How we started...

The following are posts copied from Melissa's adoption blog, Road to Mercy, that explain how Mercy for Mamas began...

While the work of Mercy for Mamas started in 2010, Mercy for Mamas officially became an official organization in March of 2013.
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June 10, 2010

Exciting New Projects & You Can Help!

As many of you know, our sweet Mercy was abandoned at a medical clinic after her mother passed away in childbirth. This clinic is run by Dr. Patrick whom I met a couple of years ago on a "Libraries of Love" trip. It was at this clinic almost one year ago that I met Mercy and fell in love with her. Since then, Dr. Patrick has had one of his nurses taking care of Mercy. He's also worked hard to get all of the necessary paperwork regarding Mercy together for us. We are so grateful for him in so many ways.

Dr. Patrick telling us his story

Dr. Patrick grew up in the village where his hospital is located. He is one of the few that got to leave the village and get an education. He ended up going to school in Great Britain, where he met his wife, who is also Ugandan. They then went to Philadelphia where he finished his education and worked. But he felt God calling him back to Uganda. He knew he needed to give up his life as a doctor in America and move back to his village. He knew that is he didn't go help his people, no one would. So he packed up his family (3 kids at this time all born in the US or UK) and they moved back to Uganda. He's worked hard to get his hospital going and has teams from the US come each year to help do surgeries and mobile medical clinics. He and his wife also adopted twin little girls a few years ago. Their mother also passed away in childbirth and Dr. Patrick had to work around the clock to keep the preemie twins alive. Wow... I'm amazed at all God has done in his life.

Dr. Mutono's Family (minus one away at school) in 2008


My friend Melissa playing with his twins, Joy and Peace in 2008

For months I've been thinking about different projects and things I could do to help Dr. Patrick and his hospital and to show our appreciation for all he has done for us. I also have been wanting to do something in honor of Mercy, to help prevent other mothers from dying while giving birth. Approximately 500 women die giving birth per 100,000 births in Uganda each year--that rate in the United States is about 13.

Dr. Patrick also mentioned that the biggest need in his village is malaria prevention. According to the Uganda Ministry of Health, malaria is the leading cause of mortality in Uganda and is responsible for up to 40% of all outpatient visits, 25% of all hospital admissions and 14% of all hospital deaths. I read estimates from 300-500 people die every day in Uganda from malaria, and the majority of those deaths are in children under the age of 5.

So what can we do about these problems? I've come up with two projects that I want to support. The first is for the mothers. A few months ago, I mentioned on here about "mama kits" that a friend was passing out in Arua, Uganda. These kits contain all of the basic supplies needed to give birth (umbilical cord tie, scalpel, gauze pads, plastic sheeting, gloves, etc.). My plan is to create our own "mama kits" that Dr. Patrick can pass out to women that come into his clinic or to what he calls the TBA's (traditional birth assistants... aka midwives). These kits can go along way to preventing infection and excessive bleeding. I'm still gathering all of the specifics, but I believe I can purchase all of the needed supplies from a medical supply company in Kampala. Then depending on the number of kits, either I will put them together or hire someone to help me do this. We should be able to make each kit for between $5-$10 a piece.

Example Mama Kit

Delivery Room at Dr. Patrick's Clinic


Sweet Baby in the Village


The second project is for mosquito nets for people in the villages nearby the clinic A simple pre-treated mosquito net can go along way in preventing this disease. The mission group that works with Dr. Patrick each year is planning another trip for July. And get this... their group is called MercyTrips. Don't you love that?! This group performs surgeries, helps with hospital patients, and conducts mobile health clinics. One part of this next trip will include a net distribution in one of the villages. These nets cost approximately $10 a piece. However, this amount is huge to the local people who often live on less than $50 a month. Their goal is to pass out 1,500 nets to a village of approximately 400 families. Read more about their ministry here.

Me Showing off Mosquito Nets at a Dorm

Children living in the slums

MercyTrip Team Performing Surgery

One of the team treating a child, most likely for malaria

Would you be willing to help with these endeavors? In lieu of baby gifts for Mercy, we would love for you to give towards one of these causes. There are several ways you can give. There is a "donate" button now on the top right side of this blog. You can click that and give through PayPal. This money will go directly to us. You can then specify if you'd like the money to go toward mama kits, mosquito nets, or both. I promise to use this money only for these projects and I will provide full accounting of it all, as well as photos and such of their delivery. OR you can give directly to MercyTrips by going to their website here. All donations to MercyTrips are tax-deductible. If you wouldn't mind putting a note on your donation that your gift is in honor of Mercy Busby. I'd just like a way to keep track of donations, if possible.

