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Thursday, January 28, 2010

White Eagles excel in Primary Leaving Exams!

You are not going to believe this - when Emily (the White Eagle Director) found out she was so excited she didn't sleep all night! One of the major achievements for children in Uganda, and especially for the children we work with, is to complete your Primary Education by taking the PLE - Primary Leaving Examinations. For many of the White Eagles the despair of believing they were never going to be able to achieve something like that is still a not too distant memory... so when we get results like this we shout with joy from the rooftops!

Because let me tell you, we cannot BELIEVE how good the White Eagles' PLE results were this year. We had 7 lads and 1 girl doing the exam... Ivan, Daniel, Earnest, another Ivan, Joseph, Gerald, Hussein and Judith. And here are the results:

Both Ivans, Daniel, Earnest, Joseph and Gerald ALL passed in First Grade - that's a distinction in our language - with Big Ivan getting some of the BEST results in MAsaka District. C'mon! And Hussein and Judith both passing very very well in Second grade - that's a Merit!

We are so proud of them all, so so proud and although there are big congratulations in store for them, we've also got to thank our brilliant, dedicated, compassionate staff, who let's be honest don't have the easiest job in the world looking after 30 odd children and all the fruitiness that can bring - so here's a big shout out to Emily, Julius, Ronnah, John, Margaret, Kayima, Grace, and Tina - and a big welcome to Sarah who has just joined us!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sarah's Story - Episode 1!

Hellooooooo!!! I hope you are all well!!! I've been in Uganda almost a month now, so I have LOADS of stuff to tell you! (Warning: this post could be a bit long!) Here goes......

I had the most awesome welcome when I got here from the kids in the White Eagle Project, which involved loads of speeches, lots of cheering, and even being lifted up in the air above their heads!!! The girls had also prepared a whole load of welcome cards for me. So that was cool! (For those of you who don't know, the White Eagle Project consists of a boys' and a girls' home. There are about 30 kids who live in the two homes (and a few more who live with their families), aged from 11 months to about 19 years old - they are all vulnerable and underprivileged children (many are orphans) who are provided with physical, emotional and spiritual help.)

I'm staying in the girls' home, as a sort of House-Aunt. There are 7 girls, a baby boy, and another 2 Ugandan helpers who I'm living with. The home is nice, although some things are a bit different here... For example, I have bucket baths each day, and I had a little brown furry friend with a long tail visiting me every night for the first week. We managed to get rid of my rat room-mate, and a little lizard moved in (which I don't mind so much, as long as it doesn't crawl on me at night!). We also have an abundance of all things creepy crawly, and I regularly find cockroaches around the home, and there are ants everywhere! They don't have washing machines here either, so it's hand washing only... but all the staff pay someone to come and do their washing, which I think is a wonderful idea, so I'm doing that too! We have power cuts on an almost daily basis, so you have to seize any opportunity that arises to do your ironing, charge your phone, etc. The food here is quite basic and doesn't vary much - I have cabbage with either rice, potatoes, matoke (savoury green banana) or chips every single day for lunch and dinner. (The kids don't get chips - they make them specially for me because I can't have the beans that the kids have on those days because my stomach isn't strong enough - so I'm very lucky!) There's also occasionally a slice of pineapple or avocado, and sometimes the cabbage has other vegetables in with it. So life is somewhat different!!!

There was a team of Muzungus (that's what they call white people - wherever I go, little kids call out "Bye Mazungu!") here from England at the beginning of January, and we ran a week long children's holiday club, which attracted about 85 children each day. It was so much fun! We played games, did loads of art and craft, learnt action songs, did little talks, and generally had a fab time!

During that week, we visited a local orphanage called Nazareth Orphanage which the White Eagle Project kids support through doing practical things like entertaining kids, washing babies, cleaning floors, picking coffee beans, etc. I had visited it 15 months before when I was last here, and at that time there were two desperately ill babies, Babiyire and Josephine who were close to death. We took them to hospital and got them admitted, and then we came back to England (but with arrangements for River of Life to sponsor them so that they had enough food and medication).... Then when we visited the orphanage a couple of weeks ago, I saw them again....It was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO amazing to see them looking fat and well!!!! I couldn't believe they were the same babies! It was really special! At the end of the holiday club week, we went to Lake Nabugabu (a gorgeous lakeside place where we take the kids every so often for a day out - usually when people visit who can fund it!) with all the kids from the holiday club and all the church members, and I had the awesome privilege of baptising a whole load of people (including most of the girls from the girls' home) in the lake, John-the-Baptist-style!

