Monday, January 12, 2015

First update!

We've completed our first week in East Africa! Although we flew into Nairobi, we immediately hopped on a bus and took a 14 hour ride to the neighboring country of Uganda, where we are spending our first few weeks. We've had a really great opportunity over the past several months to build a relationship with a Ugandan community-based organization called Care for Orphans and Community Development Uganda, because up until now, their director Sam Mugaya was living in Saint Louis, studying medicine at UMSL. I was also a student at UMSL, so I was really excited to get to know Sam last year and talk about what has been going on in Uganda. Under the Same Tree works to partner with locally led community organizations in East Africa, and so we were naturally very interested in coming to see what Sam's organization is doing. Timing worked out really well, and we were able to set things up so that we were able to come here during the same week that Sam was moving back to Uganda from Saint Louis. So this week has felt like a big homecoming for everyone, and it's been really cool to get to be a part of it.

Sam's ministry, Care for Orphans and Community Development, or CAFOCOD (as they call it), is working to support 30 orphaned children in the rural village of Kiboga, Uganda, through the help of a local church. They also run free health clinics, and are working to build a medical facility in the village of Luwero, where the people have no access to health care. We were able to help out at one of the free clinics yesterday. We set up under tents in the middle of forest of banana trees, and people walked from miles around to get to visit a doctor. Some were mothers with tiny babies on their backs, and some were elderly people over the age of 80. They sat down and waited for hours to be seen, while chatting or dancing to the music of a drum circle. The ability to take care of the health of themselves and their families was so evident, and although I am not a medical specialist by any means, it was really incredible to see what could be done with a couple of doctors, a handful of medical supplies, and two tents.

The rest of the time that we spend in Uganda, we will be getting to know the orphaned children  that this ministry cares for, gathering information and compiling media to send back to the Saint Louis based team,  and helping with strategic planning. The team of people working to make this ministry possible here truly considers one another family, and they have been quick to welcome us into the circle. We have shared so much laughter already. We are excited to see how our relationship with this ministry and the rural communities of Kiboga and Luwero grows and develops in the upcoming year!

We will be heading back to Nairobi after another week or so!

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