From time to time, our staff and visitors write about their experiences on the island, and going to and from the island.
The paper bead jewelry that was developed in Uganda has developed into a popular product around the world.
We started purchasing the beads in Kampala, Uganda and sending them home with friends to give as gifts to those who support the ministries of WGM in east Africa
Production of the Beads
A women's self-help group was started in one of the Kampala slum area by the pastors wife of one of the WGM related Africa Gospel Churches. They began by selling the beads in local craft markets.
The beads are made from strips of paper that are then hand rolled into beads and strung together into unique necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.
A Fair Trade Product
We purchase the beads from these ladies at a fair trade price and make them available to a larger market, and the proceeds help pay for scholarships of orphans and other at-risk children at Kikongo School on Buvuma Island.
Each scholarship for a child costs $12 per month, and this pays for their school fees, a snack in the morning, a hot lunch, and a new school uniform each year.
A Wonderful Partnership
When the women who were making the beads to support their families learned that their bead jewelry was raising money for educating orphans on an island out in Lake Victoria, they were thrilled to know that their work was having a much wider impact than they had imagined.
I have been to Buvuma Island two times on two different trips to Uganda, which were two years apart. Both of those experiences were quite different. The two-hour ride on a skinny boat out to Buvuma Island was quite the same both times, beautiful and breezy.
Each time we were greeted by tons of children calling out "muzungu, muzungu (white person)" and lead up a hill to a series of cement buildings. We met Jennifer, the Community Health Director and she talked to us about how she teaches people to be more mindful of basic health, which Americans take for granted.
I was excited for my trip to Buvuma when I heard I was getting the chance to go. As an ordinary school teacher, a boat trip to an island which houses a school that serves a large number of orphans sounded like a good way to spend a Saturday. And it was.
The island was humming with activity. Upon arriving, we were swarmed by village children who, despite the language barrier, clearly communicatedtheir excitement about our visit. Within minutes of docking, we were playing dancing games and clapping games with an ever growing group of dirty but smiling kids. They took our hands and led us to the gates of the school.
I enjoyed the boat ride out to Buvuma Island very much. As the wind hit my face, I was reminded of the boat trips I grew up taking with my family. However, the scenery and boat were not comparable to that of Indiana and Tennessee.
As our group approached the island in a wooden canoe, some were relieved to reach land after the two-hour BEAUTIFUL trip across Lake Victoria. At first, I could only see a group of people standing on a cement pier.
Getting closer, we could hear the children and see them waving to us. Some were even dancing and jumping around in excitement to have visitors. When our canoe reached the shore, we were helped out of the boat by men who did not fear the water.
Immediately, the children wanted to hold our hands. Some of them took my hand and just touched my skin, realizing that it did not look the same, but felt the same. These children had ripped, dirt-stained clothes and most were not wearing shoes.
Wednesday evening I had been reading through some of the book of Mark. I decided to stop right before "Jesus Calms the Storm" so that I would easily remember where I would need to pick back up.
Thursday morning I awoke well rested and anxious to get out to Buvuma so we would have enough time to get everything done for the day. After driving down towards the shore, parking the vehicle, and then walking to the shore we found the boat motor being difficult and not willing to work properly. The plan was to head to the Island with Pastor David and another missionary.
David was already on the boat working with a mechanic to try and get the motor running. After about 30 minutes of just sitting on the shore we were told to board the boat.
Now that all sounds simple and easy, but in reality it's a bit awkward.
A mission trip to Uganda had been on my "want to do" list for many years. When the Men With Vision Buvuma Island Project came up, it was just the right time to go.
Mission trips, wherever you go, have segments of commonality and uniqueness. Uganda was no different. What impacts me the most on these trips are the missionaries, including MK's, the Nationals, and – here's the biggie – the children.
It's always great to meet new missionaries, to hear how God called them, to see them working in their ministry field, and to witness firsthand the challenges they face. But, as I think about the word "challenges," I believe they look at them as opportunities, not as obstacles. Without exception they give God the glory for all they are able to do.
In June, I (Keith Bourne) went on a survey trip around Buvuma Island with Jason Carpenter, who was Uganda's Country Director of Samaritan's Purse at the time. We were looking at education on the island. Jason wanted to see what kind of educational facilities there were on Buvuma.
We were able to visit several schools on our trip and one thing really stood out to me: the lack of teachers.
All of the schools we visited appeared to be understaffed, especially the government schools. The government has built several schools around the island, but they are only paying for one teacher or so at each one. The kids then have to pay school fees so that the school can hire more teachers, and there goes the supposed "free education" in Uganda.
Maybe the government will be able to hire more in the future, but for now it is a big problem.
One of my very first experiences in Uganda was a trip out to Buvuma Island. Living in Kampala, it is a two-hour drive down to Jinja. Once we got to Jinja we went to the lakefront of Lake Victoria. From there we were carried onto a small boat and then we headed out to the island. The boat ride takes about two hours, but it was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever experienced. I had never been to Africa before, so on the boat ride to Buvuma I took in as many of the sights as possible.