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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Nostalgia and struggle

BundiNutrition lives. After a dormant period due to general team overload and lack of personnel, the BBB (local plumpynut) is flowing. Mothers, babies, grandmothers, the rope basket, the spring hanging scale, the length board, the MUAC tapes, the tattered books, the hopeful crowd. Only now the worker behind the table is a CSB graduate. We accompanied Jessica for a quick hello before we went up to Bundibugyo town this morning to advocate for better supplies and supervision at the health center, and the hour before we left gave us even more reason to be passionate : no doctor present the whole week we were here, unconscious trauma patient arrived and no nurse to receive them, a nearly dead from dehydration and sickle cell disease baby on the Paeds ward. After watching Jessica admirably triage and get care rolling, we hiked back to the mission and jumped in her car to sail up the superhighway of mostly leveled dirt to town, a drive we have made countless times. Only now there is no real worry of being stuck in the mud, or detoured for a bridge out, or puncturing a tire on the rough rocks. Amazing.

In town, the new DHO politely received us and managed appropriate comments and protestations of shock and dismay over the situation at Nyahuka. He seemed to have a fairly good grasp of the situation already. We reminded him of the Kule students whom he should expect over the next six years, and introduced Jessica. Later we walked through Bundibugyo hospital, again introducing dr Jessica. It was gratifying to find two of our MCSP nurses whom we trained more than a decade ago there working hard. And all the nurses Scott worked with on the Kwejuna project were genuinely delighted to see him, their faces lighting up.

Interestingly that hour brought back three memories of some of the hardest days of our lives. First a helicopter landed bringing the Inspector General of Police (head of the force for the country) due to the weekend threat of insecurity (parenthetically Uganda is becoming a bit of a police state with ever-growing-presence and power of police). This was the very spot from which we evacuated by helicopter in a war in 1997 . Then we peaked in the operating theatre where Caleb had a traumatic middle of the night emergency surgery in far-from-ideal or even safe circumstances in 2001. Then we visited Dr. Jonah's grave, a very stark reminder of the Ebola epidemic's darkest hour in 2007.

The afternoon found us in a four hour ceremony at CSB for handover of student leadership from the previous year's students to the newly elected group. We shook hands and helped with swearing in, and Scott spoke about servant leadership. The school is in strong hands with Isingoma, and his wife Christine. They exude parental care, firm no-nonsense standards, academic excellence, order and calm. The school seems to be in the best place ever. We are so grateful.

And the day ended with a walking tour of Ndiyezika and Juliet's new garden, a rich riverside half acre or so verdant with bananas and corn and cassava. Two if our other foster-sons, and josh, came with us. We then gathered in their house where Juliet served us all sombe and chicken and rice and matoke. Juliet lit candles as the darkness gathered in that little room, and we reminisced about how God had brought each of them (and a neighbor from my old cell group) into our lives. Ndiyezikas cute energetic little four-year-old played with his friends under our feet, while everyone talked about their futures and plans, and I prayed for each of them. Five or ten years ago we might have had the same meal with the same people at our house. Now we were guests of this new generation carrying on.

There are trying moments of course. A week long visit is just enough to hear the main financial problem of almost everyone because when your friends live in poverty and you drop in unexpectedly it is natural that quite a few hope for a break. We pushed back against some of the health center issues, and engaged with people about big picture progress. We had hundreds of conversations and felt drained by the end of each day. The road has cut the water lines and the rain tanks are nearly empty. Our team here soldiers on against the odds, day by day and year by year. It was a privilege to join them for a week, and it will be hard to leave tomorrow.

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