Wow, what an incredible day! After a good night’s sleep we woke feeling refreshed ready to start a new day in Uganda! After meeting with our group for breakfast we loaded up the vans with stickers, balloons, and Frisbees and headed off to Family Spirit Orphanage, about one kilometer down the road. Family Spirit is an orphanage here in Masindi that caters to children whose lives have been affected by HIV whether it be themselves or family members. As our five vans pulled up to the orphanage, children rushed to the fence cheering and smiling, SO excited to see the Mzungus (term meaning ‘white person’ or ‘traveler’). As we got out of the vans nearly all 160 children living at the orphanage ran up to each of us, hugging us, smiling, and filled with joy. We toured the orphanage which was complete with dormitories, classrooms, and living facilities. The dormitories each had around 4 bunk beds which slept anywhere from 2-4 children on each mattress. They are in the process of building a brand new girl’s dormitory, showers, and toilets, which the children were excited and proud to show us. We got to spend the morning with them throwing Frisbees, blowing bubbles, and passing out LOTS of stickers! The children were also super excited to check out our sunglasses and wore them around the grounds feeling like “rockstars.” They loved our digital cameras. They wanted to get their picture taken, see pictures of themselves on the camera display, and especially loved taking tons of pictures of anything that came into their sight. To wrap up our visit at the orphanage, the children had prepared an amazing performance for us that included singing, dancing, and expressing their lives as orphans. It was awesome to see how hard they worked to put it all together, and the family dynamic amongst the children was very evident. It was truly amazing, and I think we were all humbled by not only their genuine appreciation for us coming to visit them but also their faith and overwhelming joy.
After leaving the orphanage we came back to the hotel for lunch before we headed to the permanent Masindi PMI site. Luckily, it was close to our hotel so we got to walk as a group down dirt roads through the natural environment of many Masindi residents. The sites were breathtaking, and I think we were all surprised by how lush and green the vegetation is here (which we discovered is attributable to it being the rainy season in Uganda). On our walk we passed a couple schools and houses where children waved and smiled as we passed. We even saw some goats and cows tied to trees in their front yards! When we got to the clinic we got an orientation by Michael O’Neal (Project Director-PMI Uganda) and were introduced to the permanent staff here. We learned some really interesting things from Michael about living in Uganda, for example: females in Uganda have an average of 7 children, 75% of the doctors in Uganda serve urban areas where only 20% of the residents live (leaving the other 80% of Ugandans with very few options for healthcare), and the average Ugandan makes less than $3 a day. It was amazing to see the difference PMI has made for the rural populations that need medical care. After hearing about the clinic we each got the opportunity to tour the facilities (which are amazing!) and see how things work here. The clinic included triage, inpatient, outpatient, emergency care, pharmacy, and many other up and coming projects on site. While the clinic is pretty incredible and open everyday, our job on this mission trip is to work in rural outreach clinics throughout Uganda. Tomorrow we get to work our first clinic day in Ntoma (about 40 minutes away from our hotel) and are so excited to work with patients and learn about the lives of people who have lived here forever.
- Carson Michalski and Lauren Wengerd
P.S. A shoutout before we go… HAPPY FIFTH YEAR ANNIVERSARY to Dr. and Mrs. Huffman, who are celebrating their anniversary by serving others (how cool)!