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Journey to Uganda 2008


Highlights from emails sent from Uganda 2008

Hi Everybody,

As you probably already know, I started a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian charity called “Help Orphans And Widows” with Carol Dormann and Bonnie Longcor last year. I went to Uganda, Africa in 2007, and gave 4 European Toggenburg dairy goats to needy widows with 20 children among them.  This year, I am back in Uganda, giving 20 Anglo-Nubian dairy goats to needy widows.  They all live in mud huts with grass roofs. The Anglo-Nubians are native to Africa, and are hardier in the climate. They have “kids” about every 8 months, rather than once a year like the European goats, and have a much higher rate of twins and triplets. I couldn’t find them last year, but enlisted the aid of our Veterinarian, Dr. Opolot to buy them for us with only two month’s notice this year. He traveled all over Uganda, and had them waiting for me at his farm when I arrived. Dr. O has been a real humanitarian, and is doing all he can to help the widows. He will monitor the herds, and trade the papa goats around for superior blood lines.

Everything has been difficult to implement, but has then exceeded our greatest imagination. It turns out the Anglo-Nubians are being encouraged by the government and are scarce. Therefore, they are costing us twice as much, but our widows will have extremely good incomes within 3 years. They will have the largest Anglo-Nubian herd in the whole country of Uganda. I have told them they can sell only through Dr. Opolot so that they won’t be bothered by strangers, cheated in price, or have their herds stolen. Dr. O has said he will try for the very best market prices and won’t even charge a selling commission to the widows. He will be the Anglo-Nubian expert of the region. We are sending out Dr. Sam from Dr. O’s office every three months to monitor them. The Anglo-Nubians should not need as much care as the Toggenburgs did last year.

I arrived on Sunday, April 27th, and traveled the day-long trip to Soroti Town on Monday, April 28th. On the Tuesday, 29th, I went with Dr. O out to his farm. It is about 45 minutes each way – very rough roads of course. He has good-naturedly filled his barn with all the extra goats at night. They are kind of muddy and messy looking. However, I have told my widows that it was a choice of 10 clean goats or 20 dirty goats. The rain will wash them clean. He didn’t want us to wash them before taking them to the widows because they have been sprayed for ticks. I got to see the 4 Anglo-Nubian herd goats that we bought in December, 2007. Blackey and Whitey have each had twins. “Right Spot” has beautiful white triplets!  “Left Spot” is the youngest, and just being bred now. “Billy”, our buck, is taking care of them, as well as some of the 20 new arrivals that still needed services.

On Wednesday, April 30th, I gave a training session to the first 5 widows about garden seeds and goats.  Then I loaded them all into the van, and drove out to their remote villages (yes, I drove on the left side of the road!) with Interpreter David, and went to each of their homes. I cannot describe the terribly eroded foot paths that I navigated. I punctured a tire in two places – probably with a cassava branch.  Luckily, it didn’t go flat until after I got home.   When we drove under the plentiful mango trees, the roof rack of the vehicle would knock them loose. Mangos were rolling and bouncing down the front windshield. At our first stop, we picked 10 nice mangos from the roof rack. I told the widows that God loves them, and so do I, and I hugged each of them. They are lovely, dignified women placed in extreme poverty through no fault of their own. Several of them made a lasting impression on me. I remember Fransisca (such an exotic name) a tall, strong woman with 5 grandchildren. She told me all her sons and their wives have died of aids. She pointed to their graves at the edge of her compound. I loved sweet little smiling Joyce Mary with 7 children. A recent storm ripped off the top 1/3 of the roof of her hut, and she is living with other family members until she can get it fixed. Quiet Margaret, a 29 year old widow with 4 children, has no idea that she is stunningly beautiful.

