2015 Was A Great Year!

Happy New Year folks!

As we begin a new year and I look back at 2015, I’m amazed at all we have been able to accomplish and in it all I see the hand of God at work. There has been so many blessings to count.

First, Northern Uganda Women and Children Support Initiative received its 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. A great way to begin 2015 because we worked so hard during 2014 preparing the application.

Then, I purchased a car, over the internet no less. It was an older car to boot and it came direct from Japan. Thankfully, it has been a good purchase so far. The vehicle is great on fuel and it’s a little tank over these rough roads. It’s not only used to get me back and forth to the villages, saving me from all those dusty or wet motorbike rides, but it also doubles as a taxi providing people with rides here and there You seldom travel alone here. The vehicle has also been used as a school bus and as an ambulance. One day deep in the village we picked up a woman who was in labor and walking to center so she could get to the clinic. Her water broke in the car so we might have picked her up just in time.  Yes, the car has been a blessing…

…and here are some of many others.

The women’s project and their quilts

The women continue to improve and perfect their new trade and we continue to accept and train new women in the art of hand quilting.

Meet Grace, one of our newest members.

Meet Grace, one of our newest members.

Sales have been good and we have even started taking special orders over the web. In May, 2015 some of the ladies represented the group at a craft fair in the city of Kampala and in spite of the morning rain which kept many people away, they did very well in sales.

Craft fair in Kampala

Craft fair in Kampala

In addition to special orders from the web, we are selling some quilts to visitors in Gulu. Recently, we sent some of our smaller quilting projects to the USA where a friend represented our group and products at a craft fair in Massachusetts. We hope this creates interest in what these ladies are doing.

Busy at work!

Busy at work!

 

Pauline's bag.

Pauline’s ba

 

On our way to Arua for fabric but first we had to get out and look at this magnificent creature.

On our way to Arua for fabric but first we had to get out and look at this magnificent creature.

The income from the quilts that these women make has been very important in not only paying their children/grandchildren’s school fees but also in using the money to reinvest in their small gardens/farms and purchase live stock such as chickens and goats. All of this helps in improving their incomes and standard of living. The money they earn is not only benefiting them and their families but is having an impact on their community. One women recently told me that due to a medical condition she can no longer dig in her garden and she uses the money from her quilt sales to hire people to dig for her, therefore providing small incomes for others.

Designed and created by Julia.

Designed and created by Julia.

The women themselves appreciate their new skill with many of them collecting pieces of fabric from where ever than can get it and piecing the pieces together. They are making their own bags and blankets for their babies.

Agnes' quilt

Agnes’ quilt

The look of accomplishment and pride in their faces when a fellow Ugandan looks at their quilts and makes the statement that they can’t believe something so beautiful could be made by hand in the village.

Meet Beatrice, another of our newest members.

Meet Beatrice, another of our newest members.

Christmas Party

Christmas Party

We ended the year with a Christmas party. The women received a basket that’s useful to them in their everyday life, some washing soap, salt, rice, dry fish, garlic and cooking oil. Those with the best attendance also received a gift of assorted fabric sent to us from friends in the States.  We took some time talking about the meaning of Christmas and the importance of Christ’ birth. We then took some time and praised God and took turns thanking Him for all He has done for us this past year.

Praise Time!

Praise Time!

English Literacy Program

We are still providing English lessons to the women who are interested in learning. The process has been slow but then again, so hasn’t mine in learning their language. There is progress though and they so enjoy the teaching. I have to commend the women who have committed to coming each lesson. As most of us can understand it’s not easy learning a second language and most of these women come to a lesson after spending a morning in the garden weeding or harvesting and then walking long distances to get to the meeting.  So they come tired and maybe even hungry but they are trying and making an effort.

NUWOCSI and the women are so grateful for the young man who is teaching him.

Justine teaching a lesson in math.

Justine teaching a lesson in math.

Ouma Justine is a recent graduate with a degree in teaching and although he has a full time teaching job he’s able to come and teach these women once a week. He does a great job and the women really enjoy his teaching style.

English Literacy lessons

English Literacy lessons

Dairy Goat Program

This past year in cooperation with JOY Goats Development http://www.joygoats.org.uk we began our dairy goat program. I talked some about it in my last blog. The goal is to have locale female goats breed with exotic dairy bucks and over a two to three year period, the granddaughters should be producing a sufficient amount of milk daily. This will bring some important nutritional food to families as well as another source of income. Goat’s milk is also easier for children to digest than cow’s milk and can be used to feed infants. This is important if you have a mother who’s HIV positive and can’t breastfeed.

