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  • Dec 05 / 2014
  • 0

Recycled Fun

OwensThis post is written by Shelly Owens, who together with her husband, Dan, and 5 children, moved to Kampala back in August of this year.

One thing that has really struck Dan and me in the time we’ve been living in Uganda: nothing here is wasted.

We Americans like to think of ourselves as environmentally-conscious recyclers. We burn energy efficient lightbulbs, we build low-flow toilets and showers in our houses, and we recycle our morning cereal boxes. But let me tell you… in this regard, us Americans have nothing on the Ugandans. They are light years ahead of us.

Literally nothing in this culture is wasted. An item is used and re-used and re-used and re-used for its original purpose far beyond the point that most Americans would consider it trash. When something really is worn out beyond usage, rather than throwing it away, its function changes. Basically, it’s recycled into something else.

Avocado pits become soccer balls. Old magazine pages become necklaces. Milk cartons become toy cars. Car and motorcycle gears become dumbells. Scrap metal becomes a roof for a family’s home. Nothing is wasted.

Recently, Dan and I had to replace the tires on our family’s car. We contacted Daniel, who works as the SixtyFeet transportation coordinator, and asked for his help. He came the next morning to pick up our car and promptly returned it that afternoon with four shiny new tires. There was only one problem:

when I opened the back door of our vehicle, I found the four old, dirty tires piled in our trunk.

I was honestly a little upset. “Daniel,” I asked him, “why didn’t you just leave these old, useless tires at the shop? They’ve made a mess in the back of the car and now what am I supposed to do with these things?”

He gave me a knowing smile and replied “but Shelly, these are not useless. They’re perfectly fine. They just aren’t tires anymore.”

I smiled back because I saw where he was headed — and slowly but surely I began to think like a Ugandan. Daniel suggested that we take the old tires to Bwerenga Village, the site of the SixtyFeet Community Development Project, and build some tire swings for the children who live there. Absolutely brilliant.

Last week, with the help of a visiting mission team we did just that. We used a length of rope, some local materials found in the village, and a couple of old, “useless,” tires:

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When it was completed, the village children were absolutely stunned. Most of them had never seen anything like it before and they had no idea what to do with it. So we gave them a couple of lessons.

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And then it was GAME. ON. The children played on the swings non-stop until late in the afternoon and, as far as I know, probably right up until bath time. Which was definitely needed after all this fun.

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Learning to think like a Ugandan is definitely a side benefit of living here. This Christmas season, may we all make the most of the resources at our disposal. Recycle, reduce, reuse — and ultimately end up with more to give away.

Several generous donors have stepped up to offer a dollar-for-dollar match for every donation received by December 31, 2014, up to $60,000. We are within $20,000 of reaching our goal. We ask that you prayerfully consider SixtyFeet in your year-end giving.

  • Nov 17 / 2014
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Light Broke In

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This post was written by Maggie Utsey, one of our international staff who has been serving with us in Uganda for the better part of the year. Her heart and primary focus has been to work with the Karamojong children who frequently find themselves in the facilities where we work after the police round them up off the streets of Kampala where they often are begging or are lost.

This week has revealed to us the Lord’s faithfulness in a new depth of light.

He is the God of breakthrough.

Yes after yes, open door after open door, lifts our eyes to the Giver of good things as He paves the way for children to return home.

Some of the mamas and babies we have been working with this year have returned home to Karamoja after years of being displaced in the city. They are starting businesses and finding joy in their empowerment. They are rising above what people said about them, grabbing hold of the promise God has for their lives.

Their children, once on the street and once living in government facilities, are happy, healthy, and schooling. They spend time each week with our Karamojong staff member, who teaches them their language and culture, as many of them were infants when separated from their mothers and have learned Luganda as their first language. They dance and sing in Luganda and Nga’Karimojong, and bridges are being built between tribes who were historically taught to distrust each other. Parents are reunited with children and relationships grow.

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One of the mothers that we have been working with was pregnant when we found her seven months ago. We have been able to support her through antenatal care, medical bills, case management, and planning for her delivery back home in Karamoja. Today, we received word that her baby girl has arrived!

