Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Law Extends Foster Care Emancipation Age in CA

New Law Extends Foster Care Emancipation Age in Calif. (Sacramento, CA) Thursday, December 22, 2011 Under California's old system, when a foster kid turned 18, that was it. They'd be out of their foster home and done with state benefits. Democratic Assemblyman Jim Beall's 2010 measure changes that, starting January 1st. Beall: "Twenty-one is a more appropriate age for emancipation of foster youth. In other words, when somebody's 18, they're too young and vulnerable to be let out without any kind of support system - and that's exactly what happens today." The law phases in the expansion of benefits: to a foster kid's 19th birthday in 2012, 20 the following year, and 21 the year after that. Beall says federal funds could make the program revenue-neutral for the state.

Monday, March 29, 2010

LRA still killing and capturing children in Eastern Congo!

BBC: DR Congo Rebel Massacre of Hundreds is Uncovered
The Makombo massacre is one of the worst ever committed by the LRA in its bloody 23-year history, yet it has gone unreported for months. The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim.
Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher (Kampala) - The rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) killed at least 321 civilians and abducted 250 others, including at least 80 children, during a previously unreported four-day rampage in the Makombo area of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2009, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

"The Makombo massacre is one of the worst ever committed by the LRA in its bloody 23-year history, yet it has gone unreported for months," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim."

The 67-page report, "Trail of Death: LRA Atrocities in Northeastern Congo," is the first detailed documentation of the Makombo massacre and other atrocities by the LRA in Congo in 2009 and early 2010. The report, based on a Human Rights Watch fact-finding mission to the massacre area in February, documents the brutal killings during the well-planned LRA attack from December 14 to 17 in the remote Makombo area of Haute Uele district.

LRA forces attacked at least 10 villages, capturing, killing, and abducting hundreds of civilians, including women and children. The vast majority of those killed were adult men, whom LRA combatants first tied up and then hacked to death with machetes or crushed their skulls with axes and heavy wooden sticks. The dead include at least 13 women and 23 children, the youngest a 3-year-old girl who was burned to death. LRA combatants tied some of the victims to trees before crushing their skulls with axes.

The LRA also killed those they abducted who walked too slowly or tried to escape. Family members and local authorities later found bodies all along the LRA's 105-kilometer journey through the Makombo area and the small town of Tapili. Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that for days and weeks after the attack, this vast area was filled with the "stench of death."

Children and adults who managed to escape provided similar accounts of the group's extreme brutality. Many of the children captured by the LRA were forced to kill other children who had disobeyed the LRA's rules. In numerous cases documented by Human Rights Watch, children were ordered to surround the victim in a circle and take turns beating the child on the head with a large wooden stick until the child died.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Congo (MONUC) has some 1,000 peacekeeping troops in the LRA-affected areas of northeastern Congo - far too few to protect the population adequately, given the area's size. Yet instead of sending more troops, the peacekeeping force, under pressure from the Congolese government to withdraw from the country by July 2011, is considering removing some troops from the northeast by June in the first phase of its drawdown.

"The people of northeastern Congo are in desperate need of more protection, not less," said Van Woudenberg. "The UN Security Council should stop any drawdown of MONUC peacekeeping troops from areas where the LRA threatens to kill and abduct civilians."

In mid-April, the Security Council is due to visit Congo to discuss the peacekeeping force's plans for withdrawal and the protection of civilians.

The Makombo massacre is part of a longstanding history of atrocities and abuse by the LRA in Uganda, southern Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Congo. Pushed out of northern Uganda in 2005, the LRA now operates in the remote border area between southern Sudan, Congo, and CAR. In July 2005, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for the senior leaders of the LRA for crimes they committed in northern Uganda, but those indicted remain at large.

The Human Rights Watch research indicated that the Makombo massacre was perpetrated by two LRA commanders - Lt. Col. Binansio Okumu (also known as Binany) and a commander known as Obol. They report to Gen. Dominic Ongwen, a senior LRA leader who is believed to command the LRA's forces in Congo and who is among those sought by the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Watch urged investigations of these commanders' alleged participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In December 2008, the governments of the region, led by the Ugandan armed forces, with intelligence and logistical support from the United States, began a military campaign known as Operation Lightning Thunder against the LRA in northeastern Congo. A surprise aerial strike on the main LRA camp failed to neutralize the LRA leadership, which escaped. In retaliation, the LRA attacked villages and towns in northern Congo and southern Sudan, killing more than 865 civilians during the Christmas 2008 holiday season and in the weeks thereafter.

