Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Extreme Makeover

Extreme Makeover, African Home Edition

Far and away one of my favorite shows that I watched before I came was Extreme Makeover Home Edition. If you’ve never seen it, you need to! The gist of the show was this: a family who was really struggling was taken a way for a few days while a huge crew would demolish and rebuild their home, not in the way that Habitat for Humanity would rebuild a home, but they would build a masterpiece of a home that overwhelmed the family completely, not because of it’s size or worth, but because of the precision of which the house (and sometimes vehicles) matched what the family needed and wanted from a house. The show itself is amazing, but the end of each episode is the real reason you need to watch. Each time, the family was so overwhelmed by this gift that they can only utter the words “Thank You!” over and over through tears and screams. I admit that I also typically shed a tear along with the family. To be so overwhelmed by a such a gift that was given for free, that was unexpected and undeserved… to me, this show epitomizes God’s gift of grace to each of us and that overwhelms me more than anything.

This past week, Japheth, the Project Director at Compassion here decided that we should go out into the field and help on of the families of our kids. Sarah has lost both of her parents to HIV/AIDS. She has 4 younger siblings and they all live with their 80 year old grandmother. The parents immigrated here years ago and have no other relatives around. So beyond this old woman, these children have no one else who can care for them. They live in an area that is very isolated. They cook outside because they lack a kitchen, they also lack a bathing area and a pit latrine. Japheth decided that we should take a group of 30 or so of the older kids there and do some work… so this Saturday we did just that. It was awesome! We worked for several hours doing a variety of things. The girls were weeding in the garden where they were growing beans, millet, corn and sweet potatoes. Some of the boys were in the banana plantation trimming the trees and cleaning up the grounds, others were building a veranda around the house to protect it from rain washing away the foundation of the house, others were building a drying rack for dishes and a bathing area. Jacob tagged along to watch and lend a helping hand. Sometimes when we work in the gardens at the project it’s tough to keep the kids working, but at this house these kids all worked so hard, I was so proud of them! They were helping a friend of theirs and one of my favorite parts was that this 80 year old grandmother was right out there weeding the fields with the kids. We also brought some sodas and donuts (not real donuts, mind you) to snack on and it was neat to see this old woman enjoying a soda for the first time in who knows how long. The kids created a community today by working together for the good of one of their own. They created memories too, that they will remember for along time to come. Sarah’s sponsor had given $50 to her as a birthday gift, not realizing, I’m sure, what that money would be for. That $50 bought iron sheets (corrugated steel sheets) which will be used to construct a kitchen, but it did so much more. It revitalized a broken family. When sponsors give extra money to these kids it goes directly to the kids and their families and can truly change their lives.

Many businesses ranging from banks to NGOs have night watchmen. Labor is so incredibly cheap here that it costs next to nothing to hire someone to do something. Just recently I hired a couple of guys to come up to Compassion to cut a metal wire and paid them $0.50 for an hours worth of work. We have a night watchman here at Compassion, his name is Lauben. He’s an elder gentleman I his 50s I’d say with a stoic, rigid face that could pass as one of those wooden Indians holding a bunch of cigars. He comes around dusk and stays until dawn of the next day. 7 days a week he does this. Typically people who guard someplace have shotguns and semi automatic rifles (which was quite unnerving to see when I first arrived in Uganda), but because this is a children’s ministry his weapons consist of a spear and a machete. He’s an older man who owns several cattle and is a chairman of a local primary school. He’s well off enough that he doesn’t need to be working here, but it’s an easy job and an additional source of income. Most assuredly he comes here each night and sleeps in the bed that’s in the nurse’s station, and for his efforts he is paid a mere $25 a month. (The world poverty line is defined as less than $1 a day.)

A touch of the flu

The Kampala marathon is in less than 2 weeks (Nov 19). I’ve finished my long runs and it’s a good thing because I’ve come down with a touch of the flu. Body ache, weakness, drainage and headache. It seems to be going around. I felt a little sick on Sunday but still ran 15 (Jacob went along on his bike). By the end of it I felt like I had run 2x that much so I knew something was wrong. Before coming to the Peace Corps, one major area of concern for my training group (as it usually is) was getting sick. I think it would be impossible to go 2 years without getting sick. It’s a legitimate concern too. Some volunteers are at sites without electricity or cell phone coverage (without climbing a hill, that is). For me it’s only the 2nd time I’ve been sick here and the 1st since March. Better now than next week! I saw that Lance Armstrong ran the NYC Marathon this past weekend and finished in just under 3 hours.

Random Factoid

Of the 286 kids we have at Compassion, 60% of them are Single Orphans (one of their parents has died), 30% are Double Orphans (both parents died) and 10% are identified as Vulnerable Children (both parents alive but are very, very poor).


Birthday wishes to Mom and Dad this week! Thanks for all of the unconditional love and support you have given me over the years! You have always encouraged me to pursue my own interests and have always been up there in the stands rooting for me along the way. Whether it was Boys Club basketball games and I didn’t really want you to come (because nobody else’s parents came) or Jekyll and Hyde and you came to every performance (and they finally let you into the last one for free)! The fact is that you’ve always been there for me. You have both been a wonderful support system for me and I don’t say ‘thank you’ or that I love you nearly enough!


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