Africa Connections Info

Dave and I have mixed feelings about missions trips.

That’s a weird statement considering we just got back from leading one.

On one hand, you spend a LOT of money to get there that could be used instead either by the organizations you work with or by full-time missionaries. Sometimes missions teams go in with the idea that they’re coming in to save the day (not exactly a Philippians 2 attitude).

But on the other hand, often the money spent to go on the trip is like an initial investment. It opens up the team members’ eyes and hearts–as well as the hearts and eyes of their friends and family members–to needs and Gospel opportunities they had no idea of before so that future support gets funneled in directions it would not have otherwise. Mission team members find that they are “mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by … (the) faith” of the people they meet. (Romans 1:12)

My hope is that those of you who have read my blog have, in a sense, traveled with us and been impacted just as we have. Some readers have already asked me about ways to contribute to some of the ministries we worked with, so what I want to do in this post is provide links to all of the different organizations we worked with while we were in Kenya and Uganda. You can learn more about these organizations and donate to them at the website links provided. I’ve also included the link to the specific blog post I wrote about our experience at each organization.

1. Kibera Girls SoccerAcademy:

http://www.kiberagirlssocceracademy.org/

This is a FREE secondary school in the heart of the Kibera Slum (the second largest slum in the world) that provides girls with a quality education so they can continue on beyond secondary school to universities and colleges. Great program.

Blog link: https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/11/day-3-in-africa-a-gift-of-a-day/

2. Springs of Hope Orphanage run by Kenyan Mary Musyoka:

http://www.entertheventure.com/

Venture Corps is a U.S.-based non-profit that advocates for several non-profits run by Kenyan and Ugandan nationals. You can find more info on Springs of Hope on Venture Corps website and donate specifically to it or to the Venture Corps general fund.

Blog link: https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/10/meet-mary-day-2-in-africa/

3. Mercy Childcare run by Ugandan Wilfred Rugumba:

http://www.mercychildcare.org/

Mercy is dear, dear, dear to my heart. Our son, Patrick, is from Mercy, and I lived with Wilfred and his wife, Vena, for five weeks during our adoption process. Almost all the ministry we did in Uganda was through Mercy and its founding church, Light the World Church in Kampala, Uganda.

Blog links:

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/15/seeing-ugandans-light-the-world-day-1-in-uganda/

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/16/beauty-from-the-awful-day-3-in-uganda/

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/22/final-days-in-uganda/

4. UAPO (Ugandan American Partnership Organization) (In Uganda, known as the Akola Project):

http://www.theuapo.org/ (this site has information about the UAPO)

http://akolaproject.org/ (this is the UAPO’s shopping site–beautiful jewelry and very soon, some amazing woven bags)

Blog link:

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/19/our-gifts-gods-purpose/

 

 

 

Our gifts, God’s purpose

Two days ago, Tuesday—Jinja

Wilfred, Vena, and their two boys:  baby Joshua and almost-three Graham. They left for the States the same day we went to Jinja. We'll miss them here but will be able to re-connect with them in Chicago in just a few weeks.

Wilfred, Vena, and their two boys: baby Joshua and almost-three Graham. They left for the States the same day we went to Jinja. We’ll miss them here but will be able to re-connect with them in Chicago in just a few weeks.

Jinja is known as the source of the Nile River, so it’s a bit of a tourist spot. When Wilfred suggested several weeks ago that we should visit there after the day in Kitenga and the hospital so the girls could see the Nile River, we first got excited because that is where Katie Davis (the girl who wrote Kisses from Katie) lives, and we thought just maybe we could visit her. Dave sent her a Facebook message, but we never got a reply (probably because she is way too busy to spend time on Facebook!).

Some of the beautiful jewelry made and sold by UAPO (Akola Project). Our girls were in awe of all of it!

Some of the beautiful jewelry made and sold by UAPO (Akola Project). Our girls were in awe of all of it!

Then I realized that my friend Sarah Contrucci (a marketing department buddy from our time at Sterling College in Kansas) also works in Jinja. Sarah grew up on the mission field and is a wonderfully free spirit. Through her master’s work in an Eastern University program that partners with Uganda Christian University, she learned of UAPO (Uganda America Partnership). UAPO combines the beautiful jewelry made by Ugandan women with an American market. Sarah was hired as the lead designer (she’s a wonderful artist) and, eventually, DSC_0064was also named the director of the Akola Project (what the UAPO is called in Africa). She lives in Jinja, travels from there to other areas to discover new crafts and ideas, designs the jewelry that the women will make (it’s sold online), and runs the workshop and the vocational program in Jinja. It’s a busy job, but it combines all her amazing gifts.

UAPO (Akola Project) is branching out into woven bags now. This is a picture of Martin, UAPO's master weaver. Not only is he an expert weaver, he built all of UAPO's looms!

UAPO (Akola Project) is branching out into woven bags now. This is a picture of Martin, UAPO’s master weaver. Not only is he an expert weaver, he built all of UAPO’s looms!

So I messaged her and asked if we could come and tour it. She said yes, and she thought she would be there herself, but was out traveling and was delayed coming home so we actually missed seeing her. Her very capable American assistant, Elizabeth, and the Ugandan office manager, Helen, gave us a tour instead, showing us the jewelry workshop, the weaving room (incredible! Their master weaver also built the machines!), and their offices. She told us how they teach the women they work with to budget and plan, to set up savings accounts for unexpected problems, to prioritize their kids’ school fees. Akola employs roughly 200 women (well over one hundred actually make the beads in their villages). That’s 200 women who are making a livelihood that allows their kids to go to school!

What Martin was weaving! Amazing.

What Martin was weaving! Amazing.

It was very cool, and I think it accomplished our goal: to show the girls that God has designed their gifts for a purpose, and He will use all their talents, even things like their artistic ability, for His glory—anywhere in the world!

The later afternoon was spent being tourists. We ate a Ugandan lunch of motoke (boiled, mashed plantains), posho (kind of like cream of wheat; a grain made from the cassava/ugali root [I think I’m using all the right terms]), rice, and a choice of either beef, chicken, or fish. As has happened several times before, I was offered the eye of the fish (a delicacy), and, once again, I turned it down. I always think, Oh, I’ll try it, but I just haven’t been able to get myself to do it. Plus—this is my copout—I KNOW the Ugandan offering it to me will LOVE it, so why should I deprive them? (though I know I’m depriving them of some very real fun in seeing me eat it!). After lunch, we did some craft shopping in downtown Jinja (SO much less congested than Kampala! And so full of mzungus! [white people]), and then went to the source of the Nile. We took a little boat ride on it (many of us dipped our feet and hands in—such a welcome feeling).

The girls' boat.

The girls’ boat.

We drove back to Kampala at dusk and ate a late dinner of beans and rice that Mama Cici prepared. This night we had water but no electricity, so we ate dinner by candlelight!

DSC_0138It was a good day.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

-I’m a day behind, so this was actually our Tuesday. Yesterday we painted at the babies and toddlers home—the girls accomplished SO much! I’ll write and post pics as soon as possible. I cannot believe today we head home! I’m very ready to see my younger three but there’s also a part of me that’s not quite ready to go.

-The little baby from Kitenga slum IS a girl. The nurse who works for Mercy took her to the hospital, so I was not needed, but they gave her medication. Today she gets tested for HIV. We have not yet heard from Eugene (I’m sure he doesn’t have easy access to Internet).

-I will also post all contact information in an upcoming post for any of you who would like more information about all the ministries we worked with