Thursday, April 30, 2015

My days at the UCCF

Hmmmm.  Three days I have spent playing with the children in the cancer ward.  Each day has been full of emotions, up and down.  Some of my time went at a snails pace and other times moved very quickly.  Sometimes I think I can't do this anymore and other times I feel as if I don't ever want to leave.   Part of the difficulty has not even been the children but rather the “TIA” mentality.  (This Is Africa:  it's just the way it goes here)  I arrive at 930am and just sit and wait for things to get started.  Just sit.  Everyone else moves about their tasks or sits on FB, yes, FB!  Sigh...I wait.  It's just that they need a bit more structure and organization.  It really would go a long way!  When I first arrived Becky showed me the "Timetable" she created with the children.  It has never been followed. 
Once we get up to the UCI children's ward we'd have to clear the play area because inevitably it would fill with families camping out.  Mats are a huge deal here.  The family would be laid out on their mats with all their belongings with them.  I feel bad having to make them leave.
I've learned mat etiquette in the last few days. Never wear your shoes on the mat.  Even the littlest of children take their shoes off before stepping on the mat.
Once we pull all the chairs out, the tables, crayons, books, papers, etc. all the children just start flocking in.  Some are very, very quiet, I've never heard them utter a word and others will chat your ear off in lugandan!  Some of them sit and color (or “shade” as they say it) so meticulously and for the entire time.  They love it.  Here is Stephen, he might be Nicho's age or so, he colored these simple pages but SO meticulously.

And then he used templates and created his own scene and again very meticulously shaded it in.  Anything to take the monotony and pain of what is going on off his mind. 
Today there were 2 little girls, Christine and Annet, they took such joy in what they did. Here is Christine.  (I didn't get a picture of Annet until the last day. )

About 1130am on Wednesday, many of them got called away.  I was told they were having chemo treatment.  I saw a distinct downward spiral in Annet's energy level. 
These are the sort of things that are so hard to see, but can be relieved just by seeing the joy fill their eyes with the simplest of things. 
Daynese, poor little boy, legs with tumors he can hardly walk, received some pipe cleaner jewelry and was completely and utterly giddy with excitement. Giddy! 
Just look at him!
Then we have poor Lucy.  I'm told she has leukemia.  And she is very, very sick. 

Sitting and watching this beautiful little girl is very hard. 

The simplest of things though, bring great joy to these children.  A smile, a compliment, anything to help them take their minds off of what they are having to face.  

Let me tell you, they love!, love!, love! when you tell them their drawing or shading is beautiful.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Playtime at the UCCF

Today I began my journey at the UCCF Playtime in the Uganda Cancer Institute children's ward.
We arrived with this stack chairs that a cash donation from our home parish bought.  Our parish had a Lenten drive to collect a suitcase full of arts and crafts for the children at the UCI (I mentioned earlier).  We got some cash donations as well.  These chairs were very badly needed. And when we arrived the children began filing out of their rooms to see what it was all about.  They loved the new chairs.
We supplied them with pictures to color ("shading"is what they call it), which Becky copies from the coloring books we brought.  This assures that they have pictures to color for a long, long time.
We ran out of coloring pages and Becky couldn't run to make more copies so we started handing out blank paper for drawing.  This little girl, Peace, drew a picture of a church.  She used her pencil as a ruler to draw the lines straight.
Peace is holding baby Grace and the other little girl I am unsure of her name.  They just looked all so cute together.  And they absolutely love to see the picture of themselves when you are done taking it.

This little guy is Douti.  He was one of the first to come out and inspect the chairs.  Immediately he was at my side wanting to play.   
After a long time of coloring and while we were drawing pictures he handed me a sheet of paper and said, "Draw for me."  So I drew these flowers for him.  After awhile many of children lined up and wanted me to draw flowers and shade them!   