It's crazy to think that a gift of just $5-$10 could save a life and possibly leave one less orphan in the world. I'm so excited to see what God is going to do with these projects.

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June 27, 2010

Haunted
The other day I sat down in the waiting room at Emma's allergy shot appointment and picked up a magazine. It was TIME. I started flipping through and the title of an article stuck out to me: "The Perils of Pregnancy: One Woman's Tale of Dying to Give Birth". You can read the article here and you can click on the "Photos of Mamma" at the end to see a photo montage of this woman's last moments. The images are disturbing, but this is reality for so many women in our world. Please take the time to look at this story. This woman, Mamma Sessay, at the age of 18, died hours after giving birth to twins. In her country of Sierra Leonne, approximately 1000 women die for every 100,000 births. Worldwide, one woman dies from birth complications every minute! (according to www.womendeliver.org) And the majority of these complications are easily preventable or treated.

I know there may not be much point in rattling off a bunch of statistics to you. You are probably like me, where these numbers don't always mean a lot to you until it really hits home. It hits home for me because our sweet Mercy is one of these statistics. This child that so many of you are growing to love... that we long to hold and call our own only needs a family because her mother did not make it. The world already has too many orphans. We can do something to help keep these women alive and keep these families together. Would you consider giving toward a birth kit? You can read my post here about these kits. For $5-$10 you can help to save one woman or child's life.

As I was searching today for the TIME article about Mamma , I ran across this article. Isn't it amazing how God orchestrates things? This article details the malaria crisis in the world, focusing on one Ugandan town, Apac, that is filled with the disease. The statistics in this story are mind-boggling. The pictures in the photo essay will tug at your heart. More than 800,000 people died of malaria in 2008... nearly 90% of those were in Africa, and also nearly 90% of those were children under the age of 5. This is another problem, that until you've experienced it first-hand, it doesn't really make sense or hit home. Cody's Aunt Trudy (founder of "Libraries of Love" nearly died of malaria on her first trip to Uganda. I've held a child burning up with malaria fever in my arms. I've seen children with IVs in their heads and deathly ill in Dr. Patrick's clinic. I still have really seen nothing of the crisis of malaria first-hand. But my baby, Mercy, has seen it. She's seen people in the clinic die from it. People in her village are sick from it every day. She's one of the few with easy access to medication and care, but many people around her every day are not so lucky. It's hard to imagine that a simple mosquito net can save a life, but it can. One net can help to save the life of every person that sleeps in that bed. Would you be willing to give towards providing nets for families in Uganda? Read here for more information on how you can help provide nets for MercyTrips to pass out on their next trip.

3 month old infant sleeping safely under a mosquito net

I'm reading Radical by David Platt. It is an extremely challenging book. It's very convicting and it really shakes up so many ideas of our Christian faith in America. Part of the book I was reading today talks about a Christian's call to help the poor and needy. He talks about "blind spots" in our faith or "areas of our lives that need to be uncovered so we can see correctly and adjust our lives accordingly." One example he gave from history was how so many American Christians rationalized slavery. To us it seems appalling to call yourself a Christian, yet be in favor of the enslavement of a person. Platt wonders if 150 years from now, Christians will look at us and say "How could they live in such big houses? How could they drive such nice cards and wear such nice clothes? How could they live in such affluence while thousands of children were dying because they didn't have food and water? How could they go on with their lives as though the billions of poor didn't even exist?" Wow, that is convicting to me. I highly recommend you get this book or listen to the sermon series online. You can find the sermon series here. But I warn you, that it will make you evaluate a lot of things in your life.

You certainly don't have to give to my causes. These are just what's touching my heart and hitting home for me right now. But I do encourage you to do something, give something, help someone. Life is too short and we have way too much stuff.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Help a Mama Out!

I am very excited that I was able to buy 100 Mama Kits today!! One of my goals of this trip was to find the best way to get/make the Mama Kits. I had several good tips and contacts, but so far they had not panned out as I had hoped. I got the name of one medical supplier, but it was going to be difficult getting into it because it is supposed to only be for authorized medical staff. My other contact’s organization had the kits, but they were about $8 a piece and you could only buy them in very large quantities. I had the name of a couple of other places to check out last week, but then I got sick, so it was not possible. I was feeling a bit defeated. It may seem silly to think something could be so difficult to accomplish in nearly 7 weeks, but between juggling lawyer visits, court appointments, embassy stuff, and then just regular life it gets hard. Plus, you have to consider the fact that it’s not always easy to get around in this place. Each time I have to hire a driver to take me into Kampala it costs a minimum of $20, which quickly adds up. You can take a matatu (van taxi… Uganda’s version of a public bus), but depending on where you are going can be quite confusing and time consuming. You can take a boda (motorcycle), but I don’t like taking Mercy on them into Kampala because it is very dangerous, so that means I need a babysitter. And people work on “Africa Time” around here, so nothing happens when you think it will or should.

