Monday, June 17, 2019

Long Overdue Updates!

What a remarkable weekend we had here in Uganda! Our agenda has been so full that we come back to the house, eat dinner, shower, and hit the hay.

On Saturday, we made our way into the outskirts of Kampala, the capital and largest city of Uganda. Mark drove us through the slums of Katwe, which is the setting of the popular book and movie of the same name, The Queen of Katwe. I peered over at Jake in the car as his eyes were glued on the scene outside of the window from the backseat of the van. Women balanced heavy baskets on the tops of their heads with a baby wrapped in cloth on their backs, children ran around with clothes falling off their shoulders, and men cut timber with a broken ax. It is one thing to see poverty in photos and hear stories about it, but another to witness it.

Instead of just pure sadness, pity, and despair for these people, I felt anger. Angry that in the U.S., we spend frivolously and excessively while we choose to sit on the peripheral and allow our brothers and sisters of humanity to starve, die of preventable diseases, and fail to send their children to school for a basic education due to costs. I believe as humans, we are a part of a global community and have a responsibility to be the hands and feet, not just monetarily but the way we regard and treat each other.  

Saturday was mainly dedicated for Edith and Derrick as they finally met their biological mother. Without going into much detail, it was a beautiful experience that I am glad I was able to witness and be a part of. I understand the totality of reconciling your hurt, confusion, and feeling of the unknown. When I traveled back to my orphanage in China, I felt overcome with a peace so indescribable that yielded a sense of understanding.

One of Ekissa’s main pillars is building fruitful relationships, therefore the majority of our time has been spent conversing with the people in Bweya Village, the boys in the children’s home, and the students in the school.

Growing up, I have been to several churches with diverse groups of people but have never seen anything as a church in Uganda. On Sunday, we experienced true Ugandan worship. People worshipped with their bodies, voices, and noticeably, their souls. Singing was accompanied by dancing. You could tell the genuine passion within each person in the room.

As my mom has said multiple times prior to arriving in Uganda, the itinerary beforehand always changes once we land on the ground. Today, we were supposed to put up the playground for the school and teach swimming lessons. However, the rain created too much mud for moving and working with equipment and canceled the lessons. Instead, we went into downtown Kampala to a market and shopped around. Traffic in Kampala is quite similar to the traffic in New York City except that everyone has the right-away and gridlock occurs more likely than not.

The plan for tomorrow is to work steadily and quickly on the playground and then take the kids to the pool for lessons.

Even though I do crave a slice of pizza or, if you know me, a plate of chicken parmesan, the food here has been amazing. Jake’s personal favorites are samosas, which we have had pretty much every day for lunch. They resemble hot pockets but are filled with beef, chicken, or vegetables. Though he is normally a picky eater back home, I am proud of Jake for expanding his taste buds. He has tried every single food that has been cooked for us. I haven’t even done that!

Our time in Uganda is coming to a close as tomorrow is our last full day on the ground and I can confidently say that I have enjoyed every second of it. These people give me faith in humanity that I have previously not had.

I am hoping to blog either tomorrow night or during one of our layovers in the airport to wrap up my thoughts and remarks on this trip of a lifetime.

As the Ugandans say, tugende! (We go!)


Group of children after church. Vincent, in the royal blue, is the sweetest!

Derrick met his new "BFF", Trevor, who is Eddie's son (driver Eddie). They raced around Eddie's yard when we came to visit and immediately hit it off! So sweet!

Kids just being kids... looking at a bug. 

As the house is located on a hill, we have quite the view! Here is the sunset from the other day. 

Church service

Downtown Kampala. Heavy traffic!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Joy in the Little Things

My apologies for the missed blog post yesterday! After a long series of flights, we finally arrived at the Ugandan airport around 11 PM. I stepped out of the Entebbe airport and inhaled the fresh Ugandan air. There we met Mark, Ekissa’s COO, and Eddie, our driver. At night, the hills of Entebbe are absolutely beautiful, covered in soft lights and people mingling in front of storefronts. The Entebbe highway resembles those in the US. As I have been told, the infrastructure has developed quite a bit since ekissa’s last trip to Uganda. We arrived at the house and quickly got ready for bed… after ice cold showers!

Our first day included getting acclimated to Ekissa’s land, including the school, demonstration farm, church, and the new children’s home. The drive to the land during the day was exponentially different from the drive during the night. A symphony of motorcycles, cars, and busy chatter filled the streets.  

The school looks incredible, especially with the smiling faces inside. I was amazed at the efficiency and sustainability of all the projects that I had seen in pictures for years. We distributed soccer balls to the kids, whose faces resembled those on Christmas morning.

For Edith and Derrick, the highlight of their day was finally meeting their two older brothers, Usher and Eddie, ages 16 and 13 respectively. Derrick and Eddie really hit it off, as they both have similar personalities and mannerisms.

Today, we took all 75 kids from both the school and the children’s home to the zoo in Entebbe on a large charter bus. Our total tally including the teachers and school staff was 102. For the children of the school, it was their first time seeing a bus and even riding in a vehicle. Moreover, a visit to the zoo was an opportunity of a lifetime for both the kids and the teachers. It tickled me and reminded me of ability that the most minute of things has in providing joy, but only if we look hard enough.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Let the Adventure Begin!

Hello friends! This is Hope Ledford, Sarah’s daughter.

I am currently sitting in the Charlotte airport alongside my travel companions. (Steve, Debbie, Derrick, and Edith Shough along with my mom and my special friend, Jake Allison) Finally, for the first time, I will visit Uganda, which has been a special part of my childhood. Growing up, I have had the opportunity to watch this ministry unfold and develop from an idea to a three-acreage village on the cusps of sustainability. Now it is time to see the people, land, and beautiful culture my mom has talked about for the last ten years.

International travel has the ability to provide new perspectives of the world at large. In 2017, I had the opportunity to travel back to China for the first time since my adoption in 2002. I attained more knowledge on my heritage but most importantly, discovered truths about myself and humanity.

I have considered Edith and Derrick to be my “little sibs” since they arrived in the States in 2011. Edith was just four years old and Derrick two. Now, at age twelve and ten, they will embark on a journey of a lifetime to go back and visit their place of birth, as well as their biological mother and siblings. Having already experienced this kind of journey, I am beyond excited for them and cannot wait to see what this trip holds for them.

For me and Jake, it is our first time in Uganda. We are not sure what to expect but are anxiously awaiting what will be a life-changing trip.

I have a book in one hand and a snack in the other, ready for our adventure over the ocean!