Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sorry I didn't write

Hi Friends,

I just returned from seven weeks that I spent among communities that Under the Same Tree is working with in Nairobi, Kenya and Kiboga, Uganda. Communities that I am a proud part of. Each time I return is a little different from the time before, with markers of increased trust and friendship. This time was beautiful. Each one of our dear families in Nairobi couldn't wait to have our team over for dinner - sharing of their precious few resources so that we could celebrate being reunited once again. I shared with team members from the US that although it often makes Americans uncomfortable to accept the hospitality and generosity of those they have come to serve, it is so important to accept this gesture that essentially says "you are a part of us."

Nairobi, Kenya

Almost 3 years ago in Nairobi, I met a group of people who were dreaming of a way that they could come together and increase their resources so that they could positively impact the lives of their families and communities. Now, it is nothing short of inspirational to see the ways in which they are working together to make that dream a reality. We worked together to plan strategically and raise funds, but when we have group meetings in Nairobi now, I don't lead them. Alice leads. Moses leads. Joyce leads. And they are doing so very well. They've grown their businesses, they are repaying their small business loans fantastically, and they are planning for the future, as always.

Our programs at Under the Same Tree consist of 2 steps: 
1. Economic empowerment for families. (This is a holistic program that encompasses community building, spiritual discipleship and counseling, childhood education, business training, and job creation).
2. Orphan care and prevention.

In Nairobi, we are investigating how we can use our economic empowerment program to expand into orphan prevention and care. We spent time at local children's homes, looking for opportunities to partner together to provide transitional job skills training to kids who are graduating the orphanage system and have nowhere to go, or to empower vulnerable mothers who are at risk of giving up their children. We are all so excited about this. The future in Nairobi is full of possibilities.

Kiboga, Uganda

In Kiboga, Uganda, we are joining up with a community of incredible women who have been working together to care for orphaned children for the past 10 years. Their long-time dream has been to come together to start a school and facility that will enable them to care for even more children. Our team began to build lasting friendships in the community as we began to lay plans for the future.

Like I said before, our programs begin with economic empowerment. The group of women we are working with in Kiboga all happen to be entrepreneurs and business owners. We will work with them to grow their businesses and sources of income, while helping them grow their capacity to care for orphaned children. We will be bringing service teams in upcoming years to work with them to construct the facility that they have been dreaming of. 

So why didn't I write?

I'm really sorry.

I'm usually really proactive about updates, blogs, newsletters, etc. I was really, really busy. We brought along 7 travelers, and my time was rarely unoccupied. The phone we brought as an internet hotspot became corrupted by a virus. I went weeks with absolutely no internet access, and when I did have it, I couldn't even get my blog interface to load up. And more than anything, I think that for me, life there is becoming normal. I didn't often feel the need to sign on to illustrate the commotion of running through traffic on foot, the array of smells in the slums, or the way you can never fully remove the dirt stains from your skin. I don't notice it so much anymore. But I really did want to share about how proud I am of my precious friends in Nairobi, and how well they are doing. I wanted to share the beautiful smiles of our new group of kids in Kiboga, their giggles and wildness.

So, why don't you come?

I am looking for a group of 6 to 12 people who want to come to Kiboga, Uganda in July of 2016, and maybe an additional 2 people who want to experience Nairobi as well. Let me know if you want in on it!