Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Andie is home!!!

Andie flies back to the States tomorrow and I can't wait! It's been a long time since she has stepped on this side of the Atlantic. There are so many things to which we have to look forward in these next few months here and she is going to be a part of it! I'm so excited!

The kids will undoubtedly miss her presence and her tireless efforts on their behalf. The great friends made and the many who have worked side by side her over these past months will look forward to her return. Uganda is home to her, yes, but I think I speak for many when I say, we all still think of her as our own.

Welcome home Andie! We're so happy to have you back!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Im so excited to say that Mackenzie Brown has arrived in Uganda and is settling in at BULA Children's Home.

Just over a year ago, I spent much of my time talking to Walker Williams, the 2007-2008 Elrod fellowship recipient, about the future of the fellowship. At that time, Mackenzie Brown was at Washington and Lee University, the summer before her senior year, running Campus Kitchens, a program in which unused food on campus was prepared and delivered to underprivileged families in the area. I did not know her, nor did Walker, and she certainly didn't know about BULA.

Walker and I spent hours on the phone that summer discussing how to rework the fellowship so that the fellow could have an even greater experience and more importantly so that more can be done to assist communities in Uganda. Loads of ideas were thrown around about what the fellow would do, where the fellow would live, and how BULA could be involved. These ideas, in our heated excitement over them, felt much like mere dreams and aspirations. It felt as though we were discussing what could be one day in a time far far away, much like a fairy tale land where all things go the way you envision. With enthusiasm, no expectations and a lot of heart, we constructed a program.

A year later, I am sitting here thinking about how it all happened, how Mackenzie ended up in Uganda, how those conversations made something very real and amazing unfold before our very eyes. As the months rolled by, there was so much to embrace. I remember so well the excitement when our ideas were so well received by Fran Elrod, the woman who runs the Fellowship programs at Washington and Lee, and how she then confirmed that not only would our ideas be realized through this program, but that the program would essentially be run by BULA. As if that wasn't enough to knock me off my feet, Andie and I, along with Walker, were then asked to go to the University and interview the applicants.

Deep breaths, sighs, and a surreal sense of what was happening took over during that time. Then and now, I can't quite grasp the magnitude of what was happening. Not only was I interviewing someone rather than being interviewed myself, but we were interviewing applicants to work for our own organization. When did my phone call home over 2 years ago talking about what we could do for a small village in Uganda turn into this? Incredible.

When the fellow was selected,and this fellow had a name, the excitement snowballed even further. This amazing young woman, Mackenzie, was coming on board to be a part of it all. How lucky are we? She just took her first step on a year long journey, making a tremendous difference in the lives of many, getting the experience of a lifetime and an education impossible to receive in a classroom. She is doing this with us, like us and for us. I am so looking forward to seeing the progress along the way and all that she will contribute to the work BULA does in Uganda.

Thank you Mackenzie, her family, Washington and Lee, Fran Elrod, Walker Williams, and everyone involved in making this a reality. I'm blown away each day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Over a year after construction, the school is flourishing...

I may be biased... but isn't St. Kizito the happiest, most wonderful place ever?

Well, at least, it is for me...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Yesterday morning, I called BULA Children's Home for the first time since I returned to the States nearly 3 weeks ago. I was calling to congratulate the Directors on finally receiving unyielding confirmation that the home is registered: the certificate!

Within that call, I also had the great pleasure of talking to each child. This was fantastic and made me miss them all even more than I already do. They politely asked about my family and friends and how life was in New York. We naturally joked about the various things that seem to keep us all laughing: my random use of Luganda, me in dresses, bula (the original source of the organization's name), and jokes shared with the various International volunteers over the years.

The final conversation was with the youngest of the boys, and included the following:

Sister, Did you hear about Michael Jackson?

Yes, yes I did. What do you think about that?

Ehhh it is not cool!

As I fought back the giggles from this adorable exchange, I thought of the many months I spent living with the children at the former orphanage with little to entertain ourselves but each other. With no electricity, I used my laptop sparingly, and on a whim, I would randomly pull it out as a special treat for the kids. Each time, we would put on a photo slide show and blast music of their choosing. Without fail, they always chose Michael Jackson.

So for many nights in Uganda, I drained my laptop's battery, blasting Michael Jackson as the kids had the time of their lives, dancing in the little volunteer room where we shared so many memories.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I just joined twitter. You can follow me at: www.twitter.com/melissa_fricke

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I just returned from an amazing trip to Uganda. Though short, itt was one of the most uplifting and reaffirming thus far. These five weeks made evident that our vision for change and for truly making a difference in the lives of those that need it most is more than just a vision, it is now a reality. Positivity, hope and pride radiated from all those at the children's home and at the school. Im truly elated and only further motivated

At BULA Children's Home, I returned to find happy and healthy children on their school holiday break. I reviewed their school performances and found excellent marks and improvements in those children who sometimes struggle. I also had the fortune of coming just after many of them had just been reunited with family and guardians for the first time in years and was thrilled to hear them speak of their experiences and their loved ones. I picked several of them up from their former homes deep in the villages of Uganda and got to meet many of these family members. Some of the most amazing experiences of my life occurred in those visits. To top it all off, we finally received word that the home had been officially registered as an NGO in Uganda. Things are fantastic.

Within this trip, Andie and I visited St. Kizito Primary school on several occasions. This has been most refreshing as the school is prospering. The teachers and adminstration are really doing a fantastic job there. Enrollment is increasing and its so exciting to see. We hung loads of artwork up in the classrooms from the various participating schools on Long Island and watched as students eagerly and artfully returned the gester. So much fun!

We spent several days tourring other primary schools around in search of our next primary school out there. There are plenty that need our help and we cannot wait to do share with them all that we can.

It was an incredible trip. As always, the hardest part was leaving. I will greatly miss everyone!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wono muzungu!

This is a great video!

Back a few months ago, Andie and I were sitting in the shade at the school, while our fantastic builders were working on the kitchen. A few children came over to play with us as they do most days. This day in particular was hilarious and unforgettable because the children just noticed that they could see our reflection in my sunglasses and later in Andie's camera.

They pointed and yelled in excitement as they do when a muzungu (European/traveller/white person) walks or drives by, "Wono muzungu!" This is normal and very cute behavior upon seeing a mzungu. However, this time was unique and wonderful in that we had been sitting with these children for a good 15 minutes; the mzungu excitement had passed for all intents and purposes and we were back to good old fun and games.

I certainly could not control my laughter when the muzungu siting thrill was reignited as Andie and I suddenly reappeared in a pair of sunglasses and a camera screen. Talk about priceless...