This morning, I was thinking of several things I wanted to accomplish this week to keep me busy while waiting on the embassy. I thought I could try to find a few medical supply places and leave Mercy with the Howards for a few hours. Then my phone rang, and my original Mama Kit contact called to see if I had had any luck. I told her that nothing had panned out. She told me she wanted to meet her friend, Catherine, who works for an NGO that supplies other NGOs with their medical stuff. Catherine even offered to meet me wherever I wanted so I wouldn’t have to get a driver. Woo hoo! She brought me a sample kit and it has all of the basics needed for a woman to give birth safely in a pre-packaged and easy to use kit. It also has all of the information printed in both English and Luganda… and they are only approximately $4 per kit. The only tricky thing was that I had to buy at least 100 of them. I I had enough money already set aside to buy about 60 kits. I felt like this was such a good deal and Catherine leaves tomorrow for a week long business trip, I decided to go out on a limb and go ahead and get them. So, I went to the ATM and got the money needed and Catherine delivered them this afternoon. Wow, what a great feeling knowing that the lives of 100 women could be greatly affected by these simple kits. I’ve said it before, but the world does not need more orphans. Women should not die giving birth because they had no way to keep things sterile and prevent infection or bleeding. I hate that Mercy’s biological mother gave up her life bringing her into this world, and I hope that these kits will honor her and her memory in some way. All of that to say, I feel so blessed to be able to get these kits today.

I plan to give about half of the kits to Dr. Patrick’s clinic. They constantly need medical supplies. Dr. Patrick told me last week that they have about one baby born there every day. He also says he only charges women about $5 for the birth. That is incredibly low, even for Uganda. It’s actually more expensive to get treated for malaria. I asked him why he charged so little, and he said that he knows if he charged much more that the women would not come to the clinic and he knows the dangers of giving birth at home in a village with no supplies. The others will be passed out in villages or slums to pregnant women or through two local crisis pregnancy centers that I’ve learned about. I hope and pray that this is something that I can continue to contribute towards and educate other people about. I feel like God has given me a heart for this project through Mercy and I’m excited to see what happens with it.

If you would like to contribute toward the kits that I purchased today, it would be greatly appreciated. I promise you it’s a worthy cause. I only need 30 people to give $5 and according to my blog stats, hundreds of you have been reading this blog each day (Wow! Still can’t believe that many of you are following along). You can donate by just clicking on the Mama Kit/PayPal link in the upper right side of this blog. If you don’t want to use PayPal (I promise it really is very easy to use!!) you can email me and I’ll send you my address. Thank you so much!

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blown Away
Yesterday, when I bought the Mama Kits and wrote the post about them, I knew that some of you would give, but I will admit that I doubted a bit that the whole amount would be covered. But then I thought about my expenses in being here so long and the money it took to get here, and I remembered the wonderful ways that God has provided for us. It really is unbelievable to look back on it all. We truly are blessed with some of the most wonderful friends and family. So I knew that no matter what it would be fine and I knew in my heart that God has placed this ministry on my heart. I did not get to check my email at all until this evening. I had to go buy more internet time in Kampala (got to love pay as you use internet!!) and then the power was out and my computer was out of battery. Finally, I got to check it (and the power came back on, woo hoo!)… and there was more than $600 in donations. I could not believe it…. that covers the whole amount from yesterday, plus will buy an additional 100 kits. I quickly posted on Facebook the wonderful news. Tonight after putting Mercy to sleep I checked email again. Guess what? $550 more in donations. That’s at least another 100 kits. That’s 300 Mama Kits total. Amazing! I am so excited to see how God is going to use these kits to minister to women and give the people passing them out the chance to share with them the love of Jesus. To each of you that donated money… thank you! I know lots of people and worthy causes ask for your money, and I am very grateful you thought enough of my cause to give. Whether you gave $5 or $500 it all means the world to me.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Special Delivery
Friday I had the great privilege to spend the day with Herb and Ellen Cook and Beth. Ellen has contacts at two crisis pregnancy centers and she thought they would be great places for me to take a few of the “Mama Kits”. She also had heard about this hospital that had a great maternity ward. She wanted to check it out and see if they might need kits or not. 

