In Category: ‘Uncategorized’

June 27, 2012 Uganda: Ruth

I think my favourite thing here is hearing the stories… stories of sheer sadness that are now filled with hope!

Yesterday I got to spend the morning with Ruth. Ruth is 17 and a beautiful, articulate young woman. She told me all about her family and dreams.

Ruth’s father was wealthy and his neighbours and ‘friends’ got jealous of his cattle and land and murdered him. Ruth and her mother and sisters were extremely tight. The average family in Uganda has 7+ children but because they were a small family of only 3 children, they were exceptionally close. Her mother heard about Watoto and applied to be a house mother. All the house mothers in Watoto are widows.

When Ruth was 6, she moved into Watoto with her mother and sister. Her family now grew to include more siblings – totaling 8 siblings all together. I asked Ruth if this was difficult at first – to not be her mother’s only children but to share her. SHe was honest and said at first it was a bit difficult to share mom, but now they are her brothers and sisters and loves them as such.

What impressed me most with Ruth was when she spoke about her mother. When she told me her mom was here ‘hero’ and talked about all the sacrifices her mom made for herself and her sisters – well, I had to fight back tears. I asked what her mom would do when RUth and her sisters graduated and moved on… and this is when Ruth stole my heart completely.

She shared how her sisters and herself are secretly (hope mom doesn’t read this!) saving money to buy their mother a home. I asked how they are getting money to do this… Ruth shared how when she gets money to get her hair done, instead she saves it and has a friend braid her hair. When her sponsor sends her special money to spend on herself, she saves some. She told me she takes very good care of her clothes and shoes so she won’t need to replace them, and any money she gets for new items she can save instead. She also shared how she loves to give – and when she goes back to her village and gives some of her clothes or belongings, she finds she is always blessed herself.

The mother’s gift of sacrifice for her daughters is now being returned as her daughter’s sacrifice for their mother. Beautiful.

Meet Ruth…. she is amazing.

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Celebrating life and love,

Krista

June 26, 2012 Uganda: A New Home

On Sunday, we went and each spent an afternoon with a family in one of Watoto’s villages. Their model is so unique and I’m just loving it! Each home is lovingly headed up by a widow – some have brought their own biological children with them – and together with a total of 8 children they form a new family. This is their home. It was great to spend time with them seeing what a typical day at home on the weekend looks like.

The home I Was in had 4 girls ranging in age from 11-15, and 4 boys all age 7! Could you even imagine? But it really is amazing to see how the older ones encourage and teach the younger ones. And the younger ones make the older ones laugh and play! Here’s a glimpse into a family life in one of Watoto’s villages…

When I got there, mom was reading the BIble to the kids….

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Then they played some games together…

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They taught me some traditional dances… but let’s be thankful there is no photos of that! icon smile Uganda: A New Home

The boys had some homework to do, and the girls were helping them with it.

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There are always chores and fun…

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The girls and I really clicked and it was great to go for a long walk with them all around their village and just listen. I realized after I didn’t take any photos on our walk… I had been so intrigued by their stories, I didn’t snap! The girls shared about how much they love living here. How they dream of returning to their rural villages to better their friends and family who are still there. They explained they still go back on holidays to their original home villages. And they told me about their love of McDOnald’s and lasagna while on tour with the Watoto choir in Canada!

I did catch a couple images of the girls in their rooms – they are all so proud of their bedrooms, and love to show images of their sponsors and letters and things their sponsors have sent. If you have sponsored a Watoto child – I can not stress how much they love and appreciate it!!!

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And a big family portrait! These children are so loved by their mother.

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We then wandered around the village – and stumbled across a breakdance group from the village performing.

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We ended up doing some photos of the group… they look so tough!

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I’m not really sure why but the guys insisted I take some photos with them… hilarious.

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And then these tough boys – wanted to show us their sponsors photos. Adorable.

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They look tough – but they’re just the sweetest guys!

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It was another great day and again, continue to be blown away by Watoto and their work!

To learn more about how you can be involved with Watoto, contact then at canada@watoto.ca or visit www.watotocanada.com

Celebrating life and love,

Krista

June 23, 2012 Uganda: Safari

Yesterday we had a “fun” outing outside of Watoto and their work. We went on a safari! Two months ago I would never have dreamed I’d be in Africa right now on a safari!

