{Going forward with a new heart} & I hope you will come along

 

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I realize that this post is long overdue.  I still can’t believe it has been over a month since I returned from my trip.  I have wanted to share every incredible detail with you since I returned, but I have been having a difficult time trying to sort out all of my thoughts and memories from that life-changing time in Africa. I will tell you that it was so much more than I expected, I fell in love with the people and the place and I am already counting the days until I can return.  There seems to be so many “parts” of the trip- but one part has occupied much of my thoughts and time since I returned, and that is what I most want to share with you today.

 

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{a classroom- which is filled with children wanting to learn}

 

Education.  While we aren’t a family who pushes our children towards schooling we do encourage a love of learning.  We do a lot of research around here, as well as reading and asking questions about things that intrigue us.  For us, learning opens up a whole new world, it expands the possibilities and improves conditions.  There are so many ways to change the world, but for me education is the start of it all.

 

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{Dr. Isaac- the man behind the mission and someone I am so very grateful to have met}

 

While I was in Africa last month I met some amazing people with big dreams.  I also learned a lot about the plight of those in the outlying rural areas of southern Uganda.  When I have the opportunity to immerse myself into a culture that is drastically different than my own, I tend to absorb as much knowledge as I can and my brain immediately goes into problem solving mode.  I ask questions- a LOT of questions, and gather information on existing conditions as well as potential solutions.  I visit with people, find someone to translate if possible and really try to “hear” what it is the people in these difficult situations feel and think.  I put myself in their place and imagine how I would feel and what I would want to change.  I respect that different cultures may cope with things differently than mine, and so I don’t judge.  I hug as many children and women as I can and I smile as much as possible.  However it is always difficult to see suffering.

 

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{it’s a bit blurry but I absolutely treasure this photo}

This was especially true in a children’s hospital that I visited.  To see those mamas holding their beautiful children, so very sick and weak- it was a place I couldn’t even imagine having to be.  Their strength and love of their babies carried them through while they sat sharing a bed with another mama and her babe, sometimes for days on end.  It captured my heart. Their resilience as they watched children around them get better, or get worse must be heart wrenching.  But they were bound together, by love of their child, in a place where help wasn’t always available and the future was unknown.

 

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So I asked questions.  A lot of questions to my host, whom I have grown so fond of and gained so much respect for.  Why are they here?  What is the leading cause of illness?  What can be done?  How many are lost.  That one nearly sent me to the floor, my knees locked so not as to buckle at the thought.  When you read the numbers, hear the stories, it is easy enough to separate one’s self from it.  Especially when you are 7000 miles away from it all.  However, when you are standing there, in a ward with 20 beds filled with mamas and babies, two nurses and not enough plasma or medication for anyone, trust me- it does more than touch you.  It changes you.

 

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I also visited “the slum”- from here on out referred to as “the challenged community”.  I had heard so much, about danger and disease and sadness.  Driving up my stomach was in knots, so nervous at what I would find.  But I learned something that day.  Perception is an incredible thing.  Where one person sees danger and despair, another sees hope and joy and potential.  I was that person.  Yes, I saw dire living conditions, lack of food and garbage everywhere.  I saw bloated bellies from lack of nutrition, signs of AIDS on little heads and tattered clothing.  I also saw smiles- smiles that would light up the night sky.  I saw mamas carrying their wee ones on their back while washing or cleaning or cooking.  I saw children asking, no – begging.  But while one would think that they would be begging for food, or money or even something to play with, one would be wrong.  What they all asked for were school fees.  $20 a term.  $60 a year.  to. go. to. school.  And I remembered all the days my boys complained about going to school, and I thought, if only they knew…

 

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Home again, having had time to process it all and gather my thoughts, talking to some amazing people on the ground in Uganda and coming up with a plan.  I finally feel like I can do something.  For those of you who know me, you know how passionate I get about things that I truly believe in.  I truly believe in this.  I believe that education is the fundamental requirement for change.  I think that by educating people we can help them improve their situation.  I think that giving people things solves something in the same way a bandaid helps a cut.  However, I want to avoid the cut in the first place.

