Wednesday (8th May) night, we had dinner with Carol Kumokama, he new Director of An Open Door Uganda. It's been some months going through applications and I'm pleased to say we have one very switched on person leading the work in Uganda. In my spare time I act as the An Open Door UK Director and Gareth Killa is one of the UK trustees, so we try to visit and ensure that things keep moving forward. Since AOD UG opened we have resettled over 100 children street children, it's not been a journey without it's problems, but some of which have gone through University and gotten a degree, a far cry from their very fraught start to life.
From that initial year's fast track to the real world, we have spent the last seventeen years trying to become better at what we do. Don't get me wrong, things have been extremely stressful at times. We could never have understood the unique needs and terrible background of each child and we've learnt the painful way that one strategy for all just doesn't work.
According to a dear friend of ours who adopted one of the abandoned children from AOD, there are currently 800 'orphanages' in Uganda and only 35 registered with the government. Our desire to trace and resettle children with extended families has been a long journey.
An interesting yet very disturbing trend from the West is that so many Churches now have orphange works in Uganda. Rural families now see the short term benefit of those organisations educating and accomodating their own children. This had led to hundreds of horror stories of families selling their children to western organisations, who use profit hungry adoption agencies who can charge upto $40,000 to identify what the adoptive parents believe to be a truely orphaned child. Often the child is whisked through a process which takes them permanently away from their biological family. America in particular makes it very easy to take a child to the states, through guardianship orders granted in Ugandan courts when not enough due diligence is done to find extended families in Uganda.
Hear my heart, we are far from perfect as an organisation, but we have from the start made it clear, we will do whatever we can to identify the childrens true family and support them in taking care of the child. The best practice approach according to Mark Riley of Alternative Care Uganda, a key child care consultant to the Ugandan Government and a past trustee of An Open Door, is to Foster the child in country putting the child into a family environment while the research is being done, then if no family is found, offer the child for in-country adoption, keeping the child within it's own culture. If all else fails then go for overseas adoption to loving families, where we have said no fees should be transacted. Children should not be for sale.... We believe in Mark's best practive approach and would hope we are trying to embrace these practices at every level.
From left to right. We have Lazarus, who has a professional background in accounting and also owns a law firm. Carol, who is the National Director of An Open Door in Uganda, has a medical background and a degree in psychology. Pastor Wilberforce Okumu, a long term friend, who is the Chair of trustees, a background, evangelism and church building. Olivia, who was the Uganda Red Cross Rep, with a background in Marketing and Fundraising and finally Emmanuel, who is a long term Pastor in Northern Kampala, planted 28 churches and currently sits on the board of the Ugandan Bible Society. We've had a brilliant board meeting and there's such a hope for the future. Right now we have a plan to bring in another 40 street children over the next twelve months and try and get as many as possible resettled with their families. Please pray for us as this as always is a very individual process for each child.
We left AOD UG knowing there was a plan in place for five of the remaining seven children in our care, I left knowing I would never see those five children again, to which my heart sank, yet my spirit rejoiced that we could be the servants who would navigate them toward their future.
We spent the evening dining with Mark Riley who as I mentioned was a AOD UK board member for several years. Mark with his wife and children have moved to Uganda to influence the child care framework in the country. God has clearly opened the door for him, and he's now regularly advising government ministers on his findings. It was great to see Mark and we spent the night musing over the missionary perspective of Uganda, it's colourful characters and how Mark is staying in touch with the UK, who quite frankly in our daily lives haven't a clue what is going on.
The last few hours.
We slept that night, knowing that this had already been the best trip to date. Gareth and I had an evening prayer time thanking God for everything and then we realised we had 900,000 shillings (about £236) left of the money we brought. This came as quite a shock to the system as I had for the last seventeen years gone back home with no money and promises to send out more. All became clear the next morning.
Pastor Okumu had wanted to put me in touch with Trudi Marshall, who builds libraries in Uganda. She asked if we could meet at a hospital as she was visiting a friend Harriet, who she had recently brought in for an operation. We met, we shared stories and Pastor Okumu asked if we could meet with Harriet to pray for her. That was the beginning of a wonderful God moment.
Harriet (on the left, Derek her son on the right) was taken to a free hospital in Uganda complaining of bowel pain, when they investigated she was found to have Ovarian cancer. The problem was she then needed an urgent operation and because private patients were coming on, her case was continually de-prioritised and she had waited five days without a final date for the procedure.
Trudi arranged for her to go private and the operation was carried out the day she arrived. We met her five days after the operation, and there's no doubt the surgery saved her life. Trudi was a little concerned about the bill. The surgeons had waived their fee, but the hospital still charged. They were also expecting the current bill to be paid at the end of each day, so no debt was run up. Trudi had managed to pay the bill to date, but didn't have money for that day. What was amazing was the bill was exactly the amount we had left over, so there was no doubt but to stomp up the cash and help where the need was. We prayed with Harriet and believe God she will now remain cancer free.
From there we went to the airport, checked in an made our way home which for me was via Dubai, then Gatwick and then a four hour drive to Uganda. I couldn't wait to see the love of my life Rebekah, and after eight hours sleep in the last 72 hours, slept like a baby on the first day home.
Thank you for all who prayed and gave, if you gave a gift we will be in touch as to how we spent the money. Blessings to you all. Carl.
If you would like to support the work of An Open Door Uganda please Click Here.
To read Gareths Blog for the more humorous side of the journey click here.