Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hope in Suffering

We all have families.  Parents, grandparents, siblings..........

Some of us are lucky enough to have families who love and support us.  Others of us are not so lucky.  Whatever our family's role in our life is, it shapes our identity and teaches us what we know about love, the world and each other.  Whether we suffer from our own choices or from those of others, despair may threaten to overwhelm us.

Our Angels came from families who faced the most terrible human conditions possible.  They either lost their loved ones or were abandoned by the people who should care for them the most.

Edwin and I knew how we wanted this home to operate before we opened in 2013, but it took God's guidance in this journey to show us the way.  We now have a beautiful home with children who have hope; know how to love each other and take pride in helping others that are suffering.  What surprises us the most is the way these children bond so quickly with a new child.   They remember the devastation from their past and want their new brother or sister to feel the love they do now.

The pictures below visually tell a story of children who came from such difficult situations and made the transition to love and hope at our Home of Angels.

These children are our neighbours.  Every day they must go to this same spot and get water for Mama to cook and do her cleaning.  These children do not go to school because of lack of money.

These are desperate times for finding water in our community.  The drought has again taken over water and crops.  Once again we thank Laury and Tom for our well....still pumping 5000 litres of water an hour.  The children help the community doing many different things but one of them is passing out water.  The school closed down for 3 hours so the kids could take water home to their families before commencing classes again.

Meet Jimmy Kintu, age 5 years old.  He will be coming to live with us with his brother Derrick as
soon as we find enough sponsors to provide the basics for them.

This is Derrick Kintu age 7 years

Meet Frank Ochat, age 5 years

This sad little guy is Edwin Ssmonga, 6 years old and will be the first to arrive.
I'm going to call him "Eddie"

Most of you know our precious Jowell.  If you ask any of the kid's "Who is your best friend?" the answer is always Jowell.  I can't even put in words how special this child is and how she has taught the little ones everything they must know to be a true "Angel".  Jowell has recently been diagnosed with heart failure and Edwin and I would love it if you would please pray for her healing. Thank you!

Wow!  Look at these beauties in their new dresses.  Uncle Edwin decided that the kid's church clothes were getting very worn so he hired a seamstress to come in and sew outfits that fit.  By doing this, we save money at the market; we help a woman in our community to have work and we can call her anytime for help.  We also think that she will be a good person to teach the older girls to sew on our sewing machines, providing a trade for them in later years.   I just melt when I see this....

I can't stop staring at these pictures.  Because of special events at school, all the kids couldn't have their picture taken at this time but we can see the expressions by getting a new outfit.  This is a first for Paul and Silas in front....left.  Can you imagine when the next 4 little ones come in?

Our guardhouse needed some cheer.

Slowly we are completing the final touches on the compound.  The guards are sometimes stuck inside this guardhouse for hours protecting Edwin, staff and the children so a new coat of paint and a concrete floor is a real treat for them.

OK....this is serious!!  Edwin's father planted a banana plantation in 2014 for me to bake banana bread and I was just informed to come back to Uganda to start baking because it's getting out of control.  There are currently 700 trees....I might be 90 years old when this is finished.....

Thanks to all of you who have helped us provide everything necessary to raise these children.  We couldn't have done it without you.  Always remember that 100% of your donations go to our Home of Angels and a tax receipt is issued at the end of the year.

God bless you all

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Free from Fear

Fear sneaks into our hearts without permission.  It paints a picture of helplessness and hopelessness, so you can imagine what it's been like for the children that we are bringing into our Home of Angels.  With the fear and trauma they have experienced in the past, they bring it all with them as they walk through our gate for the first time.  Usually they come with jiggers buried in their feet due to living in the dirt with no shoes.  The pain of removing those jiggers and having a child say thank-you because you cared enough to help them is something we cannot imagine.  Most of them come hungry and malnourished so not worrying where the next meal will come from is a blessing in itself.

I recently returned home from Uganda with a surprise letter from every child.  As I read each one, I was humbled by how they genuinely felt.  They've learned to trust Uncle Edwin and I with their inner most thoughts and I now understand the pain they dealt with before their arrival.  Every child has a different story to tell, but when they learn how much God loves them, they eventually learn to relax in His peace and take refuge from that pain.  How wonderful it would be for them to teach others in the community what they have learned about God's love living at Home of Angels.

