Day 4 – It was an emotional but very good day. George took Tony, Ken, and Kelly to the hospital first thing in the morning. The C-Arm that we donated and delivered last spring was still sitting in a room unused because the staff didn’t know how to convert the power. Kelly found an industrial sized transformer and had it working within 15 minutes. This will be a game changer for Dr. Sylvester.
We picked up Ken and Kelly at the hospital and went to Watoto’s Babies Home, an amazing organization that cares for orphaned and abandoned babies in Uganda. The Director informed us that they haven’t had visitors in two years so it would likely be the first time for many of the children to see a Muzungu (white person in Swahili). I wish we would have gotten a video of this moment, but when we entered the infant room and all the babies were playing on the floor, it only took seconds until the first infant started screaming. That had a ripple effect and within minutes the entire room was filled with crying infants. Luckily, their “mommies” settled them down and helped us get acquainted.
Hayley became an instant hit with her stuffed animals, and Paula mesmerized them with her singing. I think our favorite part was holding the babies, even Bruce was a natural. It was incredibly comforting to see an organization so well equipped and staffed, and it was obvious that all the children were well taken care of and loved. We were so thrilled to finally get our baby fix!
We swung by Lacor Hospital on our way to see Sister Rose who gave our entire group Lacor Hospital t-shirts. We are now officially part of the Lacor team!
Our next visit was to St. Jude Children’s Home. This place also serves orphaned and abandoned children, but most of them have mental and physical disabilities. Our team was very impressed with their farm, clinic, and physical therapy program. They’ve done a great job becoming sustainable, but what impressed us the most were the people that worked there. Their passion and commitment to serve the most disadvantaged population was humbling.
It was hard to see the struggle and needs of many of the children, and even one situation almost broke us. Julie went to give a sucker to one young man in a wheelchair who couldn’t speak and had a number of disabilities. When she went to hand him the sucker, he moved her hand to touch his head and then his arm… and then he reached out to her. Julie looked at him and said, “Oh, you want a hug” so she bent down and hugged him. And that is exactly what he wanted.
Many of these children were the “throw aways” and outcasts in their communities. They never received mental, physical, or spiritual support until they were rescued and brought to St. Jude’s. Sometimes it’s easier not to see what you don’t want to know, but once you do see it, it can’t be forgotten. I don’t know what all this means yet or if a project will come out of this experience, but I do know that we were all meant to be there right at that time and place to witness and experience that priceless moment.
St. Jude’s chapel is a round traditional hut made out of bricks with a thatched roof. It is magnificent! Being together in that room while Apollo prayed for the children and staff at St. Jude’s was sacred. His prayers are always so good and moving that he should have probably been a pastor, but I’m grateful he’s our Africa Director instead.
We decided to take our last hour of free time back at the Gulu market. This was a great way to get the full Ugandan experience. The team found baskets, art, jewelry, dresses, a rat trap (for Apollo), and deodorant! It was fun to hear everyone’s adventure.
The team was back together for our last meal in Gulu. Since it was just a block away, we walked to the restaurant. We also had our friends, Dr. Sylvester and his wife, Maureen, join us. This was such a special night because Donna received a true Ugandan Happy Birthday serenade, and we all went around and shared our low and highs of the day. We learned that Dr. Tonny (his Ugandan name), Ken, and Dr. Sylvester performed an extremely challenging surgery today on a young man in his twenties. Tony said it was one of the most difficult surgeries of his career. It went perfectly!!!
Much of the lows were also the highs because when there was something really sad, someone came in and intervened. That was the lesson of the day. People need people, and we are the vessel through which love can flow. The darkness and sadness I felt earlier in the day was renewed with hope through the encouragement and community I shared with this amazing team. What a great last night in Gulu.