Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Simply Trusting

We live in a fallen world and we see and hear of many situations that just break our hearts.  For Edwin and I, we feel pain witnessing the children suffering.  Without worrying about how we will do it, we pray that God will find a way to use unexpected encounters to bring unexpected blessings to help us, and He always does.

I will be leaving for Uganda this week with Andy Steiger, President of Apologetics Canada and a group of men from Power to Change.  They will be filming at our Home of Angels for the "Human Project" series and we couldn't be more blessed to have been chosen.

I wanted to let you know that the children are all doing well and preparing for their new 20 brothers and sisters to arrive in 2018.  Thanks to Richard and his family, they are being taken care of until we can get them all checked at the hospital and make sure they're healthy enough to move into our Home of Angels.

As you can see, they have been working very hard to build the nursery school to have it open for the new school year.  Thanks to the Tsawwassen Rotary, we have been able to finish one house where we will be teaching our 33 children under the ages of 6 years old.  The entire farm compound has been divided in half.  One side for the school and a playground and the other end for the vegetable gardens.

I'm excited that the children will all be on holidays when we're there so I can take lots of pictures to update you all before Christmas.

Meet Aunty Jennifer.  She's a wonderful woman that loves children and works very hard to teach the young ones how to work.  It's very different from our country Canada.  These children start learning about survival when they are 3 years old.  They learn to wash clothes, to cook and to clean but have nothing to use but their hands.  

At one time there were 1,000 chickens in these houses with 24 goats and massive gardens on the other side of the property.  Everyone's chickens in our area died one day from a disease and the gardens stopped producing many vegetables when the rains came last year.  No one knows what it was, but we now see people spraying chemicals.  It's very sad because they have no idea the damage of what chemicals can do to the human body.

So we brought in many truckloads of clean dirt and started to convert the chicken houses into a nursery school.

Our faithful workers, Sula and James, once again planted the grass, one root at a time, 2" apart.  They planted shade trees where it was necessary and they say I'm in for a big surprise next week when I see these changes.  I can't wait.....

A rock wall and a sidewalk have been made for the children to enter their new school.  There will be a playground on one side and gardens at the other end of the compound.  Once the sock pit and latrine are done, the entire compound will be completed.

It was sad for the chicken to go, but at the same time, a school for our kids is also a great idea.  This will save us school fees for 3 years and with 33 little ones under the age of 6 years old, they will get much better individual attention this way.  A good start for grade 1 ahead of them.

For nine years, Save on Foods has donated all the ingredients for the banana bread we bake to raise money for our Home of Angels.  Together with the firefighters at Hall #7 and volunteers, we sell hundreds of loaves.  There are no words to thank these people for what they have done to help these children.  Thank you Save on Foods for standing with us all these years to make a difference to so many children.  I want to thank Christina, Kaelin and Levi for volunteering and to the firefighters who came out to spin the wheel for SOF points.  You are all amazing.

We live in the Busoga kingdom which is the 2nd largest kingdom in Uganda.  Edwin was offered the position of Trade and Development Minister, of which he accepted.  You are witnessing the official swearing-in for this position.  Congratulations Edwin (holding the blue papers).  It goes to show you how many people trust and love you there.

Edwin and I want to also thank all of you for participating in this journey with us.  You not only encourage us to keep on going; you donate for everything that it takes to make our home function.
We are so grateful to all of you.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Power of Empathy

Empathy is the power to understand and share the feelings of others.  Whether it be in our Home of Angels or out in our community where suffering is severe, we ask God every day to give us the grace to stand with others who are in need.

That's exactly what has happened to us in these past few months.  Before I came home in September,
Edwin and I found 20 small children, ages 3 to 5 years old wandering the garbage dumps very hungry.  These children had been abandoned 3 months earlier with no water, electricity or food.  It was difficult for Edwin because this is the same orphanage I found him working at in 2009.

We always make decisions as a family so we had a meeting with the children and staff.  It was unanimous... We decided to stand with these children in need and raise them with enough love to give them hope for the future.

Our wonderful friend Richard donated funds to keep them fed and in a home for 6 months while we will do background checks and have their medical issues taken care of.   I honestly have no idea how we are going to do this except for the fact that we know He will not abandon us or these kids.  If you or anyone you know would like to sponsor one of these precious children, please contact me at barb@jaajashomeofangels.com and I'll guide you through the process.  Thank you so much.

Edwin found this little girl looking for any kind of scraps to eat in this dump but the only thing she found was a piece of sugar cane that someone else had already chewed up.  These little tears really touched my heart.

Another child was trying to find water but there was nothing except for this dirty ditch.

We wanted to bring the new children in to live with us but there were many issues to deal with before we could.  In the meantime, they needed food, so our older children started preparing a very special meal as they remembered the day that we did this for them.  Most of these kids you see here picked weeds on our compound in 2010 to survive and we made weed, tomato, and hot rice stew to fill them.  They never forgot and continue to do the same for others that have nothing.