We currently have 21 children but our goal is to house a total of 50 in the future.  It's our prayer that we will be able to find 10 more homeless little ones soon.  Edwin spends many hours making sure it's done properly by involving community leaders and social workers.  We want to thank all the sponsors for giving these children a home full of love and hope.  It truly brings a smile when we see the incredible changes in all of them.

Every day chores are done and because of their dedication, we have a beautiful compound.  These kids take great pride in their new home and it shows in the smiles on their faces.  We also want to thank our guards,  Frank and Sam for helping them to appreciate what they now have.

Since our schoolroom was originally in the boys home and it's presently filling up with little bodies, we are now moving it into the end unit of our main home.  Thanks to Nina throughout the years for equipping it with the necessary items to teach with.  We have a whiteboard, chairs, table and supplies.  Edwin and I are now thinking we can help some of the community kids too so I'm really looking forward to this when I return.

Meet the wonderful students of the Tri-Cities Rotaract Club in Port Moody, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam.  They recently held a concert called the "West Coast Story" on our behalf and it was a HUGE success.  Not only that, they also gave each child a new backpack filled with surprises and school supplies.  I can't say enough about these fantastic young adults and how hard they've worked to help our Home of Angels over the years.  We all thank you!!!

Judy made a huge impact on our children as did the entire team from Northview, and to this day they feel sad about their departure.  Kevin and Kristen also taught them a new game that will never be forgotten.  I don't think we have ever seen them have so much fun.

We are raising our goats in Malindi village in the north.  Thanks Thomas for purchasing the fencing for 30 acres and for also purchasing the goats.  Goats seem to multiply almost as quickly as rabbits it seems....we are at 175 already.  George is one amazing man to be doing this for us and he seems to have his entire village helping him.  Thanks Thomas and George for making this project successful.

Thomas in Hong Kong has always had it in his heart to help us in a medical way.  Edwin and the children decided to purchase a Neem tree, when in time, it would produce leaves to help our chickens and the children's 14 goats in our compound.  The Neem leaf acts as a antibiotic for these animals and has been proven very successful in India.  This tree has been planted in Thomas's honour.

3 year old Precious.  She has recently been taught how to shine her school shoes by her older brothers and sisters.  If anyone deserves the name "Precious" this little one does.

The gardens are thriving and the maize is on it's 2nd crop

I couldn't resist this....Yasin before
                                                Yasin today

This is what I meant when I said "they originally came through our gate for the first time with fear". This little one had rarely ever been outside this mud hut, in fact, we didn't know there were 2 other children living in there with their 98 year old grandpa.  Look at him now.

Hopelessness may be the way these children entered their new home but positive self-image and self-confidence is how they will depart when they are older.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Welcome to the Family

What a wonderful time when new children are welcomed into our Home of Angels.

It starts with a Skype meeting between Canada and Uganda with all children included.  We talk about situations in the community.  Should we bring in a boy or girl and what ages do they think they should be?  They are included into the decision making.  Why?  Because we are a family and we make decisions together.  This way, when that new child arrives, they feel as though they contributed
and start the welcoming process.  A welcome song is sung and within hours of playing, the new arrival(s) feel comfortable enough to call this their new home and family.

Before we started building in 2010, two of the original children told us they didn't like being called orphans.  They had always dreamed of a real home.  We told them that we thought of them as more like "angels" not orphans, hence the name Jaaja Barb's Home of Angels was established.

We are currently into our 7th year and it just keeps getting better.  God takes the weakest of the weakest and sets them loose.  You just have to see the pictures in this blog and the smiles on these children's faces to know that it was Him in control.  We never know what's going to happen in the future but the one thing we do know is, He will give Edwin and I the tools to provide this home for a total of 50 "angels".

Thanks again to all that have gone the extra mile to help us, especially offering to be sponsors.
We desperately need people who will care about a little one and give them that home they dream about.

I'd like you to meet the Tri-Cities Rotaract Club.  This special club had raised money for us in the past and this year decided to have a "Benefit Concert".  I was sad I was in Uganda at the time but with the pictures they sent, I was able to share it with Edwin and the kids.  A big thanks to all of you who worked so hard to make this a success.  You made a difference in these children's lives and they all say "Thank you".