Since the team of Muzungus left, I've been settling into life here in Masaka. The kids are all on school holidays until the end of January, so we all spend the day at the boys' home (where there's more room), and we follow a weekly timetable. The timetable involves loads of different activities - discussions, debates, indoor games, outdoor games, life skills talks, and small group discussions (each member of staff has 3 or 4 kids that they meet with and mentor on a regular basis). In between the scheduled activities, the kids just chill, and I chill with them, playing cards or chatting to them about their lives, school, etc. I've been given some specific things to lead, so for the last few weeks, I've been helping lead a Youth Group on Saturday afternoons, giving a "preach" to the kids on a Monday night during their fellowship time, leading a discussion time with the kids on a Tuesday morning, giving training to the staff on a Wednesday morning, and doing a dancing session with the kids on a Thursday. We have staff prayers every day at midday, which is really nice to help us focus on what we're here for. I've also been having Luganda lessons for an hour each afternooon (Mon-Thurs), although so far my progress is limited! I go to church on Sunday, which is absolutely amazing (especially the worship - you should see them all dancing!), and can last anything from 3 to 4 hours! Friday is my day off, and I've spent it at Bwala so far (at the house where the pastor and his wife live) just relaxing, watching DVD's, reading, praying, etc. - It's lovely to do nothing after a hectic week!

A week ago, another Mazungu arrived - a Dutch girl called Thirsa, who is staying in the girls' home with us. She's here for 6 months, and is really nice - we get on well, and it's great to have someone to talk to from a similar culture to mine! (Before I came, I was advised to pray for another white person that I would be able to be friends with, talk to and share with, so it's really cool that she's come within a couple of weeks of me arriving!)

Anyway, I'm sorry if this post is too long and takes you forever to read!!! It's just that I'm very excited, and really enjoying myself, and wanted to tell you all about it!!!

I hope that you are all well, and that you're not too cold over in chilly England (hee hee!!!).

Loads of love,


Sarah is originally from Manchester, UK, and is currently our Girls Home Aunty in the White Eagle Project. She's very kindly agreed to us publishing her newsletters on our blog to give a taste of life as a missionary at River of Life

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Join the 2010 Sponsorship Challenge!

Could you, or someone who know, provide sponsorship for one of the White Eagles?

This Christmas and New Year has marked the 10th Anniversary of the White Eagle Project, and what a ten years it has been! From the original 21 boys that we took off the street on Boxing Day 1999, we have grown to be helping 50 orphans and vulnerable children in Masaka, through our boys home, our girls home and where possible in their families. From 2010 to 2015, we want to significantly boost the number of children that we're helping.

Our vision at the White Eagle Project is to love and empower our children to excel in all areas of life so that they can grown up to be responsible and productive members of Uganda - which means we focus on quality education and quality mentoring, so that the White Eagles may become tomorrow's nation-changers - like Fred, Charles and even little Mercy!

Could you, or someone you know, help us help more children?

There are an estimated 2.3 million orphaned and vulnerable children in Uganda - we estimate 2,000 of them are on our doorstep in Nyendo. We know we can really help give these children a hope for the future - could you help it happen for Jonah, Mukisa, or Shadia?

If you would like to find out more about our Sponsorship Program, please send us an email by clicking here

Saturday, January 16, 2010

River of Life's 2010 Holiday Club - Building the Body of Christ!

On Jan 2nd, the fabulous team from St Bertelines in Runcorn touched down in Uganda. For the next 8 days they were to get stuck into all things River of Life, and in particular run a Holiday Club for the children of Nyendo. We were expecting maybe 50 children, but no-one quite knew what would happen come Monday morning... !