Through the support of sponsors, we were able this week to provide two mothers with an income-generating activity (IGA) – a business start-up kit. This support will lead them to self-sufficiency and empower them to care for their children, who will be resettled in early 2015.

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Also this week, we received permission for our Karamojong staff worker to accompany our counseling team to M3 twice per week. Since there is currently no one at M3 who can speak the Karamojong language, her presence and counsel will create a warm environment for the Karamojong children who currently live there.

Is anyone else astonished at the magnitude of victory in a few days span?

God BROKE THROUGH. He’s moving in a big way, and this week is a celebration of His promised “yes”.

Our biggest news: we received permission to partner with the government for the resettlement of Karamojong children from M1. This will be a first for us, as well as for any NGO, to partner with the government in this endeavor.

Many voices have lifted these prayers to God, and He has granted us what we have asked of Him. The families of sixteen children – once lost, are found. And we have been granted favor to walk them home.

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For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. (Psalm 108:4)

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God? (Psalm 71:19)

  • Oct 28 / 2014
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Counseling Programs Expand

This post is from Katharine Wright who has been serving with us in Uganda for the past 7 months assisting our counseling staff as they expand their services and provide more comprehensive care to the children we serve.

“When I started working for 60 Feet 7 months ago, it was days like last Friday that I hoped to see. Friday was a day of celebration! Some days working here are hard, and progress is slow, but the hard days are necessary for us to learn and for the good days to be even more amazing. On Friday the hard work paid off as we celebrated not one, but two graduations of counseling classes at M1.

As a counseling team we believe that one of our purposes is to create a safe space for children to share. We want to build good relationships and let the children know they are individuals, that they matter that they are not just a number or a problem that needs to be ‘fixed. Along the way we want to equip them for the future and we do this by providing education sessions to develop life skills.

Over the last month Bibian has been working with a small group of students to tackle issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and teach more about this topic to increase awareness whilst addressing common misconceptions. Three centres have now received this teaching and it has proven to be very valuable. Our medical team provides HIV testing and our counseling staff are on hand to help deliver results and provide extra support for any who need it.

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Alongside this, Tomson was teaching our Resettlement counseling curriculum. This begins a month before a child is due to go home from the facility. The lessons cover basic life skills from anger management & career guidance to important spiritual lessons of forgiveness and reconciliation. As one of the students from the last course said “I have learned how to not repeat the same mistakes again.” It is our hope that through the teaching they receive, the young people that leave M1 are equipped to be reintegrated well into society and share the good things they have learned with others.

Each child graduating receives a certificate and gets to share what they have learnt with the class. Last Friday’s graduation was the culmination of lots of hard work that I have seen the counseling staff put in over the last month. Whenever I walk into a counseling session it is clear to see that the children enjoy being there and are building vital relationships with our counsellors. For me, that alone is a huge cause for celebration.

We want the young people we work with to be reminded every time we see them that they matter and that their future can look different from their past. Thank you for allowing us to do this important work through your financial support and prayerful encouragement.”

  • Oct 16 / 2014
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I See Heaven

This post is from Emily Ryan who has been serving with us in Uganda for the past 18 months. While she has been here, Emily has been involved in nearly every aspect of our ministry and currently focuses her efforts on reuniting children with their families through our resettlement program.

“I see heaven invading this place. I see angels praising your holy name, and I sing praises, I sing praises. I give you all of the honor Jesus.

I see glory falling in this place. I see hope restored and healing of all disease and I sing praises, I sing praises. I give all the glory Jesus.

We give you praise and all of the honor. You are our God, the one we live for. We give you praise, all of the glory, God. “– I See Heaven” by Bryan and Katie Torwalt

 

Last Tuesday night I received a call from one of our social workers. 108 children were expected to arrive at M1 that night. 108; the population of M1 was going to increase by 30%, in a matter of minutes. 108 children coming from the streets – maybe with clothes on, most likely without shoes, and definitely hungry.

Our staff at M1 were preparing; they needed money for food, clothes, blankets, and mattresses so the children didn’t have to sleep on the cold, hard cement floors. Hours later, 43 children climbed out of a pick-up truck (we are still expecting the others any day). Terrified, lonely, away from their moms, cold, and hungry.