Our Lovisa said a prayer before the meal and everyone bowed their heads to give thanks for the food.

As you know, the soil on our farm compound had previously been contaminated by the rains.  We've lost all our chickens and the vegetable gardens.  Edwin's friend was kind enough to lend us an acre of land to plant maize, sweet potatoes, bananas, and cassava.  All these foods will be ready at different intervals throughout the year.  James and Sula are currently in the process of working the land and planting while the rains are in progress.

We have written about our special Jaaja many times.  When I go back in November he will be turning 100 years old, but in the meantime, the children bring him 10-litre jerry cans of water when they can.  We plan to celebrate his very first birthday party with balloons and cake.  I'll bet that cake is going to be a banana bread.

Every day the little boys take a goat to a grazing site, returning home in the afternoon to bring them back into the compound.

These are our neighbors who have a small piece of land across from us.  They both work many hours a day clearing the land and eventually plant ground nuts.  Our little guys had taken their goats home after grazing and noticed they didn't have water.  They came to Uncle Edwin and I and asked if they could take them a banana bread and water.

The paving stone project is almost finished.  The driveway to the gate has now been completed with only the parking lot remaining.  Over the past five years, we figure a total of 40,000 paving stones have been handmade and laid.

Our "Home of Angels" started with 12 children in 2013.  We knew by the end of this journey we would be able to house almost 50 children.  Today, in 2017, we will have fulfilled our dream and plan to stay at this number unless God calls us to continue.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Good Things Lie Ahead

God wants us to live the best life possible and if we are ready to follow, He will show us the way.
Every day, because of His guidance, the children are learning to love and care for each other as a normal family.  The word "orphanage" doesn't exist on our compound.

Many of you have emailed me regarding Edwin's recent surgery.  We want you to know that everything went well and he is presently home recovering.  He also wants me to express how grateful he is for all your prayers and cards.

Recently, we lost all our chickens due to a problem with the food and we now have two empty houses sitting on the property.  Also, because of a contamination in the soil since the heavy rains, we are now unable to grow many vegetables so we have decided to utilize the land by building a nursery school. We have 13 small children, ages 3 to 5 years that have suffered severe trauma in their little lives and struggle to learn in a classroom comprised of 60-80 children.  We are currently in the process of working out the details and will keep you updated.

Before I share the pictures below, we want to thank everyone for a team effort to improve our Home of Angels and also to help our community with food and water.  It's amazing how God puts all of you in place to do His work.  Thank you so much for your giving hearts.

The younger children wanted to make Uncle Edwin feel better, so with the help of Aunty Joy, they roasted up some ground nuts and presented them before going to Sunday school.

This is James who has worked tirelessly at HOA for 9 years.  He husked the last good crop of maize we had before the weevils invaded our garden.  This produced 14 large bags that Edwin will take to a milling machine to produce posho for making porridge for the children.

The only garden thriving is the one planted by Junior, Sam and Ivan in our main compound.  There are many watermelons and tomatoes for them to harvest in the near future.

Thanks to the Ptarmigan Food Relief Program, we were able to produce 2000 5kg and 10kg bags of posho for 2 villages facing starvation.  Recently these villages were hit by a storm wiping out everything they owned.

I have to tell you that this is worst starvation I've witnessed yet.  This young girl ground up a small amount of rice, added water and found some salt for taste.  This is her only meal a day.

On a happier note, we decided to let the kids swim Ugandan style.  

This kind of laughter is good for the soul

Thank you Jaaja Lottie for another birthday party.  Paul, Eddie and Ivan were the ones to blow out candles this time but not the only ones to have water poured over their heads.  Our guard James had a birthday the day before.  In the video below, you will see the excitement of the children when they shocked them with a bucket of water.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

From Fear to Faith

What do we do when the prognosis is devastating and when our circumstances are beyond our control?  Where do we turn when the outlook looks so hopeless that we might not see our next daylight?  When we're faced with difficult circumstances, whether it be sickness, poverty or famine, we place our faith and trust in God.  He is with us in everything that confronts us and He is our strength.

When I arrived home in February, we went on GoFundMe to raise enough money to drill one bore hole.  Thanks to many of you, we made that quota in 2 days and started drilling right away.  Because of the death of one of our drillers, we had to delay the commissioning and we apologize for that.  We would like to share with you now the impact of your generous donations.  One dear lady in her 80's walked many miles to reach this celebration because she knew that one day God would provide water that she could see through .... what we call "clean water".

The children are all doing well.  They're happy and I think to myself sometimes that our home might be the only place in the world where everyone loves everyone.  In all this time, I have never heard them quarrel or not share with each other.  To hear them say how much they love to go to school 6 days a week is difficult for me to understand, especially when the older ones don't come home until 9pm.  They are all so grateful to their sponsors for this gift of education.