Outside of Paragon Hospital
First stop was Paragon Hospital. Oh my goodness. It was like a resort. You pull up and it’s very tropical looking with tons of beautiful plants and flowers. Nothing about it looked like a typical hospital, especially in Uganda. We walked in and were instructed we had to wash our hands well. Then we waited for the director of the hospital. He gave us a tour and explained their philosophy of doing everything with excellence and with the patient in mind. They also focus on making a visit their pleasant for all of your senses. Seriously, I felt like I had stepped out of Uganda and into Hawaii. The rooms were amazing. Beth and I both asked if we could check ourselves in. The whirlpool bathtubs looked very inviting. Then we went to the maternity ward. They have all private rooms. Most hospitals in Uganda have open labor wards with at least 20 women in them at a time. Each room had an incubator, oxygen, and many other high-tech gadgets. They also have delivery rooms specialized for left-handed or right-handed doctors. WOW! As a lefty, I can really appreciate this fact. Needless to say, we decided they did not need my “Mama Kits”, but it was such a treat to visit such a top-notch facility. If I do get very ill while I’m here, I know where I will be going. They gave us a brochure with price lists. This hospital of course was very expensive by Ugandan standards and is only for the elite, but compared to American health care costs, it was not too bad. A full c-section delivery with everything was only about $2500. I think mine in the States were about $25,000.

Next stop was Wakiso Ministries. This ministry is run by a Ugandan woman named, Vivian. It’s an in-house facility for pregnant teenage moms. They prefer for the girls to come by the time they are about 5 months pregnant. They spend the rest of their pregnancy counseling them, giving them job skills, prenatal care, and teaching basic parenting skills. Right now they have 23 girls living there from about age 13-18. Many of these girls are victims of abuse and the counseling is a very important aspect of the ministry. Vivian explained that culturally, most families do not want their unwed, teenage daughters walking around pregnant. It’s an embarrassment to them and the family. However, once the child is born, most of the girls are allowed to go home and are welcomed back into the community. The girls are allowed to stay at the center until about two weeks after the baby is born, unless there are extenuating circumstances. We met one 15 year old girl that is from Congo. She was raped by soldiers. She now has a 5 month old baby boy. She’s never known her mother and her father died. This poor refugee girl has nowhere to go. So Vivian is allowing her to stay until they can find a safe place for her to go back to school and live with her baby. This is an amazing ministry. Vivian truly cares for these girls and is doing everything she can to help provide a future for them. After we visited for a while, I told her about the “Mama Kits”. She did a little dance of joy. She was thrilled to get them. She explained that they make up their own kits for each of the girls to take to the hospital with them. The girls all deliver at the government run hospital. This hospital is free, but there are many horror stories of the quality of care there. And believe it or not, there are many girls that cannot afford the simple supplies required at the hospital, which keeps them delivering at home with none of the proper tools. Vivian could not believe that all of the things needed were right there in this little package. She also promised to call me if a girl goes into labor soon. I told her that I really wanted to see what labor and delivery was like at the government hospital. Hope that works out! I was so glad that these kits were something that can really be a blessing to the girls. I promised to bring her more soon.

The girls learn to make their own quilts from donated knitted squares

The dorm room

Me explaining the kits to Vivian

Example Mama Kit
Each kit includes cotton wool, plastic sheeting, razor blade, cord ties, gloves, soap, preparation sheet, and a child growth chart, as well as instructions on how to use everything.
Vivian showing us their store room of supplies
Finally, we visited Comforter’s Center. This is a ministry that Herb and Ellen have worked closely with for several years and is very near their home. The center is run by a woman named Veronica. Veronica has an amazing story. Her mother got pregnant with her as a result of an affair. She decided to have an abortion so her husband would not find out. The abortion was botched and Veronica was born with a deformed leg as a result. Also, Veronica’s sister died while having an abortion. Needless to say, God uses her story every day to minister to women. Her center provides counseling, baby supplies, job training, and also helps to get young moms back in school. Veronica has negotiated with a couple of high schools so that the schools provide scholarships for these young moms and then she convinces the girls’ parents that to help provide child care so they can complete their education. Herb and Ellen’s housemaid, Harriett also gets the students for her “school” from this center. Harriett teaches the girls cooking, cleaning, and everything they would need to know to become an excellent housemaid and then helps them find jobs. Ellen also leads the girls in daily bible studies and encourages them as young new moms. Beth and Jeremy’s housemaid, Medias, is a graduate of Harriett’s school. It’s been such a pleasure to see Medias the past couple of months grow and improve in her house skills, but also grow as a mother and person. Her son Michael and Mercy have a love/hate relationship. They always want to be together, but beat each other up when the other has something they want. It is so fun to watch them play together.
 (Sorry all of the pictures are not in order... my skills are limited by Ugandan internet. ha!)
Veronica showing off her new Mama Kits

Veronica's Center

Mercy and Michael
So after Veronica told us all about her ministry, I presented the “Mama Kits” to her. She too was amazed by them and did a little happy dance. She said they make up their own kits to give to girls, but that theirs are always big and bulky. She loved how compact it was and said it had everything in it that the girls need. She also told me that it costs them about twice the amount I paid for the kits to buy all of the things in the market and do it themselves. Again, I promised to bring her more.

