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Ric Small, volunteer chaplain at Liberty High School, and Larry Davis, generations pastor at Northgate Christian Fellowship, have returned from two weeks in Uganda, an experience Small described as “devastation, with a glimmer of hope.”|
Small said the trip “would forever shape our perception of the difference between need and greed.”
That need has spurred the two men to urge Benicians to contribute toward providing clean water to Ugandan children.
The men arrived in Entebbe about midnight April 5, and left early the next morning for a bus ride of more than six hours that took them to Tororo, the city with the highest crime rate in Uganda.
But just one hour into their trip, they arrived in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, and “the first thing I noticed was a burning in my nostrils from a combination of unhampered vehicle exhaust and burning garbage,” Small said. That pungent odor would be present during most of the day.
Their bus soon passed a fatal accident, caused when a minivan taxi collided with a small motorcycle taxi called a “boda-boda.” The three passengers riding the boda boda had died and were lying on the side of the road.
Later, Small said, he would see as many as four people riding together on the small motorcycles. For every 100 boda-bodas, he said, he saw one passenger vehicle and 20 minivan taxis.
“The more we traveled, the more I realized that this is a country whose economic status would be somewhere between lower income and poverty in America,” he said.
Small and Davis made the trip through Hope4Kids International, a nonprofit based in Phoenix, Ariz. They stayed in four villages where the organization has built wells.
“At the first village, Nasinu, we were greeted with beautiful tribal dancing and singing,” Small said, as the children commemorated Palm Sunday. “The young kids carried tree branches, signifying the palm branches that greeted Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. It was quite humbling and emotional.”
Before their well was built, the children had had to travel up to 10 miles each way to retrieve water, he said. But the water wasn’t clean. It was contaminated, spreading yellow fever and dysentery among the villagers.
“Larry and I also handed out mosquito nets, bought by monies raised by Northgate and Benicia Middle school students,” Small said. When they passed out the nets, they assured villagers they would no longer have to worry about mosquito bites, which frequently transmit malaria that often can be fatal.
The Benicians also went to Wanenga, where they got a far different reception. They were the first white people (“mzungu” in Ugandan) the villagers had ever seen. Initially, the people were reserved in dealing with the two strangers.
But the residents showed the pair the hole that had been the village’s original water source, and told the men that during the previous year, two small children had drowned there. “There are no swim lessons in Uganda,” Small said.
The water in the hole was so dirty, he said, most Americans “would be hard-pressed to even wash our feet in that water.”
Besides clean water wells, Hope4Kids also sponsors a day school, Smile Africa, attended daily by 420 children who get not only an education but also two meals a day.
“If it weren’t for Smile Africa, they would have nothing to eat and malaria-infested water to drink,” Small said.
Hope4Kids has been operating in Africa for nearly 10 years, Small said. He had a chance to talk with its president and founder, Tom Eggum, and asked whether he has become hardened by the poverty he sees every day.
Eggum told the Benicians that the work done by the agency saves children, “giving them clean water, an education, and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is love-based,” Small said.
The two weeks in Uganda convinced Small that Benicia and its neighbor, Vallejo, should set a goal of underwriting the cost of 10 wells to be drilled by the end of 2011.
“The cost of a well is $10,150, so that is a goal of $101,000,” Small said.
The company for which Small works, Alonzo and Small Insurance, will start the fundraising by paying for the first well.
“For those who may not be in the faith community, but consider yourselves humanitarians, this is a human need that is a top priority.”
He called for believers and nonbelievers alike to help, because the need is great: 49 percent of Uganda is less than 14 years old, and 3 million children there are orphans, a number that increases annually by about 260,000.
“We can save these children, one at a time,” he said.
Donors may contribute through the Hope4Kids website, giving in the name of Benicia or Vallejo; they can also receive documentation for taxes, Small said.