Here in Uganda we are celebrating the close of our most impactful year ever. And we aren’t celebrating alone!
We are celebrating with Jalia, a widow, and her 11 kids who are now jigger free, back in school, and have a community willing to fight for them.
We are celebrating with Ritah, who turns 7 this year, and is alive and perfectly healthy because of your generosity and the relentless care of Sole Hope’s team in Uganda.
We are celebrating with Zeus, a shoemaker who just welcomed his first child into the world.
We are celebrating with you. Together we have stretched and grown. We’ve washed feet, made shoes, and loved people the best we know how.
Growth and Milestones
Relentless work. Relentless love. This year has been one for the record books. As we close the year we exhausted and also excited. It’s a time to look back and a time to look ahead. First let’s look back at the last three months.
Land- All stages foundations for phase 1 have been completed! The Hope Center first floor is complete and the second floor slab has been formed. The shoe making workshop walls are complete.
Sole Hope’s First Revamped Intern Session completed– Sole Hope has hosted a cohort of interns for five months. They have joined the team in the field, built lasting friendships, and learned about working cross culturally. It has been a pleasure to have the added energy, heart, and perspective these interns brought to the table.
First Quarterly Public Trip– Sole Hope has begun quarterly public trips. This trip was lead by our very own Amy Vick Cates. Long term supporters got to join us here in Uganda to participate in the work and build relationships with our team. One guest is a wound care specialist and was able to consult with our medical team. Together they adjusted the treatment plan for a long term patient. The change in his healing was dramatic. It’s a difference that this patient will feel for the rest of his life.
Bunjee Jumping– Jinja is the adventure capital of East Africa. A local company, Adrift, donated a free bunjee jump to each of our staff members. It was an amazing experience to see the team gather late on a Friday afternoon and have a blast doing something none of us had ever done. Tailors, shoemakers, and teachers took the plunge from over 120 feet above the River Nile. Facing fears and choosing adventure together fun and a powerful thing to experience together.
Medical Licensure Upgrade– Sole Hope has been operating under the license of a Clinic Officer. This is roughly equivalent to a Nurse Practitioner in the United States. We are now operating under the license of Dr. Paul, our visiting doctor. This greatly increases the scope of medical interventions we are allowed to perform.
Numbers were a bit lower this quarter. We experienced a slow down for the Holiday season and did not have any remote clinics. However, each patient seen was treated with love, respect, and left us jigger free with the tools and knowledge to live that way forever.
For comparison purposes, quarter one and two of 2017 are are compared against an average quarter from 2016. We are looking at Shoe production, number of patients seen, and numbers of jiggers removed as key indicators of program size and impact. These indicators were totaled from 2016 and divided by four to provide a representative quarter of the year.
Shoes Made 5,651
The social work team made follow up visits on 288 patients. They found 249 of them (86%) living jigger free.
We have added four positions over the past three months, ending the year with 57 people on our payroll. Our team includes patient caretakers, nurses, a doctor, teachers, social workers, shoemakers, tailors, security personnel, groundskeepers, an accountant, and more.
On the Horizon
We are looking forward to 2018 and have several very exciting developments in the works.
The Land: We have hit some slowdowns and interruptions. Permitting regulations have changed and we are undertaking environmental impact assessments on the property. We are hopeful that work will continue at a good rate. With all the foundations from phase 1 being completed we are focusing on the Hope Center and the Shoemaking Workshop.
New Interns: In early January a new group of interns will be joining Sole Hope for five months. They will be focusing on their areas of expertise such as photography, storytelling, and teaching.
Spring Marketplace: Sole Hope is bringing a curated spring marketplace to the US. The team here in Uganda is gathering items that represent the beauty and culture around us and will appeal to the American buyer. This will be a great way to raise funds for the program.
Shoe the School: We have targeted our first school, one with over 700 students to shoe the whole school. Each foot will be inspected, every student with jiggers or wounds will be treated, each student will be educated, and everyone will leave with a pair of shoes that fits them just right.
A Story of Hope
Sole Hope’s para social worker, Fiona, heard a rumor about a person critically infested with jiggers. Word passed slowly village by village until it reached Mbale. A certain community had abandoned an elderly woman and left her to die. As soon as she heard the story, Fiona traveled across washed out dirt road and up and down steep hills. She knocked on doors looking for local leaders, and she kept moving until she came to the place. The door was nailed shut from the outside. It took a rock and the help of the village chair person to beat the door open.
Kolofona was huddled inside, her eyes squinted against the light that spilled in through the doorway. Her hands and her feet were covered in wounds from jiggers. She was unable to walk. Sole Hope’s team of social workers carried Kolofona to the vehicle. The community watched, and it seemed that they didn’t expect her to ever return.
Kolofona spent several weeks with us at outreach. We removed her jiggers and cared for the wounds as they healed. We sat with her and talked, caring for her on a human and emotional level. Francis, Sole Hope’s educator taught her about the causes of jiggers and how to prevent being reinfested by them.
As the days passed, Kolofona soaked in the sunshine on the porch. She ate healthy meals. She laughed with kids playing in yard. She learned to walk again. She learned that she is loved.
“I was alone and I was in need, and then I was rescued,” she said, two weeks later sitting in her home in the hills outside Manafwa. “I was shown I was loved and shown I am valued.”
Things still aren’t easy. Kolofona is elderly and she lives alone. However, a powerful local leader, the LC3, stops by regularly to check on her. A young girl from the community is helping her around the house everyday. When she falls sick someone gives her a ride to the local clinic. People know her story. People saw her transformation. Kolofona is living proof that there is hope for people with even the worst cases of jiggers. There is hope for the lonely. There is hope for the vulnerable. There can be a second chance for people even in their darkest hour.
Thank you for being that second chance. Thank you for being hope.