Sunday, October 9, 2011

They Call Me the "Ice Cream Man!"

Gloria's Ice Cream Face

They call me the Ice Cream Man.  Not exactly a Super Hero name, but that’s what they call me.

It was the day of our groundbreaking celebration and everyone was excited to go see the land that Dream of a Better World had raised the money for.   I was excited to see the land, but he kids were really just excited for ice cream and cake.  But ice cream... well, that's really special.  And they knew that the path to ice cream included a trip to the land.  So the sooner that was over with, the closer they’d be to… ice cream.

Sweet Potatoes 

The land is impressive, 4 acres of fertile land with lots of things already planted and growing.  We picked sweet potatoes and Jack fruit and walked through field where the maize was just harvested.   The foundation for the dormitory has been poured and, as Holly walked over it, she showed each one of them where they would eat and sleep and learn and play.   I didn’t think the land would be that BIG and I was very proud to be a part it… like we’d accomplished something big and meaningful.   Honestly, it made me want to DO MORE!

Giving Thanks 
On the ride home, we stopped at a house to pick up the ice cream.  The kids, maybe for the first time since I’d arrived, became still and quiet.  This was serious business… ice cream.  I jumped at the chance to do more and pulled out my wallet while asking Holly if I could buy the ice cream I had promised the kids.  It was 80,000 shillings, which is about $25.  I had one of those “WOW” moments when I later learned that that’s about 2 - 3 weeks wages for the average worker in Jinja.  And, we spent it on something so… small… so everyday.  Can you imagine spending the equivalent of… say… 2 or 3 thousand dollars for ice cream?

Thank You All!
I feel a bit bad when I think about all the “things” that I have. Things like my R/C Ferarri that could possibly feed someone in Africa for a whole month.  After that, I promised myself that I will try not to take for granted the small things in life… like ice cream, like swimming in the ocean, new clothes,  clean running water,  meat for dinner,  screens on the windows, or especially, having both a mom and a dad.

Now I’ve become still and quiet.  No wonder they call me: “The Ice Cream Man!” 
       - aka, Jack Button

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bags By Lydia of Africa...

When I asked William about Lydia, tears swelled up in his eyes.

Lydia is quietly the sweetest smile in the back of the room… always helpful and always watching.  She aspires to be a successful tailor and is in school to reach that goal.  But, it is her faith and her story, that makes her so remarkable. 

Lydia lived far from town.  At age 8, both her parents died of AIDS.  They left her in the care of her brother, who preferred that she would quickly die and be less of a bother to him.  What was the point?  She was HIV positive and would die anyway.  At age 10, she was very sick and managed to get a neighbor to help her to the Children’s Hospital in Jinja.  They gave her medicine (ARVs) and food and put her on a monthly treatment schedule.  She would have to find transportation each month.  So Lydia, without a family or ANY resources would sell the food they gave her, in order to be able to return each month for the life sustaining ARVs. 

For 3 years, she managed to sell the food and return each month.  She was alive, but just barely, when the hospital lost it’s funding for their food program.  Without the food, there was no way for Lydia to return.  So, on her last trip to the hospital she quietly said goodbye to the nurses who grew to love her.  “This is my last trip to see you as I must die soon.”  

The nurses contacted Our Own Home, which found her near death and took her in.  Her liver and kidneys were failing and there was swelling around her heart.  At age 13,  she was alone and “ready to go be with God.”  But, Lydia recovered.  At Our Own Home, she was put on a strict regiment of LOVE and PRAYER and new medicines.  Lydia will be 16 in December.

She is happy, thriving and quietly ambitious to start her tailoring business.  She says: “God brought me all the way here," and she is going to make the best of every minute HE gives her!  So, she has started making beautiful shoulder bags...

             FOR SALE! 

Her skill as a tailor is still improving, but I can't imagine anyone else in Jinja putting as much "faith, hope and love" into their sewing.  These are the ingredients of Lydia's bags that we will help her try to sell... at least, we hope to get her started!  

She calls them: 

"Bags By Lydia - From Africa."

She sews from a corner of the older girl's room at Our Own Home.  We have purchased fabric and materials and promised to buy her first inventory of purses!  

It is fitting that Lydia’s Uganda name, which I can’t even begin to spell, means: What God has prepared for the poor will not go to waste.

In the story of the good Samaritan, we really don't ever know what happens to the man who was laying naked and half dead in the road.  We know that someone cared enough to cloth and feed and nurse him back to health.  But, what became of him?  Of course, the story is not about the man.  It's about compassion... it's about OUR role in this world filled with suffering.  But I still have to wonder:   Did that man turned out as wonderfully as Lydia?

Here are a few more photos, a video of her new "Daddy William" who loves her dearly and of Lydia using her manual Singer sewing machine.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Is my faith real enough?

