A few weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in a humanitarian mission to Uganda with Hope 4 Kids International. This was an incredible experience. Although this is referred to as “vacationing” with a purpose, I must say for me it was “educating” with a purpose. I had heard that there was poverty; many orphans; no clean water; government corruption; and few resources, but the vastness of it all was overwhelming. To manage the emotions meant only letting in a little bit of the reality at a time and diverting the focus to the hope and joy that fills these beautiful people.
When I decided to go on this mission I felt strongly that I needed to take something with me that would be meaningful to their lives. I knew that my life would be changed forever, but I wanted them to receive something as well. So, after having a wonderful visit with Pastor Wilber from True Vine Ministries in Tororo, Uganda – our destination – he suggested I teach the widows to make soap so they would have an industry to generate income. I was thrilled and up for the challenge. And there were challenges; gathering equipment and ingredients was difficult. I took a big black box with everything to assure their success. I also work in pounds and ounces; they work in grams and kilos. I use Fahrenheit; they use Celsius. But we worked through it.
The first session was at True Vine where 53 eager, hopeful, and excited women gathered. Working with an interpreter, we went through the process. Later in the day I assisted them while they made their first batch. I was impressed with the thought that these ladies had given to the project. They had set a goal of 200 bars per week, which they would take out into various market places. I could feel their sense of empowerment.
On we went to Smile Africa where a group of 24 ladies went through the process with me. In the background, hundreds of curious and ragged little Karamajong orphan children played and waited for their meal. Could a little soap making business make a difference in the lives of these forgotten people? Obviously it will take many projects, big and small. The big picture is daunting, but when you see the joy and hope in their faces just knowing that we care enough to come and acknowledge them; to do one project at a time – you know the efforts will be blessed and multiplied. They will be encouraged and strengthened.
So, now I am home and thinking about what I can do next. Now that I have seen, I cannot forget.