Mildred in Kyarwabuyamba 11 children

We have been raising donations to help families in Uganda during this difficult time. So far we have been able to help 113 families from different areas. We have been to three refugee camps and one IDP Camp. We have delivered food in four districts and will continue as long as we can.
Depending on the family, we have given some 20 kilograms of each; rice, beans and maize flour and others 10 kilograms of each; rice, beans or maize flour (posho).
Here is a little information on the Food Relief Program: We are raising donations to feed families in Uganda. Most of the families depend on a daily income, which they can no longer do because of the crisis. Even when they did it was day-to-day work with no promises of customers. Some examples of those that need food are a mother who sells maize on the street in order to take care of her four children, boda-boda and taxi (matatu) drivers who are not able to work due to the lockdown, a father who cuts hair for a living, a woman who cleans at a school, teachers, school cook, tailors and others. A mother in Buliisa sells pancakes on the streets to feed her children and another mother made her day-to-day living by working in people’s gardens. A father of a large family went to the lake to find food and was locked up for being out of his home. The children are now left hungry. They don’t have unemployment or a food bank. No church is handing out food and neighbors cannot afford to help each other.
One of the fathers that we have helped in Kyangwali Refugee Camp said, “Think Humanity donors have saved me and my family.” One woman helped said, “We were really down. I am appreciating what you gave us.” Another mother of five said, “Thank you for the food. We are in a better place now. We were going to die of hunger before the sickness (COVID-19) will come.” A mother with a family of four who is a tailor said, “You have done a lot, because we were in trouble and we didn’t have what to do, but you have given us something.”
From Ndelo Peter, volunteer from the Acholi Quarter Camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP): “The women of Acholi Quarter Internally displaced persons camp first and foremost were so surprised to see food being delivered to them. They are so grateful and thankful to Think Humanity and all the donors who have sacrificed and contributed for the food given to them. They said the food given to them has relieved them first from stress of food as the lockdown came abruptly something that had never happened before, given their nature of living by daily earning. They were over thinking more of food than the corona virus because all the children are at home and the only demand is food which was stressful. They said the food has restored their happiness and smiles on their faces and the children. Most importantly, they are able to tell their children to revise their books during this lockdown and how to keep themselves safe from the corona virus which was very difficult with empty stomach. Finally they thank Think Humanity for always reaching to them.
Brief information on our volunteers: Our volunteer in Buliisa District is delivered food for eleven families. The government is not allowing cars so he was overloaded on his motorcycle. It is important for our donors to know that we make sure to follow the government restrictions by delivering to each family privately instead of asking families to come together in groups to pick up their food. While a group would be much easier we don’t want to put our volunteers in any danger for Covid-19 or to be arrested. In the Acholi Quarter Camp, our volunteer carried food traveling all day on foot up and down hill and going door to door. We really appreciate our volunteers for going above and beyond.
We thank our donors, staff and volunteers for all that they are doing during this time of unmeasurable need.
Beth Heckel, Founder and Director
If you wish to help feed families please consider the Donate button on the Think Humanity Facebook page. www.facebook.com/ThinkHumanityInc
Also there is a fundraiser on the Think Humanity page from Connie England. www.facebook.com/donate/223848609044223

 

 

 

“In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned to joy before him.”

— JOB 41:22

In the Book of Job, we learn that even at the hand of God, suffering and loss are not experiences earned, nor are they evenly distributed. As we listen to Job’s pleading, his weeping to the Lord, we see that even the virtuous are susceptible to indescribable pain.

But of course, this is not how Job’s story ends. In a resounding message of humility and perseverance, we are told that Job is rewarded twofold for his relentless faith, his refusal to despair.

According to legend, so that his suffering might not be wasted, Job’s many, many tears filled the soil on which he sat. Where they fell to the ground, tall grasses sprouted up towards the sky. And hanging from each blade were tiny white seeds, Job’s tears reincarnated.

The tiny white seeds resemble tears as a reminder that even through the pain there is still hope.

And like Job, there is no waste of tears.

It’s all a matter of taking your tears and turning them into rewards.

 “And thou shall be secure because there is hope.” – JOB 11:18

N.B. The seeds are the oldest beads known and have been dated back to 3,000 BC. In the first century archaeologists found a wire excavated with five Job’s tears strung on it. To this day the seed is used in making jewelry. It is also used in Rosaries. Mother Teresa’s favorite rosary bead was the Job’s tears. Job’s tears seeds have a natural hole through the center for easy stringing.