Moses at a clinic

Wow… today was incredible.  Not only have I seen real poverty, I’ve also seen how God can use people in big ways.  It has really made me think!  I’m seeing how so many people over here are stepping out in faith and doing things that are SO incredible.  They see these tragic situations and people in need and actually do something about it. 

Feeding the Little Ones

My dad and I are studying the Bible’s book of James while we’re here and there is verse that has really stuck me: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it?  So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself.”  If you think about that for a minute, how does this relate to our lives?  I know it’s different for each of us.  For me, it means charity.  For someone else, it might be taking care friends or family.  But, for Holly and William, it’s creating a home for children without parents, suffering from HIV/AIDS and giving them faith, love and a real home.  Most of these kids will lead productive lives… and some, will simply feel loved for the time they have remaining.


I know that I’m only 13 years old, but when I see people over here like Holly and William and their volunteers,, it makes me wonder how I can do more.  The way they are giving everything they have to make a difference is incredible and challenging.  Is my faith real enough to do what they do?  

                Sincerely, Jack

We've Made It Home... Our Own Home in Uganda!

Home With Moses!
After two days of traveling, we made it home… to “Our Own Home!”   Home to 52 wide-eyed, smiling, singing, shouting, running, laughing children.  We made it home to our Moses and home to a very BIG DREAM that is making a world of difference to some of the “least of God’s children.”  It was amazing to see the results of our support and to see the smiles on EVERY one of the children's faces... to hear them shouting... Uncle! Uncle! Uncle!  Even Jack is "Uncle" here in Our Own Home.  In fact, he is a bit of a hero to the younger kids.

There are so many things to share with all of you, most that words just won’t express… like the faith and strength and humility of Holly and William, who started this effort.  Like the injustice and indignity of HIV/AIDS and the over crowded, ill supplied clinics trying to deal with it.   There are so many stories that need to be told, that need to be captured and shared… stories of faith and courage and determination.  And not just the BIG stories… everyday life and living.  Children who are excited to have a friend and to sit in someone's lap and have book read out loud.

We are amazed at the happiness of these children who take such joy in the simplest of life’s pleasures.  I watched one of the children explode in excitement and joy at the prospect of having cake at our upcoming ground breaking ceremony.   CAKE! Hands in the air… shouts of joy… bouncing up and down like fireworks!  What wonderful, unassuming, grateful, full-of-life children!

At the moment, I’d like to share one success story that really is a “THANK YOU” to everyone who has supported Dream of a Better World.  The best way to thank some one, is to share the results.  Last year, the “Dream Team” raised the money to purchase a van for Our Own Home and then early this year, they raised the money for 4 acres of land for a new, permanent (rent free) home.  Now, they’ve helped raise the money to begin the buildings.  Now that’s not even the story I’m talking about!

Here’s the story!  The moment the land was purchased… the older kids went to work on a plan to feed the orphanage!  The soil is fertile, but the land needed work. They cleared trees and bush and dug and tilled the land.  Of course, they needed the van to get it done!  They purchased seed and began to plant.  They planted maize and potatoes in their own land, with their own hands.  They harvested and husked and sent bags off to the mill.

I’ll let Holly tell you the rest…

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bye Dubai... Hello Entebbe!

We had a layover in Dubai... an amazing place.  Nearly all of it is new and luxurious.  It was a fun place to visit, but now we are focused on the children of Our Own Home and heading their way.

So Today, I woke up at 5 o’clock for Entebbe, took another 7 hour flight and a 3 hour long and bumpy ride to Jinja.  I got to see a lot of what East Africa looks like… the rich and the poorest of the poor.  We saw the President’s house and other huge expensive homes on the way, but mostly we saw shacks made of sticks and tin roofs, tarps to plug the rain holes and odd pieces of recycled wood.   There was lots of open space and then a small town would pop up.   The roadside was lined with small businesses… people selling things like fruits and vegetables and sometimes glasses or shoes.   Kids were everywhere, playing with used water bottles, sticks and string.  Life looked rough, but the people seemed to be happy with what they had.

Holly and William had travelled this road many, many times.  They were very nice to take this long drive to meet us at the airport.  They picked us up in the van that Dream of a Better World bought for them a year ago.  William had grown up in one of these small villages.  He said that he would cut down sugar cane as a boy for his family’s money.  He would earn just pennies for a huge bundle of sugar cane.   Holly came here from America and she must have seen this in the same way I did the first time she came.   But she also must have seen something extra special to be doing something as BIG as she is doing now!

We finally made it to our hotel in Jinja, home for the next 9 days.  Already the power has gone on and off 3 times and we’re using mosquito nets that are hanging over our beds.  Life is very different here!  I can’t wait to see the orphanage and meet all the kids, especially “baby” Moses!

OK… gotta go… bye for now!  Jack