Volunteering at Ekisa: The Inside Scoop

Recently, we asked one of our wonderful volunteers, Ashley, to write a little bit about what it’s like for the volunteers…from their perspective. Here’s what she gave us: 

You can read FAQ’s forever and still not know exactly what you’re getting yourself into when you volunteer somewhere. Consider this your inside scoop on the daily happenings at Ekisa. If this blog doesn’t scare you off, then congratulations! You’re as crazy as the rest of us and will be quite welcome here.

Rise and shine! There are generally three types of people in the mornings: the Early Birds who get up around 6 or 7, the Average Joes who start their morning routines at 8, and then there’s me: I start the day by rolling out of bed at 8:35, grabbing the cleanest looking clothes off my bed and slapping together a PB&J before hitting the road. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the volunteer house to Ekisa, unless I’m in a hurry, in which case it takes 15, because it always seems to take longer when you’re in a hurry. Us volunteers usually walk to work together; a small parade of white girls causing no end of excitement for the children of Kimaka. Despite the fact that we walk up and down the same road at least four times a day, they still start shrieking, “Mzungu, byeeeeee!”, as soon as they see us coming. Newcomers may find them cute, but if you stop to greet one of these deceptively adorable little monsters (a term of endearment, of course), they will demand anything from money to sweeties to the water bottle you’re carrying; I’ve even had one ask me to buy her a house. Our best defense is to actively ignore them, though I’ll admit to plotting tactics to scare the little munchkins off the next time they grab my arms.

At Ekisa’s gate, we are greeted by the day guard, Simon, before nearly being toppled by the whirlwind that is Mweru. Morning classes are about to begin and the mamas are already herding children into the school room, so I hurry and dump my stuff in the office before heading for class. School begins with a greeting song, then Auntie Emily goes through the morning routine: How are you feeling today?, finding the date, reading a story, an activity like oral motor games, reading tricky words, or matching colors or opposites. Then we finish up with singing. “Wind the Bobbin Up” is a favorite for our kids so we end up singing it at least once a day, without fail. Let me tell you right now, you better get used to having random school songs stuck in your head for the next couple months, it’s inevitable, so the sooner you resign yourself to that fact the less likely you are to go postal on us when you wake up humming, “The snake is in the grass, the snake is in the grass, sssss ssss ssss sssss, the snake is in the grass… 

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Once morning meeting is over, we break off into smaller groups and do rotations between 5 or 6 school stations. Today I join Mama Zippy’s group and help her push Daniel, Isaac Little, Erisa, and Treasure in their wheelchairs. I love Zippy because she’s always making up funny little songs to sing for her group of kids. Plus, she’s not afraid to yell for me from across the house if she wants help with something. Sometimes it takes a while for the mamas to get comfortable enough to start ordering you around, but it makes me feel useful so I don’t get annoyed when I hear Zippy’s singsong voice calling “Auntie Ash-a-leyyyy!” the second I step into the office for some water. Instead, I laugh and go find out which child needs feeding or taken for nap. But back to the subject at hand: The rotations this morning are construction with blocks, lacing, chalkboard table, reading, train set, and sensory room. Since our group is made up of toddler boys in wheelchairs, we don’t get a whole lot of actual work done at the stations. I run a train up and down Isaac’s legs, chanting “Trains are chugging up the hill…” (see what I told you about school songs?) while Zippy hangs out with Daniel singing, “Danielaaaa, how many days make a week? 7 days make a week!” Every 10 minutes someone rings the bell and yells “SWITCH!!!!”, and we roll to the next station.

Next comes snack time: 30 minutes of milky drool and sticky pineapple fingers. This morning’s snack is milk and biscuits so I grab a bottle and attempt to wake Erisa for his snack. I swear, this kid could easily sleep through an apocalypse. I try the various methods of Erisa-waking: pinching his cheeks, raising his arms above his head and dropping them, tickling his feet, more cheek pinching. Finally, Mama Maggie hands me a glass of water and I sprinkle it on his face. He wakes with a start and I quickly shove the bottle in his mouth before he can settle back to sleep. By the time he finishes his bottle, still half asleep, it’s time for the second round of school.