Meet Chris

Meet Chris

Meet David

Meet David

Our 3rd goat and I forgot its name.

Our 3rd goat.

 

We have placed a dairy buck in each of the three villages where most of the quilting women come from and have designated a “buck keeper” for each village. It’s up to the goat keeper to care and feed the buck and to monitor the mating of local goats. There’s a recordkeeping system they need to follow. January, during the dry season is a high mating season for goats so it is our hope that many villagers will bring their females for mating. The villagers will pay a small fee to the buck keeper and this will compensate the person who’s caring for the buck.

In about a year’s time the bucks will be exchanged for new bucks so to avoid inbreeding.

Our Vets from The Big Fix Uganda.

Our vet doctors from The Big Fix Uganda http://www.thebigfixuganda.org.

We will be in the villages once again this month encouraging folks to bring their goats and answering any of their questions or concerns. Milk drinking is not high on people’s diets here so we want to continued educating on the benefits of it.

NUWOCSI is committed to seeing this project succeed as we monitor the care of the bucks on a regular basis and bring in veterinaries to exam the bucks for well-being. We also work closely with the buck keepers to make sure they have what they need to care for the bucks and answer their questions.

Orphanage and boreholes/wells

This past year NUWOCSI became friends with an orphanage in one of the near-by villages where we work. This is home to about 27 children. We have been able to assist them by bringing clothing and food supplies from time to time.

Some food supplies!

Some food supplies!

We were also able to introduce them to JOY Goats Development and they in-turn were able to find sponsors to provide the orphanage with a dairy buck and 2 female dairy goats. This will insure that the children will start drinking milk much sooner.

Dairy goats!

Dairy goats!

I think one of the biggest accomplishments for this children’s home has been in the installation of two boreholes/wells which NUWOCSI was very happy to play a part and assist in getting them drilled. The big heroes though is a group called “Young Men Drillers”.

A team from Young Men Drillers

A team from Young Men Drillers

They work together with another organization and they provide manual, but skilled bore hole drilling where needed in the villages. They work through out Uganda and into Kenya and the DRC.

Drilling for water

Drilling for water

The children were getting their water from a dirty, stagnant water hole that was ripe for disease. Now, they have clean, cold water to drink. The director of the home tells me that in the three months since the wells were installed the children’s health has greatly improved. There’s been a lot less illness.

This was their drinking water. Even after boiling the water still wasn't good.

This was their drinking water. Even after boiling the water still wasn’t good.

The daily walk to the water hole to collect dirty water.

The daily walk to the water hole to collect dirty water.

 

We brought one of the puppies from my dog to the children and to help guard their goats. The Big Fix vets came out with us to talk to the children about how to take care of their new dog. The children named her Josephine.

Frances from The Big Fix talking to the children about the needs of dogs and other animals.

Frances from The Big Fix talking to the children about the needs of dogs and other animals.

Meet Josephine

Meet Josephine

 

I spent some of Christmas day with these children and was delighted to bring them some “essential” gifts like toothbrushes and toothpaste and believe it or not they were all very excited in this gift. I also brought  them some non-essential but much more fun gifts like soccer balls and net balls. I couldn’t find a netball hoop so I bought a basketball hoop. I’m not sure who was more excited with that gift, the children or the director! It was a great way to spend a Christmas afternoon.

It's a Happy Birthday Jesus Party!

It’s a Happy Birthday Jesus Party!

The little ones have the balls now but you know it's just a matter of time before the bigger kids take them over.

The little ones have the balls now but you know it’s just a matter of time before the bigger kids take them over.

 

It has been a busy year, we accomplished a lot and there’s so much to be thankful for in 2015.

We also appreciate those of you who support us in so, so many ways…with your money, with your time, with sending quilting supplies and with your prayers, your encouragement, in telling others about our work. You are so much a part of this work and organization!

NUWOCSI also has great board members made up of both Ugandans and Americans that work together smoothly in keeping us effective and in keeping me “grounded” and on track. I’m so grateful for their time and efforts.

I believe together we are making a difference in people’s lives and I thank you for being a part of it and working with us.

So looking forward to 2016 being another good year.

During the year we hope to begin another income generating project in the village. I won’t tell you too much about it now but here are some photos that might give you a clue to what we would like to do.

