Wednesday, December 15, 2010
What comes to mind when you think of your average teenage girl? Maybe a girl consumed by her social media devices: texting, facebooking, etc. In fact, the average teenage American girl sends 1,500 texts per month! Or maybe it’s a girl busy with after school activities, shopping, and watching Gossip Girl in the evening. However, the American perceptions of teenage girls do not hold up with the girls at Purse of Hope: these are not your typical teenage girls!
The Purse of Hope girls in Bwaise are out of school on break until their next term starts in February. Of course, many would think, a house of 11 teenage girls on break from school would mean: sleeping, eating, maybe arguing with each other, and lounging around. This is not the case!
The girls have been spending each day with purpose and discipline. They wake up early in the morning for devotion time with each other and then spend several hours cooking, cleaning, and accomplishing their daily chores. During the day, they are focused on learning new skills such as: bead making, hairdressing, and improving in their studies to prepare for their next term. The girls also decided to have a daily-designated time to pray and worship together. This devotion time was entirely the initiative of the girls! Everyday, faithfully at noon, they gather on the roof to pray and sing and thank God for His provision in their lives. It’s incredible to see how faithful these girls are with the opportunity they have been given, and how incredibly disciplined they are in working towards their future dreams and goals.
In the midst of their hard work and time-off they are finding time to be girls: to play, to sing, to dance, and laugh together. Purse of Hope’s mission is: "To give children the chance to be children.” We are seeing that happen daily. We are seeing a youthfulness, a child-like awe, we are seeing them dream, and love and trust. We are seeing these girls thrive in an environment that is safe, structured, and loving.
-Kati Martin (Purse of Hope Volunteer)
Monday, December 6, 2010
The Turkey Hunt. Instead of driving to the nearest grocery store and picking up a nice frozen turkey, our girls went on a “Turkey Hunt.” They walked to town to find out if anyone was raising turkeys. Once they found a nice big one, they negotiated a price, paid the owner, tied it up, and brought it home. Here it roamed around the compound and was fed some last minute food to fatten it up. Early the next morning, Joyce, our catering expert, killed the turkey, gutted it, seasoned it, and began cooking it over a charcoal stove.
The Décor. Juliet and Scoiva were determined to find a Christmas tree to decorate the house. Using their creativity, they bound together branches of pine trees and decorated the tree with flowers from the garden and toilet paper to look like snow! Autnie Susan played DJ and kept the house bumping with Christmas tunes.
The “Aunties” and “Uncles” of Purse of Hope joined the celebrations in the early afternoon. Uncle Sean taught the girls how to cook garlic mash potatoes and it was a huge hit! Other guests brought stuffing, fruit salad, sweet potato casserole, and delicious desserts.
The night ended with LOTS of singing, dancing, and tons of appreciation. Personally, I’ve never experienced a better Thanksgiving or a group of teenage girls who are more thankful than the Purse of Hope girls.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Meet Favor, one of our girls living in the Bwaise Center. She's a bubbly, fun-loving, and talented, young lady. Though she's new to the home, she already been chosen to lead the group in choir practice and dance classes. She's showing some great leadership potential.
This week she shared a song she recently composed. Her voice is beautiful and the lyrics are amazing. She wrote the original lyrics in Luganda, her native language, but translated the song into English so we could share it with you. Life has not been easy for 14-year-old Favor, but the worship and joy that she exhibits are such a testament to the transformation we're seeing in her life.
Jesus you’re prefect
You’re what the earth yearns for
Flowers and animals praise you
Who am I not to praise you?
Because you’re the one I’m yearning for
When I’m tired and where I’m going is hopeless
I will call your name
Which is better than all names
And it gives me way
Monday, October 11, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Katie Martin, Purse of Hope's awesome new volunteer, has been in Uganda for almost 2 weeks now. We're excited to share with you a glimpse of her life here...
