Friday, September 21, 2012

The Closing Ceremonies: Part 1

Wow.  I've been back home for two weeks now.  I guess I should feel like I'm back to my old schedule by now, but I haven't quite gotten there yet.  It's been especially difficult transitioning from "African Time", where things move at their own pace and aren't rigidly scheduled, to "American Time", where things move so fast it's hard to keep up.  But I'm keeping my head above water, and I should be able to make it (; So I guess what I'm saying here is sorry for not posting about this earlier.

To pick up where my blog post from Uganda left off...   Our second and final shoe drop was amazing.  We got to deliver 200 pairs of shoes to Early Learning School, an orphanage and primary school in Entebbe, Uganda.  The kids there had an assembly for us, which included a speech from the Entebbe Minister for Education, a speech from the Entebbe Minister for Health, singing, dancing, and tongue twisters. The children all wanted to participate in the assembly somehow, and a couple of kids got pretty creative. Hence the tongue twisters.  After that came the chaos of giving out the shoes.  Because Dan and I didn't have an opportunity to organize the shoes properly before we got there, it ended up taking two hours to pass out the shoes, because it had to be done in a very specific way, given our resources.  In the end, there were some very moving moments, and all the kids are getting the shoes they need. Some of the ones we ordered weren't exactly the right size, but we've made arrangements with Bata, the shoe store we purchased the shoes from, top get each of the kids the sizes they need.  It was really amazing to see all the kids reactions, and even more so the reactions of the teachers.  All the teachers were very moved by the whole thing, and many of them outwardly cried. It was so touching!

If you haven't already seen the pictures please drop by the Facebook page and check them out.  They turned out absolutely amazing, and it helps to show what we were doing over there!

So, total, we gave out 250 pairs of shoes.  We gave 50 to a soccer ministry in Guru Guru, we gave 50 to a school in a village called Bulenga, and we gave 150 to Early Learning School in Entebbe.  However, as mentioned before, our original goal had been 365 pairs of shoes.  At the time when we were making commitments to buy shoes in Uganda, we hadn't acquired all of the money we needed to buy the total number of shoes. However, since then we have received more donations and find ourselves in a position to buy more shoes.  The question now is: do we use the money to buy more shoes for kids in Uganda, or do we donate to a charity like Soles for Souls? We'd love to hear some feedback from you guys, and if anyone has any other ideas, please let us know! Best way to communicate with us is on the Facebook page, facebook.com/ayearwithoutshoes

I can't wait to hear your feedback and your suggestions! I'll be posting again soon, as soon as we make a final decision about what to do with the money. Alright, goodbye for now!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

The First Shoe Drop... Kind of.

It's our seventh day in Uganda.  Yesterday, we came to a town called Gulu.  We're staying with a pastor named Ron Monyao, and his family.  They are undoubtedly the most loving and accepting family I've ever met.  I've only known them for a couple of days, and I already feel like they're my second family from Africa.  The family commnsists of Ron, his wife, whom we affectionately call Mama Joy, and his children: Esther, James, and Michelle.  All of them are so full of life, each in their own way, and it's so easy to fall in love with them.

Today we had our first shoe drop. At least, we thought we did, but the weather seemed to have other plans.  In Africa, the roads rarely consist of more than just packed dirt.  The dirt roads here are very different from dirt roads in the United States.  You see, in the U.S., the dirt roads are a specific type of gravel, hard packed and and made to endure.  In Africa, they're literally just dirt, which plant life has been cleared off of.  When it rains, the roads become even slipperier than ice during winter.  That said, I think you know where this story is going.  We wanted to do our first shoe drop in a small village in the bush called Guru Guru.  It's amazing how once you leave the major towns, it truly is the wilderness.   It began to rain early this morning, about an hour before we left.  We hired a driver who owned an SUV, and we packed several boxes of shoes into the back.  IT was three large boxes in the back, and ourselves in the seats.  It was myself, Dan, the pastor from the church in Guru Guru, the pastor's friend Sam, and our driver.  We left, and the weather continued to get worse.  It rained and rained, and the roads got worse.  Eventually, the roads were so bad that we slid sideways off the road so that half of our car was in the ditch.  There should be some pictures on the Facebook page soon.We slid off the road about 7 kilometers away from Guru Guru, which is about 4 and a half miles.  After pushing for a long time, several people came from villages in the area and tried to help us move the car.  It didn't worked.  After a while, Pastor Hibu ( the pastor from Guru Guru) decided to run to the town of Guru Guru and try to get some people to help us get the car out of the ditch.  After about 45 minutes, he returned with about 8 people from the Guru Guru. We tried for a total of 3 hours, and were unable to get the car out of the ditch.  After that time, the engine broke down, from the wheels spinning so much.  The guys there thought there was something wrong with the transmission because it had been worked so hard. After all this time, we realized that it was too far to carry the boxes of shoes for 4 and half miles, and we needed to get back to Gulu.  We ended up hiring some of the locals to take us back on their motorcycles, which are called botas.  Botas are a very common form of transportation in Uganda, and you can hire one to take you just about anywhere.  Many of the locals use them for their commute everyday.  Though we were muddy, soaked to the bone, and dead tired, we managed to make it home with only a couple of close calls on the botas.  We left the shoes with Pastor Hibu, and he took them on to Guru Guru.  The shoes arrived at the village ok, but we didn't.  I guess that's better than the other way around. All this to say, the first fifty pairs of shoes have been delivered, though we didn't get to witness it.  Either way, it was a great adventure, and I felt like it was a positive experience.  I'm so thankful for all the people who have been helping us while we're here in Uganda.  They've been so generous and kind, understanding and helpful, that I feel like I'm forever endebted to them.  Of course, they would insist it was the other way around.  They're so humble, and I'll truly miss them when I leave.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

GREETINGS FROM UGANDA!!!

The last six days have been amazing, filled with meeting amazing new people, and getting to see a whole new part of the world.  The people here are the kindest, most genuine people I've met.  I've had so many great conversations with people, and I'm constantly learning new things about the culture and history here.

Anyway, back to business matters: We've decided to take a slightly different approach to buying the shoes.  Instead of purchasing them all at once, we've decided to buy them in installments, as we need them for each of the shoe drops.  Our first drop is tomorrow, and I'm very excited.  We'll be going to a small village called Guru Guru, and we'll be delivering an athletic/ academic shoes, so that the kids can more easily go to school and also play soccer.

Sorry to sign with so little information, but that's all I have time for now.  I promise I'll tell you more when I can and I'll give you guys a complete story when I get back state side. But for now, good bye, and God bless!

-Keegan