I am convinced, this day, that a big part of the reason we’re here on Earth, is to tell the stories of others. For some time I have told the stories of coffee farmers, pickers and processors. I have worked to show the real value of these amazing people who really do live off so little, and generally live in conditions that we would consider horrible. The folks who work so hard to give you your morning caffeine fix. I’ve spoke at length of the value of the programs that Coffee Kids and Grounds For Health operate, and how they’re a vital part of the coffee chain sustainability. And for us in the coffee industry, we have a moral responsibility to support these great organizations that do such great good in coffee-producing areas.
And now, I have more stories to pass on, like the story of the Adagani village, outside Lira. This village will soon be getting their own clean water well, a village who would soon no longer have to drink contaminated water that has put them in a continuous cycle of getting sick with stomach viruses. A village who in just a few weeks had implemented a community-wide sanitation program, which included proper disposal of human waste and proper hand-washing, as well as not cutting and handling chickens in their homes to prevent ecoli and other things. This was a community that, through this clean water well, would be insuring a better future for generations. All made possible by the partnership of Blood:Water Mission and Divine Waters Uganda.
I need to tell the story of the Mocino village outside Kitgum, a village that through the New Life Medical Center and Food for the Hungry, fully funded and supported by Blood:Water Mission, now receives counseling, HIV/AIDS testing/treatment and prevention assistance. I need to tell the story of a young lady from that village that stood up to speak of how the clinic had helped her with counseling, and brought her to a place where she could have her own successful business despite being abducted by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army and losing many of her family members. I need to tell the story of how the same village was triumphing by participating in a village savings and loan program organized by Food for the Hungry, which has seen the village save $850 just from members of this village. They make loans to each other, and pay them back within a month. They also put money into a general village welfare fund in case of emergencies, so they can take care of each other when needed.
I’d love to tell you the story of a village in the Agale District which was in the process of having their well drilled. I’d love you to hear the welcome we received from this village, knowing that soon they will have access to clean water. While we were there, we all grabbed their jerry cans and buckets and walked to their previous water source. We filled the cans and buckets with this polluted water, and then carried it back to the village. Each large jerry can weighs in at 40 pounds, and they need to do this each day, several cans. I can’t imagine having to do this, and am so thankful that for them, soon they won’t have to do it either, and will have access to fresh, clean water. There was also the Omona Puyo community, which has had their well since April, and when asked what the sickness was like before the well, was told that they’d had all sort of stomach viruses, diarrhea, etc. and since the well was put in, they’ve no issues at all health-wise. We actually visited the spot where they were gathering their water before, and it was disgusting.
I’d like to tell the story of the Te-Ongora Primary School in the Agale District, which has more than 1200 students with 12 teachers, and now has clean water. Sickness has been dramatically reduced, and kids are happier and more productive. They are joyful, full of light, excited about school, and the well was made possible through the funding by Blood:Water Mission and Divine Waters’ sanitation program. I’ll also tell the story of the Olil Primary School, which has 801 students, 10 teachers and currently no clean water, but will soon with the drilling of a new clean water well. I can tell you the stories of playing soccer with the children there, and seeing their smiles as they know they, too, will have clean water for drinking and washing their hands.
I can also tell you the story of Francis, who through the New Life Medical Center ran by Food for the Hungry and funded by Blood:Water Mission, received the AIDS counseling and medications he needs, and has went from a CD4 count of around 22 (normal is between 500-1500) to a more healthy 700+, and speaks with honor and pride knowing he’s fighting this horrible disease. Many of the people who make use of the New Life clinic, at no cost to them, receive life-lengthening medications and preventative techniques to stop it from being handed down to their children. This clinic is working to create an HIV/AIDS-free region, and Blood:Water Mission funded all the latest equipment they need to help make this happen.
I would like to tell you the story of the Good Shepherd’s Fold Children & Babies Home, just outside Jinja in the Buundo Village, Buikwe District. April and I had been given a contact there through a mutual friend, and we’d talked with them back in 2007 about the possibility of adoption, and have been praying about it since then. Sheila Warfield, an American missionary, took April and I on a tour of their facility there, and we were amazed. They run a primary school that’s open to all the neighboring villages, a mothers home, an orphanage, and offer support in lots of other ways there. They’ve got full gardens, fields for sports, and great bedrooms for the kids that include real bunkbeds and mattresses. We had a great time loving on babies, hugging school kids, and seeing how they’re loving their community there. They also told of us a need they had for baby supplies, so April and I are putting together a chest to send them (so if you want to donate items, please let us know.)
And lastly, I’d like to tell you of the Ugandan people as a whole. These are not people who are looking for a handout, these are amazing people who are glad we’re lending a hand. They deserve all the dignity they have, they don’t want or need anyone to feel sorry for them. They have fruits, vegetables, animals, clothes, a place to lay their head at night, their families, and their community in the village. The thing they need to most is access to clean water and better healthcare. And these are the very things that Blood:Water Mission is supporting on a daily basis all over Africa. These are beautiful people, just like you and me, these are our brothers and sisters, simply born to a different soil, but just as worthy of the same rights you and I are born into. These are people who want to live long enough to make their villages and communities better. And they possess the most beautiful, joyful, and perfect smiles I’ve seen. Those smiles will forever be etched into my memory.
I have been a supporter of Blood:Water Mission since it started, and until I saw it with my own eyes, never understood the depth and value of what this amazing organization was doing. I can’t say enough about how much I would recommend giving to this great cause, because I’ve seen first hand the change they’re making all over Africa. But, if you don’t give to Blood:Water, give somewhere, not out of pity, but out of sharing the load for our brothers and sisters who want, need and deserve the hope of life we have been given by being born into the United States. Find an organization you know is doing this great work, and know that your help does matter, and you can make a huge difference with a little sacrifice on your part financially.
I will ever remember Uganda. I will ever remember the children, carrying cans of water on their heads walking down the dusty African roads, with smiles on their faces and waving. I will ever remember the simple joy they possess, and the love they gladly share with all. I will ever remember the proper definition of community I saw in Uganda, and how it’s challenging me in my own community here in the U.S. I will ever remember the stories of conquering the deadly disease of HIV/AIDS, of being abducted and coming out of the tyranny of the LRA there, and the hope that people have for a new life now that the LRA has been driven out of Uganda. And I will ever remember the joyous songs that were sung welcoming us from village to village, a people not glad because we had something to offer, but glad that we took the time to fly across the globe to visit their communities.
And lastly, I will ever tell the stories of hope, determination, and victory despite the challenges they face on a daily basis. And I will let those stories make me a better person, reducing my own stubborn selfishness, and replacing it with love and understanding. I will let it reset my own personal priorities, and the priorities of my family. I will let it cause me to think more globally, and to be grateful for what we do have here, for power, for easy access to clean water, and for health. And I will let it remind me what’s important: Family, Faith, Friends, and True Community. Just what I needed.
(So, if you gave that we could go, thank you. If you prayed for us, thank you. If you wrote notes of encouragement, offered other advice, thank you. We couldn’t have had this experience if it weren’t for you. We’re genuinely thankful for you all, and appreciative of your love and support. If you have the same opportunity to go, I can guarantee you I will be the first person to financially support it, as I believe all should have this experience. Special thanks to the staff at Blood:Water Mission, Divine Waters and Food For the Hungry who handled logistics. Also, thanks to the rest of the team: Barak Bruerd, Victor Huckabee, Jake Smith, Brad Gibson, Jon Knowles from Medic Samaritan, Lisa Johanningsmeier, and Beth Mathews.)
Pictures can be found at https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A2JtdOXmJrVPcs