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Second round is basically the same as the first, except instead of the greeting, date, etc., we go through the entire alphabet and other letter combinations in songs. Yes, all the way from, “A, A, Ants on my arm” to “Did you ever hear a bee buzz, ZZZZZZ, like this?” Only the older kids attend this session as all the babies and toddlers go either for baby yoga* (*note: no real sun salutations involved, so leave your yoga mat at home) or sensory play, depending on what day it is. This is also the time that we do morning one-on-one sessions. So while the kids are inside belting out, “The mixer in the bowl goes, Ah-Ah-Ah” (Emily is British…), another volunteer and I take Arafat and Josh down the street for sodas. Arafat picks his usual Orange Fanta and Joshy goes for Sprite. Josh downs his in about a minute flat and spends the rest of the time burping up a storm. Naturally, this sends Arafat into hysterics, causing him to keep spraying us with a geyser of Fanta and saliva. It’s not the worst thing you can get soaked in around here, so I just wipe it off on Arafat’s bandana and try to keep him from choking to death, laughing. Around noon we head back to Ekisa so the kids don’t miss lunch. 

After lunch the kids all nap – and I use the term nap very loosely as not much actual sleeping is done – until 3:00 and then have a snack before school, so we have plenty of time to kill. My favorite thing to do is head down to the pool to get my tan on for a couple hours. Today a couple of us girls have errands to run, so we catch bodas into town. Riding to town, I get a couple good mouthfuls of hair from the girl in front of me. Ponytails, people, not as effective as you think…buns are the way to go. Also, depending on your boda driver, you may experience a range of emotions; anywhere between, “Oh, that was a little bumpy” and “Please Lord, just let me die quickly when we crash!” Don’t be alarmed, no volunteers have ended up dead yet…at least that’s what they tell us. Once we get to town, we first stop at Biasara Supermarket (more like a corner store), then we waltz down to Flavours for chocolate croissants. The baked goods in this town are surprisingly abundant and delicious which is awesome but also terrible for someone with an inner fat kid and an anorexic budget, like me.

3:30 rolls around quicker than you expect and then it’s back down to Ekisa for afternoon session. Gracie comes running for cuddles and I scoop him up before realizing his diaper is sopping wet. A word of caution: cloth diapers are used here, so there will be leakage, just mentally prepare yourself for that now and you won’t be fazed when it happens. Now Paul is pulling on my arm and gesturing towards who-knows-what, so I follow him to see what he just NEEDS to show me this time. Turns out he’s collected a medicine cup full of bugs he wants me to admire. I feign admiration until he spills them and wants me to help him pick them up. Bugs don’t bother me, but half-dead wingless wriggly things don’t exactly inspire me to hold them. Leaving him to deal with his scattered insect corpses, I head back to the porch to snuggle little ones for a bit before afternoon one-on-one time. All the older kids swarm me asking over and over, “Auntie, who’s-a -going today?” They totally know who’s on one-on-ones every day, so I just say, “Not YOU”, until they stop asking.

Paul and Gideon have one-on-one this afternoon, so we send them to change into cleaner clothes. Paul is going to be covered in drool again within 10 minutes, but at least we can say they started out looking smart. Today we’re taking them to The Keep, so we call William to come pick us up. He’s a very safe boda driver so we like taking him when we’ve got the kids on board. The boys love riding bodas, especially when they get to sit up front. Sitting behind Paul is always a delight because you’re constantly getting hit with flying drool. Sorry, William. At The Keep, Gideon gets chocolate cake every time. The slices are huge but he just sits there calmly and methodically scooping up every bit. Paul loves milkshakes, but unless you’re prepared to deal with the aftermath of his insanely messy eating, I’d suggest you stick with something safer like chips. They’re used to our children and their messes here at The Keep, but we still try not to leave it looking like a chocolate monsoon just rolled through. After the boys finish their snacks, we call for William again and make our way back to Ekisa in time for the kid’s dinner.