Everyone felt it was time to find 5 more children.  Edwin travelled north and found 2 twin boys ages 4 1/2 years that lived with a very ill grandmother.  He offered to help her by taking the boys to raise.  When all paperwork was finalized, they were brought to their new home with their sister Sarah who asked if she could accompany them to make it an easier transition.

Meet Paul

 The other children shared their clothes with them and Edwin later took them to the market for shoes, clothes and other necessities.  Shoes are for sure in order by the looks of it.

Meet Silas

Silas chose the alligator and dinosaur PJ's.  For these kids all clothing is good for bed and for play.

Meet Sarah

Two weeks later Edwin got a call that grandma was very ill and as Sarah had been her caregiver, it was too difficult for her now.  She was just too young to lift and cook for her.  The community leader asked if it would be possible for us to raise her with her siblings.  The answer of course was a yes and Edwin started the process of her coming into the family. We are very happy to have all three siblings living together and know that this was always in God's plan from the very beginning.  

To see these children coming from the desperate situations they came from, to seeing them now is truly a blessing.  It might look like we are always telling these kids to smile but we're not.  They're truly this happy right down to 5am washing their clothes and singing outside my bedroom window.  Who needs an alarm clock?

If you went back 70 blogs and saw where Joanne (left) and Hope (right) came from, you would not
believe them to be the same children.  Precious in the middle had similar circumstances and is already feeling amazing love from her new family.

A special day!  Edwin's father sent down matoke and cabbage from his village and Aunty Joy and the girls are preparing their favourite dish.

Edwin and Sula prepare the cabbage and onions.

We wanted to show you the boys home and how the trees are growing so tall for shade.  The hot sun and the torrential rains play a big part on the beauty of our home.

The home is now the girls home with Edwin's office on the end.  We felt it much better that he be close to the gate as we don't want people wandering around in the compound.  And no, that isn't our ambulance.  It had broken down while trying to help us and now waiting for parts.

Edwin and I don't take any of this for granted but when we see the expressions of outsiders who come to visit, we really give our heads a shake to understand what is really happening here.  It truly is a miracle in the middle of the jungle.  OK, bush but I call it jungle without animals. :)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Reaching the Broken Heart

Broken hearts are caused by many different reasons.  Whether it be a young child living on the streets or an elderly widow with no way to survive, the heart is broken.  God loves the broken people and as Christians, we are challenged to make a difference to help them.

Our first team from Northview church arrived at our Home of Angels on March 18th.  What a joy it was to host these amazing men and women and to witness the love poured out on the people in our community.  Loving and praying for people that seemed to have no hope.  Taking food to our dear friend Mutesi that is presently in her last stages of AIDS; passing by a widow's mud hut and giving her a Canadian flag scarf; sitting beside a blind man and listening to his stories and so much more.  Pastor Ezra preached a service on Palm Sunday on a radio station that covers the entire country of Uganda.  Our poor community saw the love of God on this visit and are still asking where the Muzungu's (whites) have gone.

Here are some activities they experienced in our community of Mpumudde.

Jaaja Judy and Jaaja Carol showing compassion to an 98-year-old grandpa.

Almost daily, Edwin and I pass this wonderful elderly lady who struggles so hard with life.  She has
7  widowed  HIV/AIDS adults living in her home.  We stopped by to give her hugs and a new scarf from Canada.  Probably the first gift she has ever received.

The children wanted to show the team what they do in their "God's Little Ministry".  Thanks to Marlaina for her monthly food donation to Mutesi, they were able to present food and soap with the team present.

Kristin was also able to present Mutesi with a scarf from Canada.

We visited our local "Home for the Elderly".  Thanks to Joyce for the monthly support for food that the team witnessed them receiving.  Jaaja Judy connected to an elderly blind man and listened to his stories while others took a tour of the property.

Originally, this was the only old folks home in Uganda but in the past 6 months, another one has been built in Kampala, the capital city.  These people, both old and mentally challenged enjoyed this visit very much and were grateful for all prayers over them.

We want to thank the Gleaners once again for providing soup for 150 orphaned children.  The team was kind enough to bring it from Canada and also helped us with funding the cost of other items.  Everyone helped....from Edwin cutting 14 large cabbages to the aunties and children making matoke and other Ugandan favourites.  The children served and made sure everyone was happy.  It was a very special Easter.