It was such a blessing to get to see the wonderful work these women are doing. And I was so glad to be able to provide them with this small blessing. Thank you so much to all of you that donated. I promise you that there are many young moms very grateful for your gift. And if you are still interested in giving you can certainly do so by clicking on the PayPal link at the top right of this page. I’ll be ordering more kits this next week. Right now I can buy at least 200 more.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Delivery Day

Yesterday we got to do the second distribution of Mama Kits. Because of your generosity, I bought 200 more kits. My friends, Simon and Kelly, helped me pick them up and pass them out. There will be a longer post about them and what a blessing they are sometime soon. We met the woman that I buy the kits from in a dirt field behind the mall. I wonder how funny or maybe shady we looked loading these giant boxes and exchanging money in a field. And to make it worse, the bank didn’t have any large bills, so I had lots of smaller ones that she had to count while I held the piles. Our first stop was back at Wakisa Ministries, the home for teenage moms. I wanted Simon and Kelly to meet Vivian. Vivian was thrilled to get more kits. She said they’ve already come in handy and they should now have enough for about 9 months. We got to meet Danielle… the latest product of the ministry at 2 days old. So precious! Next we headed over the Comforter Center. The director was not there, but we were able to leave another 40 kits for her. The girl who took the delivery was thrilled.

The rest of the kits are stacked up in Herb and Ellen’s office space. We are checking out the best places to distribute them. I got the name of one more crisis pregnancy center. So I’m going to try to get there soon. Also, Harriett gave me a few ideas when I explained to her about the kits and my heart for them. She also shared about them with her housemaid students this morning. They thought they were a great ministry. They even asked if a few of their pregnant friends could have them. These are girls who live in the slums and would most likely be giving birth in their homes or the government hospital, where care is less than desirable. So, we told them to have their friends come by the house and we’ll pass them out. Harriett even gave two away today to some women who work in the market that she knew could really use them. My heart is for these to get to women who really need them. So I told Harriett that if she knew any women that could be blessed by them to feel free to give them away. It’s encouraging to me to see and hear how excited these young girls were to learn about them and to share them with their friends. That tells me that this is a real need and further confirms in me my desire to continue this ministry.

I’ve already had quite a few of you express interest in this project. One friend of mine is a preschool director and her entire preschool is raising money for Mama Kits this month. How cool is that!? So, this ministry needs a name… I’m open to any suggestions. So let me know or leave me a comment. I have a few running through my head, but I’d love to hear your ideas too.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010
More on Mama Kits
I just had to share about the latest with Mama Kits. It’s been a bit quiet on the Mama Kit front the past couple of weeks. I gave away all of the kits we had, but I did not have enough money to buy more yet. A while back, a friend of ours from college, Rebekah, asked if she could use Mama Kits as a fundraiser for her preschool. Each November they pick a charity to help out. She thought a lot of the moms would want to support Mama Kits. So she sent home these cute little packets with info on the kits and on our family. Seriously, how cute is Mercy? How could you look at that face and not want to give? 
Mama Kit Fundraiser
Well, they raised more than $180. Way to go kiddos! Then Rebekah told me that her church also wanted to raise money for Mama Kits as their Thanksgiving project. How awesome is that?! She sent me another $200 yesterday. Now I have more than enough to buy at least another 100 kits this month, possible more. What a blessing!

Last week we visited another home for teenage mothers. This home hosts up to 20 girls at a time and is run by a group called “Youth for Christ”. They offer prenatal care, bible study, parenting classes, and lessons on sewing, cooking, and other important job skills. The kits will be a big help to these young mothers and to this ministry that, like all charities, is always needing more room in the budget.

