It was actually one of my favorite places to photograph. The smoke that rose up from the pots, combined with the smoke from the burning wood below made for some powerful visuals. But, after three or four minutes in there, I would have to run outside for a gasp of clean air… tears streaming down my face from the sting of the smoke. I never could figure out how the cooks and the kids stayed in the there for so long. With the smoke and the risk of burns, it was a place in need of help.
Now, thanks to Change the Truth donors, the kitchen has been transformed. It is a smoke-free place that is safer and much more efficient.
Little by little, the truth is changing for our beloved children. The truth is now, they have a safe, clean place to go to get their meals.Mama Gloria
Jeff Mildner and Jennifer Smith will be the leaders of Change the Truth’s Team 7 trip to Uganda this December! This will be the couple’s third trip to St. Mary Kevin Orphanage.
Jennifer and Jeff pictured here with their sponsored student, Scovia
When they’re not traveling to SMK and other exotic places, here’s what they do:
Jeff works for a business solutions company in Lenexa, Kansas. He is a former social studies teacher, coach, and school district IT director. Jennifer is in her 18th year of teaching (and was recently named Blue Valley School District “Teacher of the Year”). She currently teaches 8th graders American history. Jenn and Jeff are avid sports fans cheering on the Kansas City Royals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jeff has completed several marathons (including a 100K – yes you read that right…100!). Jennifer enjoys reading and cooking. They will celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary in December.
Not only have these two humanitarians traveled to SMK twice already, they are actively involved in practically everything CTT does. They are the volunteers behind the successful silent auctions we’ve had at our past two annual fundraisers. They have spoken about CTT at their church, they have rounded up laptops galore for the SMK computer lab and they even sponsor one of our secondary school students. These two are committed to the children at the orphanage in very big ways. We are lucky to have Jenn and Jeff in our corner.
Contact Gloria if you want more information about the trip. Jenn and Jeff would love to have you join them!
Nearly 50 CTT friends, new and old, gathered at a cool spot called Ten Degrees to learn more about our work in Uganda and to meet Rosemary and Joseph Kavulu. The directors of SMK were in Seattle visiting their son, Patrick, and his family. The evening was warm and full of good vibes as our Pacific Northwest supporters watched the CTT documentary “Changing the Truth” and listened as the Kavulus spoke about the history, present and future of the orphanage. It was a lovely evening. Thank you, Seattle friends, for being so gracious and generous!
(l to r) Eddie, Lynne, Bobbie, Gloria, Rosemary, Carol, Patrick and Joseph
CTT is incredibly lucky to have yet another fantastic group of volunteers heading to SMK. In mid-December, Team 6 will make its way to the Pearl of Africa. All the members of Team 6 will be first-timers, with the exception of Suzanne, who will in fact be the team leader. Suzanne went to Uganda with Teams 4 and 5 and is excited to be returning! She will help guide the others during their journey and will provide all sorts of assistance, logistical information and emotional support when needed. Suzanne’s team will include: Josh Sosland, his daughter Leah Sosland, Natalie Boten, Jennifer Schoenwetter and Holly Cobb and her daughter Anna Cobb. You’ll be able to read posts from Team 6 on Gloria’s blog. Be sure to tune in!
Great news! An anonymous donor has made it possible for a huge new garden to be walled off and planted on the grounds of the orphanage. This will be the largest garden at SMK and will provide a continuous harvest of healthy fruits and vegetables for the children. Gardening skills will be taught to the Primary 6 students, who will then help care for the land and its crops. The garden will be named for Tom and Randy, two of CTT’s beloved friends who traveled to SMK in 2008 as members of Team 2, and will be dedicated in December.
This fall CTT’s director traveled to Uganda with a very special guest! Her sister, Bobbie Baker, traveled to SMK for the first time. The two women had a wonderful visit with the children. There were art classes, reading groups, yoga classes, some dancing, a lot of music and laughter, secondary school visits, some swimming and much hugging/hand holding. Bobbie, a longtime supporter of CTT, was captivated by the kids and was glad to finally have a chance to meet the children she’s been hearing about for years. Gloria was able to spend lots of one-on-one time with kids, with Melissa and with members of the SMK administration. It was a successful trip all around!