On March 15, 2009, Operation Lightning Thunder officially ended, following pressure from the Congolese government, which found it politically difficult to support a continued Ugandan army presence on Congolese territory. But a covert joint military campaign continued, with the quiet approval of the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila. Both governments publicly maintain that the LRA is no longer a serious threat in Congo and that the bulk of the rebel group has either moved to Central African Republic or has been killed or dispersed.

These public declarations might have contributed to burying information about ongoing LRA attacks, leaving many victims feeling abandoned. An 80-year-old traditional chief, whose son was killed during the Makombo massacre, told Human Rights Watch: "We have been forgotten. It's as if we don't exist. The government says the LRA are no longer a problem, but I know that's not true. I beg of you, please talk to others about what has happened to us."

While the Makombo massacre is the most deadly documented attack by the LRA since the Christmas massacres of 2008, dozens of attacks against civilians have also been carried out in other areas in recent months - near the towns of Bangadi and Ngilima in Haut Uele district, in Ango territory in Bas Uele district, as well as in the Central African Republic.

In the December 2009 attacks near Bangadi and Ngilima, LRA combatants horribly mutilated six civilians, cutting off each victim's lips and an ear with a razor. The LRA sent the victims back to their villages with a chilling warning to others that anyone who heard or spoke about the LRA would be similarly punished.

On March 11, 2010, the US Senate unanimously passed the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. If it becomes law, it will require President Barack Obama's administration to develop a regional strategy to protect civilians in central Africa from attacks by the LRA, to work to apprehend the LRA's leadership, and to support economic recovery for northern Uganda. The bill is currently before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

"The people of northeastern Congo and other LRA-affected areas have suffered for far too long," said Van Woudenberg. "The US and other concerned governments should work with the UN and regional parties to develop and carry out a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians and apprehend abusive LRA leaders."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haitian Orphans as Refugees to the U.S.

Haitian Orphans as Refugees to the U.S.

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Haitian Orphans and Adoption

Haitian Orphans and Adoption

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Haiti Orphan Response, January 18, 2010

Haiti Orphan Response and Immediate Supply Chain Needs, January 18, 2010 in Christian Alliance, Haiti and Orphans, International Orphan Care:

Response following a major disaster goes through several stages. The first 24-72 hours are vital for rescuing individuals buried in rubble and delivering triaged medical aid to the wounded. Delivery of basic necessities, particularly emergency food and water rations, are also vital to sustain survivors. Even as this stage continues, other serious needs come to the fore—including transitional shelter, clothing, antibiotics and emergency medical procedures. Developing supply chains that can make ongoing deliveries of water, food and other necessities becomes critical in this stage. In Haiti, although efforts to expand capacity to care for earthquake victims for the long term have already begun, these more immediate needs continue to be the central focus. This is particularly true for the many children’s homes and orphanages that have long served Haiti’s orphans…and now are seeking to serve a vastly expanded number of parentless children. Our friends at JCICS are helping ensure communications between facilities serving orphans amidst this need and the U.S. Government, Red Cross and other key Washington offices. If you are aware of an orphan-serving facility on the ground in Haiti that is having trouble securing delivery of basic necessities, write to info@christianalliancefororphans.org, and they’ll work to connect them with the right offices.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Gulu Trip report to the Board of Shared Blessings