We have necklaces and bracelets available. https://www.etsy.com/shop/HopeDignity

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Written November 20, 2019
This was another eventful day. We began the construction on the kitchen. The best part is that we had our cook, Grace come to lay the first bricks.
Grace was very young when she came to the hostel in 2012. She was in the group that we call our “firstborns.”
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Grace when she came to the girls’ hostel in 2012.  

She went through ordinary level (senior 1-4) and then to vocational school to learn to be a chef and to learn hotel management. She graduated just in time for our second group of hostel girls that we call our second-borns.
She is a model example of how we hope to do with our graduates at the hostel. Sometimes they come to volunteer to “give back” after we educate them and others stay on long-term and are getting their housing, food and are paid enough for the toiletries, etc. per month. In the case of Grace, she has sent money home to help educate her younger brother.
We began the kitchen construction today and what better thing to do than to have Grace lay the first bricks. We are so proud of her.
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main building construction Jan 2020

We have come a long way in one year and we continue to keep moving forward. In 2018 at the Annual TH Women’s Leadership Summit the topic was “What is Your Life’s Blueprint? This was based on a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. to a junior high in 1967. The most notable quote from this speech was,

“If you can’t fly, run.
If you can’t run, walk.
If you can’t walk, crawl,
but by all means, keep moving forward!”

This topic was important at the time because our first group of hostel students made it through the program and a new group was there with them, together. Our program was moving forward.

These future buildings on our own land seemed so distant. Something we called “Blue Sky.” This is a term used for something strongly wished for, but only seemed to be a dream.

Now today I see this video that came in of the construction of another building at our future girls’ hostel. I thought that when we began last year that it would take at least three years to get near this point. Now today I look in amazement and all I could think of was this quote from Martin Luther King. “KEEP MOVING FORWARD.”

 

main building - jan 21, 2020

From April to October so much happened, way more than we ever expected.

It has been so wonderful to see things come together for the girls’ hostel building.
It is now November 8th and we have a brick wall, latrines and bathing rooms and a hostel building. Next we are working on a kitchen.
The rent at our present location will not run out till the end of 2022 so we still have time to get things done.
We are so grateful to all the donors who have helped us to reach this far. Also we are grateful to the TH team and our builder, John.

 

 

Right now those words “Think Humanity Secondary School” are not rolling off my tongue easily. That’s because I know that this will be a lot of work ahead and many years before it is actually a school.

However!…

We have the land and it is cleared, a brick wall is being constructed and we have blueprints…it is becoming a REALITY.

The plan is to construct a hostel with latrines. If all goes well, we construct an office and one classroom. The classroom will actually be an area to eat, study and to hold Parent Visitation Days and meetings.

Behind the office and first classroom building will be latrines.

This is what I envision today.

I have to dream more. Make more goals. Continue to believe.

But, here we are today. Further than we were yesterday. This is going to happen.

Think Humanity Secondary school

 

 

Like last year when we heard about Rachel in Kizimba Village who was not in school, we have now heard about 5 girls and 1 boy who are also not going to school. They are living in Kyaka 2 Refugee Camp, Uganda and are Congolese by nationality. This was certainly not our plan because we still have some of our Hoima students who have not been re-sponsored for 2019.
BUT…
Sometimes you have to trust your intuition and be guided by love!
I received a photo of these 6 children from Kyaka 2 Camp last night. The 12 year old is only beginning Primary 3. This is because sometimes they have no opportunity to attend school. When I found out what it would cost to put these children in school I just had to post this.
Esther Mercy age 12 and Gloria Sandra age 10 both in Primary 3 are $20 each per term or $60 annually, Hope Salome age 8 will begin Primary 1 and she is $15 a term or $45 annually, Isaac Kennedy age 6, Blessing Ruth age 5 and Emilly Chimpaye age 4 will be in nursery school. They are each $10 a term or $30 annually.
I have posted a photo of the 6 children.
If you always wanted to help a disadvantaged child, but could not afford the expense, hopefully you will look at these children’s faces and see them.
In this order in the photo: Blessing Ruth, Isaac Kennedy, Gloria Sandra, Hope Salome, Emilly Chimpaye and Esther Mercy. If you are interested, please let me know so children are not double sponsored. Thank you…and bless you for seeing them.
ISAAC IS SPONSORED – THANK YOU GARY AND ANGIE
ESTHER IS SPONSORED – THANK YOU DEBORAH
GLORIA SANDRA IS SPONSORED – THANK YOU LAURA
EMILLY IS SPONSORED – THANK YOU MELISSA
RUTH AND HOPE ARE SPONSORED – THANK YOU BRENDA AND ADAM
Update on the six children from Kyaka 2 Refugee Camp: All six of them were sponsored within 4 hours for their school tuition. Uniforms were all donated through Hilary Steinberger as a gift in honor of Deana Austin’s birthday. Then a person sent a check and asked us to use it for biggest needs. We purchased three boxes of soap for the girls’ hostel, but also were able to pay for school lunches for all six of these children for term 1.