Odongo Jimmy attending a training workshop in Kampala.

Odongo Jimmy (in the white shirt) attending a training workshop in Kampala.

beekeeping 2

Here is Jimmy getting his Certificate of Training.

These are called Kenyan Top Bar (KTB's)

These are called Kenyan Top Bar (KTB’s)

The anatamy of …what?

The anatomy of …what?

Please pray for us as we move into a new year.

Pray that people will indeed benefit from our projects and programs. Pray that we always look for God’s direction and wisdom in what we do and that through us all people will see the love of God.

A very Happy New Year to you!

P.S. We have a Facebook page for Northern Uganda Women and Children Support Initiative (NUWOCSI) that is updated more regularly than this blog if you want to stay up-to-date with what we are doing. You can even reach it from this blog site.

 

 

 

It’s time for Thanksgiving!

Today, in America, people are celebrating Thanksgiving Day. It’s a day where we gather with family and friends; when we prepare a big feast of stuffed turkey, gravy, vegetables, cranberry sauce and every flavor of pie you can imagine; when we eat enough at one meal to last a week; and when exciting football games between rival high schools are played.  Most important, it’s a time to reflect and give thanks to God for all He has provided during the year.

Today, homes are filled with the delicious aroma of roasted turkey and pumpkin pie and yes, as I sit here in Uganda I have to admit I am feeling a little homesick right now and missing my family and friends as I think of them gathering together and wishing I could join in on the festivities.  It’s just another day here in Uganda as this Thanksgiving Day is just an American holiday. However, one of the local restaurants in Gulu will be preparing a turkey dinner, complete with pumpkin soup for us American Expats to enjoy and not to feel to deprived.

Even though I am not home in American to celebrate this day with my family it does not mean I can not take the time to reflect and thank the Lord for all He has done for me this past year and there is much to be thankful for…

Tegot-A-Too Village center. There is no electricity out here yet so solar is the way to go.

Tegot-A-Too Village center. There is no electricity out here yet so solar is the way to go.

This year I started a non-profit organization,  Northern Uganda Women and Children Support Initiative, Inc. or NUWOCSI for short. Of course, I am not alone in this new venture. I have some great founding board members from both Uganda and the United States helping in getting this organization “off the ground” and working towards the goals we envision for this non-profit. I thank God for each of them  and for their willingness to serve. Their input, advice and work is invaluable and I appreciate them so much.

I discovered during the past year how much paperwork is involved in starting a non-profit. It is daunting how much documentation is required and at times I thought I would drown in it all, so I am very thankful for the help and expertise of those who helped in reviewing, proofreading and helping me put it all together.

Northern Uganda Women and Children Support Initiative, Inc. is a registered non-profit in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and currently our 501(c)3 tax exempt application is pending with the Internal Revenue Service. We anticipate a reply from the IRS sometime at the beginning of the new year. We would appreciate your prayers that this process goes smoothly and our application is approved.

We are currently looking into building a new website that will enable people to not only make donations online but to also purchase the quilt projects from our Tegot-A-Too women’s project. This would be part of the marketing strategy for selling the women’s products with 100% of the sale price going directly to the women and their project.

Continuing our English Literacy Program.

Continuing our English Literacy Program.

English Lessons!

English Lessons!

It’s also an exciting time as we look into developing new projects to help benefit these wonderful, hardworking women I’ve come to know and love. We have a project we are looking into that would be a benefit both nutritionally and financially, not only to this women’s group but to the whole village and community, but it’s still in the “fact-finding” stage. I hope to be able to tell you more about this at a later date.

Busy working!

Busy working!

The Tegot-A-Too quilters are still working hard and producing some great work. Please take a look at “Our Quilt” page for more photos but below is a sample of their current work. They are also continuing their English Literacy program and many now greet me in English. As they try to speak to me in English, I’m trying to respond in Acholi. It’s a continued learning process for all of us!

We  call this the Congo Log quilt. The women cut and design the squares themselves.

We call this the Congo Log quilt. The women cut and design the squares themselves. Notice the hand quilting!

Another bed size Congo Log quilt. The photo doesn't do it justice.

Bed size Congo Log quilt. The photo doesn’t do it justice.

A closer look!

A closer look!

We call this the Picture Swirl.

We call this the Picture Swirl.

