Uganda's forgotten...

For almost 20 years now the people of Northern Uganda have been terrorized by a rebel group, the LRA, and ignored by their own government. Just under 2 million people are forced to live in camps seeking safety. Northwest Medical Teams provides a mobile medical clinic to as many of the camps as donations allows, I am here, April/May 2006, as a nurse helping to provide health care to these camps.

Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Mahatma Ghandi once said that “with every true friendship we build more firmly the foundation on which the peace of the whole world rests.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Acokora Camp in Apac District, northern Uganda. Children have only mangoes to eat until the crops produce in 3-4 weeks. These are the poorest of the poor.

Children standing among the huts of an IDP camp in northern Uganda.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Humanitarian aid and African Politics...
As I was traveling home, a flight attendant asked me about the logo on my shirt, Northwest Medical Teams International, and asked where I had been. Another passenger was standing there in the galley and we began to speak about all of the ills affecting multiple African nations at the present. Civil unrest and war, the HIV/AIDs epidemic, corruption at all levels of government, tremendous national debt, and so on. There are no easy answers for Uganda, and Africa as a whole. There is so much politics involved that hope and help for them seems bleak at best. I am thankful, though, to have seen with my own eyes, organizations that are making a positive impact upon the lives of common people there.
It can be argued, "What difference does it make in the long run, it's all a drop in the bucket." Yes, while that is true, it does directly help to relieve human suffering for some, even for just a while. I am a common person, and I will die a common person, but I was blessed to be born an American and have access to opportunity that billions in the world will never have. I have also been privy to multiple acts of kindness by strangers that made a lasting impact in my life. I have long since subscribed to the theory "pay it forward", if someone does something nice for you the best thank you that can be given is to pass it on by doing something nice for someone else.
Added to all of this, I am a Christian, and I believe unwaveringly, that it is my duty and privilege to use the gifts and talents that God has given me to help others. By looking at the example of Jesus' life and what He instructed His disciples' it shows that when you have a personal relationship with God your life focus changes from one that is self serving, to one that is outwardly focused and serving others. I shake my head at North American Christianity because it is a far cry from what the Bible teaches.
I am thankful for organizations such as Northwest Medical Teams International,, and the way they responsibly use the donations given them. I am also impressed by the work of Samaritan's Purse and have seen their positive impact in Uganda.
I love to quote Mother Teresa of Calcutta because no one can argue that she was completely selfless and lived the faith she believed in: "Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier."

Trying to spread love wherever I go, Brenda

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

At home in the States...

I have been home for less than twenty four hours, and I am still weary after a good night's sleep. The weather is absolutely gorgeous here and it feels like August in May!

There are piles of dirty laundry and a sundry of items that have been emptied out of my suitcases to be put away. I have already downloaded the pictures from my camera and have looked at each picture several times. It is hard to believe that I am so far away now. Life goes on here with hardly a care or knowledge of what other parts of the world are experiencing. I don't feel like seeing anyone right now, but my life here is trying to suck me back into the routine busyness.

I want time to reflect, time to digest, and time grieve all of the things I have seen. I miss the national staff that we worked with, their smiles and laughter were always so cheerful! I miss all of the new friends that remain there working for various humanitarian organizations, and as missionaries. What great people to associate with! I miss Uganda with all of its flaws, corruption, and frustrating bureaucracy. I miss the beauty of the countryside and its resilient people. I miss having such a simple purpose and direction.

I have more things than I had time to share while I was gone, so I will continue to blog for at least a few more days. You are welcome to email me at if you have any questions. B

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

La la land...

I am writing from the lovely home of my friend Tony, who lives in the suburbs of London. I am enroute to the U.S. and had to overnight here. I said goodbye to my team mates, Sally and Elaine at London Heathrow Airport, yesterday afternoon, after our eight and a half hour flight from Entebbe.

