This is a post that I wrote for the Sole Hope blog about my year(+) of working in Uganda as their International Coordinator. There are still a lot of words to come as I prepare to say goodbye in just over a month. The words aren’t coming as easily these days – circling around in my head, leaving my mind and heart with little rest. However, the words will come. Until then, here’s a little piece of my time here over the past year. It’s been one of the biggest [if not the biggest] learning experiences of my life – one that I would not trade for anything. One that was full of heartache and trials, but so full of JOY & HOPE. Thank you to everyone who has followed my journey to Uganda, to those who have read the countless words written as I worked through what life looked like here. Here’s to the next journey, the next lesson, and the #nexttwofeet.
It has been over one full year since I stepped off the plane in Uganda as Sole Hope’s new International Coordinator. I had no idea what the coming year would look like, or even what my daily life would look like. It was everything & nothing like what I expected. So much has happened throughout this past year. Sole Hope Uganda almost looks like a completely different place. There were many milestones that I was able to be present for and a constant journey that I have had the honor of walking with Asher, Drü, and the rest of the Sole Hope Team. It is a year that has impacted my life more than any before & one that I have learned more through than I could have even imagined.
At the beginning of the year, the Sole Hope Outreach House was still relatively new & the Sole Hope Guest House was just starting to gain traction with local travellers, NGOs, and mission teams. We were small, but mighty – working hard each day towards the mission of #ZEROjiggers. As I settled into life on the ground in Uganda, I came to love this country even more. Days were long & hard, but there was so much joy in each and every day. The joy & HOPE allowed you to push through each hard moment and each long day, allowing you to come out the other side even more in awe of the Creator & his people.
In January, the outreach house had a capacity of 6 or 7 children. We had a pretty consistent turnover, however, the need was always greater than our capacity. At this point, we had a very limited number of staff assigned to the Outreach House and we all shared the duties and responsibilities that came along with caring for children & providing them and their caregivers with the proper education. We were able to bring in 1-2 families at a time & and we were so full of HOPE and joy for each family that walked through our gate. The Sole Hope Outreach House was created to address a need that crossed our path – and this small but busy house was making a way for us to met that need.
Fast-forward three months and through our partnership with Allume and the Weisburg Foundation, we were able to expand our Outreach House to have a total capacity of 12 children, as well as create an educational space where we were able to teach each child and caregiver the importance of hygiene, wearing proper shoes, & other preventative measures for remaining jigger free. We were slowly able to reach more people, meeting the needs of more families in the community and journeying with them towards #ZEROjiggers.
Before long, we knew that we needed to expand again. As people in the community became more aware of what Sole Hope was doing, we were receiving more and more referrals from local leaders and other community members. We were yet again always running over capacity, trying to meet what seemed like the never-ending need in front of us. In September, we were able to open the Sole Hope Outreach Clinic with a capacity of 30 children! It was a very exciting time for us as we were able to hire more staff to serve at the Outreach Clinic. It is so amazing to see our Ugandan employees serve the people of their country – one pair of feet at a time. While there will always be more feet to wash and jiggers to remove, we focus on the #nexttwofeet, serving each child and family with dignity & respect, working towards a life of #ZEROjiggers.
Since the beginning of 2014, Sole Hope has hired over 15 Sole Hope Uganda staff members and we are so excited by the team that has been built here. We couldn’t do so much of what we are able to now without these hardworking, genuine, caring souls who have come along Sole Hope, treating it as if it’s their own. It has been such a beautiful journey to witness.
Journeying alongside Sole Hope through all of these changes and progressions, all of the hard & fearful times, all the JOYFUL moments filled with HOPE. And those are the moments that keep propelling you forward. The problem of jiggers can at feel overwhelming, but then you focus on the next two feet – that one soul sitting in front of you, who you can serve with love and HOPE. In that, you are able to continue on, pushing forward into the next season of this journey.
I’ve included some of my favorite pictures and moments from throughout this last year. I loved capturing the little moments & big moments alike. This is a year I will never forget & will hold closely to my heart.
There are some exciting opportunities & plans for 2015 – and we cannot wait to share those with you and allow you to partner with us as we move forward into a new year full of possibilities. As for now, I leave you with a message of HOPE. A message that I don’t fully understand many times, but that I see lived out each day. I am so thankful for the people I work with, for the kiddos who giggle when I make a funny face at them, for a God that has plans so much bigger than my own. Our HOPE is anchored in him, and with that HOPE we move forward starting with the #nexttwofeet.