On the way home, I visited Faith, the young widow who inspired our charity work. She didn’t know I was coming, and ran joyfully barefoot down the path to greet me with hugs, and an impromptu African dance accompanied by her laughter and “Yi-yi-yi” cheer. I told her I was so happy to see the difference in her. Two years ago when I first met her, she was so sad. Now, her Toggenburg dairy goat has twins, a male and female. The male twin has a handsome Cassanova” face and is bigger than his mama at 5 months! The female twin has the true white stripe facial markings of the Toggenburg, and should produce even more milk than her mother. The mama is 50% Toggenburg and the twins are 75%. The mama has so much milk, there has been plenty for her twin goats, and for Faith and her family. Each morning, they get two large pint sized cups of rich milk, and mix that with 4 large cups of water to equal cow’s milk. Her children love the milk, and are very willing to milk the goat. Faith reports that her family feels healthier since drinking the goat’s milk. While the Toggenburgs do give more milk than the Anglo-Nubians, they produce about half the babies. Anglo-Nubians are good dairy goats, and it will be interesting to see how much milk they produce.

Thursday, May 1st, I gave the first 5 widows their goats. They have 23 children among them. I took Faith along as my assistant. The widows were very interested in asking her how she has raised healthy goats, and about gardening questions. Although initially shy for about 5 seconds, Faith turned out to be very talkative! What a wonderful day! It was quite a sight to see the widows leading their goats home.

Friday, May 2nd, I didn’t give a training session for the second group of 5, because 4 of them attended the session for the first 5 on Wednesday.  They were so excited they couldn’t wait for theirs.  So I drove out to their villages and visited their homes.  The trails were even worse than those on Wednesday.  The 4-wheel-drive wouldn’t engage, but luckily, we got through the mud holes in the trails.  However, after driving to 5 homes on Wednesday and these 5 on Friday, I decided that the trails were just too difficult to navigate in the future, and I don’t want to try more simple forms of transportation (motorcycles or donkeys).  We stopped by and visited Widow Teddy, our Group Leader for the first 5.  She is an outstanding woman. I asked her if she would be Group Leader for all of the first 10, since they all know each other very well. She said she would. She gave me a beautiful rooster. I’ll have to ask my CPA Leroy if I have to declare it as income? Ha ha. My son and family don’t want a rooster crowing in their yard at 4:30 every morning, so I gave it to David, my Interpreter. He said it was delicious!

Saturday, May 3rd, was an enjoyable day.  I visited the 4 widows from last year.  Dr. Sam went along, and gave all goats oral pneumonia medicine and a shot for worms.  Precautionary, but they are considered exotics, and only Faith had made a usable goat shelter. Their Toggenburg dairy goats are doing very well. Faith’s goat had twins, a male and a female, and they are 5 months old. Male goat is bigger than the mama. Grandma Ruth Lucia’s goat also had a male. In a couple of months, Dr. Opolot is going to sell both those Toggenburg male goats (wherever he can find a buyer), and buy Anglo-Nubian papa goats (wherever he can find a seller) and get them back out to Faith’s group. The 4 Widows will eventually get their herds to be all Anglo-Nubian. They will get far more baby goats, and there is a ready market for them. So Faith’s group will be set up with papa goats. Hannah’s goat had a healthy baby girl. Alice’s goat lost the first baby, but it is expecting again. It was great to see the “First Four” again. Faith gave me a hen, the type with no feathers on its neck. We are keeping it at my son’s house, and it is happy to be here with the green grass and an armed guard.

As we were driving back on a narrow trail lined with trees and shrubs, Dr. Sam shut the back windows of the van. It was so hot, I asked why he did that? He said it was because of the sneks. I said, “SNEKS? WHAT KIND OF SNEKS???” He said, “They are called Green Mambas.” David and I quickly shut our front windows. Dr. Sam said they can jump from trees in through car windows, but are not poisonous. I thought, “Yeah, right”. (I later confirmed on the internet that they are extremely poisionous.)  I can tell you, it is REALLY HOT driving a non-air conditioned vehicle under the Equatorial sun with the windows up! I heard that they had a blizzard in Rapid City on the day before. That is hard to imagine.

Monday, May 4th, I gave the second group of 5 goats. It was one of the most difficult days of my life!  We told the pickup guy who was bringing the goats that we wanted to leave at 8:00 because of the heat. He drove out to Dr. Opolot’s farm early, but had a flat tire. Then when he got back to town, he had to find a spare tire. We didn’t leave town until 10:45 for the school where we had been meeting. It is summer vacation. However, when we arrived, there were hundreds of children dressed in green milling about. It was report card day! These kids were curious, and weren’t about to go home. It was an extremely stressful day.  One bright spot was watching Faith confidently talk to the women.  At one point, she would shout something, and they would cheer and clap and yell.  I asked David what she was saying.  He said she was telling them how good God is.  Now she is an evangelist!