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Unless you’re assigned to the joyous task of dinner duty, you’re free to head home around 5-5:30. At home, we start the evening rituals of making dinner (whoever gets to the stove fastest gets the good burner), bathing (whoever gets to the shower fastest gets the most warm water), and watching TV (whoever gets to the couch fastest…well, we always watch Gray’s Anatomy these days, so it doesn’t really matter). The night is never complete until someone starts yelling that there’s a cockroach, then the entire SWAT team is mobilized. How many girls does it take to kill a cockroach? Some nights it’s all 5 of us. Once the threat is terminated, we go back to whatever we dropped and continue where we left off. The TV party generally ends whenever the girl whose laptop we’re using decides she’s too tired to keep watching, then we all break for the night and rest up for the next day’s adventures. 

And there you have it: a typical day for an Ekisa volunteer. Some days are right crazy and some are rainy and boring, so we just snuggle up with a baby and watch movies. Just be ready for anything, plan to have your plans change, and don’t forget to bring chocolate to share!

Ekisa’s Third Birthday!

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Today, we turn three.

It is pretty crazy to look back over the last few years and all that has happened. We are extremely humbled and blessed as we remember and reminisce.

Our Birthday wish this year is to have people commit $3,000 dollars in monthly donations.

Right now, monthly support is our greatest need. There are many exciting things on the horizon as we look to expand Ekisa! But in order to do these things, we first must be able to be able to sustain our current operations.

Throughout the month of March, head over to www.ekisa.org/donate to sign up for weekly, monthly, or yearly donations! Monthly donations help our $11,000 dollar monthly budget be met! What does that money go to? In a month we provide shelter, food, and medical care for 20 children, employment for 45 ugandans, and offer community support to 35 families! If you have any donation or budget questions, please email info@ekisa.org

Thank you all for loving and supporting us over these last three years. We would not be here today without you! Below is a little photo montage of the last three years…

13 Stories from 2013: Amy’s Home

Nearly 3 years ago we accepted a little girl into Ekisa’s care. We were naive and, let’s be honest, still are a lot of the time. At the time we believed everything we were told, right off the bat. One of our first rookie mistakes.

The last 3 years have been a huge learning curve. We have slipped up, messed up, and picked ourselves up and tried again more times than I can count. Two years and three social workers later, we finally found Joseph and Diana, our rock star social workers who were the first to jump on board with our vision of seeing each one of our children in families. We identified our top 5 most complicated cases and put them to work. Amy was one of those cases. We had our suspicions we had been lied to, but had no proof except the common denominator: a man whose other referrals left us with a messy web of unnecessary lies. So, they started digging for the truth.

Evidence came up, confrontation caused fear, and Amy’s mom, Mariam, went off the grid. Up until this point Mariam’s story was she was just a neighbor, and was not related to Amy in any. For months all we did…all we could do, was pray. We had no intent to punish her for her lies. It was clear she had suffered enough with living with her choices. Finally, we managed to get her on the phone and convince her to just meet us in person. I know she was terrified, thinking we would bring the police. But the love she has for her daughter gave her the courage to meet us that day.

Mariam was lied to, like countless other mothers, and was told of a better life for her child. She, like so many others, was coerced into giving up her child and convinced that lying was the only way to get help. In her mind, like so many others, she truly thought it was for the best.

We share all of this with Mariam’s blessing. She wants others to know her story, so that they might learn from her story. Sadly, so many of these cases end up with the parents never seeing their child again.

Trafficked, adopted, transferred. Lost in the system.

We are in no way opposed to adoption or fostering. We believe adoption and foster care is necessary and beautiful, both internationally and domestically. We are opposed, however, to mothers being oppressed into thinking the western world can offer their child a better life.

