So here i am sitting in the office on a hot sunny Saturday afternoon, it always seems wrong to be inside on such a beautiful day but I’m making the most of this opportunity where I have some free time to write. Lucy is fast asleep, Sam is working on the playground and the boys are off playing with their friends.
The view from out this window, i can just see, two mops of dirty blonde hair amongst the black shaven heads, its always nice to spot the boys somewhere safe and happily playing. Although from an onlookers perspective it might look like such a contrast to see these two white boys amongst a dozen african kids, to them, there is now, very little difference. The kids have fully immersed themselves into this new culture and are thriving on living here. We are loving living out here in this remote conutry side at the ORA base, of course it still has the difficulties that come with living so basically and remotely, but things that we found hard in the beginning like no electricity, no fridge, no washing machine, limited running water are all now just part of life and we hardly notice the difference. Its amazing how a simpler life, actually becomes an easier life, in some respects.
So a couple of weeks ago we celebrated Sams birthday and it was such a fun day. The kids and i made a suprise breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup and bananas, and birthday cards and i even managed to make a birthday cake! I was wondering how i could make a cake without an oven, when i came up with the idea of making a rice bubble cake/slice. We had found rice krisps over here and so i used them and made ricebubble cake with melted chocolate over the top. I couldnt really remember the recipe so had to guess a bit and the chocolate didnt really melt properly (i think they put some anti melting ingredient in the chocolate here to stop it melting in the heat) , but it turned out fine, looked fantastic covered in colourful candles, and despite been really crumbly when you picked it up, was a hit, especially with all our african friends! Infact it would only be in this culture that it is totally acceptable to scoop up bits of cake from a communal plate and eat with your fingers!
We had told all the ORA workers and their families, and the residential care kids, that we would have a small party in the Piyette (our meeting house) at 12noon and they were all invited.We bought sodas for everyone, I made pikelets, Sally made munduzi(african version of doughnuts) and we had our usual array of all the beautiful fruits you get here. In traditional Ugandan style, noone turned up till 1.30pm and that was with us hurrying them along, but it was such a fun party with about 30 people. We ate and drank and played fun african style party games, that involved lots of jokes played on the birthday boy and lots of singing and dancing and speeches! For Sams present i had secretly been on a mission to buy him this coolest looking old school bright blue bike, complete with carrier, bell and basket, he had seen people riding them and since we have arrived has been talking bout how cool they are and how much he would love one. So for a crazy low price i found a brand new one and we hid it in the guest house and suprised him on his birthday, he was so stoked and loves riding it around. So all in all he reckons it was one of his best birthdays ever!
So Sams new bike sparked a great interest with all the kids that live here and Sam spent a lot of time giving them all rides on the back and even trying to teach the bigger ones how to ride it. Then we came up with the idea to try and find some kids bikes to buy for the kids that live here and our own boys to use. So after a lot of searching for something that could stay in one piece for a good amount of time (which is actually quite hard to find here in Arua!) But eventually he found two semi decent bikes of different sizes, one for the smaller kids and one for the bigger ones. Bringing them back to the ORA base and telling the kids they were for them was so exciting. These kids were so excited, enthralled and amazed that we had bought them, their very own bikes. Most of them had never even riden a bicycle before, let alone actually owning one! It didnt matter to them that it was to be shared between the 6 of them or that they didnt even know how to actually ride a bike! So then we made it our mission to teach these kids how to ride a bike. And what a joy that has been for Sam and I. None of these kids have a father, and although they have a great foster Mum, they are actually without any father figure in their life. I ‘ve loved watching Sam take on that role and spend time with these kids teaching them how to do simple but essential tasks in life, like learning to ride a bike. It has been such a heart warming experience to see these kids laughing and learning and loving their new found freedom, to enjoy what most of us have taken for granted as been a normal part of childhood. Of course like lots of things made here, the bikes have constantly been breaking down and so Sam is constantly been fixing them, but even that in itself has provided yet another fatherly role that sam has had, to teach these kids how to put a chain back on a bike, use a spanner and a screwdriver, its so empowering for these children to learn such valuable life skills and such a priviledge to be a part of it.