In the service of our Lord Jesus Christ and on behalf of Audrey Foster, the Founder and Executive Director of Shared Blessings, I travelled to Gulu, Uganda from August 1st, 2009 through August 15th, 2009 for the principal purpose of meeting and visiting with Rev. Otto Naptali of the Keziya Orphanage Home (KOH) which is sponsored by Shared Blessings. (See: http://www.sharedblessingsicm.org/keziya.html .) This was my third trip to Uganda but this was my first time meeting with Rev. Naptali and my first time to Gulu. My first two trips to Uganda were both on behalf of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. (See: http://www.fpcberkeley.org/attender_home.asp .) I initially traveled to Uganda in February, 2007 to familiarize myself with Habitat for Humanity of Uganda (See: http://www.habitat.org/intl/ame/211.aspx ) and with the local customs and culture of Uganda. My second trip to Uganda was in August, 2007 where I returned to lead a Habitat for Humanity Global Village Team from our church in the building of a Habitat home in the Mukono District near Kampala for a family in need. This third trip to Uganda was on behalf of Shared Blessings (See: http://www.sharedblessingsicm.org/keziya.html ) of Modesto, CA and was in part to implement the process for a new program for Shared Blessings called “Medkids”. The vision for the Medkids program is to provide critical medical care and foster care here in the USA to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC’s) in need of complicated medical procedures as a result of injuries sustained during the war with the LRA. Such complicated medical procedures would not normally be made available to these OVC’s while in Uganda.


Rev. Otto Naptali and I had a number of agenda items to cover on behalf of Audrey Foster and Shared Blessings. The agenda items that we intended to cover during our visit were:
- Meeting the leaders and staff of Keziya Orphanage and learning about the operation of the orphanage.
- Meeting the local leaders within the Gulu community.
- Visit the IDP camps within the Gulu community.
- Visit the Beekeeping operation of Keziya Orphanage and take pictures of the operation with the children.
- Visit the Stationary Store and take pictures with the children.
- Review the Business Initiative program with Otto and encourage his support toward this program.
- Determine if Douglas Olam should be substituted in place of Dennis Okeny as the sponsored student by the Bible Study Group as Dennis Okeny has recently received his certificate.
- Take two pictures of as many of the sponsored orphans as possible, one with their name tag and one without their name tag.
- Meet with Francis Okot and his family toward initially implementing the Medkids program and to refine the processes involved with Otto and the local leaders.

The following is a review of our results with each of the above agenda items in greater detail:

Meeting the leaders and staff of Keziya Orphanage and learning about the operation of the orphanage.

Rev. Otto and Filder were extremely gracious, generous, and tireless hosts throughout my visit with them in Gulu. They went way out of their way to make me feel very welcome and honored throughout my time with them. We initially met the night I arrived on August 3rd for dinner at the Acholi Inn where I was staying and discussed there the agenda items for the coming week together. I was traveling with my dear friend and brother in Christ from Kampala, Michael Ssansa Musoke, who was also treated royally by Rev. Otto and Filder and the entire staff at the Keziya Orphanage Home. Michael and I met and became good friends during my Habitat build in Mukono in 2007 and he insisted on driving me to Gulu upon his learning of this trip. I was extremely grateful for Michael’s driving me and he ended up staying with me the entire week and drove us around Gulu and back to Kampala at the end of the week. Michael is the Founder and Executive Director of GIGE in Kampala.
(See: http://gigeuganda.org/fly/getinvolved.php ). GIGE seeks to give a quality boarding school education in Kampala to poorer girls from rural districts in Uganda, such as Masindi, who otherwise might not receive any education at all. Michael and his wife Maria are doing a remarkable work with GIGE in greatly impacting the lives of these poor girls.
Rev. Otto Naptali and the Keziya Orphanage Home has four operational locations with the main location being a grouping of five mud and thatch roof huts on about an acre of land just off the main road a few kilometers outside of Gulu. This is Rev. Otto and Filders’ home which they relocated to from their farm when the LRA rebels were terrorizing the area. There appears to be about 65 orphan children under their care from toddlers to young adults with most being away at boarding school during the school year in Gulu, Kampala and Masindi. It appeared that the only sponsoring group for this orphanage is Shared Blessings. The second location is nearby and is located on about four acres of land upon which has been built a dormitory for housing the children. Otto is seeking to move the children to this site as soon as funds are available to complete the dormitory which appears to be about 80% complete. A small portion of the land at this location is cultivated with vegetables with the remainder yet to be improved. The dormitory appears to be in need of plumbing, electrical, carpentry for the windows and doors and furnishings for the rooms. The third location is a small office located closer to town where the Stationary Store is located and the fourth location is several kilometers away where the beekeeping operation is located. We met with Otto and Filder’s eldest daughter, Florence Monica, who is a local school teacher. She lives with Otto and Filder and has her own hut. We also met Otto’s brother, Martin, who assists and lives on site as well as Charles Ojara who is Otto’s right hand man in running the orphanage and who works for little or no pay. Dennis Okeny also appears to be a young leader with the orphanage and it appears that Dennis and Charles may both reside in a small room next to the office near town. Joseph Oloya and Douglas Olam were also a young men present. It seems that the younger adults of KOH have taken on certain responsibilities for the running of the orphanage.