Two months after that meeting with Mariam, Amy was resettled. Redemption is a beautiful thing. Forgiveness is freeing. Mariam, we love you and Amy, and we are so thankful for you and your courage.

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13 Stories from 2013: The Great Physician

Happy New Year! As we reflect over 2013, Erika, one of the two nurses at Ekisa, shares about what the Lord has taught her about being grateful.

When I worked at a major teaching hospital in the States, I remember a lot of my day was spent trying to make patients happy. If you have ever been in the hospital, even at home, you know there is a lot that’s just unpleasant about being there. You don’t have your own bed and sheets to sleep in. Nurses barge in, turn the lights on and take your vital signs at all hours. Doctors pop in for roughly 30 seconds a day and sometimes don’t even remember to tell you, the patient, what the plan is for your care. And don’t even get me started on the food. Maybe the goal of these unpleasantries is to motivate the patient to get better just so they can get out of that place.

I really felt like my patients had much to complain about, until I moved here.

Here at the local Children’s Hospital, I have truly learned just what my previous patients had to be thankful for. They don’t have any lumpy or hard mattresses here to complain about because as a parent, if your child is admitted, you sleep on the floor in a space about 2.5×5 feet. You do get to sleep with your own sheets, because otherwise you won’t have any to sleep on at all. As the parents, it’s expected that you hand wash those sheets each morning around 5:00 A.M. Nurses don’t “barge” in anywhere, most often you can find them shuffling their feet from one task to the next. There may or may not be power, so the lights bothering you at night isn’t likely to be a problem. There are no issues at all with the food tasting bad, because they don’t provide any. Parents need to arrange to go out and buy food, or walk back to their homes to cook so their child has food while recovering in the hospital.

Then, there are those times when you can’t find anyone around to help at all.

One night in October, Gideon had been admitted to that hospital related to his sickle cell disease. I had asked earlier that day how many nurses were working the night shift, and there was only one scheduled for over 40 sick children. And I used to complain about having 6 patients! I decided that since they were so shorthanded, the least I could do was go in that night to give Gideon his medicine. Which in turn would assure me that it would be given at the right time and in the right way, all while alleviating the one nurse of at least one patient for the night.

Emily Worrall decided to come with me that night, and we found the nurse who was working to make sure that she would be OK with me giving Gideon his medicine, and to also assure that we did not give him a double dose.

When we arrived at Gideon’s bedside, it was immediately obvious the he was not “OK.” Gideon’s head was turned, and neck stiff. His eyes were fixed to the left and he was unconscious. I tried, rather forcefully, to elicit a pain response from him. Still, there was nothing. I had only seen him a few hours before and he was very much awake and screaming in pain, so his current picture of health was very concerning. He then started to convulse and looked like he was having a partial seizure on his left side. From studying quite a bit lately about Sickle Cell Disease, and its complications, I began to really worry that Gideon was having a stroke.

All the while, the nurse was arguing about the medicine and dosages behind me. When I finally turned around and asked her where her supervisor was. We needed a doctor now, or at least a nurse with more experience with strokes than me in here now.

“Who is in charge tonight?”, I pressed. Her response, “I’m the only one here.”

It’s moments like that in this country that just make me feel completely helpless. We were two hours away from the nearest CT scanner. Even so, this late in the night, you are not even likely to find a decent doctor in all of Jinja that’s on call. Among the calmly covered frantic feelings that Emily and I were having in those moments, we made a game plan to head to Kampala and began to pray.

That night Gideon did not receive even half decent medical care compared to what I know exists in the States. We could not get the CT scan done for over 12 hours after this event took place. Our two-hour “ambulance” ride consisted of a basic vehicle, little to no medical supplies, and an adult cardiac trained nurse who had hardly any experience with stroke victims, and Jesus filling in simply where we could not be enough. There were so many prayers going up in that car, in Jinja, and even from some of you around the world who had already heard the news. And with those prayers, and the help of our amazing doctor in Kampala, Gideon recovered with no permanent damage from the mini-stroke he endured that night.

