seven months. I"m excited to see what relationships will come to be and what my role here in Uganda will be.

Prayer Points:

1. To continually leave my comfort zone and spend time with the caregivers. Building relationships there.

2. My relationships with the staff here at Acheru.

3. Upcoming travels- On august 13 we will be traveling to Kampala for some home visits. On the 16th I will head back to GSF for a few days! I am so excited about this trip! After that we will visit the village of our tailor here (James) and do assessments in his village. Later in september will we travel to western uganda and later we will travel up north to the Karamjoa people.