“I'm bubbling over with all of the incredible things that have gone on in just 10 days of life in Uganda, and yet so little time to stop and share about it. 10 days has felt like 2 months. I am honestly incredibly humbled to be here doing this work. It's hard to articulate the sense of OVERWHELMING joy that I have when I'm at the house with the girls. There is no other place I want to be when I'm there with them.
I must share a story about Beth.... I went over to visit the girls this evening (today is Sunday), and it was yet ANOTHER adventure on the Boda ride there, today was my first Boda ride post rain storm. Bwaise had a rain storm today, which means the dirt roads are muddy and puddle filled. So, that translated to my sandal wearing feet getting splattered with mud....which is honestly NBD (no big deal)...I was more concerned about the huge man holes of murky water we were navigating our way through in the midst of INSANE traffic.
I arrived (safely...phew) at the Purse of Hope house to the usual incredible greeting from the girls, they were standing at the gate ready to hug and greet me. I showed them my muddy feet and they all felt so sorry that I had gotten muddy....one of them said, "Auntie Katie (they call me Auntie :)), it is a huge sign of love that you would make the journey in the rain." That melted my heart. I stopped and just felt blown away at the continual thankfulness and gratefulness these girls show.
Then......Beth. As soon as Beth saw my muddy feet she grabbed my hand and walked me straight to the bathroom. She insisted on cleaning my feet for me. I tried to help and SHE WOULD NOT LET ME, so I surrendered, and sat there in total awe at this beautiful beautiful girl tending to me, cleaning and washing my feet, and just had to let myself receive the love she was lavishing upon me. It was such a beautiful moment, but also a moment of feeling helpless in letting her tend to me. I wanted to be the one washing HER feet. It is my heart to be the one serving these girls and loving them. And yet in that moment I felt humbled....and knew....as I've been seeing in these past 10 days, God is using these girls in my life far more than I will be used in theirs. They are teaching me how to love, how to trust, how to have incredible faith, how to be free.
I've heard a lot of people say, "I need Africa more than Africa needs me" and tonight that rang true more than ever. These girls are among some of the most courageous I have ever met. They are embracing their second chance at childhood with all that they have. They are dreaming and they are taking that scary step of letting themselves love and be loved. These courageous and beautiful girls have the fingerprint of God smudged all over them :).”
The girls are incredibly bright and we are already able to see visible improvements during each tutoring session, as they gain more confidence and increase their depth of knowledge! In this video, you are able to see just how hard our girls have been working!
Thank you Stefanie Bammer for facilitating the tutoring program and making this cute video!
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Purse of Hope's tailoring program has been going steady for over one month. The girls are super excited about this new opportunity and are dreaming big about the future. In this video, Barbara shares her thoughts on tailoring as well as her beautiful dream of helping other girls.
This week I was able to see the girls' work. They're already making duvet covers and pillow cases. Their work is amazing!
Two of our bright and talented ladies are now employed! Joyce and Allen interviewed with an incredible organization, Sseko Designs, and got the job! We’re so proud of them. Sseko employs women to make beautiful and unique sandals that are sold in the US. Our girls are 2 of 14 women working at Sseko making these awesome shoes.
Allen and Joyce now have a steady income and are able to support themselves and their children. Julie and Cameron, the two amazing women working with Sseko in Kampala, shared that they are incredibly impressed with our girls. Allen and Joyce are producing more sandals a week than expected and are even showing leadership potential! They arrive early and are two of the hardest workers. Thanks to our tailoring program, Allen and Joyce came prepared with the skills needed to sew the sandal straps. They’ve also worked hard to learn the other skills that are needed to make the shoes.
When I visited their center, I found the girls with huge smiles on their faces. They even spoke confidently in English (which was a weakness before they began working at Sseko).
Confident, empowered, and employed, Joyce and Allen are now an inspiration and encouragement to the other girls at the Bwaise drop-in center. They still come to the center each day, participate in activities, and share what they’re learning. Robinah, our Project Director, is helping the girls set up bank accounts so they can save and budget their money.