One thing that has been so encouraging to me, as their “teacher” is seeing so many women now designing and making their own small projects from home, mostly handbags from the small pieces of fabric that remain from our group projects. Nothing goes to waste! There is one woman who is working on a bedsize quilt that she pretty much designed all my herself. I gave a few suggestions but she took it further. I can’t wait to show it to you as it pleases me so to see their confidence building! There are so many talented ladies in this group. Most of them just need a little encouragement and confidence building and then watch them soar.

So, as I reflect on this Thanksgiving Day I have to say thank you God for allowing me this opportunity to be here in Uganda, doing the work I am doing and to be able to serve these wonderful women. I am thankful for the comfortable home I have here, for the health I have experienced, for the protection and safety from the many boda-boda rides and bus trips I take, for the opportunity of friendship from visitors to Gulu, and for the hospitality and acceptance of the Ugandan people. As a woman living and traveling alone,  East Africa is the place to be as there is always someone willing to look after you and assist you.  I am thankful for living in such a safe part of the world.

I’d be remiss not to thank all of you who have supported me this past year with your gifts, your supplies to the project, you financial support and most important, your prayers. I am truly a blessed woman!

 

Village travel!

Bee keeping in the village of Odek!

This month I had the opportunity to visit a small beekeeping operation in the village of Odek, a distance of approximately 30k south-east of Gulu town. Odek also happens to be the village where Joseph Kony (of the LRA) was born. I was invited to the home of Olaya Patrick Zechariah where he and his wife showed me their beekeeping farm.

Lloya Patrick Zechariah and his wife.

Oloya Patrick Zechariah and his wife.

They, along with 5 other farmers have 89 bee hives. The hives are hand-made from hard wood logs that come from either the opok, odugu, or larwerge tree. (These are the Acholi names. No one knew the English names.)  The task of making one of these hives is not easy as each log needs to be chiseled out by hand. A long tedious process.

They are aiming to have 300 hives.

There are manufactured hives that can be purchased for Shs10,000 to Shs20,000 (Ugandan shillings) which is equivalent to 4 to 8 U.S. dollars.  Zachariah says the purchased hives may produce more honey in the beginning but these hardwood, hand-made hives are much stronger and will last longer. I think it is also more affordable but I have to wonder about the destruction of so many valuable trees (which is becoming an issue in northern Uganda).

After finding the right tree and cutting it down to the right size logs the long process of chiseling it out begins.

How many hives can you spot?

How many hives can you spot?

I got as close as I could to get this shot and I was making everyone nervous. The last thing you want to do is aggrivate these bees.

I got as close as I could to get this shot and I was making everyone nervous doing so. The last thing you want to do is aggravate these bees.

There is two to three seasons for honey production per year and each hive can produce up to 20 kilograms (about 2.2 pounds) per season with a market price of Shs10,000 per kilogram. In 2000, the government of Uganda identified bee keeping as an enterprize that could get Ugandans out of poverty.

Uganda produces one of the best honey on the international market and a report shows that Uganda has the potential of producing 500,000 metric tons of honey annually.

However, most farmers do not have the needed equipment of a  pressing machine so honeycombs are pressed by hand, whereas, much of the honey produced has impurities, including wax and bee parts. Those who can invest in pressing machines produce better quality honey.

In addition to honey is some of the other by-products that could be produced such as candles, shoe polish, furniture polish and propolis, a very expensive pharmaceutical product that is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. There is also a company here that is producing honey wine.

The 3 men in this photo are all pastors in their village and are currently completing pastorial training in Gulu town.

The 3 men in this photo are all pastors in their village and are currently completing pastoral training in Gulu town.

Honey is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and is sold to clinics to be used for medicinal applications, including treatment of sore throats and by HIV/AIDS sufferers who take it to treat opportunistic infections.

I think this is one of the reasons I have so few stomach upsets or colds is because I’ve been eating the unprocessed honey.

Bee keeping could be a very lucrative business for village farmers, even after taking in the cost of supplies and transporting to market.

Unfortunately, most of these village farmers do not have the necessary equipment to properly maintain the bees and harvest the honey. One of the methods used in harvesting the honey is to build a fire and smoke the bees out of the hive at night. This can destroy a colony. A bee smoker would be a valuable piece of equipment. These farmers are also working without protective gear such as a bee suit, gloves or head vail.

Once you find the perfect log you next have to chizel it out by hand.

Once you find the perfect log you next have to chisel it out by hand.

