Today was another wonderful day. We all felt much better today - thank you for the prayers! I don't think anyone was sick at all today. We set out in the morning for another village that the First Lady has been working with. There is a women's co-op there that asked the First Lady for a corn mill. They were all having to travel very far to grind the corn, or else do it by hand, and it was taking a lot of time and energy, such that they could not sell the corn meal and profit from it. The First Lady gave them some requirements before buying it for them, such as they had to supply the generator, build a structure to hold the mill, and so on. They willingly met the requirements and proved to her that they were willing to work hard and make this work. So she gave them the mill some time ago. This trip was a follow-up for her to inspect the project and see how things were going. It was wonderful. These people have taken what was given them and have worked incredibly hard and gained much profit from it. The women in the community have been able to make several products with the mill and sell it to other villages for good profit that is being used to further develop their community.
After the inspection and the tour of their mill, we went up a hill to a presentation of sorts. The project with the mill was explained in detail, including how it works, some of the challenges, how it has already made a difference, and how it will continue to bless them in the future. They thanked the First Lady many times and gave glory and praise to their Almighty Father. Two women came up to give personal testimony to how this has helped them, and a group of women got up to sing and dance in their native style for us. It was a long but beautiful service. At the end, Vicki Wauterlek from our group got up and gave 3 gifts to them. The first was a watch, given to the woman heading up the co-op, signifying the fact that this is "the time" for these women to thrive. Then Vicki invited up one of the women from the co-op who had danced for us with her baby on her back. Remember the goat that the women's center gave to the First Lady yesterday to give to people who could benefit from it? On behalf of the First Lady and our team, Vicki presented it to this woman for her family and community. It was beautiful.
But the absolute best part was the last gift. Vicki talked about how the co-op has worked hard and benefited much, but how they are now facing the challenge of being able to publicize what they are doing and spread word and product to other villages. So on behalf of our team she gave A TRUCK to these woman to be able to spread their business. The women went wild. It was one of the most special moments of my life. Many of us were in tears. As soon as the translator said what Vicki had said, the women jumped to their feet and were cheering, clapping, waving their hands in the air...two women ran over and hugged Vicki...the whole thing was so emotional and beautiful. It is so clear that they are going to use this gift wisely and to benefit as many people as possible.
The other presentation we went to today was the official opening of a bank in one of the towns. In Uganda most banks are from outside the country and are not willing to work with the people. The amount of money required to open an account is too high for most and it just creates a lot of problems. The very first Ugandan bank has opened and they are starting to open branches across the country. This was one of those openings. We heard about how this bank will help people here and why this is going to benefit the communities. The First Lady did the offical ceremony of cutting the ribbon and we all walked through to see the bank and congratulate the people of the town. A school band played the National Anthem and it was really neat.
Tonight in our debriefing meeting we talked about something I had not considered before. It is sometimes difficult to imagine that our being here is helping these people. We are offering our encouragement and our love, and we are learning more than we could have dreamed. We have met amazing people and our whole views on how to help the people in this country have shifted. What they need and want is the ability and resources to help themselves. They do not want us to feed them, they want the mill to be able to feed themselves and everyone around them. They do not want us to send them clothes. They want us to help them learn to make and sell products so they can provide for their family through their own hard work and dedication. But what the First Lady told us today is that our being here and seeing all these sites where she has started projects helps in a way we hadn't considered. We've visited projects that have been started in the past and are moving forward now. And so what the First Lady said is that us being here is encouraging them in ways we can't imagine. We aren't the Americans here to fix them. We are here because word of their hard work and what they have done has travelled to the First Lady and is so incredible that we bothered to come and see it. Imagine that! They don't see us as here to fix their problems. They see us as here to witness how they are doing it, and to encourage and empower them to keep on doing that. It's beautiful. They don't want us to hand them things. They want us to hold their hands as they do it.
Thank you for your prayers. We are all falling in love with this country and with the people in it. They are amazing. So beautiful on the outside, but just STUNNING on the inside. Hugging the women and the children today after one of the meetings was wonderful. Not being able to communicate with words, but with smiles, tears of joy, and pats on the back....they know we care about them. We could see it in their eyes. And it was so clear to us that their gratitude and love was so genuine, so deep.
A quick note about photos...I've tried uploading some on several different occasions, but the internet connections are never fast enough. The only connection I had that could handle it was in Amsterdam. So I appologize for that - we wish you could be seeing our pictures while we are experiencing this. But when we all return I'm sure each one of us would be thrilled to share what we have, so please don't hesitate to ask us in person! We love you all and are grateful for your support!!