If you want to learn more about Sseko, you can visit their website at http://www.ssekodesigns.com/ Here you can also purchase shoes that will support Joyce, Allen, and the 12 other beautiful women working at Sseko.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sorry about the ridiculous amount of background noise. If there's a quiet place in Kampala, we've clearly yet to find it! I reference the Skype call in this video. If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to scroll down and watch it. I promise it will make you smile.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Welcomes Katie Martin to the team tomorrow! Katie, compelled by compassion, has selflessly left her comfortable life in San Fransico to volunteer for Purse of Hope for the next 9 months.
To begin, she'll be volunteering in Bwaise facilitating English classes, strengthening and expanding the bead-making program, and working one-on-one with the girls. She'll also play a key role in sharing the stories of the beautiful things happening in Bwaise with all of Purse of Hope's friends and supporters.
Katie has a big heart and is excited to love, listen, and learn. After a few months, we hope to bring her to Gulu to share her gifts and talents with the girls in the Total Impact Home.
Thank you Katie!
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
This week 6 of the girls in the Total Impact House (along with their mentor, Auntie Susan) asked us if they could get baptized on Saturday. Our answer, of course, was YES!
The last 2 months have been an extremely beautiful time of spiritual and personal growth in the lives of these girls. They are hungry for the word of God, eager to prayer, and constantly singing songs of worship. They wake up at 5am every morning to pray and worship. They sing songs proclaiming, "When I remember what the Lord has done I will never go back anymore." They pray for one another and gather around their bibles after school.
This week I asked Beatrice how she was doing. She told me with a huge smile on her face, "My life has been difficult, I've gone through many struggles, but I know that God brought me to Purse of Hope because he has a good plan for me."
Just a few months ago Beatrice wanted to give up. She was feeling discouraged because at age 17, she is only in 7th grade. A few weeks ago things began to change. She began studying diligently and made a deal with the mentors to speak only in English so she could improve. She then began sharing her dream of becoming a nurse and volunteered to be the “House Nurse,” taking care of all her sisters in the house when they fell ill. She’s now dreaming even bigger. Instead of a nurse, she now dreams of becoming a doctor.
It’s amazing what God is doing in the lives of these girls and it’s a testimony to all involved that God really does work miracles.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Pauline, one of our stellar girls in Bwaise, was recently elected educational prefect at her school. It's Pauline's dream to become a lawyer. She even introduces herself as "Lawyer Pauline." She is brilliant, hardworking, and truly cares about others.
We met her English teacher and were able to find out more about her new and highly esteemed position as well as how he views her as a student. As educational prefect, Pauline is the class leader for education for her entire grade level. This means that she organizes debates and special programs, is responsible for all the classroom materials, helps students who are struggling, sets an example for others, arrives early to school, and even reminds teachers to be in class on time.
Her teacher shares in this video that Pauline is a student who truly cares about others is motivated to excel in school. Even before she was elected, he states that she was performing all the roles of the educational prefect without having the title. He admires that Pauline enjoys challenges, loves having big responsibilities, and is willing to take the time to help classmates who are struggling. With such a brilliant mind and amazing character, we believe that Pauline will succeed and one day become a lawyer!
Friday, September 3, 2010
"Yeah, of course you love me!" -Annet
As you've probably gathered from Annet's interview and other POH posts, there's a tremendous emphasis on education in Uganda. Without it, quite simply, children are doomed to a life of abject poverty, and in many cases, prostitution. Though I certainly believe that educating young women is paramount to their future success, it pales in comparison to them feeling truly loved and cared for.
What's beautiful is that they are feeling loved because we're sending them to school. To care about them is to care about their futures. Our girls are awed by such a generous outpouring of love and as we've stated many times before, they are now pouring that into others.
Annet wants to be a lawyer. I have no doubt that she will be a great one - not just because her school fees are currently being covered, but because she knows we’re rooting for her and hundreds of people want to see her succeed. With that kind of love and support she can conquer the world!