This month marks the second anniversary of Melissa Mosher’s placement at SMK as social worker/liaison. It’s hard to believe she and her son Antwain and have been living in Uganda for so long! Melissa has done a terrific job for Change the Truth. Among many other things, she makes sure the sponsored secondary, vocational and university students are on the right track, equipped with everything they need to succeed. She provides a safe place for orphans who need a shoulder to cry on and a comfortable space for children who just need some extra tender loving care. Mel’s job description includes everything from providing monthly updates on all CTT funded projects to helping lead volunteer teams (which she will do this coming December). CTT could not be luckier to Melissa in its corner. She makes everything run much more smoothly and efficiently. Mel, we couldn’t do this good work with you!
Jennifer Smith and Jeff Mildner, members of Team 4 in 2010, traveled back to Uganda on their own in July. Not only did they get to renew old friendships with the children they met on their previous trip, they were able to spend some time teaching in the classroom. They spent a great deal of time reorganizing the books in orphanages’s library. They donated an additional laptop to the computer lab and held some computer training classes. Jennifer and Jeff conducted classroom observations and did assessments of students who have been performing poorly in school. Finally, they were able to accompany Melissa on secondary school visitation days and got to see the campuses of Taibah, St. Charles, Kajjansi Progressive and Makerere University. Needless to say, they were treated to enthusiastic tours at all these schools, because it was the proud CTT sponsored students who showed them around. Jennifer and Jeff even had time for an exciting side trip to Murchison Falls. They had a wonderful time!
Jennifer and Jeff with sponsored student, Rosette
Thanks to you, friends of CTT, we were able to raise $45,000 at this year’s annual event! These funds will go a long way toward improving the lives of the children at St. Mary Kevin and providing academic scholarships for the secondary, vocational and university students. Each year our attendance increases. It is so encouraging to know more and more people are learning about and supporting the work of Change the Truth. We’ve come a long way in five short years.
The Mayson Gallery (254 Broome Street) in New York City held an exhibition of photographs by Gloria Baker Feinstein as well as paintings by some of the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. A cocktail reception was held Tuesday, May 8. Money raised will go to support Change the Truth.
These recent primary school graduates are very excited and proud to have been given the opportunity to continue their education at high quality secondary schools (equivalent to high school in the US). All of these young people did well in primary school and show a lot of promise for the future. All but one are full orphans (have lost both parents) and have established themselves as engaged and enthusiastic friends of Change the Truth. In fact, this is the first year ever that each Senior 1 student has an individual sponsor. This means that certain CTT donors have made commitments to pay the school fees for these specific children. It’s quite an honor for these kids, not to mention an incredible opportunity.
Congratulations to these smart, deserving, hard-working and lovely young people. They start school next week, and everyone at CTT wishes them well!
(back row from left to right)
[Thanks to Melissa for the great photo.]
Top row (l to r): Monique and Dawn. Middle row: Shane, Lynne, Suzanne and J. Leroy. Front row: Gloria, Bobbi, Avis and Michelle
Team 5 had an unforgettable experience in Uganda! We were the largest team yet, and we accomplished a lot. Most significant, however, was the deepening of old friendships and the development of new ones. The children at the orphanage have come to rely on our visits, and they were not disappointed this year. It was an exceptionally friendly and outgoing team; everyone reached out to and connected with lots of kids on many different levels.
There was much music, dancing and laughter. There was yoga, art and reading. There were lots of long walks, visits to the beach, soccer matches and card games.
Each member of Team 5 now has pictures in their heads and on their hard drives to enjoy for a lifetime. And the children at SMK have even more friends now – people who will think about them every single day.
A group of volunteers will soon be traveling to St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. We will be loaded down with 450 pounds of goodies such as clothing, pen pal letters, puzzles, art supplies, decks of cards, hand-made Christmas gifts, medical supplies, school supplies, toothbrushes/toothpaste, cameras and soccer balls. Team 5 will travel for 26 grueling hours before falling into the open arms and hearing the cheers of the orphaned children. Team 5 is: Lynne Melcher (filmmaker) who is making her third trip to SMK; Bobbi Newman (yoga teacher) who is making her fourth trip; Shane Evans (artist, musician, writer) who is going to SMK for the first time; Suzanne Garr (photographer, yoga teacher) who will be traveling to Uganda for her second time; Michelle and J. Leroy Beasley (artists) who are going for the first time; Avis Smith (therapist) who is making her second trip there; Dawn Taylor (artist, athlete, general cheerleader) who’s making the journey for the first time; Monique Udo (musician and teacher) who’s going for the second time; and Gloria Baker Feinstein, who will be setting foot on Ugandan soil for the sixth time. We all consider ourselves quite lucky and are very, very excited! We hope you will follow along with us as we blog about our adventure.