With Big Charles and Gerald managing registrations, we waited for the children to arrive... First there were 10, then 20, 25, 30... at this point I was thinking we should have got the word out a bit better! Then there was 50, 60, 70. Soon the Church was filled with over 90 'children' aged from 3 to 23 = plus the 10-strong team of staff and volunteers looking slightly alarmed.

But we rocked (if I may say so myself), and really set the scene for 2010 - River of Life is a church that exists for the community, for mission and to see peoples lives transformed. Themed 'The Body of Christ' we taught from Corinthians 12 about how everyone has a part to play in God's Plan, and everyone's part is important. With a drama skit designed and performed by the White Eagles, games, parachutes, balloons and teaching sessions, the holiday club was something that most of the children there would never have experienced before.

You can check out pictures of the week on our Flickr gallery. A special thank you to the team from St Berts!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A little piece of Runcorn comes to River of Life...

We were immensely blessed in the first week of January to welcome a team from St Bertelines Church and Primary School in Norton, near Runcorn (which is near Liverpool). Musumba John, the vicar, Julie, the headteacher, Nicki, Rob, Josh and Sarah Beaney were the A-Team, and their passion and commitment was wonderful to see! They had spent the autumn term fundraising for the White Eagles with their very own 'St Bert's Build a Bog' campaign, and were able to see/smell for themselves the pit latrines that the new washrooms will replace. They also brought with them a fine collection of football shirts (a lot of Liverpool shirts - so there'll no doubt be a few more fans singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' in the coming years), games, toys, and clothes to bless the children with.

But perhaps their single biggest contribution was themselves. They threw themselves into serving the children of Nyendo and Masaka with such energy. They ran a holiday club for about 90 children all week - children from Nazareth Children's Home, River of Life Sunday School including the White Eagles and a lot of local children. With art, crafts, games, parachutes, balls, balloons and all the rest they absolutely thrilled the children. Mzee Rob's 'Mary Poppins' bag deserves a special mention - but I'll leave the rest to put in this story...

Credit where credit's due - I'll give the last word to some of the staff who were so blessed to work with the team:
"They were generous givers to everyone - even if they were tired, they still gave of themselves fully and had the joy of the Lord all the time... they showed a lot of love to everyone - we can learn from this and ask God to give us more of His love!"

We hope very much that this will be the start of something very exciting as we build a link with St Bertelines!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lake Nabugabo Baptisms!

With 161 people crammed into the back of a lorry, van and 4x4, we started 2010 the best way possible - by baptising 40+ people at Lake Nabugabo. Generously funded by the St Berts Team, for the first time in YEARS we were able to offer the WHOLE church a celebration and party at Lake Nabugabo (normally we take just the White Eagles). And man, what a celebration it was! A feast like you'd never seen before, baptisms like you'd never seen before, games, fun, and for us Bazungu (white-people) sunburn - I was going to say like you'd never seen before but if you know me, you know how burnt I can get... Check out all the pictures from this very very special day on our Flickr Gallery - click here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Girls get a new Aunty!

On a snowy, cold and slightly nerve-wracking morning just after Christmas, the wonderful Sarah put the final things into her suitcases, not quite believing that everything she was going to use for the next 12 months (at least) was tightly packed into the two bags in front of her.

Sarah was about to start a journey she'd started planning only a few months earlier - prompted by prayer, prophesy and a deep conviction of God's call on her life, she'd given up her job as a Physio, said her goodbyes to her family and friends, packed up her flat, undergone cross-cultural mission training, had many planning sessions with us, and booked her flights - she was ready to become the Girls Home Aunty.

Touching down in Uganda in time for a New Years Eve she never experienced before (all night prayer meeting anyone?!) Sarah has flung herself/been flung headlong into serving the poor of Nyendo. She's our Girls Home Aunty, responsible for the White Eagle Girls, our deputy-Manager, responsible with Emily and Julius for the smooth running of the project and is involved in our Hospital Ministry and Youth Club. She got a pretty enthusiastic welcome from the staff and White Eagles too!

You'll be hearing plenty more about Sarah on this blog...! For now, we wish her all the best and we're so excited about what God is going to do in her life, and in others' lives through her. Amiina!