Go Big or Go Home

Go big or go home. A great motto and always best if whatever it is you’re going big about is something worth doing.

I awoke this morning to great news……Joseph and Berna have new wheels! It’s true. We thought we were getting them two wheels but miraculously they got FOUR! God does things like this all the time, often when we least expect it. It really shouldn’t be a surprise.

13592436_1343309549031603_1482674531109851779_n

Most of the roads in the outer villages of Western Uganda are dirt roads. It is dusty and hot. And most of the travelers on these roads are walking or riding a boda boda. When a car or truck passes by, all of those left behind are left behind in the dust. Literally. Great clouds of reddish-orange dust swirling about, sometimes so thick you can barely see the people and animals walking alongside the road. And just about the time the dust begins to settle and everyone can breathe again, another car or truck rumbles by, kicking up a new cloud.

And it’s hot in Western Uganda. Sometimes really hot. And there are things to be carried, often things that are much too big to be carried on top of one’s head or on the back of a boda boda. Of course this doesn’t stop the Ugandans from carrying whatever needs to be transported. It is the way of life there. For me, personally, I really appreciate having the roomy space in the back of my SUV that I can transport most anything in with ease where it is weather-protected, climate controlled, and will arrive without a layer of red dust stuck in the cracks and crevices. Our great God took the generous donations sent by friends all over the globe for #projectbodaboda and made it possible to provide an actual car instead of a motorbike for Joseph to get up the mountains and into the villages – a shiny white vehicle with a roof on top and seatbelts and cargo space and maybe even climate control. How awesome is that?

The coolest part of this whole thing for me is being right smack in the middle of a project that involved people from all walks of life, from far corners of the world. Donations arrived by way of family members across the US to former students of the National Cat Groomers Institute (you guys rock!), to Canadians and old friends in Thailand, and folks I haven’t seen in ages and only know because of my former days showing Persian cats! It truly is remarkable! In these troubled times of crime and hatred and petty disagreements that don’t mount to a whole lot in the overall scheme of things, it has been truly refreshing to me to see my circle of acquaintances come together at a moment’s notice to make it possible for a kind and generous and very knowledgable Ugandan man to travel up mountains to minister to people that need it the most. This is just really really awesome!

I’m totally planning on taking a ride in this new car of Joseph’s when I go back to Uganda. And when I do, you can be sure I’ll have camera in hand as we dodge pedestrians and potholes, kicking up a thick cloud of the very dust I so long to breathe in again. There is more to this story. Thank you to the all who pitched in to make it so beautiful!

 

Note: the children featured in the photo above are from the village of Karungu where we delivered 2 cows in June. Is their excitement not contagious?!?

 

 

SaveSave

Piggy Power

The power of a single piglet is greater than one might imagine. A piggy can provide for a single person or it can empower an entire village. The story of two piglets has impressed me in such a way that I simply must share the story with you.

In 2003, Christian pastor and veterinarian Joseph Olowo from the Ugandan village of Mbarara accepted an invitation from some folks in the village of Karungu, a very bumpy 2 hour drive (in a car) from Mbarara, to come speak to them about the Bible. That was the first of many visits Joseph has made to the mountain-top village of Karungu since then.

I do not know the history of the people of Karungu but I have been there and can tell you they lead an unbelievably simple life. They have very little in the way of earthly possessions and what they do have they mostly make themselves from the land they live on. Basic shelters are constructed from bricks formed from the dark red clay-like soil beneath their feet. Small stick and mud enclosures are used to create kitchens whereby crops such as bananas are steamed and mashed into common dishes like mitoke (yes, I did try mitoke!). These people literally live off the land. If they cannot make it or grow it, they probably do not have it.

The view from Karungu mountain is breathtaking, with rolling hills in every direction, dotted with farms growing such crops as bananas, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, tea, and more. The land in these parts is extremely fertile. It is believed by some that Uganda itself, as small as it is, could grow enough food to feed all of Africa. Many places in Uganda, Karungu included, enjoy 3 growing seasons per year. These people are literally standing on a goldmine of crop potential! And yet, Uganda realizes very little in the way of exportation of crops. My business-minded brain cannot comprehend this loss of opportunity! I can’t help but want to fix the obstacles that stand in the way and turn potential into reality. There are many reasons why this isn’t being maximized, each of which would require at least one separate blog post of its own.