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These children need to go to school

 

Thank you everybody for your help in putting these children through school, for providing them with uniforms and donating towards their lunches so that the mother didn’t have to bring them food every day. Team work! Thank you everybody who put in a hand to help these beautiful children.

Recently we learned about a young girl named Nancy who went through the trauma of finding her father after he committed suicide when she was 8 years old. She found him hanging from a rope from the family’s grass thatched house. She is attending School in Kyangwali Refugee Camp at Planning for Tomorrow.
Here is her story as I have condensed it.
Nancy Adyek, 11 years old currently lives in Kyangwali Refugee settlement in Uganda.
She was left an orphan in 2016.
Three years ago the father came home very drunk and started off the violence. All the children slept at the neighbor’s. Nancy loved going to school so left for home in the morning to get dressed. Nancy found her father hanging from a rope from the roof of their grass thatched house. She went to the local council one (LC1) and to the police and next was his poor burial.
“Before I was in a school where promotion was more or less automatic, imagine that I was in Primary four but I didn’t speak any English or write. I was admitted in P4T Nursery and Primary School in 2018, demoted to primary Two, I am now in Primary three, speaking good English and writing short sentences. My long-term goal is to be self-reliant. If I manage to become leader and an entrepreneur, I want to live in rural areas innovating and running social entrepreneurship benefiting women and children and I want to fully support girl child education.” Nancy dreams of attending education from Primary to university to become a leader and an entrepreneur.
If anybody wishes to donate towards Nancy’s education, please do and it will be held back for when it is most needed. This is not a sponsorship, but a humanitarian donation.
Needs: Three terms of tuition a year, school uniform, reams of paper, books, pens, school bag, plate and cup, examination, medical fee, development fee, breakfast and lunch, and maize flour and beans.
Nancy Adyek

The land was a dense part of Bugoma forest in western Uganda near Lake Albert in the Kyangwali Refugee Camp.

It is now called “Maratatu.”

It became difficult to distribute food to all the refugees in the camp, both the ones living there and the new refugees coming in. This area, now known as Maratatu was a space left for farming. The dense trees were cut down three times, making the area to be called, Maratatu, meaning “three times” in Kiswahili.

Maratatu is a new village in Kyangwali Refugee Camp near Lake Albert, a large lake that separates Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The refugees were living a hard life where they cut down poles from the bush. Some took them up to the camp and others carried them down to Lake Albert shores.

The refugees lived like that from year 2000 up, but it was not easy. They called this, “Kaza Roho” meaning, “Strengthen your heart.”

Now the Congolese refugees who had come from 1996 to present worried of great hunger with no gardens because the space is now used to accommodate new Congolese refugees. Before this, gardening was a way to sustain life. In years past, people could be seen walking in the early morning before the sun came up. They were carrying their pangas to begin a day of “digging.”  Now life has changed and those refugees who had spent a large part of their lives in Kyangwali Refugee Camp are back on food rations.

Before visiting Kagoma Reception area we spent time with the Camp Commandant, Jolly. She was kind to let us all sit at a table and she gave updates and the history of Kyangwali. If you look at past blogs, you can see that this is not new to me or to Think Humanity. We did have new visitors and others that had only visited once before, so it was not only good to give them the history, but good to share this time with Jolly.

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Our April-May Think Humanity team. Curt Austin, Jim Heckel, Alibankoha Bridget, Beth Heckel, Deana Austin and Kevin Arnold. Commandant, Ms. Jolly Kebirungi in the center.

Maratatu is now a sea of white UNHCR tarps. Home to tens of thousands of Congolese, mostly women and children. Just over the border in the Congo ethnic tension caused Lendu groups to attack the Hema with machetes, spears, bows and arrows. They burned down more than 1,000 of homes and killed 60,000 people. Now more than 100,000 people are displaced with approximately 45,000 in Uganda since December 2017.

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Maratatu is no longer a place for refugees to grow their food, but a sea of white UNHCR tarps as far as you can see.

The motives of the Lendu is unclear, but it is said that sharing land with minerals and politics plays a part in this. Also the Lendu believe that Ituri province is their place. They say that the Hema, who migrated from Uganda, don’t have a place there. I am sure it is more difficult to understand and has been going off and on now for many years.