I have learned so much about what I have to be grateful for. I take so many things for granted. I thank God for bringing me here so that I could learn this lesson on gratefulness the hard way, honestly I think the hard was is the only way it seems I would be able to really learn it.

Most importantly, being here as Ekisa’s nurse has truly taught me that God is our Great Physician. I am consistently failed by the healthcare system here in Uganda, and I also lack the specialized knowledge and skills to care for these children myself. God alone can sustain them, and I have seen Him do it time and time again – even when everything I have been taught and seen told me they should not have survived another day.

I encourage you to think of these kids and families the next time you or one of your loved ones is in the hospital. Thank God for the unearned privileges you have and keep in mind that even though you may have decent healthcare where you are from, it is God who gives and sustains our lives each and every moment.

Erika and Gideon

Erika and Gideon

13 Stories from 2013: Abide

Today we want you to meet our friends at Abide Family Center. We are blessed to be partners with this amazing organization, and love their hearts. They have just been here on the ground since Summer 2013, and have already helped 49 children stay in their loving families, and out of orphanages. Yeah, they are rock stars. Read about Megan, co-founder of Abide, and her heart for reunification and prevention, and check out their amazing new promo video!

When I was twelve years old my aunt brought my cousin home from Russia. I still remember waiting at the airport for her, clutching my Welcome Home balloon, waiting to lay eyes on that baby girl from the referral picture.

Over the next few months, I witnessed a miracle that changed my life.  I saw a baby who had no one become the most beloved member of our family, a baby who was malnourished grow fat and chubby, a baby that was quiet and reserved become the life of the party. I saw a baby transform into a completely different person all because of consistent love and care. Most importantly, I saw a baby who didn’t share our blood or our DNA become a daughter, granddaughter, niece, and cousin.

It was transformation and lives being changed and healing from dark places and love winning over science.

I was enthralled and I wanted to see it again and again. So I hopped on a plane to Uganda to work at an orphanage, thinking i’d find that beauty again in adoptive couples arriving to pick up their children.

I did find that beauty again, only this time it was even greater, even more life changing, and I didn’t find it in a DC airport.

I found it in a little village an hour outside of town where a grandmother rocked her baby girl to sleep and sang her a silly song. The baby girl’s mother had died in childbirth and, unable to feed her, the grandmother had arranged for her to be brought to an orphanage. When she reached one year old the orphanage brought her back home.

When this baby came home I saw the same transformation and lives being change and healing from dark places and love winning. I saw a baby who had no one go back to be the beloved member of her family, a baby grow fat and chubby, a baby that was quiet and reserved coming out of her shell.

Once upon a time I thought that children in orphanages were orphans and that adoption was the answer to their need for family. Instead, what I discovered is that 4 out of 5 children in institutional care around the world have family who love them and have placed them into institutional care because of poverty.

Those kids don’t need adoption, they need someone to come alongside their families to support them so that they can go home.

Every child deserves a family, but what we might not know is that some of these children already have one. Helping children home to their biological families is one of the most beautiful things i’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. It is just as redemptive, and will give you goose bumps and make you cry with joy. It is as beautiful as adoption is, it’s just a little different.

Just like adoption, it can be messy and hard and sometimes it fails, but it’s so worth it. I’m learning each day that being in the business of making families is hard, but it’s so beautiful I can’t stop. I live for these moments when kids get to go home. When kids get their families back and learn what it means to belong, and families get their kids back and remember how it feels to be complete.

25k in 25 days update!

So far we have raised just over $17,000 dollars this year! AMAZING!

As we are going into the new year, the most needed thing for Ekisa right now is committed monthly supporters. We have grown SO much in 2013, and in order to continue to grow we need support coming in consistently each month!