One obstacle that stands in the way is empowerment – empowerment comes with knowledge. Teaching the people in Karungu and other like villages scattered throughout this great country how to manage their resources in such a way that they not only provide for the folks living in the village but they also utilize these resources to generate more goods that can then be shared with others is a vital step in the empowerment process. This is where Joseph and Call to Africa come in.

In 2012, Joseph brought Ken Galyean, founder of Call to Africa mission organization, and his wife Renate to the village of Karungu where they presented two piglets to some widows there. Incidently, Ken and Renate were the first mzungus (white people) to ever set foot in the village. The piglets were provided by donations to Call to Africa for this specific purpose. The goal: empowerment through piglets. So simple, yet so ingenious!

Upon presentation of the pigs, Joseph and other Call to Africa team members worked with the people of Karungu to produce more pigs out of the original two, whereby they gave back one of the newly produced piglets to Call to Africa for gifting to yet another village where the same process was started again. Management of resources was taught along the way, empowering the people there with a source of revenue that could be regenerated, shared, and grown over time. Empowering a village through pigs.

When we presented the two in-calf cows to the village last week, it was the beginning of the same self-sustainment/empowerment process, only this time with cows instead of pigs. In a few months’ time, when the cows deliver calves and they are weaned and old enough to travel, one heifer will be cared for until it can then be gifted to needy folks in another village somewhere in Uganda. Along the way, milk will be provided as a source of nourishment as well as provide extra milk to sell, thus generating revenue to be invested in other ways to meet various needs.

Another valuable instruction that Joseph will provide is teaching the people how to turn cow manure, a never ending resource when one owns a cow or two, into bio gas that can then be used to create power for both cooking and lighting purposes. This way the kids can continue to do their much-needed studies even after the sun goes down. Without bio gas production, the villagers have to purchase candles as a means of providing light. Candles might be cheap, but they do cost money. Manure turned into bio gas turned into electricity is totally free! Joseph is bringing both light and LIGHT to many villages – yet another reason he needs that all-terrain boda boda!!

The money that has been generated through the pig project over the years has gone toward building a school, buying food, and purchasing land. Little by little, those two little piglets have empowered a village! And now there are two cows to help the process along even further, thanks to Call to Africa’s vision and the many, many people that stand behind it to offer time, money, and other valuable resources.

This trip has changed my life! I am excited about the work we have been so honored to be a very small part of over the past 2 weeks! What a blessing it has been to me! We are well on our way to getting that boda boda for Joseph, thanks to my friends and family that have been so very generous. To you I say, “Thank you!” You are truly helping to make a difference in the country of Uganda, a place filled with amazing landscapes, kind and beautiful people, and so many giving hearts.

The cover image above was taken just as we were leaving Karungu. Joseph got out to buy some sweet bananas being sold at a roadside stand since none of us had eaten most of the day. (I have no idea who actually comes by to purchase produce from this stand as it is literally at the end of a remote mountain road!) You can see Joseph in the background buying the bananas. This family was walking by, staring at me since I am a mzungu (blond hair and blue eyes make it even more of a novelty!). The kids were laughing and calling “Mzungu! Mzungu!” I could see that the woman was intrigued by the camera around my neck. Using pantomime motions, I asked if they would like their photo taken. The man and woman posed rigid and serious after I arranged them into place. The little guy in front bopped around, full of excitement and curiosity. After I took this photo I showed it to them via the camera’s viewfinder screen. They were so delighted! I waved goodbye, leaving them laughing and chattering in their native tongue, as Joseph returned with several bundles of delicious bananas in hand. We jumped back into the van, kicking up a cloud of red dust in our wake as we drove downward, away from Karungu. Maybe one day I will see these people again. Wouldn’t it be fun to bring them a print of their photo?! 

To view my top picks from the Uganda trip, check out the album here. Photos can be downloaded and shared by using PIN code 4618. Please feel free to share individual photos or the entire album. The more people learn about Call to Africa and the country of Uganda, the greater the reach!

The Passing of the Cow

It is nearly midnight here in Uganda. It has been a long but productive day. I have so much to say…… today a cow in Uganda was named after me. And one after my daughter, Halla, who is with me here on this trip as part of the Call to Africa mission group. It has been a tiring but extremely exciting adventure thus far.