Team 4 and 5 member Suzanne Garr recently held a very successful exhibition/ Change the Truth Fundraiser at Marian Gallery, Mt. Mary College in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Suzanne celebrated the children from the orphanage with an installation of some of the beautiful photographs she made in 2010, screening the Change the Truth documentary (made by Lynne Melcher), selling crafts from Uganda and showing/selling artwork made by the children. All the proceeds from Suzanne’s efforts will go directly to CTT and then back to the very children she honored.
Change the Truth recently paid for eye examinations for sponsored students who have been struggling with their vision. Now we have purchased glasses for those who need them. Here is Rachel, one of our sponsored students, showing off her new look (literally!).
Monique, who hails from the Netherlands, is just about to complete her month-long volunteer stint at the orphanage. She has worked very hard teaching the children how to read music and how to play the new instruments recently purchased by CTT. She, working alongside music teacher Ivan, seems to have worked music miracles this past month in Kajjansi. We know the children have loved having her become part of their lives and will be sorry to see her go.
Thanks to all of you who attended our 4th Annual Friendraiser/Fundraiser! It was a fantastic evening, filled with wonderful art, African dancing, a new movie about CTT, food and drink, African market shopping, a silent and live auction, familiar faces and lots of new friends. Nearly 400 people of all ages gathered at Leedy-Voulkos Art Center to show their support of the Ugandan children whose lives we are helping to change.
The success of the evening was due to the young artists from the orphanage, the KC area artists who participated in the “Doll Project”, a generous crew of volunteers and, of course, those of you who opened your wallets to make purchases.
Every doll sold! Successful bids ranged from $50 to $1300. The paintings by the children all sold, as well. Their work received rave reviews. Just about everyone noticed that the creative talents of the children have greatly improved.
Bobbie Baker, sister of CTT founder Gloria, created a one-minute video about CTT and entered it in a competition sponsored by the Verity Credit Union in Seattle. The first place prize was $5,000. Unfortunately, the video did not win. A few days after this (sad) news was announced, a kind soul from Kansas City made an anonymous donation to CTT for $5,000. It was a total surprise and completely unexpected. That’s what we call “making lemonade out of lemons”!
Congratulations are in order! There are five new students who have been given Change the Truth school scholarships. These five graduated from Primary 7 in November and have now been given the school fees required to begin Senior 1. Three have individual sponsors. The generous donors providing these scholarships are to be congratulated for providing a life-changing opportunity to a child who wants nothing more than to be able to go to school. The happy students are (from left to right): Ivan, Brian, Caleb, Anthony and Sanday.
This brings our total number of sponsored students to 27. And three recent sponsored secondary school grads (Isabella, Nelson and Billy) are waiting to hear about acceptance into University.
Change the Truth has received a generous grant from The Good People Fund! This is the second year in a row we have been the fortunate recipient of funds from this wonderful organization. Last year their grant was earmarked for a brand new laptop computer, some software, several thumb drives and a printer for the computer lab at the orphanage. This year, the money received will be used to establish a library of academic textbooks for the primary school-aged children.
A Huge Step Forward for Change the Truth
Melissa Mosher and her son, Atwain, arrived in Uganda a week ago to begin her job as social worker and liaison between St. Mary Kevin Orphanage and CTT. Melissa’s job description includes, among other things:
Team 2 members Tom and Randy frequent a small, locally-owned coffee shop/roasters in La Jolla, California that is owned by a very generous soul, Chuck. After hearing about the kids at the orphanage, Chuck decided to seek out a special Ugandan blend – a dark roasted coffee bean called Bugisu – and to donate $1.00 to CTT for every pound sold. Bird Rock Coffee Roasters are committed to buying coffee beans in a socially responsible manner while they remain dedicated to giving to those in need. If you find yourself in La Jolla, please stop in and tell Chuck that you, like him, are a friend of the children at SMK. And buy a pound or two of Uganda coffee!
Eight new bunk beds, mattresses and sets of bed covers have been provided for the older boys at the orphanage.
CTT has purchased uniforms for the St. Mary Kevin Marching Band.