 Here we have Abednego, Sam and Fayo.  I drew flowers for all of them (just some of the ones I drew for).  After awhile I decided I needed to draw something new so I drew a VERY simple line drawing of a hen.  They were all so excited about it and asked me to add it to all their flower pictures.  Sam asked me to draw many, many hens on blank papers and he would spend time meticulously shading them in. 

I introduced Douti to the selfie.  Here is the last selfie we took.  He was just the sweetest boy.

Sunday the 26th of April

I slept in the longest I  ever have here in Uganda, 7am. We woke to a very cool and cloudy Kampala this morning.
More than I've seen so far.  (I actually wore my fleece in Church, they always have all the doors and windows open and it gets very breezy in there.)
Peter was picking us up at 9am to drive us to Bbira where we would attend St. George Orthodox Church again. I spent my 2 hours leisurely getting ready for Church.  At home when I only have 2 hours it is very rushed.  With no outdoor chores and animals to take care of and no children to make sure to get ready and no other chores to speak of, it's pretty quiet and stress-free.  This sense of calm is something I need to capture in my heart and mind to take home with me.

Today is the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women and the Noble Joseph.  I was a little homesick this morning, not just for missing Joseph's Name's Day but because I love to sing the hymnography for the Noble Joseph.
Dn. James decided to serve today and so I got to hear lots of English, mixed with the Lugandan. 

I also love that even though I can't understand the words I really do know what is going on in the service because it's pretty much just like my service at home.

There were many more children this week than last. 
First term of school is out. They are so cute!  There were 2 girls in the choir this week along with the 3 men.  They also must be home from school.
We handed out the rest of the coloring books, but I ran out.  This broke my heart as one little boy came up to me after he saw his friend have one and I didn't have anymore.  He was sad and I was sad. 
On the way home from Church we stopped off to see Henry, the young man we sponsor through St. Nicholas Fund.  He lives in a very poor area.  Peter parked the car in an empty building parking lot and we walked down a little narrow alley between tiny little houses.  Little children running around and peek out doorways at us.  We had to duck through hanging clothes along the alley.  It wasn't too far and we see Henry, his house at the end of the alley.  As we greeted him there were many children peeking and waving.  A tiny little girl, no more than 3, came rushing up to us to shake our hands.  She grabbed my hand and said “Hi!”  She grabbed James hand and said, “Hi!” but then didn't let go of his hand.  She swung it around and around.  She was so cute, very regretfully I did not get a picture of her!  I wish I had, especially since as we were leaving she rushed towards us for a round of hugs, wrapping her tiny little arms around our legs, even Peter. 
Henry had us into his home.  His home is smaller than our cabin (14x14) back home, so maybe it was 10x10, maybe!  Five people live in this one room.  Henry, his brother Alex who has sickle cell anemia, his older sister Prossi (she is the guardian of them all and the breadwinner—she cells mobile money/minutes for a living), his sister Sharon who is about 14 and his nephew (Prossi's son).  Sharon is in boarding school most of the time but when on break they are all there.  There was one bed a small sofa and part of the room blocked off by a curtain.  Henry said he and Alex sleep behind the curtain and the girls and nephew share the single bed.
We brought them a grocery bag of non-perishables (rice, beans, sugar, oil, and a little treat) and some cleaning supplies (dish soap, bar soap and toothpaste).
It was so nice to meet Henry, Alex and Prossi, his older sister.  Henry gave me a hug good-bye and said, "Say hello to the children."

I can't wait for the children to meet Henry.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Trip to St. Nicholas Uganda Children's Fund and St. Nicholas Cathedral

Saturday the 25th of April. 

