Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cornerstone part II

We have been having an absolute BLAST on this whirlwind, quick trip! Our flights were of course delayed and all messed up, but Leah and I met in Amsterdam, spent an afternoon walking around the city, and finally arrived Saturday midday after a quick stop in Kenya.

Immediately, we were taken to two of the girls homes, Mengo and Lunguja. The Mengo girls had grown taller and their English improved greatly. They did a whole skit for us on Malaria prevention and we were all excited to be reunited. They had shifted houses to a better plot and seemed healthier and more lively. The Lunguja home is a new home for former prostitutes under the age of 15. They welcomed us with open arms and greeted us with dancing and a skit on HIV. Wilter has worked very closely with this home regarding STI's and transformation. They are much more outgoing than typical Ugandan women and thus are hilarious to interact with.

Tim and Cathy Kreutter took us out to dinner that night at an old favorite, Kruah Thai. We slept forever Saturday night. Daniel (wilter's sweet husband) picked us up from the office after they went to church and we spent the whole day with the Ololia's and their new baby, Lorraine. She is beautiful, well tempered, and Wilter is full of energy, totally recovered. It was awesome to be reunited. Wilter greated us with a huge hug and tears and a great meal of goat stew, chapati, rice and fresh fruit. WONDERFUL.

We have taken 2 girls to a local gynecologist for treatment, and are working on securing some sort of dental care for all the kids. This is their biggest need right now.

Since then, we have been moving about the town visiting each of the 6 homes at least once. It hs been such a joy to see many familiar faces of the sweet children from last time. Many have grown and a lot of their English has improved. We have brought paint and paper to each of the homes and they have LOVED this activity. Wilter has been doing so much around the homes their are obvious differences. The kids still have the mosquito nets, and the new kids have their own. Their homes are cleaner, and there are new huge jugs that the kids all use to take clean water. Though most of the gardens have not been kept up, the funding for the homes has increased and they have been able to buy some more vegetables than before. The mentors all seem encouraged, and we have felt so welcome.

Tonight, after visiting the Makerere boys home, we took pizza to the Kibuli boys home for dinner. It was all of their first times to ever have pizza, and they stuffed their faces. Their smiles were priceless. Many had never painted before, so we had to teach them how.

Saturday we are putting on a huge sports gala for all the homes. They are all coming together to a local school playground where we will play and have a catered meal. They could not be more excited and I think many of the old mentors will come too! Thank you for all your continued support and love.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Next Trip May 2010

"No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." 1 John 4:12

Wow--Has time flown by!

It has now been a year and a half sense Leah and I returned from our last adventure to Uganda. Many things have changed since then, both for us personally and for Cornerstone. Leah has gotten married (Leah Welbourn Nelson, now) and has moved to Atlanta, GA. She is currently a nurse in Emory's Surgical Intensive Care Unit. She is also enrolled in a dual Family Nurse Practitioner Program and Master's of Public Health program that she is completing part time while working. Her sweet husband, George Nelson, is an MD working for the CDC in Atlanta and is currently on a month-long trip to Guam with work.

I have now been working at Vanderbilt in the Adult Cancer Unit for over a year. I started a Family Nurse Practitioner program at Vanderbilt part-time and will graduate August of 2011. After a year and a half of dating my currently boyfriend, Jimmy West, long distance--he had the opportunity to move to Nashville 2 months ago and we have had a blast finally living in the same city.

Amongst new jobs, cities, and schools Leah and I have both been very busy. Uganda has been a part of our lives for a long time now, and we have been wondering when we would be able to make it back. Leah and I have finally found a time when our school breaks overlapped and have planned a return to Uganda. We will be leaving next week, May 6th for a quick 11 day journey and whirlwind trip to Uganda. We are excited to visit with the kids, learn about all that has happened in the past year and a half, and to welcome the newest member of the Cornerstone family, Lorraine Ololia. Yes, Wilter had a baby girl 2 days ago and we are so excited to meet her and see Wilter and Daniel again.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:18-19

For those of you who do not remember, Wilter is the wonderful lady we hired and are supporting as the health director of the former street children at Cornerstone Development in Uganda. According to Tim Kreutter, the director of Cornerstone in Uganda, she has been a blessing for them and a needed 'motherly role model' for all the kids. Since we left, she has been very busy paving her own way and creating more-or-less her own job description there. She has maintained and updated the health records, played and encouraged personal hygiene competitions amongst the houses, taught lessons on food choices, and cooked several healthy meals for the kids. She has treated and helped oversee many illnesses in the homes and has found cost-effective treatments for malaria.

She has diagnosed and treated many of the girls with Sexual Transmitted Infections, many of whom had been battling them for years and had no one to talk to about them. Soon after we left last year, Cornerstone started a new house for young women (under age 15) who were prostitutes. I know this has been a challenge and we are excited to learn more about this house. She has had several conversations with the girls about sexuality--something none of them had ever been able to talk about. She organized the HIV testing of all the youth who wanted it and was able to secure appropriate treatment for one boy who found out he was positive. All the youth in Kampala are now drinking clean water and so far have avoided any Typhoid outbreaks that we have heard of.

We are thrilled with the care and energy Wilter has provided through this process. With the prompting of Tim Kreutter, we have given Wilter 2 small raises that Cornerstone felt she deserved. We have been tweaking with her budget making sure they have enough funds to continue to accomplish what they feel is necessary.

Through this process, we have approximately $6600 left of our original funds we raised almost 2 years ago. For our return trip this time, we purchased one ticket with the raised fund and were able to purchase one ticket using my parents airline miles (thank you mom and dad). Our expenses while we are there will not come out of the raised funds. Leah and I wanted to include everyone with the appropriate information as far as where we are currently and what are future plans entail. Since Leah and I have not seen each other in several months, we are excited about using a lot of our travel time in Uganda to organize our current and future goals. Please look for an upcoming letter from us shortly after our return May 17th.

"May God bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." Numbers 6:22-27

Prayer Request:

Safe Travels both to and from Uganda, and while we are there
Safety and Health for Wilter and her new baby girl, Lorraine
That our time there will be fruitful, fun and that we will get to spend a lot of time with the kids
The safety, health and future of these kids at Cornerstone
Upcoming fund-raising ideas and provision for the future

Thank you for all your support, love, prayers and encouragement along the way. We are excited to learn more about where this journey will lead us.

With Love, Ellen and Leah