Women’s Day celebration in the village of Paicho

In June our women’s group was asked to come and be part of a Women’s Day celebration in the village of Paicho.

Some of the quilts being displayed.

Some of the quilts being displayed.

This village is about 3 miles north of Tegot-atoo and about 20k northeast of Gulu. Different women’s groups and NGO’s were gathering to show their crafts and discuss their programs.  We were asked to bring and show some of the quilts we are making and to discuss our project. Our quilts were generating a lot of interest and people were ready to buy, however, before we could introduce our program and quilts we were hit with a monsoon that lasted over an hour and this officially ended the program. It was encouraging though to see so much interest in what we have been doing.

More quilts on the desk.

More quilts on the desk.

Traditional dances being performed.

Traditional dances being performed

and now back to the village of Tegot-atoo…

New Members

Our membership is limited to 60 ladies and one of the rules for members is that they have to maintain a good attendance. After a certain number of unexplained absences they risk losing their membership. When this happens it opens up the opportunity for new ladies to join. We have had 3 recent graduates that entered the program this year. I think a couple of these openings were created when we discovered we had double names, albeit spelled a little differently, on the attendance list.

New member

Recent graduate.

This week we had 4 new members start the program.

Some Changes

We are also moving our meeting place from the school to a local church and are in the process of negotiating a fair rent. The Tegot primary school has been gracious in providing us a room but they now need that room for their students. I think the church though will be ideal as there is much more room and it is much quieter. A few hundred school children can make a lot of noise! Please pray that we can make this beneficial for both the church and for our group.

So much as been happening these last couple of months!

I have been meeting with some members of the local government who have shown an interest in our project and have come to visit us during our meetings to see what we are doing. Quilting is unique to this area and people are astonished that we make these quilts by hand and use no sewing machines. The MP (minister of parliament) from Gulu may also be visiting us soon. It’s always good to have the local government recognize you.

Our visitor

Our visitor

Recently, I was introduced to a man from Gulu who has a PhD in Art and Industrial Design, the only man in Uganda to have this designation. He has taken an interest in our quilting and I hope to tell you more in the future on how this man can help us in our quilt art.

The women were really enjoying this meeting.

The women were really enjoying this meeting.

We held a special meeting where the ladies had a chance to meet this man, James, and to listen to what he had to say. I think he spoke for 3 hours but some of the women said they could have listened to him for 3 days. They were really enjoying what he had to say, giving them advice in terms of the project, encouragement for their daily living and messages from the Bible.

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

We had 4 women come forward to give their life to Christ in addition to one man during this meeting.

Now, where did the man come from you ask? Well, he happened to be walking by the church and when he saw it full of people he assumed a church service was taking place, so he decided to visit. I have to add that the man was a bit intoxicated but he was insisting he wanted to be saved, to give his life to Christ and he vowed to give up all alcohol.

An unexpected visitor!

An unexpected visitor!

We are praying he was sincere on all accounts.

Our Projects

This quilt is going to be beautiful when it's completed.

This quilt is going to be beautiful when it’s completed.

quilt 2

Practicing our quilting first.

We have some nice projects in the works and I can’t wait to show you them when they are finished. Above is a preview of what I think will be a most beautiful bed cover. Our “basket” quilt is being quilted by our 3 best quilters. Almost everyone took a try at stitching this pattern (see photo to your left) by hand with no marking or tracing the pattern first. The top 3 ladies, Agnes, Margarete and Rose had the best stitch (even better than the teacher) and are now quilting this piece.

Below is one of our recent completed projects. This picture doesn’t do it justice though as it came out very nice and was in high demand at the Paicho celebration.

The photo doesn't do it justice!

The photo doesn’t do it justice!

Thank you…

…for reading my update, for your prayers and for the many ways you show support of this ministry/project. We have received so many wonderful supplies and “special” gifts these last few months. I am truly grateful and humbled. I’m excited in what I’m doing, I love working with these women and I very much enjoy living in Uganda but sometimes I do get a bit lonely and homesick, so I am also grateful for your cards, emails and Facebook messages as these do a lot to alleviate the loneliness.

I have some major decisions to make concerning moving this project forward and would ask for your prayers.

Also, if there is someone who could teach me some time management skills I would welcome you. I have so much that I would like to do, that I need to do, but too many days I sit back and wonder where did the day go and what did I accomplish. I know this is Africa and time moves slower here…but

So much to be thankful for….