Peter picked us up at 10am and we headed to Namungoona territory where the offices of the St.Nicholas Uganda Children's Fund is located. Peter and Sharon Georges started this organization and live here 6 months out of the year. They are currently back in the states, so we were sad to miss them. But we got to meet Agnes and Frank who work for Peter and Sharon. They were so welcoming! They showed us the report cards that just came in and how they were sending them in the post to Peter in the states. We got to see Henry's report card. He is the boy we sponsor. He is doing very well and was listed as 14th in his class. His sister Sharon, who goes to the Orthodox boarding school is 8th in her class. Henry goes to the local school instead of boarding school because he wants to stay near his brother who has sickle cell anemia. James asked Agnes how far Henry is from his school. Agnes replied, “Oh, not far at all. It's about an hour, well, maybe 45 minute walk is all.”

That's all!

Agnes then took us on a tour of the area around the offices. They are just down the hill from St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral where Metropolitan Jonah presides. He has been quite ill though and hasn't been out and about since Holy Thursday.

First she showed us the primary school just a short walk from the office. The St. Nicholas Uganda Children's Fund has helped the school financially quite a bit. They are in the process of building a large building behind and there are several classrooms just like this one where they are already having class.

We then walked up the hill to the cathedral. 

Beautiful temple! 

The Church owns a lot of land all around and there is an Orthodox Secondary School and an Orthodox Primary school.

The schools and the hospital are on a this road, pictured left.  

Here is the gate to Holy Cross Orthodox Mission Hospital. 
 Agnes gave us a tour of the hospital. It is a decent hospital. We saw the maternity ward, momma's nursing babes and women about to give birth. It felt invasive being shown around. 
We met Papadiya (priests wife) who is a nurse in the hospital. We saw the children's ward, the men's ward, the women's ward and the x-ray department and also the laboratory.

Outside the hospital building was the canteen and kitchen. The UCI has a similar kitchen set up. They showed us they were cleaning greens to cook, matoke, egg plant and there was a rack of beef grilling.

While we were in the St. Nicholas Children's Fund offices they had 3 visitors. The first was a gentleman that lives nearby and he was asking for help, financial help. They talked for a bit and sent him on his way. Right after he was there a little girl, about 13, came in to ask for help. Her dilemma was that she needed to pay the rest of her tuition so she could get her report card. It was the end of 1st term and the children were getting out of school for 3-4 weeks until the next term. In order to get your report you had to pay your tuition fees. Agnes read a note the girl had that said she had paid 70,000 out of 100,000 shillings. She was asking for the 30,000 shillings. Her sweet little face stared at us. My heart broke for her. 30,000 shillings is $10! She needed just $10 to get her report card and move on.

I so bad wanted to just hand it to her but we knew we couldn't. After she left we asked Agnes about it. She said you have to be very careful because so many come in “deceiving”. If Peter was there he would inquire at the school to the validity of it and if he could he would help her. We should have left the $10 and told Agnes to look into it. I'm regretful. 

Agnes working with Daniel and Frank is scanning report cards for Peter.
The 3rd visitor was Daniel, a student of theirs coming in to communicate his report card to them. He was in Senior 5 (11th grade). He wants to be a doctor, if his grades allow. He is working very hard but struggling. He must have certain level of marks to be able to go to University. If he can't go to University he said he would pursue nursing or something like that. He talked to James for awhile about his work and med school in USA.

It was truly an amazing experience to see all this. Each day is eye-opening. My heart is full. 

We went home, had some snacky food and leftover "bunny chow" for dinner, stayed up late talking.  

A lovely Saturday in Uganda!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

another day at the UCI and some fun

On Friday (4/24/15) I spent a whole day at the UCI with James and it went really fast.
First, Isma didn't show up to take us to work and no one could reach him for hours. I was seriously concerned for his wellbeing. At any rate we didn't get to work until 10am and it all flew by quickly.
I stopped at the UCCF to give them a $50 donation that someone at church gave me. We collected arts and crafts but I also got cash. This cash will be used to buy a dozen new chairs for the children to use in playtime. Next Monday I will begin helping Becky at the UCI children's inpatient ward at playtime. She has written a whole “timetable” of events for the days. It involves reading, playing, movies and “shading” (coloring).
Back at the offices with James he spent a great deal of time problem-solving electrical issues in the new building. Not that he himself does electrical but rather communicating with those that do and trying to figure out why the -80 freezers keep surging.
At one point I was talking to Patrick before we had finally heard from Isma, we were all quite worried and Patrick said, “My day is not going in a straight line.” Ah ha! How true it is most of the time. But the description is so perfect! One of my favorite Ugandan phrases thus far!

