Thursday, June 30, 2011

African Emergency Room

This is Brin once again. Sorry for the long wait, but this has been a hard blog to write. Currently, I am sitting in the Nairobi, Kenya airport on a layover, waiting to board my flight to Bombay, India. If you’re wondering why I’m not staying in Uganda, we might be in the same boat. Deep down inside, I really, really wanted to stay, but alas, my reason for leaving is simple. While in Uganda visiting the SOUP site, I was also researching a small niche of Econ Development, which you can read about further in my other blog. I am traveling in Europe, Africa and Asia on a grant funding by my university (Berry College). Enough of that boring intro, it’s time for me to explain the purpose of this blog entry.  
Two blog entries ago I explained the severity of health problems in Isiti, Uganda. The lack of medical care given to people is simply astonishing. The average family in Uganda has 8 children. However, in the village that number is sometimes double. Can you imagine? That’s a lot of sharing. Family planning is important, but never truly stressed. Therefore, children are not given proper medical treatment (among other things) due to lack of finances.
In that blog I explained my reaction when I saw a girl with an untreated bacteria above her ear. I vowed to purchase ointment for the girl to prevent her from undergoing any type of social stigma for having such a visible problem. Then, a teacher explained that every child in the village drank well water and therefore had worms. Appalled by this realization, the SOUP will now provide tablets for each child to eradicate the worms. But more importantly, Sarah Thomas (SOUP-Staff member) will gather the women of the village for a day of training. She will teach them basic ways to prevent worms, like boiling the water for instance. She’s also planning other things, but I’ll let her explain later.
This is where I really want to STOP writing… but I will continue.
The second day I went to the village, Sarah joined me. We spent the morning playing with the kids, eating lunch, talking with the teachers, and interviewing old students. A pretty perfect day.
As we were about to wrap up our day I saw a little boy limping away from school. I called him over and saw a wound on his left leg. Without hesitating I brought him into a private room and asked a teacher to join me. “My name… it is Adam,” said the little guy. The teacher explained to me that Adam broke his left leg 5 years ago and the village doctor fixed it. But, my friends, it was not fixed. It was healed, but it was not corrected. He walked very differently than his peers, especially considering the difference in length between the two legs. But this actually wasn’t my main concern. He also had a very large and infected wound on the back of this very leg.
“Are you in any pain, Adam?”
He looked at me and responded very clearly, “Yes.” He tripped in January (probably due to the previous injury), and injured himself. The wound was never treated. It is now June and an infection clearly exists where the wound first occurred. This is NOT OKAY.
Immediately I asked the headmaster to call every injured child in the area to meet with me.
About 15 out of our 242 students came forward, but they were mostly in pain from topical and very treatable wounds. Except for one. Ronald.
Ronald was also walking with a small limp. I asked him to show me the problem. He lifted his pant leg to show me his left knee. I was appalled. His knee was exactly twice the size of his right. Infected from the inside out. (This is pretty graphic, so refrain from reading if you feel uncomfortable.) From his knee, a small hole leaked fluid. Slowly, but constantly. “How old is this wound?” I asked. The headmaster responded, “We’re not sure...maybe 5 years, but the parents do not want to treat—they think it’s cancer.”
Without thinking twice I responded, “We’re taking Ronald and Adam today. Right now. Let’s go.” Sarah nodded her head in agreement and after Michael spoke with the parents we were off.
We arrived, after an hour's drive, to a private doctor, where I was treated for Malaria 2 years ago.
“If you had waited any longer this leg would need amputation,” said Dr. Musa. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, but I just stared at little Adam. “Okay, Doctor, well let’s fix this.”
We went back to the operating room and the Doctor poured alcohol onto his wound and scrubbed the infection. I held Adam as the doctor scrubbed. He screamed and squeezed my hand; his little African arms beat the table as big tears fell from his little face. I lay beside him and cried silently as I prayed. Finally, the doctor finished scrubbing and gave him an injection to kill the infection.
After everything, my strong little Adam wiped his face as I carried him to another room.
Rest assured, he will be okay, no amputation necessary. J
Ronald was next. If the infection in his knee had grown any larger the doctor would have required amputation. However, Dr. Musa took Ronald into surgery almost immediately.  
I sat through the surgery, which is a normal for mothers in Uganda. J It was disgusting, but everything went well. It was not cancer, but rather a really imbedded and really infected internal wound.
Post-surgery I brought them both ice cream and watched them smile as they devoured ever drop.
I would also like to mention that Sarah Thomas was a champ throughout this entire time. AND the girl is a praying machine. She has stamina.
We ended up paying for everything on the spot as well as purchasing prescriptions and further injections for the weeks to come.
To prevent this from every happening again I made an agreement with Michael and the SOUP teachers. If a child is EVER suffering or even sick, provide treatment for that child immediately. These kids were suffering from preventable pain; if treated earlier it would have never been an issue.
I ended up meeting three American med students from the Universities of Florida and Ohio who are currently interning in Uganda. I have coordinated with them to visit our school as soon as possible and do physicals on every child over a 2 day period.
Also, a wonderful woman and her daughter have offered to provide mosquito nets for each child at our school. That is 242 mosquito nets. Pretty rad.
We purchased medical supplies and will continue to treat Ronald and Adam until they are completely healed.
Each child, regardless of color, background, parental situation or whatnot shall not suffer.
The SOUP has big BIG plans for this village. More than just fixing all our babies, first and foremost, we will make each and every one of them well.
PS: if you have any questions or suggestions, please email me at