I realize it’s been almost 3 months since my last update so you may want to grab a cup of coffee or tea and get comfortable…

It was the day before Thanksgiving before I realized that Thanksgiving was upon us as this is not celebrated here in Uganda so I had no reminders…..like those in the U.S. do with the many advertisements for black Friday sales…..haha

It’s hard for me to recognize that we are in the Thanksgiving season and quickly moving into Christmas. Usually at this time of year I’m thinking it’s time to turn on the heat and pull out the warm winter clothes. Well, it’s just the opposite here.

Two new babies have joined the group and no, they are not twins. I wanted to keep them!

We are moving into the dry, hot season as I think it’s been a whole week now since it’s rain. I’m use to daily storms and wet boda-boda rides from the village, now it’s time to get use to the dusty rides. Instead of turning on the heat I’m thinking about purchasing a fan. Now, that power here in Gulu seems to have improved by 95% I think I can enjoy it.

As this is the time of year to look back and give God praise and thanks for all He has provided throughout the year I realize I have much to be thankful for, in continued good health, the love and support of family and friends, and the ability to be doing what I had dreamed about doing for so many years.

I truly like living here in Gulu and doing the work I am doing. When I first envisioned coming to Uganda I thought most of my ministry would be working with the children and a small portion of it with adults. I guess that was my vision as I think God had something else in mind. I’m working mainly with women and I find that I enjoy what I am doing and really feel this is where God wants me and wants me doing.

I so enjoy working with these women as they make the work easy due to their desire and eagerness to learn new skills and they don’t want me to stop at just the sewing and quilting. They want to learn it all..from English…to math skills…to knowing more about the Bible…and any other skill I can teach them. As much as I wanted to work with children I’ve come to realize  that maybe the best way I can be helping the children is by helping their mothers. When the children see their mothers willingly putting an effort to learn, to take on a new challenge and to be diligent in their effort to learn; when they see the self-confidence increasing in their mother; when they see her hope raising; when she brings home words and wisdom from the Bible I know that this can only have a positive influence on her children. Perhaps, this is how God intended for me to work with children, through their mothers.

Project Update

A completed project from the beginners group.

The ladies’ project has been continuing without my presence for the last week but I hope to join them this week. They have been working on some very nice projects and I’m anxious to see how they are progressing on them.

The Project has been taking on a more official and definitive shape. In the last few weeks we have been meeting to discuss and define objectives for the project as well as adding some rules and regulations for members to follow.

Currently, I have two groups of ladies that I meet with weekly, an intermediate group and a beginners group. Both groups have approximately 40 to 45 ladies each and as I wrote previously, the project is temporarily closed to any new members. Although, I’m amazed at the creativity some women use to manage to get into the program anyways.

One of the rules we established was in attendance. The attendance of each member will be very important as this will dictate their availability to the Project’s fund and we feel will weed out those who are serious about the program versus those who come when they think something is being given for free, i.e. reading glasses or other gifts from America.

How the money from the sale of quilts is going to be handled is something else we have been discussing. Soon, a bank account in the name of the project will be established, naming 3 members as signatories. A treasurer has already been elected but I think an assistance treasurer from the other group should also be named. Next, we’ll be working on establishing specific guidelines on how the project funds will be used. After much discussion amongst the women it was decided that a certain amount of money would accumulate in the account and then anything over this amount will

The Intermediate Group. These ladies have been with the project since the beginning.

become available to the members as small loans, as in microfinance loans.

I didn’t realize how much I missed working with numbers (i.e. accounting/math) until loans were mention. I had taken a couple of online courses in microfinancing loans before coming to Uganda and found it quite interesting and was hoping to be able to use this new knowledge in the future, so when the ladies mentioned this loan scheme my interest perked right up as well as my desire to start calculating interest rates and amortization schedules…haha.

Recently, we elected project leaders for each group and I have selected 3 ladies to be trainers. The trainers will be very beneficial to me as I can now explain a project to them and they, in turn can explain and work with the other ladies in completing it. I am also hoping to begin working with the trainers to train them on cutting and design. The cutting will take some time as I first need to teach

These 3 ladies are currently trainers in the Project. Lagulu Pauline, Layweto Josephine and Lakot Agnes.

them some basic math skills. Fortunately, they are very anxious and more than ready to learn. I have ample space in my home and it is set up to accommodate the project so it will be an ideal place for training and they are willing to travel here from the village which is about 12 or 15 miles. They will be on bicycles so it’s not too bad of a trip.