So, if you are looking for a perfect present to give someone this Christmas, please consider donating monthly this year in their name. If you do so, we will send you a digital copy of the photo below to print and give!

www.ekisa.org/donate

for monthly options choose home sponsorship, from 5 dollars to 50!

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13 Stories from 2013: Volunteering at Ekisa

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While gearing up for our 13 stories in 2013 series, we asked Billy to share a bit about his experience volunteering at Ekisa. Billy has been with us for 4 months, and has been a complete blessing to the entire Ekisa family!

Four months ago when I stepped onto a plane bound for Africa, there were a million reasons why I was excited for the journey ahead, but there was one reason that stood out most.  More than anything, I wanted to come to Uganda to learn about love.  I wanted to learn what it looked like for people to love others so much that they’d move half way around the world to serve them, and I wanted to test, challenge, and stretch myself to love that much.

So I took off bound for Jinja, Uganda convinced that I was on my way to visit and learn from people I considered to be the “superheroes of Christianity.”  I’d done my fair share of research on the different ministries in the Jinja area and learned what could probably be considered a creepy amount about many of them.  I knew the names and stories of many missionaries here in Jinja before I even arrived, and I could probably think of several quotes from each of their blogs.

I came here awestruck at the opportunity to learn about love from these people that I considered experts on the subject.  In my mind, coming to Jinja to learn about love was akin to studying physics under Newton or art under Van Gogh. And I have learned so much from my “muzungu” friends here in Uganda.  Of course they’re not actually superheroes, but they are doing incredible things for the glory of God and the spread of the Gospel.

But there is another group of people here in Jinja that has taught me far more about love.

I think that I always expected to learn a lot from the kids at Ekisa.  I had never worked with children with special needs before, so I expected to learn a great deal about patience, caring, and compassion during my time at Ekisa.  Indeed, I’ve had lessons on those things in abundance, but love has been the main subject that they seem intent upon teaching me.

I’ve learned that love takes so many forms.  Love is a thousand hugs and kisses from Mweru, and it’s a right hook and a smile from Debra while roughhousing.  Love is drawing a smile out of Amy with only a couple words, and it’s Paul hanging off your leg seemingly 24-7.  Love is Zeke calling out “Billy gwange” (my Billy), and it’s Gideon awkwardly planting an unexpected kiss squarely on your lips.  Love is seeing Arafat’s smile when you walk in for “work” in the morning, and it’s Isaac Big asking for piggyback rides relentlessly.  Love is Rachel spontaneously asking for a hug and Zak puckering up and laying a 5 second long kiss on your forearm.   Love is a laugh from James and Josh’s smile while he says, “happy!”  Love is holding Fiona’s hand while taking a walk and tickling Isaac Little until his face lights up with a smile.  Love is Walter trying to sneak attack you from behind while wrestling, and it’s Sam wanting to be picked up constantly.  Love is Grace smiling and calling you “auntie” every time even though you’re an uncle, and it’s Misach playing his favorite game with you.  Love is holding a healthy baby Shifra when you’ve seen her too weak to even cry in the past, and it’s finally getting a smile out of Tasha.  Love is Dan rocking back and forth in your arms and baby yoga with Elijah. Love is seeing Erisa’s smile lighting up his face, getting a hug from Jamil when he gets home from school, and watching Jason go home to live with his family.

Ekisa means grace, and, truthfully, I’ve been graced by my time with these kids more than I could possibly express.  Each and every one of them is fearfully and wonderfully made by a God that doesn’t make mistakes, and each and every one of them have taught me some of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned.

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13 Stories from 2013: Graduation

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Destiny, putting on his Mom’s graduation cap!

This year at Ekisa we have been experimenting with how best to serve the families on our community care program via income generation activities. All through 2013 we tried and tried different options, and eventually landed on education.