Also, my friend Simon Peter and Kelly have agreed to be my feet on the ground here on this project when I am gone. They will help coordinate the delivery of the kits and make sure they get to the right people. Simon also has a background in TV, like me. He has arranged to use some video equipment, and with the help of a filmmaker friend they are going to film the delivery of the latest kits and get interviews with some of the mamas. This will be a great tool to use to raise more money when I am home. I hope to be able to speak at some other churches or groups to raise awareness. This video could also be used by people like you at your churches, play groups, etc. to support mama kits. Every woman deserves the right to a safe delivery and I want to do all I can to help them do just that.
Kelly and Mercy

Simon loading up Mama Kits last month
See these women below. They, along with two other pregnant women, walked more than 30 minutes uphill to come get a “Mama Kit” last week. The one in front was due any day. I hated that I had to tell them I did not have any more kits. I’m glad Harriett can call them soon and tell them to pick one up.
 
Mamas in Need
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Sunday December 12, 2010
Grateful for Mama kits
This week I was able to buy 120 more Mama Kits. Such a blessing! Harriet called a few of the women who did not get one before. They were so glad to come by and pick one up. One mama had already delivered, but she brought the baby by for me to see. He was adorable. Then on Friday, Simon and Kelly arranged to shoot video of some of the kits getting passed out. They were also able to interview some of the women that the Crisis Pregnancy Center home. I was taking care of lawyer stuff most of the day, so I didn’t really get to help, but I’m so glad they were able to do this. We asked Harriet to see if she could get a few women to come by the house. She made a couple of calls and told a few women when she went to the market. They had close to 40 women come by in just a couple of hours. Amazing!
Holding the new baby and passing out kits!
I also received an email of thanks from Harriet’s village. You may remember, she took a bunch of kits out to the village a few weeks ago. They asked all of the pregnant women to come to the clinic to get a kit. They were very excited and so grateful. So a big thank you to everyone that contributed to this effort. Many of the women said that to buy these supplies themselves would cost them around $15. For that amount of money, they could easily feed their family for a week or more. How amazing is it to think that your gift of just $5 can help to remove a huge financial burden and eliminate a big health risk for these mamas? Can you imagine giving birth in a mud hut, miles from a hospital, with no materials because you didn’t have the $15 to buy the supplies the hospital requires? This is reality for many of these women. $5 is all it takes to help a Mama out.

Women receiving their kits

The nurse explaining what all the kit contains
If you'd like to donate toward a Mama Kit, please click on the Mama Kit Donation link on the upper right side of the page. Thank you so much!

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Thursday, April 21, 2011
Mercy for Mamas

I feel awful that I have not updated you all on my Mama Kit Project in so long. Things are happening and it is very exciting… so here are a bunch of updates and sweet stories in no particular order.

By the way, I’ve decided to call the ministry, “Mercy for Mamas”.

First off… all of the kits that have been purchased have been delivered and/or are spoken for. Last month, I got to make a delivery of kits to the Youth For Christ Crisis Pregnancy Center in Kampala. This Center helps countless young girls and houses about 20 of them at a time while they are pregnant. They were very grateful for the donations. A donation like this is a huge blessing to them. It eases the burden of the cost for these girls and it also helps free up other money in the ministry to be used for other pressing needs. They have enough kits now to last them at least 9 months.

Me, Kelly, and Mercy with the YFC Girls
I also recently discovered another Crisis Pregnancy Center in the area that can use kits. Another adoptive mom told me about them and introduced me to the director. I hope to get their kits to them in the next week. Sometimes the networking of the adoption world can be so fabulous.
Unfortunately, the price of the Mama Kits has gone up by about $1.50. There is a shortage of cotton in the country, which means the price for the cotton wool has gone way up and that is one of the most expensive parts of the kit. I’m hoping this will go back down soon so that our money can go further and help more people.

I also recently gave a box of kits to my friend, Kathryn, who serves in Arua. She’s been passing them out to women she comes in contact with. It’s been a great way for her to minister to these women. She says the women are delighted to get this gift. Here are a few of the stories she has about passing out the kits (you can also check out her blog, she always has great stories of their lives here in Africa) :

By Kathryn- "I gave one to Janie, and she had tears in her eyes as she thanked me.

I gave one to Lillian, and she told me that just the day before, she had gone to the clinic to get checked and they had suggested she buy her things to prepare, but she didn’t have the 10,000 shillings and didn’t know how she would get it. She was so blessed by this Mama Kit arriving perfectly in God’s timing.
Kat and Helen, another sweet Mama that loved her gift
This next woman, Annette, is a relative to Alice (Kathryn’s house help). She arrived at my house at 8:45 in the morning. She had left her home in the village at 6am, walking to meet me. She reached Alice’s, they “took tea” and then came to my house. I’m guessing she got to Alice’s around 8am. That means this pregnant woman walked 2 HOURS to get this kit that costs approximately $5!! She sat, I gave her some water and a snack, and I said as many things to her in Lugbara as I could, which wasn’t much. I couldn’t get over the journey she had made that morning. How blessed we are. This was life changing for her."
Kat and Annette
Harriett tells me that most all of them women in the nearby slum area that received kits in November and December have now given birth. She says they all still thank her when she sees them and they were so glad to be able to go to the hospital for delivery. Harriett says there are also many more pregnant women that we need to help there. Sometimes the need can be so overwhelming.