Since December 2017, men were staying behind to protect their property while putting their families on rickety boats for a six to ten-hour ride across Lake Albert. Some even used paddle boats and it could take nearly three days to reach safety on the shores of Uganda.

In the beginning boat owners would take advantage by charging a lot of money to take people over. They would overcrowd their boats which caused some drownings. Later on, once it became evident that people were going to be going back and forth, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) began sending boats and bringing women and children over to Uganda.

 

The refugees landed on the shore in Uganda in small fishing villages, such as Sebarogo and Nsonga. At first they were taking the long, upward trek to Kyangwali Refugee Camp, but soon the Medical Team International and other organizations began setting up tents to receive them. Due to lack of sanitation the children began to defecate wherever and the conditions became so bad that there was a cholera outbreak. With more than three thousand people arriving per day, it was hard for organizations to keep up with the influx. Before it was under control 40 people  died of cholera and 2,000 were infected.

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Nsonga fishing village where refugees from the Congo were coming over on boats.

 

We visited Nsonga. The first thing we saw was a sign warning about cholera, yet we were told it had been under control for a couple of weeks. Our driver parked next to a running sewage ditch. The smell was a mix of sewage and rotted fish. Old fishing boats were on the shore and some naked children were sleeping in the shadows to keep out of the sun. There was a MTI tent set up. Congolese refugees lined up. They were first sprayed down with a disinfectant then sent to stand in line for medical health screening. While we were there the numbers were not huge, but they were ready to receive a large group that evening from Bunia.

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MTI set up quick shelters where their workers asked medical questions and received the Congolese from Ituri into Uganda.

 

This was just the beginning of a big process. From here the refugees would be taken to Kagoma Reception Area in Kyangwali Refugee Camp where they would be registered and given a wristband. They would be given vaccinations, a pot for cooking, a tarp for their home, a plot of land and a few other household items.

The first child I saw was wearing an oversized brown dress that was falling off her body. The eyes were staring at us as we got out of the rented matatu (taxi). Most were excited -jumping all over and trying to hold our hands. Others seems to look blankly. Those are the ones that I saw. The children had their wrist bands on -they were now officially refugees. The Congo was no longer their home.

 

The people were fed a simple porridge cooked under an open tent in large pots. There were bags of food from US AID. One large bag said “green dried peas” while others we could not make out the contents.

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Many large steaming pot were boiling getting ready to feed the new arrivals as curious people peeked over the wall to see the visitors.

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Bags of food, most likely flour to make porridge, were also in the food tent.

A beautiful Congolese woman looked down at me from above as if offering me something to eat.

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After visiting the reception area we went to Maratatu. I thought it would not be so close and was looking down at my phone when Jim made a comment as if in disbelief. I looked up and saw the white UNHCR tarps everywhere as far as you could see on both the left and right of our vehicle.

 

When we pulled up we were greeted by hundreds of children. I saw no parents, no families…only many children all wanting to hold our hands and greet us. I’ve heard that there are at least 800 children who were sent on boat without a parent or guardian. The Red Cross will try to help them find their families, but meanwhile, it is a very difficult situation for the children to be in the camp alone.

We drove up near the Medical Team International tent. The doctor on our board was also a volunteer with MTI and later would go up to Adjumani, near the Sudan border.

He asked some questions. There were no doctors there and the only one to get advice from was 80 km away in Hoima.

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mti tent 1

 

 

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The children did not cross the doorway line into the MTI building.

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Photo by Jim Heckel

After visiting the MTI building we began walking. The children were excited and were in front of us, beside us and behind us. Bridget pointed out where not to step. There were not enough latrines and the children had defecated wherever they could. They had even used the newly worn dirt path. The children were dancing and screaming in happiness around us when I looked down to see dozens of bare feet stepping in the human feces. My mind is thinking, no wonder that there was a cholera outbreak here. It was almost sickening, but no fault of their own. At that point, and I am embarrassed to admit it, I was very somber and wanted to be away from what I have just seen. I looked on the ground around me to see many piles of feces. I could even make out what they contained. Light in color, a looser stool almost like a cow patty. Some were full of what appeared to be undigested corn. I wanted to watch where I was stepping, but the children were too many. I could only see them hopping up and down in front of me, some with big smiles.
It was at that time when the children began to point at their stomachs and mouths saying, “biscuit.” They were hungry. I answered in Kiswahili saying, “Hapana biscuit.” I almost felt cruel to tell them I had nothing.