We had the mama goat “Whitey” along with her three-week-old twins among the goats that were to be given out. (We had given mama goat “Blackie” and her twins to Group Leader, Teddy, on Thursday, May 1). The kids kept pressing around the goats, and the mama and babies would get separated. I caught one boy throwing rocks at the tiny twins, trying to chase them down the road. One of the other mama goats got loose twice and we chased her and caught her both times. After my experience last year with two of the Toggenburgs getting loose in Mbale while buying them, I wasn’t about to let anything happen to these goats before I gave them out. As soon as I gave each goat at the end of our session, I got a pic with the Widows and sent them on home. It would have been next to impossible to shoo the children away for a group picture. They just kept closing in on us.

The beautiful white Billy goat from our herd at Dr. Opolot’s farm was also brought along. We are having Group Leader Teddy keep it for the Widows to bring their mama goats for breeding. I’m attaching a pic of the Billy taking off for Teddy’s home. She managed to keep up with him as we watched him gallop away. All of the goats were so muddy, I hardly recognized them. However, the widows were thrilled to get the goats, even though they were muddy. We gave detailed instructions to detect when the mama goats will be receptive. I told them to bring a big stick when they bring the mama goats to our Billy goat, so they can beat off adventurous neighborhood papa goats. It will be a challenge for them, until they can raise their own Anglo-Nubian papa goats. When I got in the driver’s seat to drive home with Interpreter David, Dr. Sam, Faith, and two granddaughter helpers, the crowd of children burst out laughing to see a woman driver!  So, I honked and gave them a real show. We didn’t get home, hungry and tired, until 4:00 that day.

Tuesday, May 6th, I had a well-earned day off, as David paid a “boda boda” motorcycle guy to take him out to the site of the second set of 10 Widows. The guy ran out of Petrol, so David had to phone someone to bring them some. It had rained there, and they got really muddy. In spite of it, David arranged with the School Headmaster for us to meet there today, and it won’t be report card day! He visited all 10 Widows, and told them to meet with me there the next day. I told David he didn’t have to arrive early on Wednesday, as he didn’t get home until 7:00, just before dark.

Wednesday, May 7th, I decided to give the presentation about seeds and goats to all the 10 remaining widows at the second site.  I handed out the Folger’s coffee cans containing the packets of seeds that day, and also a couple more boxes of used clothing from my daughter-in-law.  This is a good plan, as all I will need to do tomorrow is train about goats, and hand out the goats.  My Missionary son went along, and gave a nice talk and prayer in their language.  I’m sure it was better than the rambling prayers and blessings I gave to previous groups.  Although sincere, I wasn’t trained nor prepared to represent the Lord as He deserves.  The used clothing was also a big hit.  The next day, we saw some familiar clothing on some of the children.  I didn’t go visit the homes of the second group of 10, and I know I will be missing a closeness I could have shared with them.  The trails are just too difficult to navigate.  It turns out that the 4-wheel drive didn’t work – it wasn’t just me.

Thursday, May 8th, I gave the last 10 goats to the widows.  We left Soroti around 10:00 AM with the little pickup full of goats following us.  In the cab on the floor were three little white triplets sleeping.  We had given Blackey and Whitie and their two sets of twins to the first group of 10 widows.  Two of those twins were males, and they will be used as the first herd papas, in addition to our adult papa goat “Billy” that had been out at Dr. Opolot’s farm since December.  Two of the white triplets are males.  Today, we will give “Right Spot” and her triplets to the woman chosen as the group leader.  I told Dr. Opolot he should buy another adult papa Billy goat to also put with the second group of 10 widows.  It sounds like a plan!  We chose “Mary” as the group leader.  I was impressed not only with her, but also her teenage son who had been taking notes the day before during our presentation.  I was gifted with two more chickens, one from Mary, and one from the lady who helped David find and select the 10 in this group.  I also received a bag of shelled peanuts (ground nuts) and a large bag of ripe mangos.  We had Faith along again, and she was a great little Assistant.  When we took her home for the last time, I paid her 15,000 UG Shillings for her work for us, and she was very surprised and grateful.  I also gave her some of my daughter-in-law’s clothing that we had selected for her. 