Meeting the local leaders within the Gulu community.

Rev. Otto made it a point to introduce me to many of the local leaders within the Gulu community that would interact with either KOH or Medkids. We met with Rev. John Ocholo, the headmaster of Gulu Primary School where 22 of the KOH orphans are currently attending primary school. Rev. Ocholo spent a great deal of time with us explaining the various operations of the school and their most urgent needs. Rev. John is a dynamic and gifted leader who rebuilt the school based upon Nehemiah, Chapter 2: 17 to 18. When he came to the school it was in shambles and over run by hooligans. He built a wall around the school and partnered with agencies of the EU to rebuild certain buildings and the campus looks impressive. Rev. John has planted many fruit trees and vegetables and has much room for sports and for additional growth. While visiting the school, all of the KOH orphans came out of their classes and we met together with Rev. Otto and Rev. John and we extended greetings and encouragement to them from their sponsors at Shared Blessings. Gulu Primary School was started in 1914 and was the first school in the Northern Region of the country. It currently has 1561 students and 86 blind students. It is the only school for the blind in all of Northern Uganda. The needs of these poor blind students are great and in particular they are:
-Blank Braille paper – lots of it and needs to be shipped to them as there is none within the country.
-Braille embosser – enables them to print most anything for the students in Braille.
-Thermal form photocopier for the blind.
-Bunk beds, mattresses, blankets, pillows, sheets and mosquito netting.
These blind students have no sponsors and in most cases have been abandoned by their parents to the school. They did not appear to have any audio tools available but they did not ask for them. Their plight appears to me to be particularly pathetic and in need of much love.

The contact information for this school is:

Rev. John Ocholo, Gulu Primary School, P.O. Box 598, Gulu, Uganda, East Africa.
Rev. John’s cell: 256-772-296-9226, email: revjohnocholo@yahoo.com

Rev. John is also on the board of directors of “CIFORD” or Community Initiative for Rural Development and he gave me the by-laws of the organization which are enclosed here.
This organization seeks to improve the Gulu community and the most urgent needs expressed by Rev. John Ocholo for their community are:

-The community of Gulu urgently needs a high quality vocational school. There currently is no significant quality vocational training in the area and many of the children and young adults of Gulu need training in the trades to find employment. The Ministry of Education has vocational curriculum readily available but what is urgently needed is a commitment toward implementing a quality program. There are buildings available, teachers available, and curriculum available, but funding and organizational support is lacking. The trades that should be considered priority are: Plumbing, Carpentry, Masonry, Sewing, and Motor vehicle repair. Perhaps Invisible Children or Watoto church would be a good community partner for implementing such a trade school in Gulu.
-They are seeking assistance with quality housing reconstruction within their district. There has been much loss and displacement over the 20 years of war with the LRA and much local housing has been destroyed. They really need assistance with building housing back on their farmland which was destroyed by the LRA. I met with Habitat for Humanity of Uganda in Kampala and expressed this urgent need from Gulu. They assured me that they will be re-entering Gulu in a big way and are partnering with World Vision and others toward implementing a holistic remedy for the housing need in Gulu in a meaningful way. They are however, still several months away from implementing their housing plan into Gulu.
-Their economy is based largely upon agriculture and much of their agriculture industry was destroyed by the war with the LRA. Their livestock was mostly destroyed during the war and their stocks need to be replenished. In addition to livestock, they are also urgently in need of seeds, tools, and farm machinery.
-They are also in dire need of tuition sponsors for their better students to go onto university.