Next weekend, my friends with the “Be a Blessing” ministry will be leading a crusade in a nearby village. They also plan to give away 100 Mama Kits during a special women’s bible study. I hope to be there to see the kits get passed out. But they promised to take photos and give me a full report if I am not. I am so glad to be a small part of the blessing that this group will be to this village

Some other amazing moments…

A woman in Alabama contacted me about the kits. Somehow, she heard about my blog through a mutual friend. God has been talking to her lately about doing a mission project. God laid Mama Kits on her heart. She and the women’s ministry at her church are raising money by making a cookbook. They hope to raise enough funds to be able to buy more than 300 kits. I’ll get you info on the cookbook and where to buy them as soon as I get it.

A friend of mine wanted her daughter to learn more about helping others. She told her little girl about Mama Kits and they decided to have a bake sale to raise some money. They called it "Cupcakes for Kits". Sweet little Claire raised more than $160. Oh, how I love this.
Mercy shirts representing!!

How could you not buy a cupcake from this sweet face?
Another dear friend recently had a baby. (By the way, it kills me for my friends to be delivering when I am not there. Don’t they know how much I love to snuggle newborns?!) My friend had several showers, so she asked at one of them for people to donate to Mama Kits instead of buying a gift. Such an honor! Last year for Mother’s Day, this same friend and her sister were some of the first ones to donate to this project and they did it in honor of their mom. So sweet!

Our small groups at church just recently went through the book “Radical”, which by the way, I’ve mentioned on here before and I highly recommend. One of the teenage girls contacted me, and said after reading the book she felt convicted to do something. She sold some of her clothes, video games, and other “stuff” and donated about $100 for Mama Kits. I love to see young people with such a heart to help others.

And I must give a plug for another group… I stumbled today upon this website. This organization, "Because Every Mother Matters" very much has the same heart as mine to help women have safe deliveries. They have beautiful Mother’s Day Cards for sale. Each card is $10 and all money goes towards their ministry to help the women of E. Africa. Funny thing, greeting cards are on my dream list for the future of my Mama Kit ministry, but until I have my own cards done, you’ll have to buy one from them.

If you’d like to make a donation in honor of your wife, mother, or grandmother this Mother’s Day, you can click on the PayPal Donation link on this page for "Mercy for Mamas". All money will be used to purchase Mama Kits. I can’t imagine what mom wouldn’t like to know that their gift went to help another mama in Africa. The world does not need more orphans. Children like Mercy are not orphans because their mothers did not love them or want them. She is an orphan because her mother did not have access to proper medical care. I am not okay with that, and I hope you are not either.
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Wednesday, June 1, 2011
A Day in the Village

Several fellow adoptive moms from UG started their own ministry, Awaka Children’s Foundation. I’ve often heard about this ministry and the village where they work. This past Saturday I finally got to go visit. What a day! I went with my friends, Kelly and Simon, and some other adoptive families. We drove about an hour outside of Kampala, up into the beautiful hills. Then we went off of the main road quite a ways, where you could definitely say you are “in the village”.
Our first stop was to meet the village midwife. Mama Florence is about 70 years old. Women travel from miles around to use her services. I’ve heard it said that a woman in the village will go miles to a highly recommended and trusted midwife, even if a decent doctor or clinic is closer. It’s all about trust and relationship. Mama Florence is very well known and respected. She delivers approximately 4-7 babies a week. She does not charge anything. She has the labor and delivery room behind her house in a very small mud building. When we arrived there was a young girl, Sylvia, there in the early stages of labor with her first baby. She labored in this small room with very few supplies and no modern equipment. Smoke billowing in from the charcoal fire outside. But I’m very glad to say that because of your generous donations, she had sterile delivery supplies from a Mama Kit. Mama Florence was very excited to get the kits and I know they will be well used. I asked what happens if there are complications during the birth. They told me that when that happens Florence gets a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) and they go the approximately 35km to the nearest hospital. That’s 35 km on a rural dirt, pothole filled road while you are in labor and enduring complications. Can you imagine? It blows my mind. But I’m thankful for women like Mama Florence doing the best they can to help the women of her village. I look forward to getting to know her more and to providing her with more kits.

