The following articles were written by our St Kizito's Ministry Leads - Jasmin Walker and Chuck Salter.
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”
Approximately 14 years ago a relationship was established between Our Lady of Good Counsel and St. Kizito parish when then Dcn. Donald Leach and Parish Council President, Bill Tulloch traveled to the slums of Kampala, Uganda. This relationship was encouraged by OLGC’s former and beloved pastor, Fr. John Riccardo. Africa was the fastest growing catholic community, and OLGC and Fr. John felt the call to participate in this growth. Since the inception of this partnership, a 3 story medical clinic has been built and a school sponsorship program has emerged and many more accomplishments have been made both big and small.
In 2013, with generous parish support, a one story medical clinic was built and basic medical services were offered for a nominal price or free of charge. Soon after it became clear that a second story was necessary to meet the demands of the residents in the slum community of Bwaiise, in the capital city of Kampala. A couple years later, through the generosity of OLGC and parishioners, a second story was built. Additionally, individual parishioners and others outside the church donated funds for different equipment that included a lab machine, solar panels, ambulance, and dental chair. There are continuous challenges, though. These include not only the physical construction of the Medical building, but also outfitting it with equipment, maintaining competitive staff payroll, finding pharmaceuticals and continually increasing the service capabilities of the center.
MATTHEW 25: 40
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sister of mine, you did for me.”
OLGC established a Needy Fund for the health center and was privately funded by OLGC parishioners so that healthcare was available to the poorest of the poor in order for mothers to be able to birth their babies with the assistance of a trained midwife and vaccinate their children against diseases that are easily preventable and nearly non existent in Western cultures. The local residents have no health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, Women Infant and Children program, or pregnancy help centers that marginalized individuals in the US have access to.
It is easy to overlook the poor especially when we are surrounded by our western comforts. Many of us can get in our cars and go to work, the grocery store, pharmacy, Dr. visits, and shuttle soccer practices. This is a common, normal, and seemingly healthy way of life. This is far from the case amongst the impoverished in Africa. If you are a resident of the Bwaiise slums, you were out of luck.
The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.
On Jan 24th the OLGC St. Kizito committee of 3 traveled to Uganda to visit our sister community, located in the Bwaiise slums of Kampala, Uganda. We were warmly welcomed by 7 St. Kizito parishioners who escorted us from the airport to our hotel for a few hours of shut eye before we faced our packed agenda for the week.
Our missionary team brought many items to share with our brothers and sisters of St. Kizito through the generous donations of OLGC parishioners. Among the items were fine adult clothing from Manno Clothing & Tailoring that were shared with priests, board members, staff, and others; gently used summer children’s clothes that were given out when touring the slums to those who were in rags or who had no clothes on at all; a braille machine with paper were gifted to a blind teacher who instructs Special Ed children; surgical instruments for the Medical Clinic, reading glasses; and Days For Girls hygiene items. Our Ugandan friends could not express their heartfelt gratitude enough for these much needed and well deserved items. Thank you OLGC parishioners!
PROVERBS 31: 20
She extended a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
The missionary team of 3 spent the week of Jan 25-30 touring the Medical Clinic, schools, and homes in the neighboring communities. We visited the elderly as well as some of the OLGC sponsored student’s homes in the area. These homes are located in the lowest part of the region. Thus, during the rainy seasons, the commonly occurring floods create much health and safety issues among the residents. These one room makeshift homes are comprised mainly of scrap wood and scrap metal. They are profoundly unsafe, unsanitary, and uncomfortable. Floodings create toxic slush that run through the streets and cause many skin diseases and other hazards. Oftentimes families are forced to sit on top of their roofs to wait out the flood.
Through generous donations of OLGC parishioners, we raised funds that were sent to the medical clinic to complete the roof on the 3rd floor and to conduct 4 medical outreach services. On Jan 28th the OLGC St Kizito committee assisted in the 4th Medical Outreach that was offered in one of the slum areas. Basic medical treatment and tests were given to nearly 1,300 down trodden people. We offered eye exams, blood pressure testing, HIV testing, diabetic screening, cancer screening, Physician services, dental services, and pharmacy distribution. The patient representation exceeded our expectations!
MATTHEW 25: 35-36
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
The Covid lockdown presented challenges worldwide. However, for those in Uganda, the lockdown was catastrophic on many levels. A large majority of residents depend on public transportation to travel about their day. The lockdown shut down all public transportations and all citizens were ordered to stay home. If you weren’t able to walk to the pharmacy or get food items from the marketplaces, you were trapped. People perished because they could not access their medications or starved because they could not purchase food. The poor live day to day. What they sell on the streets in a given day goes toward survival expenses for that day. This inability to work, coupled with no food on hand or monetary assistance from the government, left people starving. There aren’t any Bridge Cards in Uganda nor food stamps nor Covid Relief checks. People were at serious risk of dying, not of Covid, but of starvation.
Our Lady of Good Counsel heard the people cry! On two separate occasions, by the generous donations of parishioners, we were able to send funds to purchase food supplies for distribution. The first wave of food relief provided 1,013 households 11 lbs of corn flour, 11 lbs of rice, and 6.6 lbs of sugar. The second wave provided 900 households with these items and quantities.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ
We have found a way to break the cycle of poverty and create opportunities to help a child reach their full potential in life. It’s called an Education and many of us might believe it is our God given right to have an education and thus may cause us to take this right for granted. This is not the case amongst the Ugandan poor. The public education that the Ugandan government offers is only reserved for children up to 6th grade and there is still a fee for this “public” education. If one can’t pay, one can’t attend school. The public schools are also very inconsistent and unreliable. A teacher may or may not show up to class because they may or may not get a paycheck from the government. Therefore, the public school educators are forced to take on additional work that takes them away from their teaching jobs. Private school education is reserved for those who have steady incomes and whom can pay.
To help combat this disparity, approximately 10 years ago the inception of the OLGC Educational Sponsorship program was established. There are currently 73 children who are sponsored by 59 OLGC families. There have been 12 Ugandan kids who have graduated from the program and who are now educated young adults. The goal is for these children to grow into skilled individuals who can gain a decent job and support their entire family. One educated child can save a family from severe poverty. The slogan “Change a Life, Save a Family” depicts our Educational sponsorship program accurately. This initiative is different from other sponsorship opportunities whereby our on the ground contact liaison personally follows each child and their families and acts as a “stand in parent” when these kids need it most. Sponsors are provided regular feedback on the child’s progress from our coordinator/liaison and receives letters from their sponsored child. Sponsors commit to a long term relationship that sees the kids through high school and hopefully eventually a vocational school or University. Education fees are nominal in US standards but very costly for Ugandan standards. For more information on our program, please email or call Chuck Salter at [email protected] or Jasmin Walker at [email protected]
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