Our guides all couldn’t get over our luck… before we even got up to the park ranger we saw hyenas (I guess this is incredibly rare!) and a pair of lions. Amazing. It was such an incredible way to spend a morning – even if it meant getting up at 3am to be there for sunrise!

Hyenas on the prowl

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Good morning lions!

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Notice the snake in it’s mouth? Mmmmm breakfast!

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Animals aren’t very good at hide and seek – but they try as you’ll see in these next two pics

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ANd just some animal fun – enjoy!

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Then we stumbled across this…

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And then we went and had lunch at this amazing lodge

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HEre’s our gang….

(L-R) Apollo (who knows everything and everyone in Uganda), Michael (our fearless driver) and Moses (our Watoto host)

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(L-R)

Cam, myself and Devin

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And while we were eating lunch, we spotted a herd of elephants from the balcony – so cool!

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And then while we waited for the ferry to cross the Nile, we had a few friends waiting with us.

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This rascal stole a young girl’s bag and dug out a jar of peanut butter he devoured.

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Then it was back to some of the most unbelievable “roads” (use that term loosely).

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And a flat tire!

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ANd then suddenly we emerge in the hustle and bustle of Kampala.

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It was a long day – but amazing! Today is a day mostly “off” and catching up on rest. We start back up tomorrow!

Celebrating life and love,

Krista

I have been sharing with you some of the amazing stories of HOPE and restoration coming from Watoto, but yesterday we were taken to see some of the “before” situations. We went with our team and a social worker from Watoto to visit some very rural villages where some of the children have come from. To see the conditions they are in is so heartbreaking. Yes, they smile and dance and sing and laugh… but there is still so much need. It was like stepping into another world to visit these children. When we arrived, we first had to meet with their local council and gain permission. Then once approved, we were able to wander around and interact with the children freely. I adore kids – it doesn’t matter we can’t speak a word in the same language! I could have stayed there all day!

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Some of the kids are sponsored by World Vision and such and are able to go to school. This little girl was just home from class.

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Beautiful kids!

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To learn more about how you can be involved with Watoto, contact then at canada@watoto.ca or visit www.watotocanada.com

Celebrating life and love,

Krista

Today we had a great experience of going to visit a local home with a woman from Living Hope (if you haven’t read my earlier post on Living Hope – please do. They’re phenomenal!). The woman I visited was so beautiful – laughing and smiling the entire time. It wasn’t until afterwards I learned A bit of her story.

She had been abducted when she was around 10years old – my own daughter’s age. She was given to a commander in the LRA (Kony’s army) as a wife and had to give birth in the bush to her children. She managed to flee and successfully escape. As one of the other women shared about her own similar story with Cam… she knew if she stayed in the LRC she would likely die. If she went home – she had been threatened to be murdered. Either way she would likely die. She chose the option of dying at home and risked her life and gained her freedom. These women are beyond amazing and strong. Often times they return home and even though they were abducted and forced to do things far beyond their will… they are shunned. Their families and neighbours know that they were a rebel, and perhaps had even killed people.

Again – loving that Living Hope and Watoto is working to help these women work through their trauma, and regain their dignity. The woman I was with shared how she is now able to make a living, and rent her own home of which she is so proud! She shares it with her three children and her younger sister. She manages to pay the rent and afford food. And have a smile on her face the whole time!

Here are some images of her in her home, and showing me around her village.

Isn’t she beautiful??

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And her beautiful home! SHe was so proud of it – and she should be!

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Her beautiful younger sister who lives with her.

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Great neighbours!

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She then took me to the school – which is right next door! This is the head teacher (principal)

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And this is her son right in the front row of his kindergarten class. Isn’t he the sweetest? This school has over 100 students in only kindergarten. The rest of the students must walk to a primary or secondary school.

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We then met her neighbour Kenneth – he use to teach English so he spoke perfect english which was great! He gave me a full lesson on how to make mud bricks which was super interesting! Kenneth told me most Ugandans can make about 600 bricks a day – some people as many as 1,000. Crazy! We were also told yesterday that all boys by age of 16 should know how to make their own hut.

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When Kenneth went to get his mold to show us how to make bricks, we stayed back to make sure no one took his solar charger… a great item for a Ugandan!

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And then his daughters came home for break – they’re so sweet!

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We wandered around the village – here’s a glimpse into her neighbours and village.

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In the Bible we’re told a rainbow is a sign of God’s promise… so I thought I’d end this blog post with this double rainbow we saw that evening.