Personally, there is nothing that motivates me more than this. I hear many stories of insidious abuse and incomprehensible circumstances that would leave even the most stoic person burning for justice, and yes, each one makes me want to fight harder, yell louder and rally whomever will listen. But the true driving force that propels me to keep doing this is when I ask one of the girls, like Annet, "Do you know you are loved?" and I hear that emphatic YES! Love is what removed them from the insidious abuse and incomprehensible circumstances in the first place, and it is love, married with action, that will enable them to grow and heal.
I encourage you to please share Annet's story with others. It's giving her a voice and the power affect change.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Annet was born in Northern Uganda in 1993, six years after Joseph Kony formed The Lord’s Resistance Army to incite an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government. For well over twenty years the LRA has been responsible for pandemic devastation including murder, rape, abduction, mutilation, forcing children to participate in hostilities, and the sexual enslavement of women and children.
For us, it’s a sobering history lesson. For Annet, it’s been a living hell.
When she was young, her father was abducted from their home, leaving her mother and seven siblings to fend for themselves. Two other relatives were told they’d be spared if they killed others in the village. They did and were not. Her best friend was abducted at the age of nine. “One day we were playing,” Annett explained, “and the next day she was gone.” Annet tried to continue with her studies, but it was impossible when constantly having to flee from militant rebels. Her mother eventually sent her to a school many miles away, but shortly thereafter failed to pay the school fees. Annet was left to take care of herself. She fell prey to a life of prostitution at the age of 13.
Annet’s interview is divided into three short segments. In this, the first video, she describes how she and her family were affected by the LRA. In the second video, Annet unravels how she came to live on the streets. And in the final installment, she talks about life in the Total Impact House.
There are, among the POH girls, seemingly countless new achievements, and we want to share and celebrate them all. What we can’t do, however, as we continually move forward, is forget where it is they came from, what they have survived and what each of their harrowing stories can teach us. I am grateful for Annet’s willingness to grant us a glimpse of the incomprehensible.
She represents many. It is nearly impossible to find a Northern Ugandan not scarred, either physically or psychologically, by the war. The statistics vary, of course, but it’s been estimated that nearly one million Northern Ugandans have been driven from their homes because of the LRA. Over a quarter of a million have been murdered, and most sickeningly, thousands of the country’s most vulnerable, the children, have been turned into orphans, sex slaves, prostitutes, or killing machines.
POH’s mission is to provide aftercare to girls who have been trafficked and/or forced into the commercial sex industry. Part of that care includes giving the girls a voice and empowering them through their testimony. It’s my prayer that as Annet speaks, we will listen. Really listen.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The drop-in center in Bwaise is filled with strong, brave, and brilliant, young women who have been exploited time and time again. Each day they come to the center filled with hope and ready to work hard to learn the skills needed to rise above their situations.
Rita is one of these hopeful young women who recently graduated from the Purse of Hope hairdressing academy. Last week she went for an interview at a salon and got the job! She’s now able to make enough money to support herself and is working at a job that she absolutely loves. This beautiful story gives hope to the other girls still finishing their training that they too can graduate and find a job. Though she’s graduated, Rita is still a big part of the Purse of Hope family. She still visits the drop-in center to be with her sisters and is now able encourage them in their pursuit to find work.
Rita’s story can be an inspiration to us all. What these women desire is the opportunity to work and support themselves with dignity. We are blessed to have a chance to walk alongside them and support them as they gain the tools and skills needed to go out and pursue their dreams.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
During this holiday, the girls in the Total Impact Home are participating in internships with two amazing organizations in Gulu, Krochet kids (krochetkids.org) and 31 Bits (31bits.com).
These great, local organizations have been super supportive and offered internships for our girls while they have a few weeks off school. Here they will be learning useful skills such as crocheting and bead making, which our girls have been so excited about!
This is a great opportunity for the girls to get to know women who are empowered and making a living to support themselves and their families.