This last group of 10 widows told David that they thank God for our charity and the gift of the goats. They said that a big charity arranged to give them cows last year. The charity selected the needy widows, and trained them.  They later delivered the cows through a government official who kept some of them for himself, and gave the rest to people of his choice in other areas, probably not even widows. None of the selected widows received a cow. Sorry to say, this kind of story is fairly common in Africa. This is why we intend to always monitor the delivery of the goats ourselves.

I was glad that I pushed myself to go out every day that I could, and got done with the field work as soon as possible.  Electricity was off more than it was on, so I couldn’t do a lot about sending emails, download pictures and printing them, etc, at home.  We didn’t get rained on a single time during the days while we were out there, although it was rainy season.  The day after I was finished with field work, it started raining, and rained for several days after that. The garden seeds we gave will soon provide food for their families. The goats will provide milk within a few months, and income in a couple of years.  

Friday, May 9th, was my birthday!  I am grateful for my many blessings.  We ate a delicious lunch at the home of another Missionary family.  I got my usual afternoon nap, happy that the electricity was on and I could use the fan.  That evening, another Missionary family came to our place for a delicious supper.  We had a great time, and my daughter-in-law presented me with a birthday cake that had a picture of a goat on it!  I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a special birthday cake!  Electricity went out in the evening.  Baaaaaaa! 

Sunday, May 11th was Mother’s Day.  I woke up feeling like I was the mother of 110 children – plus two!  It was a wonderful feeling!  We went to Church, and then had lunch at the downtown café.  I had my usual delicious goat with rice. I also had my usual nap.  I found it was a good way to deal with the heat.

Monday, May 12th, I worked with David all morning.  We compiled data sheets and identified the women and goat tag numbers in the pictures.  We made pictoral notebooks for each of the Group Leaders groups of 10.  Then we made pictoral notebooks of all 20 plus last year’s 4 for David and for Dr. Opolot.  It was a challenge printing all those pictures as fast as possible when the electricity was on. For the past two days, we have had some electricity, and I’m happy for that!  I loved getting up just before dawn when the sky turns beautifully pink in the east. It silhouettes the dark trees in front of it. One of the trees to the east is a Dr. Seuss type tree with puffs of leaves on the end of long, thin branches. Dawn is the best time to check the screen doors for mosquitoes trying to leave the house. I spritz them with “Doom” spray. I hate them and their miserable, cheerful zig zag flights. I have read that malaria causes more misery to more people in the world than any other illness. It will be great when they can inoculate for it. For now, the malaria pills work well, but are expensive. The three chickens we kept reeeeally want in the house at night. I think the widow families kept them in with them.

Several people need to be commended for their help.  Dr. Opolot and Dr. Sam will oversee health maintenance of the goats, and trading of male goats to provide best genetics in herds. They will also find the best buyers for goats when the widows are ready to sell. It would be very difficult to make our project work without their humanitarian assistance.  They have been very reasonable in prices for their services.

David, our Interpreter, has been able to find the truly needy among a people who all would like a free dairy goat. This is one of the biggest problems for foreign charities. A local orphanage found that 90% of the children who applied weren’t even orphans.  Everyone is poor, and it is difficult to find those who are the poorest of the poor.  David has given us advice on customs and traditions, and was constantly interpreting by my side as I visit the widows. It turns out that some of the areas around here are served by charities, but not the Serere area south of Soroti. We are happy that David chose this area. He is familiar with the area, but also enlisted the aid of a local guide for each of the two groups of 10. It would be very difficult to make our project work without David’s involvement.

My Missionary Son and Daughter-in-law have encouraged and enabled us from the start. They give me free transportation, room and board. They have saved our Charity hundreds of dollars on each trip. My son and older grandchildren have come out into the field with me to assist in handling equipment, photography and goat wrangling. They have endured long, hot days without complaining, and made the trip more enjoyable. My daughter-in-law has had lunch waiting for us when we come home hungry and weary around 3:00. Our Charity work would be next to impossible if we were using public transportation, employees, and paying for room and board during our humble beginnings.

