At long last we have received good news from Haiti. This may be direct result of the full congregation of my little Vermont church putting this on the top of the prayer list this week. I like to think so.
First, Gwenael Appolon, General Secretary of the YMCA d’Haiti, just reported that he finally received a signed document back from the appropriate government official, agreeing that the Haitian government would not charge tax or duty on the incoming containers. This is a very big, very hard fought, victory. Thank you Gwenael for your tireless efforts on this!
Second, in a conversation this morning with Lynda Gonzales-Chavez of the World Service Department of the YMCA of the USA, and Paula Gavin, a member of the National Board, the YMCA of the USA, agreed on a funding mechanism to get additional costs paid related to moving the last four containers from the Dominican Republic and moving us ahead on the retrofit!
With these great accomplishments, we now expect all of the containers in place in Haiti in mid-November. Haitian volunteers will go to work on the containers, and begin sorting and maybe even some distribution right away.
With holidays coming up here in the United States in November and December, and a major YMCA of the USA trip already in place for mid-January, we have decided to tentatively schedule our volunteer trip for the second week of February, with departure on Sunday, February 6th and the return scheduled for Saturday February, 12th.
With the passage of time and the fact that the containers will be in Haiti for several months before we get there, it now makes sense to schedule both of our groups, the distribution group, and the retrofit group, to go at the same time. Also because of the passage of time, we will allow more of the containers to be emptied before we get there; we can increase the size of the retro group so that we are ready to do more in the way of retrofitting the containers into YMCA buildings while we are there.
We are putting out the word now to all of the folks who signed up for the original trips (and in most cases, paid their share for the original trip scheduled in July), and others who indicated interest, but who could not go last July. For those of you who have not paid, please know that although the cost of a volunteer going to Haiti is substantially more, we had asked for a contribution by, or on behalf of, each volunteer in the amount of $600.
Please let me know ASAP whether you would like to go along on this trip from February 6th to the 12th.
Although a lot of time has past, the needs for the Haitian people have not diminished. They may have even grown. The clothes and supplies we will finally be able to deliver, and the new buildings that the containers will turn into, are very much needed and will be very much welcomed!
Our WMF Scholars have an undeniable thirst for education. Here are excerpts from our recent scholars’ applications…
Sholpan Nugmanova, Kazakhstan – I lived in the orphanage of Kazakhstan from the time I was a baby until I was 18. It was a very difficult place to grow up, because there were many children and few caregivers. For some, the orphanage was a place forgotten by society where children could lose hope for a better life. The orphanage made me realize that I wanted more from my life. The caregivers told me that education was my key to a future. This hope motivated me to work hard at my studies every day, to stay out of trouble and to strive for a better life.
Grace Aber, Uganda - I was born in a war-ravaged area. One day the LRA Rebels killed my father and eldest sister. Since that day, my life and the lives of my siblings and mother turned into a nightmare. My mother was hard-working, but as a widow, it was not easy for her to feed and educate her seven children. The rebels came back and slaughtered my eldest brother and raped my mother and sister. Due to the rape, my mother contracted AIDS and died two years later. My oldest sister took over making sure we were in school and eating. I was doing extremely well academically and my sister’s new husband paid my fees for secondary school. I decided to brew local alcohol for two years to save money for the Advanced level. I passed well and was admitted to the school of allied medicine. I want to do research to develop a vaccine for AIDS.
George Jorum, Kenya - After I completed primary school with high marks, I could find no one who could pay for my high school fees. I was so determined to attend secondary school and later become a doctor that I joined quarry work to earn money and pay my fees. So it became a routine to work every evening and weekends at the quarry and attend high school during the day. When I completed my fourth year and sat for the exams, I was among the best in the district. I worked for four years to save money to study medicine and surgery. I was accepted and was able to pay for one year before the money started to run out. It has been a struggle, but I am determined to make this dream a reality.
Ephransia Malindi, Kenya - My father works day and night to make ends meet and tells us never to give up and that the best inheritance he can give us is education. It actually keeps me going the fact that he never went to school, but wants the best for us. This is what has made me come this far despite all the difficulties. My dream is to be a doctor. Money is very tight and it is difficult to cover my school fees, let alone money for food and shelter. The best I do to survive is to make sure I get one meal a day and life goes on. I have no money for photocopies, so I write out the exercises by hand which takes a lot of time. I thank God for He has brought me this far. I believe He has good plans for me.
Jurugo Ali, Sudan and Uganda - I was born in southern Sudan in the middle of a war. We fled to northern Uganda as refugees in 1991. I was put in a school in a refugee camp. When I left primary school, I was the best in the district and at the end of secondary school, I led all the students, both nationals and refugees. Since I was a child, I had watched the nurses and doctors who treated the refugees and I wanted to become like them. I was admitted to university to study medicine and surgery. My uncle helped pay for my school fees until last year when he died. If given a chance to continue and finish my course of study, I will commit my life to the service of humanity.