 

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{happy children living in truly challenging conditions}

 

My plan is twofold.  The first part is educating children.  I think that learning to read and write and do math is a step towards making a better life for themselves.  Educating children will empower them to in turn create a better, more productive society in their little village and beyond. It will provide confidence and allow them to dream.  And dreams are important and something that too few of the children I met have.

The second part of the equation is educating people- most likely the majority being women- on the importance of sanitation.  Do you know that most of the ailments that the children I saw in that children’s hospital were due to diarrhea, which most commonly occurs by the spread of disease that originates in human and animal fecal matter?  Do you know that much of the transmission of such things is due to lack of clean water, both for drinking and for washing?  And would you believe that many of the children in that hospital will be helped, only to return to the same conditions that they had been exposed to, and will end up back at the hospital again in the future?  It is a vicious cycle that really seems so solvable in my mind.  It is all about EDUCATION- educating people about how to keep things sanitary.  The importance of latrines and keeping fecal matter away from human access.  The importance of clean water and clean bodies.  The importance of proper nutrition on developing bodies and pregnant mamas.  And while this all seems like common sense to those of us living in modern civilization, for people living in remote areas with little education it is something that needs to be learned.  And I don’t mean just telling them what needs to be done.  I mean a team, working together, comprised of a doctor, educated volunteers and village elders, all of whom believe in the value of making these changes for the betterment of the village.  

 

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 {changing conditions such as these will make a vast difference in the health of the people in these communities}

And so we are doing a pilot project.  Dr. Isaac and Sharon, Godfrey and a number of other volunteers, whom I will introduce you to soon.  50 homes.  50 families.  Each hand picked based on need, willingness to change and conditions.  Each home will be thoroughly documented, from physical conditions and current nutritional intake to the health issues of the residents.  Photos will be taken, a map of the villages and the homes taking part will be created.  The team will then work together to educate the residents and help them make the changes necessary to improve their conditions, but also be available to assist in implementation of the changes.  People will be encouraged to work together to clean and build and support one another.  There will be ongoing support, a doctor will oversee the physical wellbeing of the residents in order to assess what conditions are contributing to any medical conditions.  Nutrition will be taught with a focus on the importance of proper nutrition for children and pregnant mothers. And hopefully, if all goes as we are praying it will, when this test group is finished, ailments will be down, sanitation will be improved and the people that have taken part will go forward living a healthier life.

 

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The emphasis of this program will be empowerment of these communities, giving them self-sufficiency by introducing healthy practices that will then give them the opportunity to look beyond just sustaining life, but actually building a life that offers more than simply surviving.

The work that has already been done is amazing.  The team has been out conducting community meetings and the response has been incredible.  People gather to listen to Dr. Isaac share the importance of hygiene and nutrition.  They discuss things as a group and make plans.  I loved what Dr. Isaac sent me in an email after the first meeting~  “They gave us seats but we didn’t take them up. We sat with them down because we didn’t want to look so special. We sat down In grasses like they did.”  He sends updates nearly every day with what has been done, how people have reacted, and the teams surprise at the unexpected moments that arise when meeting with families.  Below are a few bits and pieces of what has transpired since the beginning just a few short weeks ago~

“we have been in the community today and we had a meeting with our first group. it was so nice and they are really very interested in our program. we shared a lot and agreed that we shall be having two general meetings in every month and then for the rest of the days, we shall be doing family support activities. we shall be doing home visits and guiding families at family level and when we have the general meetings, we share the experience and also discuss new topics to put in practice. Kim, this was very nice and the community was so warm. on the spot, we noted that jiggers and bed bugs are a very big problem in this group. we have offered to help them have insecticides to spray and then we shall go on addressing the other issues.”

“the youngest girl prisca was so irritable with un-consolable crying, just looking at her feet, they were swollen. I examined her and i noted that clinically she had protein energy malnutrition(PEM) I realized she never gets any balanced diet with enough proteins, she has never had a chance to take milk  apart from breast milk which she no longer gets.she has never had an egg. we therefore gave some little money so that they can buy her some milk and eggs so that she can recover from this condition.”

(which led us to our newest project which I will share soon!)