Sunday, June 26, 2011

We've got an Awesome African

Today I woke up ready to take on the world! Michael and I decided to stay in Iganga to discuss the next phases of the SOUP and financial planning. But before I begin, Michael needs a bit of explanation. The question is often asked: who actually runs the project in Africa? Is this person even capable (etc. etc)? So without further ado, Mr. Michael Kaidhiwa. Michael grew up in the village. Actually his father is the minister of the church in the SOUP community. His dad rides a bicycle back and forth from church at a ripe ago of 78. Michael’s heart for these kids is absolutely undeniable. In fact, he actually introduced me to the village 2 years ago.

However, the SOUP is not their only commitment; He and his wife wear many hats in this community. Along with owning a small printing company, Frita and Michael work with ELI (an excellent non-profit out of Colorado) placing volunteers from all over the world in various projects. ELI entrusted Michael with the entire Uganda project and according to both ELI and the volunteers, he’s doing a superb job!

The importance of working with the local community is vital. Going into the village as a white person on a mission, usually turns sour. It’s a relief, because everyone in the village seems to know Michael, but more importantly, they all seem to love him. This is obvious by the respect given to him by the elders and the amounts of people he takes 2-5 minutes to “catch up” with on our visit. This is a very good thing. I was welcomed when I visited the village and treated like an equal, rather than some kind of alien. I can thank him for such an earth-like greeting.

But not to worry, we are also very particular about holding each other accountable. To ensure accountability he sends me a budget, which I send back with corrections, and then he sends the new version back to me. Finally I approve and send the finances. Lastly he sends expenditures and pictures (if possible). Interesting fact, he does not even take a salary for his work. Obviously our SOUP Staff (myself included) does not take any contributions, but the same goes with Michael.

He’s just the right person for the job; my only concern is that Michael might not want to fill this position forever.

This brings me to our next point.

Soon we will need to bring one or two America onto our project. Granted, this is not an easy feat. Finding someone willing to live without running water in general is difficult, but to also ask them to also teach, administrate and do varies other major task, might be close to impossible. And we refuse to take someone less than perfect for the job. This person or persons would need to be so incredibly strong and unafraid of such a crazy challenge. So I pray we find the right individuals.

I must go now, but I will keep you posted about our next visit.

PS: It’s been awesome hanging out with Ms. Sarah Thomas—she’s about the best designed non-african African ever. I’ll explain in the next blog.

Best regards,
Brin Enterkin

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Some SOUPer Babies Need Our Help!

Today completely rocked my world. But before I start, I need to explain a few things. Right now, I’m sitting under a mosquito net, I am in a bed, and I am in a room with four walls. The walls are nothing special, but they are strong, dry and reliable. But right before I came into this room I sat on a wooden couch and ate rice and beans with my African SOUP partner, Michael. But WAY before dinner or bed-time I sat on a plane flying through the stratosphere sipping cola out of a very clean plastic cup. A nice woman handed me this cola on a napkin with an additional option of either cookies or crackers, but I kindly declined because of the filling previous meal. Fast-forward.  Here I am sitting in this simple African setting. I do not have wi-fi or the capability to stalk on Facebook, but my mind is on overhaul.