Delivery Hut
Mama Florence and Sylvia

Giving Mama Florence her Mama Kits
After Mama Florence’s we went on the community site. From there we took off on an hour long walk. We walked about 30 minutes to the area borehole (well) that Awaka recently put in. Before the well was installed, there was no clean source of water. Now they have the water, but many still have to make the long walk to the well with their jerrycans. I cannot imagine that being a part of my daily routine. From the well, we walked to the site of the Awaka Medical Clinic. This clinic is under construction and the work progresses as the money comes in. They hope the clinic can provide all of the basic services including births, HIV medication distribution, and malaria treatments. It will be a huge blessing to the community once the clinic is done.

From the clinic we walked back to the community site where all of the women and children had gathered. About once a month Awaka provides a meal for everyone in the area. The kids sang and danced several songs to welcome us. Then we helped to serve more than 350 children and about 100 women a lunch. Lunch consisted of rice, sweet potatoes, cassava, soup/gravy, and a small piece of meat or beans. We almost ran out of food, but thankfully there was enough. It’s humbling to think that this is the only food that most of these kids will eat that day, and more than likely the only meat they’ll get for a long time.



The Gathering
 
Dishing out lunch
 
Eating lunch
After lunch I led the kids in a few songs. I love acting silly and singing with children in Uganda. It’s one of my favorite things to see them laugh and shout and play. So much fun and the laughter is so contagious. One of the other women with us had brought a ton of toys that her friends and family donated. It was amazing to see how big of a smile a random Happy Meal toy can give to a child who has so little. And many of the mamas had an even bigger smiles as they watched their kiddos play. It was a sweet moment. We also passed out one piece of children’s clothing to each mama. They were very grateful.
Another woman with our group works as a nurse practitioner. She did some basic check-ups and wound care too. It was another one of those moments where the needs are so many, where do you even begin. But I’m sure the bandages and antiseptic helped more than we’ll know.
Bandaging kiddos
And we passed out Mama Kits to all of the visibly pregnant women. It was sort of funny watching Godfrey, Awaka’s director UG, determine if the women were really pregnant. I had to assure the women that we will continue to supply more kits, so if they weren’t pregnant now there would be a kit for them when thei r time comes.

Arguing with Godfrey over whether or not a woman was pregnant. ha!
One of the ladies with our group has just been in Uganda for a short time. This was her first experience in the village. She asked me if I have gotten used to it. The sad thing is that in some ways I have. It does not shock me anymore to see children running around barefoot, babies with no diapers, huge herniated belly buttons or swollen tummies from malnutrition or worms. But it still gets to me when I stop and think of the reality of everyday life for these people. Nothing is easy. Growing food, getting water, washing clothes, cooking food, going to school, seeing a doctor… nothing is easy. Yet they still smile. They still are grateful for what they do have. These women work hard to do anything they can to make a living for their families. They weave baskets, make jewelry, garden, and sew. They still have the same needs and desires for their kids that we do. They want them healthy, happy and educated.
Kids walking the path with us
I can tell that Awaka is making a real difference in this village. I see kids with decent clothes that I know were donated. I see kids getting medical treatment that otherwise would have no hope. I see Mama Florence with a way to boil water and sterilize supplies, which she could not easily do before. I see kids in school that never would have been there without Awaka. One thing that is different about Awaka is that when you sponsor a child, you are actually sponsoring their whole family. You help them all to eat better, go to school and get medical treatment. You help to maintain the local well and contribute to the construction of the clinic. If your family is looking for a way to sponsor a child in Africa, let me suggest Awaka. It’s run by some amazing women that I know have a real heart for the children of Africa. You can find out more by checking out their website, www.awaka.org. I’m glad to say that “Mercy for Mamas” is partnered with them to provide Mama Kits to those in need. I hope each time you give toward a Mama Kit you’ll think of 19 year old Sylvia giving birth in a mud room with Mama Florence.
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 From a November 10, 2011 post...
I also will soon be launching a blog/website for "Mercy for Mamas". I really have a heart for this ministry and I hope that some of you will too. For me, it's one tangible way that I can help prevent more children from becoming orphans. More kits are needed. The crisis pregnancy centers that received them are running out. Harriett has women asking for more. My friend, Kathryn, has been passing them out in Arua. They are making a difference. She mentions them in a few of her recent blog posts, here, here, and here. I would love to see more community and church groups get involved. If you have a group that would like more information please let me know. I also would love to come speak at a meeting or event to help spread the word about how a simple kit can help save lives. It's crazy to think that $7 can truly change a woman's life.
One of the women using a Mama Kit that Kathryn gave her.
She is sitting outside the hospital while in labor.