We also met with Chairman Mao (his wife’s name is Naomi) who is the elected Chairman of the District of Gulu. He is a dynamic and charismatic leader who is dearly loved by many of the people throughout Northern Uganda as his election victory was reportedly a landslide. He was serving in Parliament in Kampala but resigned to seek election to serve the people within his home district. He has traveled to the USA several times and was recently in the East Bay just a couple of months ago. Chairman Mao was interested in and supportive of the “Medkids” program and encouraged us to pursue it as there is much need in the area for such a program. Chairman Mao’s cell phone number is: 256-772-222-246, email: mpmao@yahoo.com He encouraged us to contact Jimmy Roots at Community Development and Otto agreed to take care of this.
We met with Jared White, The Programs Director for Invisible Children in Gulu. Jared is an impressive young man from San Diego who has a great deal of responsibility (staff of 90) at the IC office in Gulu. His schedule is quite full with not much room to take on any additional responsibilities or tasks for outside organizations. He thought “Medkids” should make every effort to seek medical care for the OVC’s in need within Uganda first before seeking medical visa’s for the children.
We also worshipped at Watoto Church http://www.watoto.com/index.php in Gulu on Sunday and met the Senior Pastor there whose name I did not write down. This is an Evangelical church which is an extension of the main church in Kampala. They are a vibrant community of younger, “middle class” Ugandans who are quite active in the rebuilding of their communities and their country. Both Chariman Mao and Jared White attend this church among many other Christian community leaders. We drove several kilometers out of Gulu to visit the Watoto Orphanage community that they have been building since October, 2008. Their model and their execution is very impressive. They have secured a few hundred acres of land and to date have already built three circular communities of nine homes each and have started in building a primary and secondary school on site. Each home houses four girls and four boys along with a house mother living on-site. The buildings are cinder block with excellent construction materials and quality construction throughout. The bedrooms are nicely appointed and each house has a sitting room, a dining room, a fully stocked kitchen and a bathroom. Each home is also adopted by a house father and a cell group from Kampala that sponsors each home. It is a remarkably healthy and holistic design and the children on-site were beaming as a result. Rev. Otto stated he didn’t sleep the night after visiting this Watoto orphanage.

There is also another excellent looking orphanage compound in Gulu called Children’s Village sponsored by the UK but we did not have the time to visit this orphanage.

We also met with the following local civic leaders:
-Rose Myapolo, L.C. V Councillor, Gulu District, Ongako sub-county, cell: 077-64-8840, email: obanga_j@yahoo.com
-Kenneth Nyello, L.C. V Chief Councillor, Gulu District, cell: 0712-025-213, email: nyellokenneth@yahoo.com
-Cohen Opira, Teacher at the Police Primary School, cell: 077-33-7240, email: cohenopira@yahoo.com.uk
Each of the above three stressed the urgent need for a high quality vocational school for the Gulu District.

Visit the IDP camps within the Gulu community.

We visited the IDP camps within the Gulu community and toured their areas. These camps were set up to more easily protect the people from the LRA. With the people in a central location the Ugandan Army could better protect them from the LRA. Many in these camps have been gradually returning to their farm lands since 2006. However, many of their elders have died in the camps and the children are not clear on their farmland boundaries. Thus the local courts are chocked full of boundary disputes as the IDP’s are moving home only to find others squatting on their farmland. Many have chosen to remain in the camps as they either have no place to go or have built up a community there and have decided to stay. The people remaining within these camps do appear to be the poorest of the people that we came across on this trip.

Visit the Beekeeping operation of Keziya Orphanage and take pictures of the operation with the children.

We drove several kilometers out of Gulu through some very difficult terrain for our vehicle to pass through to get to the KOH Beekeeping Operation located upon Rev. Otto Naptali’s family farm of around 600 acres. Otto’s older brother, Amitayo Okeny, lives on the farm currently and it is from this farm that Otto and Filder relocated to their present location to seek better protection against the LRA. We saw a number of acres under cultivation on the farm with a wide variety of produce such as potatoes, rice, wheat, beans, sim sim, corn, millet, Sorghum, mango, and banana. The beehive operation currently has three locations spread throughout the farm with a total of 30 beehives. Their goal is to build it to 100 beehives. Each hive costs about 10,000 UGS and the transportation of 20 hives to the farm costs about 60,000 UGS. A 12 ounce bottle of honey will retail for around 3,500 UGS so this operation will be a significant revenue producer for the orphanage in the years to come. Charles Ojara, Jasper Otim and Samual Odokonyero and the older boys in the orphanage appear to run this operation and they have a hut to stay in on-site as needed as the location is quite a ways from the town. They trap animals on the farm too as needed and prepare and cook the meat that they trap.