These children are from an orphanage that has closed down.  Many were forced to go to the streets but Edwin knew where to find the ones left in our area and invited them all to join us in the celebration of Christ's resurrection.

Edwin found two more children in a village north of us that are suffering terribly.  They are 5-year- old twin boys named Kato and Waiswa and will arrive on very soon when all the paperwork is completed.  We plan to find three more little girls before I leave in May and once again let this beautiful family adjust while I continue to find sponsors.

Edwin's father frequently sends us Talapia fish, mattock and oranges.  This was for the team but they had left the day prior and the look you are seeing on Edwin's face is sheer glee.....He THINKS he is going to eat this by himself.

A sincere "Thank You" from the team and children to everyone who either helped with funding their trip or in the children's case.....for caring enough about them to provide a home, food, schooling and most of all LOVE.

All of us at the Home of Angels would like to thank Northview church for the funds to purchase 500 chicks, 30 more chairs, 100 plates and also to be able to feed the hungry in our area but most of all, for their visit to Jinja, Uganda to encourage us.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Simply Trusting

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You....... Psalm 56

That's the message the children have learned here in our Home of Angels.  A message that is being passed on to the newer children by their older brothers and sisters.  A message of how His love never fails and not to be afraid in their new home or with their new life.  Our most recent child "Precious" for example.  A very humble little girl that is only 3 years old.  She wouldn't look you in the eye when she first arrived but now she is wanting a hug every day and I am the one blessed to give that hug.

So much has happened over the past few months.  The elections for President were in February and there was some unrest in the country, especially near us.  Edwin and the children evacuated to his father's village where they were safe and were well fed.  The schools were closed and reopened 2 weeks later.  They are now having to go to school 6 days a week to catch up.

While they were gone, we lost our 1000 chickens to Newcastle disease which was a shame. We needed the eggs for protein for the children and the loss was also felt in the community as the children gave out eggs to people with HIV/AIDS.  It's not just the children that are "Simply Trusting", Edwin and I are too.  We know that He is in complete control of our operation and we will be able to order more chicks very soon.

We plan to go into the northern villages to find more children next month.  We feel that we are ready and have stabilized to where the new children have all adjusted.  We will be looking for more sponsors in the near future so if anyone is interested in supporting a child, we would be so grateful.

In Uganda, the culture is that each child has up to 3 names.  We were introduced to this child as Stella  but when I arrived, she was known as Precious.  We are not sure what other names she has but since she is so "precious"....we will stick to that name.  She is only 3 years old, goes to school 5 days a week and is being trained to work like the other children.

This is the start of our long awaited moving day.  The girls packed up all their belongings and transferred them into the new home that Northview church so kindly donated.  We now really need to find children without a home as we be able to accommodate many more.

Girls new home

Oh boy....was this a challenge.  We needed to clean up the original latrine by peeling all the bright red paint off.  The kids, Edwin and I spent 3 days scraping and finally........

Edwin was able to paint it a more neutral colour matching the other latrine.  The kids are using the showers here only.

The little people come home early afternoon every day so I get to spend time with them before naps.  Because of the heat, they usually crash for 3 hours and up in time for the others to come home for their break.

We are very blessed to have this woman as our Aunty.  She loves the children as her own and she works so hard both in heat and rain to make everything right for them.  This is porcho she is making for lunch and dinner.  The ambulance you see in the background helped us bring firewood one day when the engine failed as it was leaving.  They are in the process of getting it fixed now.

Meet Aunty Aidha.   She too is very dedicated in making the children feel comfortable and teaching them the ways of survival.   Aidha is our chief program coordinator and works with the children teaching them about Jesus.  She is also the expert in taking out jiggers in their feet when they first arrive.

I wanted to capture a picture of the children off to Sunday school.  They honestly are like this all the time.  Smiling and never angry with one another.  They are the happiest kids I have ever seen and we are so proud of the older ones for the guidance they provide to the little ones.  This is Annet in the black dress holding Alan in the white shirt.  She came to us at 12 years old being sole provider for her 2 siblings.  Her sisters are being taken care of in the village and we make sure she sees them.

Edwin and I are so grateful to all the people around us that have done something to make our Home of Angels successful.  There are so many of you from around the world who have gone out of your way to make a difference.  We want to thank Elliot and his team for making a website for us.  We have had very positive reactions and I know it will make a difference for us in the future.