Some good friends of ours over at Abide were using an amazing curriculum from our other good friends at Fount of Mercy to teach business and sustainability to families in need. So, like our friends, we decided to give it a go. We identified 6 amazing women in our community care program to pilot this project with us. Then, we searched for a new staff member with training in business management, and we found Mary. As our newly hired Micro-finance Director, Mary jumped right in to overviewing the curriculum and teaching these women! Over the next six weeks these women showed up early to class (this is a big deal in Uganda!) 3 days a week to learn the basic ins and outs of running a successful business.

Now, these women are gems. I could brag about them all day. They are some of the few who have set the bar high for parents of children with special needs in Uganda, simply because they see their children as perfect. These women are the strongest women I know, and I am a better person for just knowing them and their precious, perfect children.

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So, last Friday families gathered, diplomas were handed out, photos were taken in the one cap and gown we rented, cake was cut, and there was no shortage of joy and laughter. It was a celebration to remember!

I am excited to see how far each one of these women go, and we will keep you update in the new year with how they are doing with their newly founded businesses.

As 25k in 25 days is still going on (an update is coming tomorrow on where we are at!) now is a perfect time to donate! We are doing a partial grant for each one of our graduates, and it is quite a bit of money when you add all 6 of them up! Please read about Mama John below, one of the recent graduates, and if you feel so led go to www.ekisa.org/donate

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13 Stories from 2013: Shifra

There was urgency in Sam’s voice as he said, “Seriously Em, if we don’t bring this girl home she will die out here.”

100 Kilometers away from a hospital, on the other side of the country, with no family and a trail of abandoning caregivers, the future did not look bright for Shifra.

We had done sick. We had fattened babies up. No problem. We just had a mission: get this little one to Ekisa, and have her assessed by our network of doctors.

Despite everything we tried, little Shifra would not gain weight. She was a bare existence of herself.

Failure to thrive. Tuberculosis. Excessive brain damage. Seizure activity.

The labels built up around her, but she fought. And to be honest, I am not sure if I would have done the same in her case.

6 neurosurgeries, and 3 permanent shunts later Shifra is still fighting.

All of these things and more, Shifra is made in His image.

Nearly one year later, she fights on. Oh, what lessons we can learn from sweet Shifra.

Will you join us in prayer for this sweet girl, and that 2014 brings her strength and joy?

13 Stories from 2013: Eddy

Today we had four referrals of families to our community care program. That is usually how many we get in a few weeks, sometimes even a full month! It’s days like today that bring me to my knees with the overwhelming need for family support programs. It breaks my heart that some of these families turned to Ekisa thinking the only help for their children is to place them in an institution. More often than not, these are families are doing their best to take care of their children – and do so gladly. It is a blessing and honor to walk alongside these families, and assist them where we can.

Last week, I did some fieldwork with our lovely Genesis, a social worker for our community care families. This is something that is better left to the professionals, so I always get excited when I get to tag along for the day.

As we drove down the bumpy road, Genesis told me about her families in the community program, and the progress being made. Recently Ekisa has started building assistive therapy devices in the families homes, so the children who need it can have physiotherapy daily. This costs less than $40 dollars, and is made out of materials that are easily replaceable and affordable for repairs.

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Genesis and Eddy with the parallel bars Genesis built him.

I am not going to lie…when Genesis first told me about these parallel bars she made for $40 bucks, I had my doubts.  Curiosity got the best of me, and I told her to grab me the next time she was heading out to Eddy’s. When we arrived I was amazed at the progress Eddy had made. As long as I have known Eddy, he has walked on his tip toes. We found him walking on his parallel bars, flat footed and smiling! It had been one month since Genesis had placed the parallel bars, and they were proving so much more than their worth.

So as the families come, I hold tight to the simple truths that Eddy, and so many other families, have taught me. Life is messy. Family is messy. It’s hardly ever pretty on the surface. But relationships are what matters, and family is a foundation for each and every one of us. If we can keep those four children referred to us today with their families happy and healthy – all the stress and mess is worth it.

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Help Eddy and other’s like him this Christmas…click the photo below to donate!

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