Visit the Stationary Store and take pictures with the children.

The stationary store is located within the KOH office nearer the town of Gulu where Otto keeps his office. Dennis Okeny appears to live here at the office and he runs the stationary store which is quite small and sparsely stocked. It is not clear to me that this is actually a very active enterprise but it is available for those within the community that may need some supplies from time to time. There appear to be competing stores readily available for materials such as these. Dennis recently obtained his Computer Certificate and has set up a computer work station for the office. Unfortunately, the monitor he is using is totally useless and he has no printer. The two CPU’s he has set up appear to be Pentium 3’s and are viable machines. Dennis and KOH could really use either a laptop or at the very least a good monitor and a printer for their office. Dennis would very much like to go on to obtain his Diploma in Information Technology and he is seeking a sponsor for his continuing education fees.

Review the Business Initiative program with Otto and encourage his support toward this program.

Rev. Otto and I reviewed and discussed the Business Initiative program available for those young adults who are transitioning out of the orphanage and into life on their own. The Business Initiative program offers to provide micro financing for these young entrepreneurs to start up their own businesses. The process involved is for the young adult and Otto to complete a form briefly describing their business plan and their startup capital needs for review and approval by the Shared Blessings board. Otto agreed to forward these applications to Audrey as the opportunities arise for certain young adults. It appeared to me that Otto may not have the available time to take on a significant mentoring role in these individual business startups. For this program to succeed it may be appropriate to locate and provide a business mentor to each of these young entrepreneurs as they start up their individual businesses. Otto appears to be more of the mindset and suited to the tending of businesses established on behalf of KOH for revenue production toward KOH such as the beekeeping operation.

Determine if Douglas Olam should be substituted in place of Dennis Okeny as the sponsored student by the Bible Study Group as Dennis Okeny has recently received his certificate.

Rev. Otto advised that if he had to choose one student to support between the two, he would choose to now support sponsoring Douglas Olam toward his achieving his Journalism Diploma as Douglas has no certificate or diploma at this time. Dennis has achieved at least a certificate in Computer Technology which he can use for his advancement. However, Dennis has a strong desire to achieve his Diploma in Computer Technology which requires an additional two years of studies. I’ve enclosed a brochure from Dennis’ school with the estimated tuition fees for his ongoing study.
I was impressed by both of these fine young men. They both appeared intelligent, articulate, hard working with strong desires to succeed. My recommendation to the board would be to try to find a way to sponsor both of these young men in their desire for advanced education and additionally to provide Dennis with either a laptop or a new monitor/printer for the KOH office.

Take two pictures of as many of the sponsored orphans as possible, one with their name tag and one without their name tag.

We were successful in taking a number of pictures of the Shared Blessings sponsored children both with their name tag and without. These photos are enclosed for you in the attached flash drive. A few of the children were not present for the photo shoot as they were in the middle of exams in Gulu and could not get away from school for the photos. Additionally, KOH has students attending school in Masindi and in Kampala and these students were still away at school and their pictures could not be taken. We believe that we have the names of each of the students who were away at school.

Meet with Francis Okot and his family toward initially implementing the Medkids program and to refine the processes involved in this program with Otto and the local leaders.