One of the many, many things that Call to Africa does here is work to meet the immediate physical needs of the people so impoverished. By most accounts, it takes $3 a day for a Ugandan to live at a very, very basic level. This is an impossible thing for my American brain to wrap itself around. A mere $3 per day. And yet so many Ugandans do not earn $3 per day.

This past January, the folks at Call to Africa spent some time working at an orphanage near Jinja where the ration of formula for the babies had been depleted. An immediate call to action by Call to Africa mission organization secured 2 cows for the orphanage. This made it possible for them to collect enough milk each day to provide for the children old enough to consume cow’s milk and then to sell the remainder each day, taking the proceeds to buy the much-needed formula. The provision of just two cows has solved a dire and deadly problem for this orphanage.

Today, through the amazing work of a pastor and veterinarian named Joseph living in a small village near Mbarara, Call to Africa was able to utilize the generous donations sent with us by supporters back in America to secure 6 cows and present them as gifts to some extremely needy people in Joseph’s village as well as the village of Karungu, about an hour and half drive from Mbarara. The cost for a single impregnated cow is $1400, which includes dewormer and vaccines to help keep the cow in good health. Joseph was able to wrangle a great deal so that instead of buying 5 cows as originally intended, the $7000 sent over with us specifically for cows was spent buying 6 cows! Yeah Joseph!

It was amazing to present each of the 6 recipients with the cows today, a gift that will truly keep on giving by providing milk for their own consumption as well as an invaluable opportunity to sell each day’s excess milk and thus help the villagers earn the $3 per day to survive. Each of the cows presented today are in-calf, meaning there will be 2 cows for each of the recipients in the not-so-distant future. The “Cow Project” or “the passing of the cows” as we have loosely been calling it, is a fantastic way to teach and promote an ongoing self-sustaining way of life. It is needed in so many places here in Uganda. I am pleased to report that today 6 cows were added to the project and the people in 2 different village are extremely thankful!

I have gotten to know Joseph and his sweet wife, Burna, over the past week. They work tirelessly to spread hope, truth, grace, and life to the people in very remote villages, sometimes on top of mountains. Joseph and Burna have no transportation. The old boda boda (dirt bike) that Joseph had at one time finally gave up the ghost. Joseph and Burna must now walk or hire a ride everywhere they go. Because of cost to hire and the impossibility of walking up a mountain to a remote village to do his work with the people and their animals, Joseph is unable to minister and serve as often as is needed. I came away from today determined to provide Joseph with a new boda boda that will enable him to traverse up the deeply rutted dirt roads that lead into the villages. The motorbike will cost $3500. I have already spoken with the folks at Call to Africa about utilizing them to send raised funds to purchase a boda boda for Joseph and Burna. There are channels that must be followed when sending money or making purchases within Uganda so that the money does not end up in the wrong hands.

I am personally going to work toward earning money for Joseph’s much needed boda boda bike. If everyone I knew pitched in $10, we could raise the $3500 quite easily and quickly, allowing us to present Joseph with a means of transportation. All it would take is giving up 2 Starbucks drinks or 1 night at the movies! I wonder if anyone would like to contribute toward this project that I have claimed as something that truly needs to be done. I’ve just got to figure out the best way to collect the funds for this project……..I will work on that tomorrow during the 8 hour drive from Mbarara to Jinja. I’ll keep you posted. I hope you all will help with this.

UPDATE:
For those wanting to help me raise the money for Joseph’s boda boda you can either send a check directly to Call to Africa non-profit or you can donate directly through their Facebook page via this link. IMPORTANT: everyone who donates for this particular need should message me and let me know so I can be sure your donation goes to this! If writing a check please keep “memo” line empty so you can take the tax deduction.

We WILL get Joseph his much-needed wheels!! I’d love to present a boda boda to him before we leave Africa on the 12th!

Please send me messages or email me so I can keep up with the total. Danelle@nationalcatgroomers.com

Call to Africa Facebook link with donation option and mailing address.

Call to Africa

2nd UPDATE:
We have raised enough to purchase a boda boda for Joseph thanks to the generosity of my readers! Thank you so much! What a difference this will make in the villages of Uganda! You guys are awesome! Stay tuned for photos of the new boda boda bike once we get funds sent to the right place and find just the perfect set of wheels for the task.

To view my top picks from the Uganda trip, check out the album here. Photos can be downloaded and shared by using PIN code 4618. Please feel free to share individual photos or the entire album. The more people learn about Call to Africa and the country of Uganda, the greater the reach!