I chuckled to myself when the pilot shared with us what our flight path would be. He said, "After we fly over Uganda we will be flying over Sudan, Lybia, the Mediterranean Sea..." I thought to myself that in the event of an emergency landing, I would rather go into the sea than to land in either Sudan or Lybia. It was amazing flying over the Sahara desert, it streched on and on, a vast wasteland for hours.

I feel as though I am in La la land, because I am still not in my reality. I am not at home and I am no longer in the field. It is nice, however, to be in a clean place. Tony's place has a delightful garden in the back and this morning I was awakened by the chirping of birds, not honking of horns, voices yelling, and bicycle bells ringing.

I will catch the last leg of my flight this afternoon and finally be home!

Looking forward to Home Sweet Home, Brenda

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Packing up, saying goodbye...

It is Saturday and I am spending the day with different friends and saying goodbye. We will leave for Kampala in the morning for our early morning flight on Monday. I want to share a few more things when I get home, but it will be a few days before I can do so.

I continue to meet new friends, so many foreigners here working for different NGO's (non governmental organizations/humanitarian organizations). Had a long conversation with Klaudia, from Austria at breakfast. And she shared some of her experiences of last October when 3 different NGO's were ambushed while she was in the same area.

Before I forget, please pray for my friend, Matt, who is from Samaritan's Purse. He had about 15 of us over a few nights ago and we watched the Chronicles of Narnia at his house and ate popcorn. Matt just went to Ethiopia yesterday on business with SP and there were at least 8 bombings in the capitol. I pray that he is safe, he is to be there the rest of this week.

Thank you for all your kind emails, thoughtful words, and your prayers. They have meant a lot to me. I will blog again as soon as I make it home.

On my way home, Brenda

Friday, May 12, 2006

National Holiday, again...!

So, guess what?! Yesterday morning, as we were at the office preparing to leave for Abia Camp, some of the staff were reading the newspaper, and on the front page it stated that today, Friday, would be a National Holiday. And for what reason is this?! Because President Museveni is being sworn in, after a joke of an election and twenty years of dictatorship. Oh, did I say that aloud? Because, the world is not supposed to know. Anyway, we could not go to Obim Camp today to serve the people of Northern Uganda, because the President and his followers wanted to celebrate a ficticious victory in a rigged election.

Our work in the camps came to an abrupt end yesterday, as we will leave for Kampala on Sunday to catch our flights home on Monday. The time here has flown by with an added element of a busy social life in the evenings and on weekends with missionary friends we have made. It has been a full trip filled with many wonderful memories, but I know that it will be a difficult reentry into my life at home. I am dreading that part. Every trip I make it seems to get a bit harder. We have it so easy in the States, yet it is a country rife with whining and complaining. Very few are content and feel blessed for what they have, every one is obsessed with the want for MORE.

Today I spent the day walking through the market with Sally looking for material. All of the people working there in the little shops and stalls live on less than $100 a month, and reside in tiny little houses with no electricity, no running water, and cook over charcoal fires.

In the afternoon I went with my friend, Marcel, and a couple of Ugandan ladies to deliver food to two families that House of Grace Orphanage is helping to feed. One family was a family of 4 children, the oldest a boy 16 years old, living in a tiny hut with a mud floor. The other was a family of 7 living in a tiny two room house with no plumbing whatsoever. This is here in Lira Town, not out in the camps. It was a good experience to see what this ministry is doing to impact the lives of people here.

Feeling blessed and ashamed at my consumeristic lifestyle, and praying that I will not forget what I have seen and experienced.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Local Practices...

I am now counting down less than a week until I am home, and I am ready. Working in the camps is emotionally and physically draining. It is overwhelming and seems so futile at times.
Today was we were at Alito Camp and I just shook my head as we drove in past the hordes of people lined up waiting our arrival, most of them mother's with small children.