Rev. Otto, my friend Michael Ssansa Musoke, and myself, spent the majority of our time together in Gulu focused on the implementation of the Medkids program for Shared Blessings. We started with Francis Okot and his specific medical needs and current situation and sought to obtain approval from his guardians and from the local medical community to proceed toward obtaining a medical visa for Francis. We first met on August 6th, 2009 with Justine Ongon (and his wife), Francis’ uncle and legal guardian. Francis initially lived with his uncle but recently relocated to live with his grandmother as he became too much of a burden to his uncle due to the uncle’s medical condition. Justine Ongon is a teacher but has TB of the spine and his 2 lower vertebrae have been essentially eaten away by the disease rendering him practically immobile. He has 11 children with the oldest (Patrick) being 22 and the second oldest (Omar) being 19. Justine was receiving support from his brother, a local policeman, who unfortunately just recently died within the past week. Justine gave his approval for us to proceed with applying for a medical visa for Francis and greatly encouraged us with this program. Justine did request that we provide some assistance in some manner to him and his family due to their great need.
We tried for a few days and finally met with Dr. Agel Yoventino Akii, the Medical Superintendent at the Ministry of Health at Gulu National Referral Hospital (card attached). He also agreed that “Medkids” was a much needed program within the community and was very encouraging and helpful toward assisting us. He quickly directed us to one of his doctors with instructions to assist us who in turn directed us to the appropriate plastic surgeons at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. This doctor felt that he could not give us his written approval to apply for a medical visa as the medical services that Francis appeared to require were potentially available in Kampala.
We concurrently tried over the course of a few days to meet with Dr. Santo Jax (email: santojax@yahoo.com ) of St. Mary’s Hospital – Lacor in Gulu. Dr. Jax is a friend of Rev. Otto Naptali. ( See: http://www.lhospital.org/eng/index.shtml ). Dr. Jax reviewed and considered our program and our request and stated that he would give us the letter that we had requested. He eventually requested that we arrange to have Francis brought into the hospital for a meeting and then he instead referred us to Dr. Martin Ogwang, the Administrative Director of the Hospital. We tried but never actually met with Dr. Martin Ogwang who I eventually spoke with on the phone (Dr. Martin’s cell: 0772-593901) about Francis and the Medkids program and he referred us to the plastic surgeons at Mulago Hospital in Kampala stating that he could not give us the letter that we were requesting. The doctors in Mulago Hospital that we were referred to are: Dr. Sentongo, Dr. Kalindi, Dr. Ron Khmigi, and Dr. Alanyo. All are located in Ward 2A – Plastics – at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. There is also a plastic outpatient clinic there where we could take Francis. They would need to meet with Francis and diagnose his condition and determine if the appropriate course of treatment were available to him at their hospital or perhaps at another hospital in Kampala.
Prior to my return to the states, I met in Kampala with our dear friend, the Rt. Rev. Dr. D. Zac Niringiye, Assistant Bishop of the Kampala Diocese for the Church of Uganda. He introduced me to the newly elected Bishop of the Gulu Diocese for the Church of Uganda, the Rt. Rev. Johnson Gakumba. Cell: 256-772-601-421, email: kumbalakica@yahoo.co.uk Bishop Johnson is an extremely capable and qualified leader and is a Godly and humble man. He was supportive of the Medkids program and encouraged us to proceed as there is much need within his district for such a program. He advised that there are four hospitals in Kampala where Francis and the other children could potentially be taken for a review and a diagnosis and where a letter may eventually be obtained for purposes of requesting a medical visa. These four hospitals in Kampala are:
-Children’s Hospital – run by CURE an American organization.
-Paragon Hospital – run by a Frenchman who Bishop Johnson knows well.
-Mulago Hospital – see above for contact names there.
-Kampala International – Bishop Johnson has contacts here as well.
Both Bishop Johnson of Gulu Diocese and Bishop Niringiye of Kampala Diocese encouraged us with the Medkids program as there was evident need both for the medical care that the child would receive but also for the spiritual gifts that God would give through the child to the community that would receive him or her. However, they both greatly encouraged us to seek first to treat the children within Uganda first and then only consider removing them overseas if only absolutely necessary to receive the needed medical care. After my time in Uganda pursuing the implementation of the Medkids program I agree completely with the Bishops recommendation here. Medkids should seek first to secure the needed medical care for the OVC’s in question within Uganda (Kampala) first and then after all options are exhausted, seek to apply for a medical visa to seek medical treatment from outside of the country.