Celebration Day

At the end of August, to celebrate our first year of the project we had a big celebration. We rented a tent, chairs and a DJ/sound  system with some Acholi christian music; cooked a couple of goats and a few chickens; bought some soda and then had a great time dancing and eating away until early evening. The dancing was strictly Acholi style, something I haven’t learned yet. The women were trying hard to teach me but I’m afraid I need many more lessons. Possessing some dancing talent would help too! I’m grateful my dancing, or attempt at dancing, generated so many laughs though. I had a great time learning and just being silly.

Celebration Day – I year with the Project

We invited one of the local pastors and member of the local council to join us, as well as the school headmaster and the ECM Gulu team. They were very gracious and encouraging in their speeches and impressed with the progress of the women.

Local council member from the village

I think everyone had a great time that day and one baby choose that day

The children enjoying the meal.

to be born. His mother, after some dancing and eating went into labor during the festivities. My worker, Otim Renaldo drove her on his motorbike to the nearest clinic so she could deliver. I was later honored to be asked to name the child.

Here I am enjoying the delicious food!

After searching and coming up with several names that would reflect on our celebration day I took it to a vote at our next meeting and the name Jesse was chosen.  The name means a gift from God. The baby boy is now named Otim Jesse.

Bible Study

Something else that we have added to the project is ending each meeting with some Bible study. This is something we have

Akello Nancy and Lakot Agnes leading the Bible study

always tried to do in the past but many times it got forgotten in our haste to work on projects. However, since we are relying on God to make this program a success we know Bible study and prayer has to become more of a priority. We usually end our meetings with tea and bread and have now discipline ourselves to put the projects away once tea is ready and take out the bibles.

I’ll usually come prepared with a verse or a chapter from the Bible that I’ll read in English and then one of the ladies will read it from the Acholi Bible. We then discuss what we just read, asking questions on what we think the verse(s) are saying or what God meant by what is written and how we think we should be using it in our daily lives.

The last few weeks we have been looking at scripture that speaks of how we’re to love one another and treat one another.

(Thank you Pastor Jim and Burncoat Baptist Church for the use of your sermons on this subject and for putting on the website.)

I’m really enjoying this part of the meeting because it gives me an opportunity to get to know the women that much more as they share their thoughts or give testimony on how certain scripture has worked in their lives. They tell me how happy they are that someone from America would want to come to teach them about the Bible. Just recently, we had one lady express her desire to become a Christian and so we prayed with her in her desire to accept Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord! I will soon follow-up with her in her decision.

Demonstrating God’s love

Burnt Hut/House  This was home to a woman and 6 children.

My first job of the day!

In September, to put to action what we have just been studying about loving your neighbor, a group of us ladies got together to help another member in the group. This woman’s house was accidentally burned (by a child) and she and her 6 children desperately needed another house. So, to help in the building of the new home some of us took a Saturday away from quilting and went out and cut down some grass that would be later used as a thatch roof on a new home.

The grass is very tall

I can tell you that it was quite hot working in the noon time sun but we did put in a few hours of good work. My first job was to collect previously cut grass so it could later be bailed. I don’t think anyone trusted me yet with the sickle. I think they were afraid I’d slice my leg instead of the grass. After assuring everyone that I could handle the job I was taught the correct way to cut the grass. There is a technique!

A job well done!

After enough grass was cut we bailed and tied the dried grass. To secure the bales the women used ropes made of braided fresh grass. I amazed them at how fast I could braid. I just pointed to my hair and explained that in America it is common for women to braid their hair so that is how I learned.

Once that job was completed we then headed to a shady tree and collapsed while we waited for our meal to cook. It was a long hot afternoon but we all felt really good because we knew we were helping someone in need.  As this was the rainy season, we were praising the Lord that there had been no rain the night before and the sun was bright that day. The grass was prefect for cutting.

Church Visits

I have visited 2 new churches since my last update. One church in the village of Labora and the other in the village of Acet.

Praising God with music.

The church in Labora is pastored by the husband of one of the ladies in the project and is not too far from Tegot village. I think the ladies from this church wanted to hear more about the project. I’m afraid though that I didn’t go prepared to talk about the project and therefore didn’t bring any of the completed quilts to show or demonstrate. I had been told that they wanted me to come just to visit and pray with them. I now know though,when I’m asked to come and visit it really means come and talk about the quilting project.