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The children were everywhere you looked. You couldn’t take a step without children on every side of you.

We had come to visit Maratatu, but now I am wondering why we were there. We had nothing to offer at this time. It seemed wrong. The more children I saw pointing to their stomachs the more helpless I began to feel. Their loud voices started to make me spin; the heat, the children surrounding me, the helplessness that I felt. I began to run. With each step I sped up faster and faster. The children began to run with me. The faster I ran, the faster they ran. What was I running from? I had been in similar situations before, but never had I reacted this way.
I recognized the voice on my right and a hand was placed on my shoulder. “Are you okay?” Stuart asked me. Stuart is our health administrator. He ran next to me. We arrived at our matatu and he asked our driver, Sadiki, to open the side door. I got inside and just took a breath.

 

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Our matatu (taxi) was named “Nothing but prayers.”

I had never had this happen in eleven years. I have been slightly annoyed before (from heat, etc). I was not annoyed at the children. I was annoyed at myself. I wanted to be a part of helping these children, yet doing nothing to make a difference. I wish I had sweets or biscuits, anything. I had nothing.
Everybody got into the matatu. We drove away and children chased the vehicle yelling in Swahili, “Bazungu bako nakula kula. Bako na kula kula.” I am not sure why they were saying, “The white people are eating. You are eating a lot.” They must have assumed we had food, which made me feel worse since they had asked for biscuits and we gave them nothing.

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We visited the camp three times during this trip. I guess that means “Three times” or “Maratatu.”
We did give out mosquito nets, birthing kits and had a health day for women. This helped many refugees, but it did not help this group of new people. Things are still too unorganized. There is just no way to go into that area and get something done. Chaos is the only word for it right now.  When we go back things may be more organized into blocks with a chairperson for each block.
I just want to make a difference.
The world however, is a beautiful and hurting place. I cannot get many visions and experiences out of my head. 20+ trips and it has to affect you in some way. The last trip however is still fresh in my mind. …”often though, they hurt.”
“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life ― and travel ― leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks ― on your body or on your heart ― are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
– Anthony Bourdain

 

 

nationals in camp
Loving our neighbors as ourselves first requires us to walk a few steps in their shoes.
It is hard to fully grasp what poverty actually feels like. So I’d like to take you on a mental and emotional journey into poverty. Follow me as, one at a time, I take seven things away from you. And let yourself feel the pain of the poor.
First, I will take away your clothes. Don’t panic I won’t take them all. You can keep the ones you are wearing. Can you imagine wearing the same clothes every single day? You can wash them each night, but even this small takeaway is humiliating.
Next, I will take away electricity and power. Imagine going home to a dark house each night. None of your appliances work: you can’t use your refrigerator, phone, heater, air conditioner, dishwasher, television, computer or stove. Your showers are cold, and now you have to wash your clothes by hand. Inconvenient is an understatement. But you shouldn’t feel too bad; you are still better off than most of the world.
Takeaway number three is really tough: I’m taking away your clean water. Now none of your faucets, toilets or showers work and your only water source is a stagnant water hole about a mile away. You must walk hours each day to fetch the water your family needs, and because it is teeming with bacteria, you and your children are constantly sick. Making this situation even harder is the fact that none of your neighbors have been affected and they don’t even seem to notice your suffering.
I’m afraid I now have to take away your home, so you have to live in a ten-by-twenty-foot mud hut with a dirt floor, no beds and little furniture. Your whole family will now sleep in the same room on the floor.
Takeaway number five is devastating: food. Long ago your children lost their smiles; now they are so hungry that the gnawing pain won’t go away. You have to find what little food you can by picking through your neighbors’ garbage. Already sick from drinking dirty water, your children become malnourished, and their bodies can’t fight off diseases. Your four-year-old daughter seems to be slipping away.
Getting her to the doctor is urgent but, tragically, the sixth takeaway is health care. To your horror and disbelief, there is no doctor and you have no option except to watch powerlessly as your daughter, wracked with parasites and diarrhea dies before your very eyes! How can this be happening?
So what else could I possibly take away? Takeaway number seven is hope. Your hope has died in the ashes of your poverty. And you wonder why no one has stepped in to help you.
Do these seven takeaways make you feel compelled to do something about the hardships that billions of people endure each day?
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in him? –1 John 3:17
Written by Richard Stearns from the book “He Walks Among Us.”
All photos property of Jim and Beth Heckel taken in Bukinda in Kyangwali Refugee Camp, Uganda.
12742416_1044865852203157_3390813356396312198_none of many makeshift homes in Bukinda
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