I got to use the new facility restrooms today.  Wow!  What an amazing improvement!  Here is the comparison!
Maybe you can't really see the lack of cleanliness in the picture.  The debilitation.  But trust me when I say it's there.
It's just like at home!
I spent a little bit of time sketching a better picture of the repository, making the usable space to scale. I'll show a picture of my finished product when I am done.

We had a very late lunch at the Good Samaritan. I had G-nut sauce with chipati and some veggie samosas. James discovered this chili oil here at the Good Samaritan.  He loves it!

By the time we were done with lunch it was time to go home. We left early from work so we could stop at the Nakumatt for some groceries for our dinner party that evening. Rau planned a lovely Indian vegetarian meal (for us) and a curry chicken and lamb dish for the others in what he called "Bunny Chow" (but I have no idea how he would spell it!).  You take a 3rd or 1/4 of the loaf of unsliced bread.  You make a well in it and fill it with the Bunny Chow.   Delicious! We had one dinner guest, a friend of Sarah', although more were supposed to join us.  It was too late of notice.
And finally John finished the larger sofa on the veranda today.  Along with 2 stool cushions!  Lovely!
Here is the old sofa cushions.
Awesome job, John!

It was a lovely Friday in Uganda!  Tomorrow (which is today and over -I'll post about it tomorrow-I'm behind), we head to St. Nicholas Children's Fund offices!   

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Day at "Home"

After 3 days at the UCI with James and my back being totally tweaked yesterday (still mending) I decided to stay at the Project House today. Most of the time I follow James around like a lost puppy anyway and there is not much to do until the UCCF gets me helping there.

Being here though is pretty much the same thing. I feel lost because there is nothing to “do.” But the definition of “do” in this regard is just foreign to me and like I tell my children all the time, “boredom is only for boring people” (actually I overheard Fr. Barnabas Powell tell his daughter that a couple years ago and adopted it). So I endeavored not to have a boring day but rather relish in my freedom of having nothing at all to do in terms of responsibility. Marion won't even let you wash your own cup without a chastisement.

So I sat on the sofa and wrote or read while Marion washed dishes, did my laundry, made my bed (after changing the sheets), mopped the floors and oversaw the handy-man who came to fix our toilet and fix the cupboards in the kitchen (paint involved and he was wearing dress paints and a dress shirt). The gardener worked on sweeping and scrubbing the outside veranda and metal railing along the veranda, while I decided to explore the gardens (after James urged me to do so). Amazingly beautiful flowers I have never seen before in my life!  All the pictures are in my FB album but here are some favorites...

Sarah hired a gentleman to sew new upholstery covers for the outdoor furniture and he was busy working on that all day. He brought his own equipment and worked right here. All while I sat and uploaded my flower pictures and wrote about them. It was truly amazing watching him work. 

Old sofa to show the old fabric.  Chairs were worked on first.

The chairs are halfway done.
Here the main cushions of the chairs are done! In one day!
And this is how John worked all day!  An old school treadle machine!

I got some reading done, an awesome book called “Practicing Daily Prayer” by Theodora Dracopoulos Argue (whom I think I met once a very long time ago at Holy Apostles in Shoreline). 

Oh I also sketched out a full page sketch of the repository room for James to use later when planning his lab move.

Now I think I'll go sit in the sun for 30 minutes to get my daily dose of Vitamin D while I wait for James to get home (he should be on his way).

While I read outside in the sun, Sebo joined me. We walked around the veranda together. He plopped down in the shade, a much better place to be thought he. 

