Friday, July 8, 2011

Report from AAI- Uganda

Our Uganda program is less than a year old but is making fast progress in lots of areas.  Coordinator Salem Richards just returned from a trip there in June and sent us this report and photos.

children at one of our partner orphanages
This was an extremely busy, exhausting trip to Uganda. It was an eight day trip but due to flying time and layovers I was only in Uganda for six full days. They were busy days!!

 I arrived in Uganda on Monday morning and we got right to work visiting orphanages and evaluating new places. We delivered donations to each of the homes, purchased food and got information on waiting children. We had meetings with officials, orphanage directors and lawyers and were on the go from sun up to sundown every day.
 
Each day we visited multiple orphanages. We met most of the wonderful children being adopted by AAI families and were able to get updates on them. We were able to deliver care packages to the children and pictures of their new families. It was so fun to introduce the children to their families and see their expressions as they took in these new faces for the first time. The idea that someone across the world loves them, wants them and is coming for them is so exciting for most of these kids!

Supply delivery to partner orphanage
We had the opportunity to not only visit with children currently matched with AAI families but to meet children who will potentially be adopted through AAI. We got lists of new children that need families and our in-country staff will be working hard over the next few months to get orphan investigations done and determine the best interest of each of these children. Each investigation is started with a list of three questions: 1) Can this child be reunited with family, relatives or community members?; 2) If no, can they be adopted within Uganda?; and  3) If no,is international adoption in their best interest?  These investigations are slow going but so important to our program! We continue to see the trend of very few healthy infants referred to our program. Most of the children we met that will need to be adopted are over toddler age and a good number of them are boys.
children sponsored by AAI
One highlight of the trip for me (there were so many!) was getting to see two of AAI’s sponsor children. Many of you might remember them as “Maria’s kids”. Theresa and David are doing phenomenally well at the boarding school they now attend. They look wonderful and seem happy. Placing them in a boarding school was not something we took on lightly. We have full responsibility for their upkeep now. The monthly fee we pay the school pays for schooling and three meals a day but we must also provide them with clothing, books, snacks, toiletries (including toilet paper!), eating utensils, laundry tub, sheets, shoes, etc. For two children that came literally with the clothes on their backs, this has been a big job to keep up with! But their progress, safety and happiness has made it all worth it. They are doing amazingly well!

Another highlight was being able to meet the three AAI families currently in Uganda. Seeing children that were living as orphans on my last trip now in the arms of their loving families was so amazing. These families are currently going through the court processes in Uganda. We are keeping them in our thoughts and hope we’ll have news of homecomings soon!  (update!--first child home, pictures coming soon)
 

Many Ugandan-American adoptive families were kind enough to send me photographs of them home in America with their children. I can’t begin to tell you how much it helped having these photos. I had a whole photo album full of them. The moment we showed them to people in Uganda you could see their countenances changing and their hearts softening.  It was an amazing thing to witness. People were starting to get it….they said things like “wow, they really love these kids!” Exactly what we want to continue to show them!

Overall, this was a very successful trip.  I always wish I had more time, but we did almost everything on our schedule and I feel made some real progress in the development of the program as a whole. My heart is always stretched and stirred with each visit I make to this beautiful country. I feel grateful to be able to work with this program and that we have been given the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of some of the children we meet.

 

2 comments:

  1. Thankful for all you do, Salem!!!

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  2. As we get close to bringing our children home, we cannot say thank you enough to Salem and the entire AAI staff for all their hard work on behalf of our family and our precious boys. We truly couldn't have done it without you.

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