On my trip this year, I have been able to greatly revise my methods of training widow families and handing out goats. This will enable us to handle larger groups of widow families more efficiently, ensuring the goats go to the right widows. The value of the US dollar continues to shrink against the Uganda Shilling.  In 2006, it was 1,800 UG Sh to $1 US. In 2007, it was 1,700 UG Sh to $1 US. Now, it is approaching 1,600 UG Sh to $1 US, depending upon where we exchange. However, most items such as food and clothing are still such a bargain.

On the days I drove the big Mitsubishi to the first 10 widows’ homes, I don’t know how we made it through some of those trails. I drove to 5 homes each day, and each brief visit including the driving probably averaged an hour.  I couldn’t get the 4WD to engage, but just decided to grit my teeth and drive through difficult areas.  The man who helped David locate the first 10 widows was a taxi van driver named Steven. He was quite a backseat driver!   We came to a very wide, two foot deep rut running parallel down the middle of the road, and he yelled, “Stroddle eet”. I straddled it, and luckily, that worked. However, when we came to a 30 foot long mudhole with water standing in it, his advice was, “Go slow!” I grew up on a farm with dirt roads, and knew better. I yelled, “Hang on!’ and floor-boarded it. We made it through. I’ll always remember those two places on the trails. I was so glad that I visited the widows’ homes, as I learned a lot more about them. Their poverty is overwhelming. Every one of our widow families lives in a mud hut with grass roof in a remote area.  Most of them don’t read or write their native language, and have no way of contacting charities for assistance.


I shopped, rested and packed on Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Thursday, May 15th, we drove the day-long trip to the capital city of Kampala.  I was glad I slept soundly that night, as there would be little sleep during the next two days of flying home.  On Friday, we dropped my daughter-in-law off at a shopping center, and my son and 6 grandchildren and I went to Lucy, the necklace lady’s house.  That was probably the most frightening time of my entire trip.  Lucy lives in Kampala, in an undeveloped remote mountainous area accessed by steep dirt roads.  The transmission went out on the van as we were pointed downward on a steep road with a sharp turn ahead.  I don’t do well with heights, and the responsibility of my 6 grandchildren weighed heavily on me.  My son turned the steering wheel against the edge of the hillside, and called his faithful mechanic, whose name sounds like “Chewbacka”.  I threatened my son with great harm if he got out of the driver’s seat, because I couldn’t climb over there if we started rolling.  The mechanic soon came with helpers and a loaner car.  He was the same mechanic who rode the bus from Kampala to Soroti with a heavy “U” joint along, and fixed the van the previous week.  He was very inventive, and jacked up the van onto two large rocks.  The people of Uganda are very resourceful. 

It was great seeing Lucy, the necklace lady, again.  My 5 older grandchildren immediately sat and started making paper beads.  She is so helpful and patient, they love to visit her.  I got to visit her mother who was going back to the home village, but had stayed an extra day to meet me.  Lucy told me that she has 47 women from her home village making beads, and she helps them earn an income.  I purchased over 350 beautiful necklaces to give as gifts to people who donate.   I was very particular, and went through all the necklaces to choose the ones I wanted.  The last time I had some sent to me, the postage averaged $1 per necklace.  We were there nearly two hours.  It was very hot in her little brick workshop with the tin roof.   We drove back to the shopping center, found my daughter-in-law, and ate lunch.  Then, we all nine squeezed into the little compact car, and drove to the airport at Entebbe.  I got there 4 hours early, and that was fine with me.  My airplane left an hour late, because the printers weren’t working for the later people’s tickets.  We arrived an hour late Saturday morning in Amsterdam.  I didn’t mind, because I always schedule a long time between plane changes.   All my flights went well, and I arrived in Rapid City early Saturday afternoon (gained 9 hours on the trip home).  I was tired, but very happy that the trip was successful.        

Love from Karen Lantz, for “Help Orphans And Widows”