Sunday, June 21, 2009

Finally, email from Trudy

From email sent to supporters

Note: This is too long, so please forgive. We have been busy from morning to evening. Plus, the lack of electricity has been a problem in using the Internet. I will try to send shorter segments after this … the key word is “try.”

There aren’t words to describe our first six days - so many sights, so many happenings, and so many wonderful old and new friends to visit.

The three new libraries - Wambwa Primary, Namakwekwe Primary, and Mbale High School - are truly magnificent, for lack of a better word. We started work on Tuesday, completing one library per day, which includes beautiful, fully stocked shelves, flooring, and library posters to decorate the walls.

The team worked long hours, along with our many Ugandan friends who joined in the “fun.” Our group did find time to play games/ sports, visit classrooms, sing, share, and give presents to each student.

The schools planned smaller “grand openings” at Namkwekwe and Mbale H.S, saving the large one for Wambwa Primary. Our driver informed us he heard about it on the 8 a.m. news on his way to pick us (as they say). He told me over and over how huge the gift of the libraries truly is to the receiving schools.

The headmasters and deputies were in attendance from all six schools that have received libraries in Mbale. It was a grand event with a head table for the dignitaries and Libraries of Love team, tent, cakes and drinks, special songs and dancing by the children welcoming us, plus a song by three girls sharing the importance of the their library. The main speaker at each event was a Commissioner, whose “boss” is the President of Uganda. I understand he would be like a senator in the U.S. I must tell you that in his speech, he promised “Madame Marshall” some land if she would move to Uganda, along with government assistance. The team decided that probably meant they might throw in a mud hut and goatJ. It gave us all a big laugh - after the fact. He then invited the team to a dinner tonight (Sunday). I will let you know how that goes.

One speaker said this: Through you friends, we would like to send our best regard to HIS Excellency OBAMA, our son. (We are now trying to decide which team member can carry out this request.J)

Thursday evening we were invited to the home of the former headmaster of North Roads Primary, who is now a district official of over 101 schools (and proud of itJ) They had a small covering (tent) set up in the back yard with chairs inside. Philip, and his wife Jennifer, had prepared a feast. It was delicious. Several Ugandan people I knew were in attendance, as well. We enjoyed the dinner; then Philip led us in some rousing, Christian choruses. We were clapping and moving. What a fun night!

Friday afternoon after the grand openings, we played soccer against Mbale Secondary. We were hoping we could repay them for the stomping we received last year. We even have five high school students and one college student with us this time. Unfortunately, it was a repeat. Our team played hard, with some doing crazy things on the field for laughs (D J DeHart), but alas - they couldn‘t pull it off. At the end our team and the Mable SS team were great friends, with hand shakes, hugging, and a great photo shoot with the two teams together.

Later that evening, after cleaning up, Libraries of Love sponsored our own “grand event.” We invited ten representatives to come from each of our six schools for snacks and sodas. We hosted them at the study center of Mbale SS. Seating was arranged in groups of six so that our team and those from the schools could visit in smaller groups. Our headmasters and librarians were in attendance, which was nice. Scott Porter and I explained the process of preparing the books in America. Melissa Busby talked about why she comes to Uganda and what the trips have meant to her. Wilber talked about bringing the status of librarians up equal to that of teachers and how important the books should be to the teachers and administrators, as well as the students. I then shared the story of the beginning of Libraries of Love, which includes my friendship with Wilberforce and Sarah Okumu. Simply put, I shared how it was truly a calling from God. Without God’s blessing on our work, it would not happen. He truly changed my life one night in Wilber’s cane-pole church during a pouring down rain storm. Otherwise, there would only be one library in Uganda instead of 13. The evening was a great success in building relationships with our Ugandan friends.

Saturday we did home visits to students from Wambwa Primary. Bethany Methodist Church has been a strong supporter of Libraries of Love the past few years, and this year had sponsored school lunches for many students at Wambwa. Eight members of Bethany are part of our team. Our group had already seen a sea of mud and stick homes, children without shoes, tattered clothes, etc., but actually holding hands with school children and accompanying them to their small one room homes will leave a lasting impression. Many of the homes were round, thatch roofed huts. Most of the children were orphans or had lost one parent. Children going to school from 8:00 - 5:30 without any food is beyond my imagination. The families were/are very grateful for the assistance. One funny thing: We all had to cut through the forest, over rutted paths, to get to the children’s homes. Melissa and Kendra’s girl lived miles down the road. When they arrived, the school had forgot to notify the mother and she wouldn’t let them in the house. She couldn’t imagine what two muzungu (white skin) women were doing trying to enter her home. When Melisssa mentioned paying for school lunches, she wanted to know if they would pay for the other 20 or so children standing around! Melissa and Kendra then jogged back the long distance to where we were to meet, with another story to tell!

After the home visits, we traveled with Dr. Patrick and Helen Mutono to see their clinic. In the children’s ward, three children shared each skinny bed, with hardly any room between the beds. Mothers were sitting on the floor. I saw one young boy (probably two years old) with an IV in his hand. His mother had to hold the needle in with him on her lap, as there were no “poles” for holding the bag of fluids. Dr. Patrick had everyone take off their shoes, walk down the hall and watch through a door as doctors were performing a hysterectomy. That is not what we expected to see in Uganda!

We then went to Sisiyi Falls, which is owned by the Mutonos. It is like being in Hawaii. They had tables and chairs under the trees and we were served a huge buffet, including chicken and beef. It was great to be joined by Lynne Dobson, a friend from Austin, her son, Luke, and one of her friends, who is a photo journalist from New York. Lynne raised money which supplied 550 wheelchairs to Ugandan people. She works closely with Patrick and Helen. Lynne and I visit at Starbucks in Austin, so thought it would be fun to meet in Uganda.

The majority of the team climbed to the top of Sisiyi Falls, which is a huge climb! At the top, they found thousands of people living in huts right along the edge of the falls. Kids were skittering up and down the paths leading to the falls and playing right on the edge. Oh my!

Today will be church at Pearl Haven (the Okumu’s) at 8:00am. The Okumus and I have been friends for nine years, so it is great fun to razz Wilberforce. I told him the team had paid a lot of money to come to Uganda and hear his sermon, so it had better be good! He just laughed. Our team will hold a children’s service at 2:00, complete with a great puppet play and skit. 5:00 pm, will find us hosting a youth service. Last year one of the team laughed and said it was like a dance competition, as the Ugandan young people love to dance to the music in church. Then in the evening, off to dinner at the commissioners.

As you can see, we are fitting everything in we can during this team’s two weeks! I must add that we have met every evening to share and talk about the day. I don’t even know how to describe this team, other than to say I feel fortunate to be a part of the group. While watching them interact with the kids, I have had to walk away to hide tears. It is overwhelming to see their love for these children, as they have laughed, held hands, scratched backs, and given hugs. There are many stories to tell about individual team members, but with nineteen, I will let them share their stories when they return.

I will close to the sights of Uganda - which I love ever so much: clogged dirt roads holding bicycle taxis, motorcycle taxis, crammed public transport vans, streams of people, cows, chickens, and goats. Endless children walking to school in their various colored school uniforms, many which we recognize. Ladies and children sweeping their dirt yards, carrying huge holders of water on their heads, and babies on their backs.

Everyone on the streets at all hours of the day and night, our many friend‘s faces. …

Thanks for listening! Please keep us in your prayers and thoughts!


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