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I have had comments from several people that they are familiar with Watoto, their choir and work. I had never heard of them before… just curious if you had, or if you hadn’t your first thoughts on them! To learn more about how you can be involved with Watoto, contact then at canada@watoto.ca or visit www.watotocanada.com

Lots more blog posts coming… tomorrow we are going on a safari at sunrise!

Celebrating life and love,

Krista

Today, was our second day here (that’s it?) and we went to Living Hope. Wow. I knew nothing about Living Hope – but when their director Christine told us all about it, I was fighting back tears. It is so beautiful. Let me explain….

Living Hope’s goal is to restore dignity to women. All the women who are at Living Hope each day are either HIV positive or were former child soldiers, or somehow effected by the LRA. There are women there who were abducted as young as 9 and 10 years old, made to walk 600miles and then the first thing they are taught is how to kill. Weapons. They were then returned home and forced to kill their own families – giving them no reason to leave their abductors. They have been raped, mutilated, and abused in every sense of the word. There are women there who have had their mouths, noses and ears cut right off. A warning to other girls from their abductors. And then there are women who’s husbands were promiscuious, got AIDS, and never told their wives until they too were infected and it was too late for her. The average Ugandan family has 7.2 children. The husbands died of AIDS, and the women were left behind sick themselves with a house full of children. Their land and homes were taken from them. No source of income – the only thing they had to offer to get money for food was their bodies.

And the stories go on and on. Unbelievable. And I had to remind myself – it could have been me. It could have been my daughters. If we had been born in this country… it could have been me.

Enter Living Hope.

They realized that they couldn’t just keep going in and rescuing orphaned children… this is not how to restore a nation. They needed parents. And so they began with the women.

(Their director Christine giving us inspiration and stories…)

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The first thing the women do is trauma therapy. Christine gave a great example of two ten dollar bills. One is straight from the mint and in perfect shape. One has been thrown in the wash, fell in the toilet, crumpled up, and filthy. But how much is each bill worth? Is one bill worth more? And so they begin to remind the women they are important. Nothing that has been done to them can take away their value. I love this so much.

The other thing they do at first is medical attention. For example, the pill that helps combat HIV (and that is free from the government) is so strong that without proper diet will kill you. Living Hope gives them healthy meals each day they visit. And has doctors to help assess and handle their medical conditions.

But then they are taught life skills. Things they can take away from Living Hope to make money for their families. They are taught business skills and money management. Many were abducted at young ages, and do not know how to care for a home or their children. They are taught these skills as well. They are also taught not to be dependent on Living Hope – they are only allowed to stay two years… and then it’s time to go out on their own.

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There are a few key business skills they are taught. Sewing. This is something they can do on their own after they have left Living Hope. They can set up a stand at the market and sell their sewing creations. At Living Hope they create dolls and toys. If you have seen the Watoto choir sing you may have seen some of these!

I started my day in their devotion and prayer time in the sewing room and then admiring their handiwork.

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And the women can bring their children and have them with them, or in the nursery. Brilliant.

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ANd in the nursery… they are loved and cared for so well.. and also pre-school is offered!

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Peanut butter is a main staple in their cooking here. They make peanut butter in the traditional manner at Living Hope so that when they leave, they can continue this skill. Something any woman can do (as most girls are taught early on how to make this necessary Ugandan food), sell and provide income for their family.

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And this last skill is beyond brilliant.

Studies were showing that a high percentage of Ugandan girls went to school in grades 1-3. But starting in grade 4 the numbers dropped drastically. Until there was a severe lack of girls being educated past grade 4. Research has continually shown that education is a key factor in combating poverty. The question was – why were girls dropping out after grade 4? Well, being older when they start school… their bodies were developing around grade 4 and once a month they would have to miss school for a week. Sanitary pads here are about $10. An average income could be $40/month. That’s ¼ of their income on pads. And with most families having 7+ kids… well, girls would just have to go without. And miss school. And get behind. And then get further behind. And then drop out.

Living Hope worked with a scientist who developed a sanitary pad that is made from recycled paper and papyrus. Something the women can make themselves. And that are incredibly affordable. And biodegradable. And again, women are being restored.

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The actual machinery isn’t copyrighted yet (is that the right term?) so I can’t show those images… but this whole concept is so great!

To see these women walk around with their heads held high, and hear their laughter ring and know that they are confident women who are able now to care for and help their family… powerful.