Thus far, we've been hearing amazing stories from the girls. They are so excited and encouraged! Not only have they learned how to make hats and beads, but they've also learned valuable life lessons from the awesome ladies at Krochet Kids and 31 Bits. The women have taught them the value of working hard, saving money, supporting their families, and going to school. Our girls are now asking us to help them find ways that they can earn money so they can save for University. How cool is that!?
It's a beautiful thing to see our girls interacting with the women of these two organizations. They have grown up in the same town, lived through the same war, and have faced many of the same trials. Our girls have now seen, first-hand, that's it's possible to rise above their past circumstances and become powerful agents of change in their community. The smiles on their faces, their growing love for one another, the worship that fills their home, and the stories from the these internships reveal that with each day, each program, and each prayer, the hope for the future our girls have is growing like wildfire.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The Tutoring Program at the Total Impact House is in full swing!! This month we are learning all about Grammar and really focusing on: Nouns, Pronouns, Verbs, Verb Tenses, Adjectives, Adverbs, Conjunctions, and Sentence Structure. For a fun activity, all of the girls are making Grammar Books, which they will be able to keep and use as a study aid for school. The girls are incredibly bright and we are already able to see visible improvements during each tutoring session, as they gain more confidence and increase their depth of knowledge. The girls at the Total Impact House are well on their way to becoming the world's next teachers, journalists, and lawyers!
Monday, August 9, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
I could hardly believe it when Robinah, on behalf of the girls, asked if she could allocate some of the Center’s funds for industrial cleaning supplies. “And shirts! We’ll have to have matching Purse of Hope shirts so everyone knows who we are!” This was the girls’ nonnegotiable, Robinah told me smiling, once they’d determined to go outside of their own tidy facility and start cleaning up the surrounding area. Knowing our budget allows very little wiggle room, the girls petitioned for wheel barrows and rubber gloves over new furniture and other necessities for the center.
How is such selflessness possible? The girls are becoming proud of who they are. They are eager to clean their streets because they no longer regard themselves as garbage.
My friend Nancy and her two grown daughters are flying to Uganda next week to spend seven days with the POH girls. We recently met to finalize a few of their travel plans. She asked if there was anything in particular the girls might need or want. So amazed was I by the girls’ request for cleaning supplies, I shared it with Nancy--knowing that seventy-five matching shirts, rubber gloves, and wheel barrows were probably not what she had in mind.
Nancy loved the idea and was as touched by it as I was. She and her daughters, five days before departure, held an impromptu charity dinner at a local pizza place. Donning their “mandatory” uniforms, Nancy, Sara and Jessie told family and friends they’d be working side-by-side the Purse of Hope girls to start cleaning up what’s arguably one of the most squalid, depressed slums in all of East Africa.
They invited their guests to help and ended up raising nearly three thousand dollars!
Three thousand dollars will purchase considerably more than cleaning supplies. The POH Center will also be receiving new beds, mattresses, linens, comfortable seating, finer beading supplies and more teaching materials. We are also pricing a new dining room table and chairs for the Total Impact House in Gulu.
Perhaps this doesn’t exactly parallel the Old Testament story of God appearing to King Solomon in a dream and offering, “Ask, and I will give it to you,” but I believe the principle is the same. He could ask for anything, Solomon, and what did he ask for? Glory? Riches? Longevity? Fame? No, he asked for wisdom so that he may better serve his people. Because his request was made out of humility and service, God did grant him wisdom--as well as wealth, honor, and victory over his enemies. The Purse of Hope girls also chose to forfeit “riches” in order to serve others. In doing so, they captured the hearts of a few fine folks in Illinois. They’ll soon be serving their community in addition to the added bonus of receiving several wonderful amenities for the Center.
Nancy, Sara and Jessie will be embarking on their adventure this Sunday, August 1st. They’ve agreed to document their trip entitled, “We 3 See Bwaise” so we may all celebrate the Purse of Hope milestones together--milestones that could not have happened without them!