Richard Monyo, Ghana - I always yearned to climb the academic ladder to the highest level in order to assist my siblings and family, but poverty had blocked all my chances. My mother, who is a local distiller and farmer, had to struggle to send me money and food to begin my tertiary (college level) education. The little I earn is not enough to even purchase the admission forms, so I use my salary to help pay for the education of my younger siblings.
Some “Thank You’s” from grateful WMF Scholars…
Michael Gaani, Ghana - I must admit that I am short of words to really convey my heart-felt appreciation to you and the entire hard working staff who make the dreams of underprivileged ones in the third world countries come true. I would have been in limbo if your outfit had not come to my aid. It is my promise that I will make the Wells Mountain Foundation proud by serving the rural folks in Ghana in the health sector.
Alan Haragha, Uganda – Having completed my last exam, I head to the finance office to apply for a dead year (to drop out for a year) as I had no more money to continue my studies the following year. As I pass the internet café, I check my email that I had not checked for some time during exams. I only had one mail and I must say, this is and will be the email to remember. The mail that is going to make a difference in my life and change the lives of the needy wherever I live. It is wonderful to have become a WMF Scholar. Thank God! I will study hard.
Wilson Mwanja, Uganda - The WMF scholarship has come at a period when I was about to drop out of my medical studies program as I was becoming overwhelmed by the demand of tui-tion payments. I do Promise to study hard and work tirelessly and keep the WMF candle burn-ing. May you be blessed as you serve mankind.
Sholpan Nugmanova, Kazakhstan - I promise to make WMF very proud of my academic achievements. I will never forget your help and hope to one day help those in my own community by giving back. I want to encourage people back home in my native Kazakhstan, especially the children in the orphanages, to keep believing that education is the key to a better future. It is also important for them to know that there are people like you who truly care about others and that dreams can come true when hard work meets opportunity.
Wisdom Fiabumor, Ghana - It is said that a thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but also the parent of all virtues. Knowing you at WMF has made me a better person. I am really excited and I cannot appreciate you enough for giving me the amazing opportunity to walk this path of transformation. It is giving a huge new dimension to my life.
Jurugo Roberts Ali, Sudan and Uganda - I am extremely happy! This scholarship will really act as my gateway to fulfilling my dreams of alleviating poverty and reducing the AIDS scourge among youth. It is my duty to study hard and become a medical doctor in a few years.
Jimmy Francis Odongo, a WMF Scholar from Uganda studying Program Planning and Management, sent us this remarkable story of this life, simply titled “My Story.” Read it in its entirety below.
I am born in the family of 12 children and I am the third born, all of us are still alive and all our parents too though old age is living in their door. I had wonderful time as a young boy until 1998 May when the LRA insurgency strongly hit our village. This insurgency changed my life trend because on two occasions, I almost got captured by the rebels. In May 1998, we used to sleep in the bush in fear of the attack at night. And one day, early in the morning I snicked home to untie the cows because I was the only one now around the home, all other family members had fled to Lira town. While I had just finished doing it, the dogs started barking from my uncle’s home. As I tried to find out, suddenly I met the rebels who started chasing me. What saved me while he was about to capture me was my dog named Mandela, it caught him by his leg and threw him down leaving room for me to escape. I am sorry that Mandela died of bush fire while hunting in 2002 because no body was any longer in the village to give it food.
The second escape was when I had gone to burry my dear Aunt on the 11th/October/2002 again in the same village. As soon as we laid her in the grave, the news spread that the rebels had already surrounded the village. Every body ran away but I remained a while behind because we had hired certain things for the burial and I was fearing that they might destroy them. At around 7pm they draw very close to our home and wanted to attack the vehicle which had come to carry the hired items. We jumped in the vehicle and the driver took off very fast while they were about 50 meters to catch up with us. They never shot the vehicle as they used to do because their other interest was to attack the health centre to loot drugs which they succeeded in doing.
Because of that we fled to town suburb and we were depending on food distributed by world food program. I then started volunteering in the camps handling child development in a holistic environment. I later started volunteering with world food program taking food to people in the camps across our sub-region up to July 2006. Since then, I have been a community volunteer doing HIV education, mobilizing people for voluntary testing and counseling, and at the moment mobilizing the community to embark on sustainable livelihood activities as a better option to foster development in our areas.
As a result of all these experience, I made a decision to pursue a study, doing bachelors degree in project planning and management so that I can be a better change agent in my community through development projects. To test my capability in that, I and some few members of our community have come up to open a secondary school next year February where we want to begin helping some very vulnerable children acquire free education. The greatest challenge now is raising funds to do this work. The good news is that my father on hearing this, donated land worth 15 thousand US Dollars for the classroom construction. Through membership contributions, we have also started raising two class rooms and we plan to roof it in mid November if we manage to get some money again. We are even asking those who can join us to support this noble task. We believe that through this ,our brothers who can not afford the high charges at government and other private schools shall be able to get a second chance life making them more resourceful members of the community. This is my dream and I hope with determination and good will, help of well wishers and strong commitment, God will see us through this life arena.
Life is what one makes it to be and where there is a will, there is a way.
Jimmy Francis Odongo
Lira District, Northern Uganda.
We are honored to count Jimmy as one of our WMF Scholars, class of 2011.