Today I went to the SOUP's new school/orphanage site. As I arrived, 200+ shy, yet eager children came out to greet me.  They jumped up and down and a little one latched onto my leg. :-) I started to feel a bit emotional. These kids looked different. I couldn’t quite grasp the difference, but it seemed so evident. Then it hit me. These kids were being fed, educated, and cared-for. BEING CARED-FOR! They each lacked a lot. They lacked a few very obvious things, but as of right now, these children are whole, happy kids! This almost took me off guard; it was as if I was expected the same scene I ran into two years ago when I first visited the site. I was wrong and I am so overwhelmed. It was in the moment that I realized a very important lesson: our African staff, the SOUP staff, little old me, and all of our donors put together could have never made this happen. This was only made possible with the complete encouragement, grace and love of our mighty Savior.  How beautiful!

The new land we purchased last year (about 1 mile from the current school) has also made momentous strides. We have a building! It’s within weeks of finishing. It will be a new school with plenty of room for our beautiful kiddos to learn. We also dug a 30-foot latrine for the future bathroom facilities. Soon our kids will transition from the last location to this new one.

Now that I have stated the steps we have made forward I need first explain what we are lacking (if you have a weak stomach, please refrain from moving forward and flip on a Lifetime flick).  At the very beginning stages of the SOUP we planned on just meeting the physiological needs of the children (especially the completely orphaned children) in a very rural and impoverished community in Uganda. We basically wanted to feed them, clothe them and send them to school. However, as we began, we realized that our call was more than just providing the basic for the kids.  We needed to do more and so we committed. We committed to building a new school, with a standard far higher than the first one, but more importantly, to build homes and families for these orphaned children. To clarify— Our charge has not changed. However, I’m afraid I overlooked the fact that every child in this community lacks so much. SO so much.

As I sat and spoke with the teachers in a very broken English conversation, I noticed a rash on a little girl’s head. I called the little girl over and asked what happened. The teacher said that the parents could not afford any ointment for her head, which was infected by a bacterium that left the right side of her head bald.  In a confused, yet very angered tone I asked why we had not taken the call to fix such a problem. He smiled and responded, “There are far worse health problems here, that one would just need to wait.” Slightly perplexed I asked what else was wrong with our children. “None of these kids sleep under mosquito nets, so many fall sick with malaria and each of them have worms from their water at home,” responded the teacher.  “WHAT?!?!”

I felt so terrible. These beautiful children were sick and I was doing nothing. I was clueless of such a serious threat to these kids. He noted that this was common and nothing personal. But it was personal. It is personal. These kids are no longer lost and forgotten-- WE, those who strive for supporting the least of these, will not allow that to happen.  So before we move forward with building, each child needs a mosquito net and each child needs to be treated for worms. Michael and I will go out tomorrow and get the prices for these two items, along with ointment for that little girl.

As I sit in this modest room in Iganga, Africa, I sit under a mosquito net, protecting me from malaria and other diseases. The very, very least I can do right now is also provide that opportunity for someone far more important than myself.

I did not want to report my visit without being completely honest, so please do not think that such a terrible realization ruined my visit. We have come so far! It’s amazing the things that have been done in two years, but like I said we can do so much more! These kids deserve it. They are full of joy and full of life.

Two years ago I journeyed to a village on a field visit, now this village has a name a purpose and 200 faces. I don’t need cookies or cola or clean plastic. I just want God’s purpose to fill each of us. To feel an ounce of His pain for the “least of these.”  There is no turning back. :-)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

School Picture Day... in UGANDA!

Hey friends... It's Sarah again!

I travelled out to Orange Giraffe, the school we are sponsoring, on Monday and Tuesday. I had some orders from Brin to sit in on each of the classes to get a feel for how the teachers are teaching. My other assignment was to get a picture and biography from every child. I thought this would take forever, but thanks to the help of Michael's lovely wife, Frieda, and one of the teachers at the school, we got information on nearly 200 kids in 2 days. While they were getting the info, my job was to get a picture of each kid. It made me laugh when I realized that this was school picture day. I thought back to my elementary school years, and how everyone dressed up on picture day and what a big deal it was. This school picture day was a little different. For most of the kids this was the first picture they've ever had taken, not too mention one of the first times they've ever seen a muzungu or white person. Most of the kids only have one outfit, so there wasn't really a worry about what to wear. In Uganda most people don't smile for pictures, so we had to do some coaching to get the kids to smile for us, but the pictures turned out precious! Well I'll just let you see for yourself....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Brin: Update from Amsterdam