With our heart so in the idea of giving these children a glimpse of some of the wonderful essence of a what most of us know as part of a happy childhood, I had an idea to take all the kids to town for an ice cream. One of the shops here has just started getting in small tubs of ice cream, its not exactly delicious and has that look and taste of been melted and refrozen possibly a few times over as the power cuts shut down the freezers, but in saying that its still ice cream. So we told the kids last Sunday after Sunday school we will take them to town for an ice cream in the afternoon when Lucy woke from her nap. Once again they all got so excited and went off to wash and bathe and came out wearing their ‘best’ clothes and jumped excitedly and impatiently around the car all day until it was time to leave. So, with the 6 residential care home kids, house Mum Sally’s other 2 kids, our 3 kids, and Gasper and Stella’s 3 kids that made… 14 kids, plus me and sam…16 in our 5 seater Pajero!! Its amazing how many people you can fit in a car when you live in a country where there are no road rules!! All the kids, including our own were so so excited, laughing, shouting screaming, singing all the way to town, pointing out the windows and watching in amazement. Half way there we realised that most of these kids had never even been into town and some had never been in a car, and all but 1 had never eaten ice cream before! As we sat in a huge circle on the grounds of an unused golf course in town with our 14 children sitting quietly, excitedly spooning ice cream into their mouths, indulging in the delicious taste of something most of us take for granted, Sam and I looked at each other, and I said “this is what life is about!” Surely there is not many things more satisfying in life than allowing some children to experience some simple joys of been a child. We stayed all afternoon and played “whats the time Mr wolf”and “stuck in the mud” til the warm rain sent us back to the car and we all squashed in and laughed and sung all the way home.
Another passion that has been stirring my heart over the past 2months we have been living here, is the need for a medical clinic here on the ORA base. I have been busy researching this idea and putting together a proposal and business plan to present to the ORA Uganda board of trustees when they have their meeting in September. This has been a dream of mine ever since we first began the development of the ORA site back in 2007, and it’s also a vision that the Ugandan ORA team share. My passion for this to happen has been reignited on our return, when been witness to some of the poor health care given to some of our sponsored orphans. Particularly the wound care of my darling little Bernard, who had a really infected, deep wound on his foot that had been treated at the local hospital. But when i went to the hospital with him and saw the unsympathetic, rough nurse dig deep down into his wound with tweezers, without pain relief, and saw this normally very stoic 10yr old boy screaming and squirming in pain, and been told to sit still and stop crying sternly by the nurse. Then after cleaning the wound covering it with a non stick piece of gauze and plaster! It just about makes my blood boil watching the way some of the doctors and nurses here treat the kids. And so i set out to find some better, more appropriate dressing supplies and decided to do his wound care myself. Much to my frustration I have had real difficultly trying to find anything better than gauze and plasters in Arua. It makes me so annoyed to think about how much wastage of dressings we have in NZ and probably every western country, once you open something sterile you have to throw the rest away. Its heartbreaking when you live here and realize what a difference it could make if we had those dressings here. So i’ve been busy running my own basic clinic which consists of my own first aid kit I bought from home. But am quickly running low on supplies, with so many kids living here, including my own crazy boys who are always injuring themselves i am busy each day doing dressings and wound care. I’m really praying and continuing to research into the possibility of setting up a clinic here on site with a trained Ugandan nurse to work in it. The logistics of such a vision are not always simple, i know, but I also believe nothing is impossible when God is involved.
Its been so cool to hear about how people in NZ are getting behind some our projects here in Arua, especially hearing about the Gaties from Gateway doing fundraising for the playground, which i must say is becoming bigger and better by the day, as Sam works his creative skills into a master piece. Such an amazing, talented man. The kids are really loving their new play area and it’s such a pleasure to watch the joy they get from it. Over the school holidays we also had many of the other ORA sponsored kids come to the ORA base to hang out, play, work, eat, and they too, have also loved the playground and joining in our morning worship and prayer times. It’s so cool that this place is a real haven and home to all the 96 kids on sponsorship.
Thank you again for your support, encouragement and prayers. We really could never be here without most of you, even if its just your prayer or your word of encouragement, it means so much to us.
Please continue to pray for protection of our children, we have been so blessed how healthy and well they have been. I really feel God has his hand on them and am so grateful for that. But they are always playing hard and doing crazy things, especially the boys, as boys do, and they have had many not serious injuries. Pray that it stays that way, and we dont have any serious injuries or illnesses to deal with.
Thanks so much.
All our love,
The Trennies xxxxx