James our guard also works at keeping the compound clean and there isn't a time when you don't see one of the kids helping him.  Alan is the lucky one today.  People always wonder how our Home of Angels stays so clean....this is the reason.  Everyone takes pride in their home here.

With our new ovens inside the cookhouse, we only use wood now.  It's cheaper and lasts longer
but after the truck unloads it, the staff and kids have to chop it all up.  Always with laughter and smiles.

This little girl has nothing.  She was born normally while her brother is mentally challenged and she helps carry him for Mom.  When they came to our home for food, our older girls noticed her and how sad she was.

Zakia to the rescue......

This is an example of why Edwin and I are so proud of the kids.  Zakia decided to share her clothes with her and put a flowered band on her head to match.  Her mom told us it was the first time she's ever had something pretty to wear.

This is Sula and his Mom up early preparing food for the only elderly home in Uganda that we know about.  It happens to be 10 minutes from our home, so Sula helps her every morning before returning back to Home of Angels for a full days work with the chickens and gardens.  This boy has worked for us since 2009 and we wish we could clone him for his work ethics.

Thanks to our dear friend Joyce who supplies the food for these elderly people.  They are able to eat meals three times a day and because of this, they are fighting off diseases and becoming much more healthy as time goes on.  She has also put in new plastic pipes for clean water which I'm sure is contributing to their improved health.

It's hard for us in the western world to understand the reality of Uganda and many other African countries.  There is NO clean water in these swamps.  Sometimes these kids walk between 5 and 10 km just to get a full 20 litre jerry can and many time they have to repeat the walk twice a day.

How could we not do something to help?  We live in the western world where nothing like this exists, so when we felt God calling us to DO SOMETHING.....that's when Edwin and I jumped into action and many of you followed.

Edwin wanted to show you the clean water coming from an aquifer that we were told will last for many years.  You all made this possible with your donations and this community is very grateful.

On behalf of 1000's of people, we would like to thank you all for helping them.

This is a small part of the area that will benefit from the water you donated.

When you give a gift such as water, the culture is to give back.  They have nothing right now because of the famine but they managed to find the perfect gift.  Beautiful big avocados and I was the one to receive them on your behalf.  Edwin and I shared them with others that were hungry the following day.

We've made a video for you to watch the people celebrating the first day of their new gift.  There are few words to explain the feeling of watching poverty first hand, but what I can say is, you saved many lives and the appreciation is beyond any words.  Thank you from everyone.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Tears of Gratitude!

Not many children seek power or position.  Instead they want acceptance and security.  They cling to the adults who love and care for them and at our Home of Angels, that's what Edwin, myself and our wonderful staff try and provide.  Of course there are always challenges, but in each situation they are worked out and the bond gets stronger because of them. 

I recently arrived home from Uganda but whilst there, witnessed the most unbelievable challenges within the community. Lack of water, food, no work and severe depression.  A local orphanage abandoned where children are now left alone to fend for themselves, witchdoctors advising heads of household to depose of a child, and by doing so, will become rich enough to find food.  Edwin and I explain to the kids that our greatest hope here below, is help from God above and that we can trust that He faithfully helps us as we endure all hardships in life. 

We would also like to let you know that KIDS, our partner/umbrella, has added us to their website in order to help us process donations through Canada Helps. You can go to Kuwasha International Development Society (KIDS) at www.kuwasha.net and donate on the link above "Jaaja Barb's Home of Angels".   We hope this will help many of you that have requested other ways to donate besides snail mail.  Of course you can always send a cheque to me by mail and I'll process it for you through KIDS account for you.  Thanks KIDS for improving our system to receive donations.

John's John is always kept clean and it's a daily ritual for James our guard and the children to scrub both latrines and the concrete floor. 

You're right.....it's an iron heated with burning coals.

Every day the children wash their clothes and the older girls iron the school uniforms.  When you don't know the modern world this is normal, but it certainly adds another example for us to be grateful.

Edwin, the community and I want to thank Ptarmigan Foundation for donating the entire funding for a bore hole in a community of 10,000 people.  Oh my goodness, the drillers hit the jackpot where there is so much water that they say it will last for eternity.  We commissioned it together with 100's of people and I had the honour of unlocking the bolt to release the water for the first time.  It was a wonderful celebration with dancing, tears and enough gratitude to make us want to share with the world.  We take so much for granted where we live.

Thank you Ptarmigan Foundation from the entire community. 

Sam and Ivan washing dishes after dinner.

Precious and I spent the entire afternoon baking cupcakes for everyone in our Home of Angels.  She was so proud of what she'd accomplished that I had to take a picture of this "precious" little four year old and how excited she was.