This is Brin speaking. Right now I am sitting in the Amsterdam airport waiting and waiting and waiting. It’s a 16-hour layover and I am only 6 hours in. But more importantly, I have worked out. See, because I did not want to leave my bags anywhere I had to think creatively. Basically I put my bags on the side of the walking sidewalk and ran backwards on the machine. I looked like a complete idiot running in the wrong direction on a machine designed to help me move faster in the other direction, but I felt brilliant! After feeling like a genius, I realized something very important. Many people pay thousands of dollars for this type of workout machine—they call it a treadmill. Whatever.

I’m sleeping in this airport. But before I fall asleep I have at least a dozen more exciting things to do first. Number 1; walk through a metal detector with pennies in every pocket and behind my ears.  If they do not catch me, I win. If they catch me, they win. Basically, me verse the airport. Not to worry, I have stamina.

This entire experience reminds me of the last time I had a layover in this very unexciting airport. It was two years ago, after my freshmen year of college.  Although I was still rather rambunctious at the time, I was also a bit terrified. The unknown was so vast. I was about to travel to Uganda and live there for a summer working on a micro-financing project.

While I was there, nearly two years ago, God planted a seed in my heart. Tomorrow I’ll be flying to see how that seed has grown. In late 2009 the African SOUP started raising funds and today we have meet the needs of hundreds of children. Pretty cool!!  

I have not been back in two years, but I am really looking forward to seeing the change in the village we have adopted as an organization. These children do not even know us, but they fully understand the impact that has been made in their village and their individual lives. Completely made possible by people half way across the world. People that don’t even know them by name. People that know the importance of helping other, regardless of the cost. They get that. How encouraging?  

Anyway, I’m pumped! Overwhelmed, actually. In the meantime, I’m going to tape pennies behind my ears.

From the Amsterdam Airport,

Brin Enterkin

Friday, June 10, 2011

What does a school in Uganda look like?

One of the biggest goals of the [SOUP] is education. Education opens so many doors. Education is a key in lifting people out of poverty. But I'm sure many of us don't know what education in Uganda looks like. I didn't know until I was here and immersed in it. So since one of the biggest aspects of the [SOUP] is our school, I thought I would give a little background of what the education system is like in Uganda.

Similar to preschool in the United States, Ugandan children can attend nursery school. This is not required for children to attend before going to school, but like preschool it definitely gives the kids a head start. The school system in Uganda starts with Primary School. It have 7 levels. After finishing primary 7, the student then goes to Secondary School. In secondary school there are 6 levels. Every school has a different uniform with different colors. The students are required to wear the uniforms everyday. You can tell which school the kids go to based on the color of their uniform. There is no such thing a free, public school in Uganda. All schools cost fees, and the better the school the higher the fees. Education is not a required thing for kids since it costs money. Because of this kids start school at all different times. A 15 year old could be starting Primary 1 with a 6 year old. This makes the class dynamics different and can make it difficult for the teachers to teach. The actual teaching can be a little sketchy sometimes too. The most used method of teaching is to write things over and over and over or to just repeat after the teacher. There is little to no creativity.

School days start at about 7 in the morning. For Primary 1 and 2, the students get out after lunch at 1, which you only get if you paid for it. For the older levels the students get out at 5. For Primary 5, 6, and 7 the students also have to go to school on Saturday...pretty intense! If a kid can get through all of this and pass all their exams, then they can continue on to University. There are few universities in Uganda, and few university students as well.

This is a little overview of the school system in Uganda.... pretty different from the United States. It may seem kind of depressing, but I don't think all hope is lost or I wouldn't be in Uganda right now. I think Uganda has made many strides to try and get more kids in school. Hopefully the [SOUP]'s school will be the beginning to a bright future for the kids we are working with.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Announcing the SOUP's new summer contest....SOUP To Go!

Take a picture of your SOUP shirt in a super cool place sometime during your own summer adventures.  This could be anywhere- around the world, or in your backyard.  THEN, send it to us via:

1. Email-
2. Facebook- our page is called: The African SOUP
3. Twitter- tweet us your picture @theafricansoup

We will post your pictures as they come to our blog/facebook/twitter, and the winner will receive a new SOUP shirt of their choice!!

We can't wait to start seeing your photos...we have a feeling they're going to be good. :)