We finally met up with Francis Okot at his school; the Keyo Primary School located several kilometers outside of Gulu near an IDP camp in the Amuru Disrict and has 1271 students from P1 to P7. Rev. Otto Naptali taught school here for 8 years and his wife Filder taught school here for 17 years. Francis was in one of Filder’s classes. The headmaster for this school is Mr. Derick Lamto who is quite a remarkable man. He was shot by the LRA and took two bullets into his back, his left arm was crushed and he was left in a burning vehicle and given up for dead. He spent six months in the hospital recovering and then went back to teaching at the school for little pay as he had nowhere else to turn. His email: keyoprisch@gmail.com , cell: 256-777-361993. Mr. Lamto wrote us a letter of recommendation for Francis to participate in the Medkids program which we have enclosed here. Interestingly, it was here at the Keyo Primary school location back in 1904 where missionaries first introduced Christianity into the Northern Uganda region through the Anglican Church Missionary Society.
It was here at the school that we learned that Francis (grade P2-9years old) was the youngest of 6 or 7 children. His sister Mercy (grade P3 – 11 years old) was with him at the school that day but the other siblings were not present. All of these siblings may be living with the grandmother where Francis is presently staying. Francis appeared to be healthy in every sense with the exception of his right arm and hand. He did appear to have a rather large head for a child of his size. Both Francis and his sister Mercy appeared to be quite impoverished and rather unclean but otherwise healthy. They both were reported to be good, attentive students with average grades by their teacher and the headmaster. The teacher stated though that Francis does get quite a bit of teasing from the other children due to his deformity.
Also located at this school is the Keyo Community Polytechnic. This is a small vocational school located on the grounds with 127 students and 5 teachers. They teach tailoring, carpentry, joinery, and masonry. They have a rough assortment of donated tools and manual sewing machines. They initially had a British widow as their sponsor but her sponsorship is reportedly coming to an end or has ended. They have a good building but appear to be in need of better quality tools and funding for materials, supplies and teacher salaries. The approximate cost to run the school is roughly 1 mil. UGS per month.

Finally, upon my return to Kampala I met with a consul representative in the United States Embassy at Kampala. He advised that medical visas are awarded on a regular basis and that what we are seeking to achieve with Francis is not out of the ordinary. He advised that once all the meetings are held and all the appropriate documents are received, a decision is made immediately and the medical visa can be issued on the spot or within 24 hours. He advised that the procedure involves securing at least the following documentation:

-Download and complete the Medical Visa application from the Embassy website and use the on-line process to request an appointment for the visa application review.
-The child seeking the medical visa must have a valid Ugandan passport along with one passport photo.
- The child must be present at the medical visa application review meeting in Kampala.
-The child’s Ugandan guardians must be present at the medical visa application review meeting. I explained to him the medical condition of Francis’ uncle and he advised that possibly a letter from the uncle would suffice but that it is preferable to have the guardians present.
-A letter from Ugandan doctors or medical facility stating that the medical treatment required is not available to the OVC within Uganda.
-A letter from doctors in the USA stating that the medical treatment the child is seeking is available and is fully paid for.
-Financial documents showing how the medical treatment in the USA will be paid for and how the OVC will be supported while in the USA.
-Documents reflecting the validity of the foster family that would be caring for the OVC while in the USA. It would be ideally preferable for a member of the foster family to be present at the medical application review meeting in Kampala and to potentially escort the OVC to the USA.
-Payment of the medical visa application fee of $131 dollars.
-Other documents as required by the visa application itself (attached) and that may be requested during the medical visa application review meeting.

I envision the Medkids process involved to be one of leaders within the Gulu community alerting Otto of an OVC in need of medical care and requesting application to the Medkids program. Otto would complete the initial interview with the OVC and forward to Audrey the completed one page Medkids application form. From here arrangements would need to be made for the OVC to meet with the appropriate doctors in Kampala for review, diagnosis and then either treatment in Kampala or referral to the USA for medical treatment whereby they would write the letter required for the medical visa application. If treatment is to take place in Kampala, Medkids would be required to fund the treatment, the aftercare and the transportation. If treatment were to be provided in the USA, then Medkids would secure the necessary appointments and documents required by the US Embassy as outlined above. If Medkids is to proceed it would be quite beneficial to seek out a trusted partner in Kampala that could assist with the many arrangements and appointments that would be required there to accomplish this program.

Please contact me if there are any questions regarding any of the above information or if you or your organization would like to directly respond to any of the urgent needs outlined in this report.

In service to our Lord Jesus Christ,

Terry Dwyer, email: dwyerterry@aol.com