As you all know, we hired a new guard named James from a town on the Sudanese border.  He had to leave his wife and new baby in order to have work, but over time, enough money was raised to reunite him with his family.  James keeps us safe and also helps the children to learn English and the Bible.

Here we have a group of 20 women and one man with mentally and physically challenged children.  In Uganda, they are frowned upon and they struggle to survive.  Every one of these parents had their spouse leave as the child was diagnosed with a mental disorder at birth.  We are trying to help them with food and in this picture, they're receiving 640 eggs from our farm.

Edwin and I want to thank you all once again for both following amazing stories of survival and also for donating to help us make it all happen for our Home of Angels.  Without you and God in our lives, none of this would be available to show you and we thank you so very much.  We also want to thank KIDS for giving us the guidance to be able to make it all work.  Our blessings are endless.

For those of you who donated on GoFundMe, the commissioning of that bore hole will be on the next blog.  One lady told me she hadn't seen clean water in her entire 84 years and Edwin and I are excited to share with you the rewards of your giving hearts.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Acts of Kindness

I arrived back into Uganda a few days ago to find everyone in our Home of Angels well and happy.  Lots of hugs and chatter about school, their "Angel" family and what they've been doing to help the less fortunate.  It's been devastation for many in our community not having rain for 10 months and this was the reason I left for home in January....to find help.

Acts of kindness were shown by so many of you and now, 4 months later,  I was able to come back and show the people that God and the world had not forgotten them.  We recently hit clean water in the 2nd bore hole and both aquifers are very large.  Edwin has also found another area deep in the bush where the 3rd bore hole will be drilled and I will have the opportunity to witness this one.

Then, to add to their desperation, the rains recently arrived with a vengeance.  Most of the roads, crops and our local food market were washed away.  Homes collapsed everywhere and currently the people are faced with starvation, where in many parts of Uganda, they're eating only terminates.  Again, you showed your kindness to help them with bean seeds and enough for many families.  If the people do not have land to grown these seeds on, Edwin has had the opportunity to change them to either posho or rice.  The children also play a big part in this story.  They will never forget the fear of experiencing hunger and have asked us if they can participate in distributing food too as "God's Little Angels Ministry".

Aunty Joy, Edwin and the children in front of our new Home of Angels sign

Bore hole #2 brought in clean water on the first day I arrived to Uganda so I was able to witness the children's excitement.  The drillers are saying this bore hole is very big and water will come for an eternity and estimate 10,000 people will benefit.  Thank you Ptarmigan Foundation for your kindness in helping these people.  This is a huge gift and everyone is very grateful to you.

I couldn't resist showing you this picture of the kids dancing as they watched the dirty water turn  clean before their eyes.  Most of their moms were out trying to find food when this happened but next week, at the commissioning, there will be hundreds of people celebrating.

Birthday party time again!!  Somehow I think I'm being tricked into two a year but that's OK.  Just watching them laugh like this makes it all worthwhile.  Thanks again Lottie for providing this party and bringing out all this excitement.

Look at the concentration on those faces.  Little Jimmy (2nd from the right) hadn't smiled since he returned from the burial of his twin brother, but on this day he had a sparkle in his eyes.  Four large chocolate cakes were devoured.

Thank you Gloria for sending money to the Grandma who was starving.  She was thrilled and so were the children being able to hand it to her and see her laugh.  We couldn't give it to her all at once because it would have been dangerous with all the hungry people around us.  We took in small packages every other day.

Thanks to another donor, we were able to give 40 families a 5kg bag of rice.  These people are called the slum dwellers.  They've all had their land and homes taken from them by thugs, so they banded together and try to help each other survive.  With no land, they can't plant so we helped them with rice instead.

Junior, Sam and Ivan planted a watermelon garden on our property and so proud that there are so many to share with their brothers and sisters.

Watching this famine right now is very difficult for Edwin and I.  We had enough funding left from the food donation to be able to also help these people.  They are a group of 20 mothers that gave birth to either mentally or physically challenged children.  All spouses deserted them so they work as a team to survive.  They are continually shunned by the public so to be able to raise food money is almost impossible.

Our children helped these women get the food to their homes because they had to carry their children.

And this is our faithful worker Sula who has been through the good and the bad times with us.  Sula has a big heart for underprivileged children and offered to help a mother carry her child.

I would say that in all the years I've been coming here, this is trip has been the most difficult.  We want to help so much but realize that only God is now in control.  The devastation is too big.  He chose two of the weakest people to go out into this world and make a difference and we are really trying, but it's so difficult.  The people are continually asking us about who this Jesus is and because of the language barrier, Edwin explains.  If we can, we offer them a Bible and we're also thinking of starting Bible classes once a week to help them.

Edwin and I want to thank all of you who continually stand beside us.  We would like to ask you pray for the people here and ourselves as we try to teach and help them.   Thank you so much.