Today we welcome Sole Hope Advocate, Angela, to the blog. We had the honor of hosting her on the Advocate Trip just a few months ago. Angela has been part of our advocate program for several years, but there is nothing like seeing it – first-hand – for the very first time. Washing their feet, holding their hands, and hearing their little giggles make everything so real – and makes a country half way around the world feel closer to home. We are so thankful for the work our Advocates do & we were so excited to introduce a handful of them to what we do here on the ground. You are welcome, Angela! – Lis Steckle, International Coordinator
I have been a Sole Hope Advocate for over two years, but until my recent trip to Uganda I could not fully appreciate the major impact Sole Hope is making in Uganda. One of my favorite experiences was seeing the transformation in the children and adults at the Sole Hope Outreach Clinic.
Within the first few days of arriving in Jinja, the Sole Hope Outreach House had two new families who came for treatment. The Outreach Clinic offers a safe place to stay, education, meals, and medication to families who need more extensive treatement. The Sole Hope Social Workers go to the villages and speak with the village chairman. The chairman finds the children/families with the worst jigger infestations and refer them to the Social Workers. Once the families (at least one caretaker is encouraged to come with the children) come to the Outreach Clinic they go through an intake process, signing release forms, getting a health history, and other testing. Families typically stay at the Outreach House for 2 weeks, but some longer.
When our team arrived at the Outreach Clinic the two new families were going through the intake process with the social worker, Adam, and nurse, Teddy. Adam reviews several forms with the families and Teddy goes through a health history for each person. One of the families was Peter, the father, and his three sons, ages 5 & under, Dan, Easton, & Thomas. After the intake process was completed they waited to have their feet washed and jiggers removed. I distinctly remember returning from lunch and seeing four Sole Hope staff members (all Ugandan) preparing to start the process. The emotion I felt caught me off guard. Seeing Ugandans helping their fellow Ugandans made me realize how they truly care for each other and for the mission of Sole Hope. Jiggers carry a social stigma and shame and most Ugandan’s don’t realize that they are both treatable and preventable.
Jigger removal starts with washing feet. Each foot washer had a basin of water, soap, and a small scrub brush. After the child or adult’s feet were cleaned they were moved to the removal area. The Sole Hope nurses, Teddy and Prossy, and Lillian, the lead educator/translator, removed jiggers, using safety pins and flexible razor blades. Sole Hope keeps records (called “Foot Notes”) of where jiggers are removed, old jigger wounds, gangrene, infection, etc. for each person that is seen and treated (both at the outreach house and at clinics). The kids were so brave. I can’t even begin to imagine how nervous they must have been after sitting and waiting for each of their turns. Thomas, around 3 years old, had the roughest time, understandably. I tried to comfort him by holding him in my lap towards the end of his removal. The best thing about Thomas was his smile and laugh, even right after his jiggers were removed. I wish everyone could hear his giggle!
Photo by Susan Hood
After all the jiggers were removed it was off to the shower and clothes closet. Once again, Thomas giggled during his whole shower. Moses, Boys Outreach House Supervisor, said that it is rare that any one of these children had ever bathed with anything other than a jerry can (a 5 gallong jug). We picked out shorts, t-shirts, and underwear for the boys to wear. These boys came to the Outreach House with torn, rugged-looking shirts, which was likely their only article of clothing. They were so elated about the pockets on their shorts and ran around, full of laughter and giggles, with their hands in their pockets. They quickly forgot about their sore feet, they were too excited! It was such a good reminder of all the things I take for granted daily. After they got all cleaned up they received their Sole Hope shoes. I somehow missed this part, but did see them wearing their shoes during the rest of our stay.
It was great to see start to (almost) finish with this family. Dan, the 5 year old, liked to be at my side. I was always sure to spend a little extra time with him and hug him a little tighter. On the day we had to say goodbye, he sat on my lap for a bit and then went and laid in the grass. Usually he was in my lap the whole time I was sitting. He also felt like he had a fever, so the nurses tested him for malaria, which was positive. Prossy, a nurse, was able to give him some malaria medicine and took him to his room to let him rest. When I went in to tell him goodbye, Peter, his father, was laying in the bed next to him. It was humbling to see Peter’s concern regardless of all the laughter and playing that was going on just outside his room. I was happy to learn that Peter, Dan, Easton, and Thomas returned back to their village shortly after we came back from our trip.
Photo by Susan Hood
The best way to sum up this trip is with the word Hope. Hope for these families, that they have learned that they can care for their bodies and have somewhere to turn to if they need help. Hope that there are Ugandan’s helping Ugandan’s, and not just relying on the Westerner’s for these things. Hope for the Sole Hope staff, that they are able to provide for their families by working hard and helping their fellow Ugandans. Hope for my family, that we are able to continue to donate time and efforts into Sole Hope after experiencing the difference Sole Hope is making in Uganda.