A question that now comes up with every single infant brought in is: "Has there been local tonsillectomy or removal of false teeth?" In every village there is a "local healer", I do believe in the early days of missionaries they were called witch doctors. The people will take their feverish and very ill children to these people in the hopes that their practices will provide some relief.

The local healers believe that the white patches that form on a child's lower gums, where the incisors are located carry infection, so they will take a long fingernail and gouge out that area. The same is done at the back of the throat where they might see white patches, and once again they will gouge or scrape the tissue with a fingernail. As you can only imagine this is terribly painful and unsanitary, so what ends up happening is that these children then end up with a raging infection.

As if this isn't enough, sometimes, they will take a small snare made from wire, or a sharpened bicycle spoke and cut out the uvula. You know, the dangly thing at the back of your throat. Frequently when they do this the children will lose much blood and become severely aenemic, requiring hospitalization and blood transfusions. The parents don't believe that there is much blood loss as the children tend to swallow all of the blood.

It made me very angry when I first learned of these practices and the sheer terror these children must endure when this is happening to them. But then the realization hit that these people are desperate. They have had no access to health care, doctors, clinics, or hospitals. When their children are sick and even having febrile convulsions from malaria they are at their wits end. Why not try the local tonsillectomy, there are no other alternatives.

Most of the adults also have many small scars on their arms, chest, or legs. These are caused by being cut to release the pain or the infection. Once again, imagine in your lifetime having no one with any education or medication to treat you and you are in pain, you might just try anything.

Even though it at times is discouraging and seems futile, I am thankful to be able to help a few. It will take much more education and patience to see these practices disappear.

Thankful for the healthcare available to me in the States, Brenda

Things that I love about Uganda...

I came up with a list of things that are frustrating and things that I love about being here in Uganda. But I always like to end on a positive note so I will begin with:

Things that are frustrating or have to be endured in Uganda:
  • The overpowering and acrid smell of body odor.
  • Not having enough medications to treat all of the sick children brought to us.
  • Pesky flies that dive bomb into your mouth, eyes, and ears!
  • Government soldiers riding in the backs of small pickups (Toyota Hilux) with their large loaded weapons (AK 47's and bigger) pointed casually at all of the people, myself included!
  • Malaria, Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDs, STD's, Malnutrition, running rampant without treatment.
  • Powerful storms that disrupt our mobile clinic.
  • Small children forced by circumstance to carry heavy loads for miles.
  • Disabled people that do not have any type of mechanical aids to assist them.
  • Power outages at any time and frequently.
  • And many more...!

Things I love about East Africa...

  • The incredible storms with thunder and lightning from the safety of a porch.
  • The friendly people whose faces light up when they smile.
  • The flowering trees and bushes with bright colors.
  • The variety of fruit and vegetables.
  • The way the individual family gardens/crops are growing so nicely now. The maize is so tall with lots of sunflowers interspersed. There are beans, potatoes, greens, eggplant, and so much more.
  • The way the hills are so green now with all the rain.
  • New friends from all over the world here working in with different ministries and organizations.
  • That anything can and will be carried on a wooden wheel barrow or on a bicycle.
  • That the occupancy for most bicycles is 4, two adults and two children, 10 chickens, and a goat or two.
  • Going to the market is such an adventure with various smells, a plethora of colors, an endless variety of goods. The fish comes fresh in large baskets from Lake Kyoga not too far away. And there are seamstresses willing to make you a shirt or dress any style you want.
  • The chicken is so fresh at our restaurant that it arrives hanging upside down still blinking and breathing! Ha!
  • There is so much more that I love...

I only have a few more days here, and I notice that I am looking at everything intently, as though I am trying to make a deliberate and deep impression on my mind so that I won't forget a thing. My only regret is that I cannot fully share with you everything that I am seeing and experiencing, it is so beautiful and alive, and real! I will miss this place and these people.

But I do look forward to seeing the love of my life, soon, my dear husband of 19 years!

Blessings to you all, Brenda