 

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So, for now, I will be in fundraising mode.  I plan to re-open the shop with more inventory soon and ALL PROFITS will go directly to this program.  I will be looking for other ideas and am always open to suggestions.  You will find a lot more photos that are updated regularly on our FACEBOOK PAGE. Please head over and “like” us to be a part of it all.   I plan to go back in 2014 to take part in the meetings as well as capture it all on film.  By then the pilot program should be making a drastic impact on the communities it is a part of.  I can’t wait to see it for myself.  I hope you will join me on this amazing journey- it promises to change lives- and the future of the people involved.  You and I will be changed as well~

x

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 {a simple place of worship and one of the most peaceful places I have ever been}

 

 

 

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20 Responses to {Going forward with a new heart} & I hope you will come along

  1. Kim, the world is such a wonderful place with people like you on it. Your pictures find beauty even in less than perfect situations. You are an inspiration to us all. Hugs.

  2. Kimberly, I am in awe of all of this – your spirit, your determination… You’re right – many of us would love to help but don’t know how or feel overwhelmed or just don’t know if our $ would be put to good use. But a manageable, targeted, specific project, with real people being directly impacted…that is something that so many of us look for. Count me in! I’d love to hear more, and I’d love to have enough information to be able to share with my kids. I want them to understand the world we live in.

  3. Kimberly, I love all that you are doing to help those in need. What a great feeling. You know I will help in any way I can. Thanks for sharing the needs of these people and creating a way that we can help them on this journey. HUGS to you sweet friend.

  4. Hi Kimberly,
    I have followed your blog for a couple of years, but this is my first comment. Beginning with your mother’s orphanage and now this, my heart is so moved to participate. What stands out for me personally, beyond the desperate needs of which you speak, is the direct contrast of how very much we have in North America! I will of course support your endeavours and others, but I was wondering: as you plan and fundraise, is there a way to create something that is child focused? By that I mean I would so love a way for my children to get involved in some way (7,5,2). I show them your pictures, yet it seems difficult for them to see how much they have versus the families you are representing. I strive for them to have giving hearts, full of gratitude and empathy, yet I don’t know of ways to involve them. I know you have so much in the work, but if there’s ever any way to make giving more of a family endeavour, I’d be so appreciative.

    • Hi Melissa,
      I am so happy you commented! The project that I am working on is focused on enabling people to create a sustainable healthy life for themselves and their families through education and nutrition. We have a number of projects that I am so excited to share with you in the coming weeks and months. As we are just beginning we are focused on educating residents in the communities we are working in on the importance of sanitation and it’s direct relation to health issues. We feel like laying the groundwork of having a healthy community will enable us to then work on sustainability and job potential. I am certain that there will be things that appeal to families in the coming months but am always happy to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much for following along~

  5. You never cease to amaze me my friend. You have so much love and giving in that heart of yours it must fill your entire chest. I love your passion and what you are doing. I always knew that you would find your bliss ~ helping and giving is in your DNA. Love and hugs to you Kim xo

  6. i just love what you’re doing…i “liked” the fb page and want to help in any way i can. (also friend requested you :)
    kim..can we sponsor one of the 50 family’s? of course i’ll shop when you re-open, but i’d like to help more. keep doing what you’re doing. YOU are changing the world.
    xo
    pam

  7. The kindness of your heart and your generosity never cease to amaze me Kim. Wishing you the very best with this endeavour. I am reminded of the ancient Chinese proverb when I think of you embarking on this task…. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” You’ve taken the first steps and you will walk so many more, and I know you will achieve something great for these special people who touched your heart in ways you maybe didn’t even think possible. Love + Light, Imen xx

  8. I just found your blog again…I have been out of the blogging loop for a year. Thank you for sharing your journey to Africa with us. It brings back so much memories…of my own dreams to go. I studied Foods and Nutrition in college (I have a B.A) and minor in African Studies. I was accepted into the Peace Corps and my husband and I were scheduled to go to the area near Ghana, but four months prior I got pregnant with our first child and so were unable to go. We raised our four children, homeschooling, with missionary hearts because we had plans to still go. But it never happened. Now all of my children are in college…they might go. I am now afraid to fly. But my heart aches for it at times. Your photos feel like home to me. I’m grateful that you are able to and that you are doing what you can to help…to love. Bless you. xo

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