Thank you, Ladies! We look forward to your reports.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Hi friends, My name is Stefanie Bammer and I am going to be interning in Gulu for Purse of Hope over the next 5 months. I am so excited and blessed for this amazing opportunity! While I will be taking part in various projects, my main focus will be on implementing a Play and Dance Therapy Program for the girls. After studying different forms of fine arts, we have found this type of therapy can be used as a healing tool to build self-esteem.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Hello friends of Purse of Hope! My name is Jordan Pappas and I’ve been volunteering in Gulu with the girls at the Total Impact House. In the last couple if weeks, we’ve talked about the importance of a girl’s education; we even had a debate to further explore the issue, and as one girl said, “When you educate a girl, you educate a nation!” Collectively, we decided to hold study sessions three times a week. We’ve been focusing on spelling, tenses, and correcting our common sentence mistakes. Today we are going to play a verbal game of charades to expand our ability to describe words with our burgeoning vocabulary. The girls are so amazingly motivated and hard working. World, get ready for your next lawyers, journalists, nurses and teachers!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Kelsey, we welcome you and look forward to the new energy and creativity you bring to Purse of Hope. I have every confidence that you will not only continue the work that has been started, but will begin to develop, in new and exciting ways, programs and projects that will further edify our girls. I thank you too for being willing to sacrifice air-conditioning in exchange for heart-conditioning. It is my hope that you’re not only empowered by the fruits of your labor, but are encouraged by all of us here—friends, family, Facebook fans, Twitter followers etc. You are an amazing woman and we look forward to sharing some of your experiences.
A sincere thank you to both of you.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
A Wonderful Tour Which I Had Never Had:
It was on the 6th of May our sisters from Gulu visited us. We were so happy on that day. We had never seen them with our eyes.
The next day we had a wonderful tour which enabled us to see great things. We visited Garden City, Nakumati super market - which was so big that we couldn't manage to walk around the whole super market. We also visited Uchumi super market where I saw orange fish which I had never seen and never knew existed. I also managed to see the tallest building in Kampala! I was so happy because I had never seen it before.
We also managed to visit the zoo in that we saw many animals, snakes, and birds, including crocodiles, zebra, a lion and lioness, big monkeys, hippos, and I also saw big snakes and birds - like crested crane, ostrich, and many others.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I love how these ladies are so grateful for little things - like going to a nice restaurant, trying ice cream, or riding an escalator. We so easily take things like this for granted.
Check out the You Tube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=corHkuf5Xlk
Monday, April 19, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
On the morning of the 18th, Ed and Ashley chartered a small plane to Gulu. In order to meet them there, Robinah took five of the Bwaise girls by bus the night before. This is what Robinah emailed me along with the pictures:
“In life we all have dreams we want to achieve, girls in Bwaise, their dreams were to travel in a bus and see a plane. Today their dreams came true when they went to Gulu Airstrip to send off Ed and Ashley as they were taking a plane. And in the same afternoon, they’ve traveled in a bus from Gulu to Bwaise. What were their dreams yesterday, are their realities today. It takes just a few minutes to change a life. Thank you Purse of Hope for making our dreams come true.” -Robinah
For the sake of perspective, the bus ride between cities is approximately six hours. The girls enthusiastically sat on a hot bus for twelve hours to realize their personal dreams of travel and to participate in Ed and Ashley’s farewell celebration.
To the girls in Bwaise, Gulu was a far away land still being ravaged by violence and atrocity. They were able to see for themselves how the North has experienced peace and is rebuilding after the twenty plus years of civil unrest. They also witnessed how their sisters at the Total Impact house are rebuilding their lives thanks to people like Ed, Ashley, and all of you supporting our mission.
During their stay in Gulu, Ed and Ashley toured several schools, the large market, local businesses and neighboring projects. We have comprehensive footage of both days activities which Blake will be sending back with a group next week.
You can be sure there will be plenty to follow!