 It's been an all around good day!  

Wednesday at the UCI and UCCF

We arrived at work this morning and took our big suitcase full of supplies straight to the UCCF (Ugandan Child Cancer Foundation). We were greeted by Ben, Moses and Winnie (I don't know if I am spelling it right). They were so excited to get our supplies. Moses took pictures of us handing the supplies to Winnie. They do this so they can record all donations. They should send us pictures as well.
Before starting Ben explained that he is a christian and how involved in his church he is and how prayerful his wife is. Pretty impressive. He also went on to say they start everything with prayer. So he began our little meeting with an incredibly beautiful prayer of thanksgiving and petitions for all of us and our work. 
James went to work and we chatted and waited for the others to get there. Becky came and we were then given a tour of the new UCI building up on the hill. James and Patrick joined us for this tour as well.
This new building so far houses the pediatric in-patient cancer patients (2nd floor) and on the 4th floor, the “private” room adult in-patient cancer patient. “Private” rooms aren't what you'd expect. First they are only for those who can pay “some” for their care and secondly, they have 3 beds per “private” room. This is instead of the 6-8 beds per room in the general in-patient ward.
Much of the building is still very empty. In the basement/1st floor we saw where the mortuary is and is being used, but the radiology sits completely empty. Funding isn't in place yet.

The 2nd floor houses the ICU and the “theater” which is their term for operating rooms. I know the surgical unit is in used, a nurse met us and stopped us from going in but I'm not sure about the ICU, I didn't see anyone around. The 3rd floor is the pediatric ward. There are 6-8 beds per “room” (3 rooms) and they were all full. They had several private rooms on this floor as well but they were empty. They also have a big area for the “play room”. This is where Becky goes up and holds play times for the kids. I will be helping her with this on Monday and hopefully some other days next week.
The 4th floor is where the “Women's Ward” will eventually be but is currently empty. And the 5th floor is the “Men's Ward” for “private” care. Currently both men and women are there and private care really isn't the American standard of private care.

The facility is really quite amazing compared to the older facility we toured on Monday. Truly amazing. 

This picture is the view from the 3rd floor of the new UCI building.  All the closest buildings you see the roofs of are the older UCI campus buildings.

After our tour up the hill we went back to the UCCF briefly. I met some more new faces, another Winnie. Then Patrick and James gave the 2 Winnie's and Becky a tour of their new UCI facility.
Becky then told me about their incredibly busy week and that she probably won't be taking all the supplies up to the children until Monday. I never did meet with Ben for a “work plan” like I thought he said he'd do. I told Becky though that I would only be there another week and the look that came across her face was pretty much heartbreaking. As I suspected they didn't understand that my stay was very short. I will go in on Monday to hopefully keep busy helping Becky out. 
The rest of the day was spent with James and Patrick. We had lunch at the Good Samaritan again where they have the best G-nut Sauce which is such a perfect lenten (our Wednesday meal) dish. While there the marabou stork visited us.

James had to then go measure the new Repository space in the new building for all of his equipment. I did a rough sketch of the space and wrote down all the measurements while he and Patrick measure. 
Today I will draw up the space on a good sized sheet of paper so he can use that for planning.  

Today, Thursday, I opted to stay home. I will try my hand at relaxing, reading, writing and drawing up those plans for James. It really is somewhat of a foreign idea for me, especially since Marion is here to do just about everything including making my bed, washing dishes and doing the laundry. I can't even wash my own cup without being chastised.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I just thought I'd share some pictures of the changing weather skies we saw today.
This was taken just after lunch about 2:15pm.

Another view after lunch.

This is about one hour later, 3:15pm-ish.

And 30 minutes later.

Storm right over Kampala.  Half getting wet and the other half not.

This looks to me like the light at the end of the storm.
We never did get any rain where we were.  Although we left for home after this was taken but no rain drops for us as of yet.