Giving some Bibles and other books.

However, I did bring them some bibles, in English and Acholi; some bible study material and sunday school curriculum as I try to do with each church I visit. I also spoke a few words from the Bible.

The children had some special songs.

The second church in Acet is out past Lalogi and is some distance away so for this trip I hired a driver with a large van. This church had made it clear that they wanted to hear more about the project so this time I came prepared. I had 10 ladies from the Tegot project who volunteered to go with me. So we drove through Tegot and picked up each lady waiting along the road on our way to the Village of Acet. It was a long drive but it was never boring. The women kept the ride very interesting with their singing and with their noise makin, especially during each little market area or group of people we passed along the way. They wanted everyone to be aware we were passing through I think. I haven’t had that much fun on a drive since my school bus days!

Lakot Agnes answering questions about the project.

This church was having a general assembly day with several small churches coming together to worship and the pastor thought this would be a good opportunity to talk to a large group of women about the project.

First though, the pastor informed me that I was giving the main message or sermon for the day. Normally, I would have panicked at such a request but I tried to be well prepared for this visit and was grateful that I had prepared a message from the Bible. My interpreters first thought that my message was too long and I was frantically trying to shorten it, that is until the pastor said he wanted me to give the main sermon. So I relaxed and decided to leave it as is or at least most of it and prayed God would use it as is. When working with an interpreter a 20 minute message can easily turn into 40 minutes or longer.

Layweto Josephine and Akello Nancy from the Tegot Project.

Later, we were able to talk to the women about the project and answer their questions. I allowed the Tegot women to answer most questions and to talk about their part in the program, as this is their project. Unfortunately, I could not give them a definitive date on when I would be out to start a project in Lalogi or Acet.

While I was there I was asked about joining the pastors in a trip to Southern Sudan to teach about the Bible. I wasn’t able to do it on the day they were going but sometime in the future I may participate.

Personal News

A little over a week ago I was either bitten or stung and either by a spider or bee I assume, as I have plenty of both in my house. The bite was to my face and it hurt but I didn’t at first realize that I was bitten. After a couple of days the bite became infected with one side of my face swelling up and I had a hard lump about the size of a lime in my cheek…infection. I visited the clinic where the doctor gave me some antibiotics and antihistamine. After a few days the swelling came down and the lump is now down to the size of a grape. (Sorry, but there’ll be no photos of this..LOL)

I have kept myself quietly confined to the house during this time and am now suffering from nothing more than cabin fever. I praise the Lord that the infection did not spread any further in my body as it did seem quite the infection.

My lease on my house is coming up for renewal at the end of November and I’m happy to report that it’s being renewed with no increase in rent and with the promise that a wall (around the compound) and gate will be going up by year-end. I thank the Lord for both of these happening.

My quaint kitchen. Everything within easy reach.

I was wondering about the rent increase but also knew that more and more NGO workers are leaving Gulu so that does leave room for negotiation. I am very comfortable in this house and was not looking forward to moving if the rent increased. This is a great house and I know how blessed I am to be living in it and at such a reasonable price.

I thought I could live without a wall and gate around the compound but being a muzungo ( westerner) creates a lot of curiosity, i.e. children peeping in the windows for one, so to afford myself some privacy I want a wall fence.

Once again, I’m also so grateful for the packages and supplies I have received. It is always well appreciated and well needed.

I was recently able to make some ladies very happy with some of the reading/magnifying glasses that I received. Shortly, I will be sharing with the ladies in Tegot village some of the fabric that was shipped to me. I know they will use it to make dresses or skirts for themselves and for their families.

One special care package included some pure Maine maple syrup, that I have throughly enjoyed on my banana, papaya, and pumpkin pancakes and much-needed duct tape. Thank you son!

My “Boston baked beans” are simmering. So glad I packed this old bean pot.

I would ask that you continue to pray for me, especially as we go into the Christmas season when the pangs of loneliness and missing family and friends are intensified.

I’d also like to ask for prayers on some changes I will be making soon with the project. Please pray God’s guidance and wisdom as I develop these changes.

Also, I would like to announce that I will soon be putting up a page showcasing some of the women’s quilts that will be available for sale. I hope to have this completed very soon and will have more information at that time.

I thank you for reading this update and for your continued prayers and gifts.

If anyone has any questions or would like to ask me more information please feel free to contact me. You can get my contact information under my Contact page.

God Bless!