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To learn more about how you can be involved with Watoto, contact then at canada@watoto.ca or visit www.watotocanada.com

Celebrating life and love,

Krista

When I heard about this contest through Watoto – I knew nothing about them. Had never even heard of them. I started googling them and reading up. Then when I won, I started watching the videos (you have to check these out!) and was amazed at this organization!

Watoto’s mission is to “Our mandate is to RESCUE the orphans, RAISE them up to be leaders, so they can REBUILD their nation.”. Love this. I have to share a couple ways they do this first hand – there’s a lot of pictures, and some incredible stories… be forewarned. icon smile Uganda   Watoto & Children

Our first day here we went to the baby home up in Gulu. To backtrack – Gulu is up in Northern Uganda where Kony was active and many lives were destroyed by his viciousness. This country will take a long time to heal, but with great organization’s like this one… they’re on their way!

At the baby home, there were about 85 kids approximately two and under. They are so well organized and the nannies and staff are phenomenal! The kids are happy and learning great life skills, and being kept healthy in every sense of the word (spiritual, physical and emotional).

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People have asked me if these children are up for adoption or what happens as they age?

Watoto is awesome and is one step ahead of you. ☺

Enter the Watoto villages. They have built villages where children are raised in loving homes. Believing that children are meant to be in a family – not an institution. They are in homes with 7 other children, and one mother. The mothers are mostly widows – and some have their own biological children still with them. They care and love for each child in their home. And I mean LOVE these children. The children attend a school in the village and are taught life skills as well. They are taught how to grow up to be a healthy adult – and a future leader in their own country. I think this is an awesome model! We visited their village where there are about 300 children, about 45 homes, a school and just all around amazing-ness.

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These next few images show the universal facial expression of children everywhere for “School’s done!”

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And I ended my time at the Watoto Village by joining the Mothers at their Bible Study for a song or two. Man! Can they sing!!! SO happy to see these women so joyful… they have all experienced such pain, but just as the children have found a loving place to call home and fill a void… so have these women. These amazing women.

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We were all completely charmed by the kids and women… but how can you not be? Even the guards are smitten!

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I’d highly suggest you check out Watoto. They continue to wow and surprise me with their innovative, incredible ways they are impacting communities, their country – and ultimately they’ll make a difference in the world. Wait until you read my next entry on Living Hope. WOW. Now that is amazing stuff…

To learn more about how you can be involved with Watoto, contact then at canada@watoto.ca or visit www.watotocanada.com

Celebrating life and love,

Krista

June 20, 2012 Uganda

I’m here in Uganda – and loving it so far! Seriously blown away by Watoto and their work here! Can’t wait to blog in detail!

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Celebrating life and love,

Krista

June 14, 2012 Mike and Bonnie

You might remember Mike and Bonnie’s gorgeous Spring engagement session I posted awhile back (LINK). I was so looking forward to their wedding – they had some great things planned, and they are a great couple to photograph – and be around! Always laughing and enjoying life. Love it!

May weddings are always “iffy” with weather – could be snow, rain, or sunshine. So glad for a gorgeous, warm day for their outdoor wedding in Niagara. I met up with Bonnie and her girls at the Pillar and Post in Niagara on the Lake to start the day.

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Bonnie’s mom sewing up the dress… but Bonnie is still smiling and laughing!

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Meanwhile, my lovely assistant for the day, Eva, was over with the guys!

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And it’s show time!

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After the ceremony, Bonnie’s dad, brother and sister sang a song to surprise everyone. Awesome! The guitarist is Jonny X, a musician that Mike and Bonnie love from the Brazen Head in Liberty Village they had come out and play. He was great!

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It was back to Club Italia for the fun reception!

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Love the kids imitating the adults…

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The wedding party was a riot!

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Meanwhile, outside there was a cigar bar by Mike’s brother-in-law’ Markus’ company Mombacho Cigars – everyone had fun with this!

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And meanwhile, the ladies were partying inside with the amazing band Freedom Train. What is so great about this band is they can do such a variety of styles… they were awesome!

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Mike and Bonnie so glad you had such a good time in Europe – enjoy these memories!

Celebrating life and love,

Krista

June 12, 2012 Coming Soon

Can’t wait to blog Mike and Bonnie’s wedding… very soon! For now an image I love that falls on the artistic side. Not showing too much of the beautiful bride Bonnie was that day, but hinting at it instead. I love the shadows on the back and film like feel of the image.

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Celebrating life and love,

Krista