And we were in Kampala, an hour away. The only thing we could do was pray. Pray that these children immediately experience the love of Christ through our staff. Pray that these children see Jesus as our staff mobilizes to treat their medical needs, comfort their sorrows, find out where their families are living, tell them about Jesus. All we could do was pray that the Lord would provide the financial resources for SixtyFeet so that these 43 young children could eat, sleep under a blanket, and receive necessary medical treatment.

When we showed up to M1 yesterday, eager to hold and comfort scared children, we saw the Lord answer each and every one of our cries for His help and provision. The LORD, through generous donations, allowed us to provide for these children’s basic needs. Our medical team was amazing and met every child, tested them all for HIV, dewormed them, and entered them into our system. But, above and beyond, these children experienced Jesus. They cried out to Him in fear and met Him in those dark places. Our staff sang songs of worship with them, prayed with them, and taught them about Christ.

In a government-system where we never know when a child is going to arrive or depart, the greatest gift we can give them is a hope beyond this world. A trust in a God who sees them, knows them, and promises to fight for them.

We will never understand why these children are forced to fend for their lives on the streets, rounded-up and taken to prison, some only 2 years old. But, I know that the LORD ordains the desert and the valley in our lives to show us more of Him. And I have seen Jesus in one of the darkest places; I have experienced Him at M1- in our staff, in the children’s lives, in children who have been resettled and now are leaders in their communities and churches. Jesus is working.

In the past few weeks since I have been back in Uganda, the Lord has revealed His work and His power to me. There have been days that we have woken up with little funds to treat children who need to go to the hospital, no money to follow-up on a resettled child or even buy gas to travel to the prisons. But each time, as we daily bow our knees for His provision, He has met our needs. There truly is no better place to be then completely dependent on the sovereign God who provides.

So each time He shows Himself mighty, strong, and full of love, we praise Him. We praise Him for His faithfulness, His provision, and that He reveals Himself to these little children.

And we continue to pray. We pray for the short time we get to know these children, that they will experience Jesus and His love, that they will come to know the God who sees them when they are scared or alone; the God who protects and sustains them, even when its in a situation, like at M1, that seems so broken.

And we pray for SixtyFeet. We pray for our staff who daily minister to the children, we pray for donations to be made, but most importantly we pray that He would be made known, revealed, and glorified in our lives and in our work.

  • Oct 01 / 2014
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Children’s Rights and Gospel Hope

When you look at Sixty Feet and the work we do on the ground in Uganda, it may seem overwhelming. We work in many different areas of ministry throughout the country, but our focus is simple: immediate needs and long term restoration. One of the ways that we provide hope and restoration is through recreational games and events at the centers where we serve. These typically include games from a great organization called Right to Play. These games and activities are designed teach children about their basic rights according to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Child. Uganda has signed this statement by the UN that expresses the rights that every child should have; from the right to protection in a family to the right to development and education.

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As part of our recreational ministry, we recently hosted a 5K race for the children at M1 along with a team from Sixty Feet USA. This was an event that the children anticipated and talked about during the weeks leading up to it. Even the staff at M1 participated and enjoy these large group events. It gives a chance for children and staff to have fun together and build meaningful relationships. Our top 5 finishers received medals (and bragging rights) and everyone got a ribbon for finishing the race. After the race, the US team, Sixty Feet staff, M1 staff, and the children all got to party together with fruit and drinks. It was a testament to the way events like this can bring people together regardless of the circumstances that bring them to a place like M1.

Listening to some of M1’s staff speak, they are very encouraged by our presence there. We are teaching the children life skills that will be with them forever. More than anything, we are showing them what hope feels like. I am not speaking of a general hope, like hoping that we get ice cream today, but rather a Biblical hope. Bill Johnson of Bethel talks about Biblical hope as a joyful anticipation of good. This is what Sixty Feet provides the children we serve. We present them the Gospel in so many different ways that give the children a joyful anticipation of good. Sometimes that looks like running a 5K, other times it looks like getting healthy after visiting our clinic, and sometimes it comes full circle and it looks like children going home to a family that loves and welcomes them.

Enjoy these pictures of our fun, rainy race day with the kids and some special guests. Please also consider a one-time or monthly donation so that we can continue to serve these great kids.

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