Funds raised in La Jolla will go toward the purchase of new mosquito nets for all the childrens’ beds. These will be installed by Team 3. Other Team 3 projects will include book clubs, gardening, art projects, group therapy, collection of the children’s life stories, computer lab updates and computer instruction and distribution of Christmas gifts to the children.
Change the Truth has been awarded a grant from the “Good People Fund.” The money was earmarked for the purchase of a brand new laptop, some software, several thumb drives and a printer for the computer lab at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage.
The most recent documentary about our work, “Changing the Truth” by Lynne Melcher (board member and participant in the Team 1 and Team 2 trips to Uganda) was accepted into the FILMANTHROPY FILM FESTIVAL in Los Angeles. The festival featureded six short films and three longer ones about philanthrpoic work being done by not-for-profits. Hundred of films were submitted; this is quite an honor for Lynne and a wonderful opportunity for us to spread the word about Change the Truth to people on the west coast.
Speaking of the west coast, Team 2 volunteers Tom Maddox and Randy Clark’s friend MJ generously hosted a San Diego fundraiser for CTT. Tom and Randy spoke to the group about their experiences at the orphanage, showed Lynne’s video and sold beaded jewelry. Thanks to our new wonderful new San Diego supporters, $1800.00 was raised for the kids at St. Mary Kevin’s!
For her work with Change the Truth, Gloria Baker Feinstein was given the Bodhisattva Award at the 23rd annual World Peace Meditation at the Rime Buddhist Center in Kansas City, MIssouri. The award is given to an individual who works to benefit others.
During December, the eleven members of Team 2 worked hard at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage and accomplished the following: a garden was designed and planted on the grounds of the orphanage, and a team of kids learned how to cultivate it and tend it. Practically every child received a medical checkup and good advice on healthy African living. Many children spent time in therapy, visiting their painful pasts, but also learning to place an emphasis on where they are now in tandem with hope for the future. Children were given the opportunity just to be children – learning to play Go Fish, Sorry and Twister and competing in friendly games of basketball, volleyball and soccer. Their dorms were given a fresh coat of paint, and their beds were outfitted with comfy new mattresses and colorful, warm blankets. A marching band evolved before our very eyes as we equipped the children with trombones, bugles and drums. (Once the musicians/marchers are ready for prime time, the band will be able fetch up to $100 US per performance.) A couple of faulty, old computers were repaired. A lot of wonderful art was made. Old friendships between CTT team members and the children were deepened, and new connections were made. The best news of all is that the children are markedly improved since our trip last year. They are better fed, more hopeful, happier and more focused than ever on their education.
On December 2nd, from 5 to 8 PM, anything purchased at the non-profit fair trade store, 10,000 Villages in Overland Park, Kansas, will ultimately help the children at St. Mary Kevin’s. Please do your holiday shopping on the 2nd and join us as we benefit unemployed and underemployed artisans from over thirty developing nations, as well as the orphans on Uganda. 10% of all sales will go directly to Change the Truth. 10,000 Villages is located at 7949 Santa Fe Drive in old Overland Park.
Thanks to the tremendous number of generous donations we have received lately, we have been able to send the funds necessary for the purchase of a new motor for the maize mill. This will enable the orphanage to produce a large percentage of its own corn meal, which in turn is made into porridge for the children (as well as providing food for the pigs that are being raised on the grounds.)
A very successful fundraiser was held at the Core Club in mid-town Manhatten on September 8th. A generous donor provided the venue, the food and drink. About sixty-five new and old friends from the New York area attended the event, the centerpiece of which was the screening of Lynne’s documentary about our 2007 mission trip. We even found three people who have made the decision to join us on our next trip to the orphanage! Pictured here are Lynne, Gloria and board member Carol Joseph.
St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood became the proud owner of a brand spanking new motorcycle, thanks to generous donations made by CTT supporters. The motorcycle will be used as a “taxi” to generate daily income. It will also come in handy for trips to the market and the medical clinic. Prior to this, St. Mary Kevin’s did not have a motor vehicle at all.
One of the most startling truths we learned on our mission trip is that from day to day, the availabilty of food is a challenge. CTT now places a larger empahsis on raising funds to specifically address this issue. If you would like to earmark your donation for the purchase of food, please do so. It’s hard for a child to do anything productive during the day if his or her stomach is empty. To make matters worse, food costs continue to rise sharply. We have now begun sending a monthly stipend that is designated for the purchase of food for the orphans. More recently, we have begin sending a monthly fee for the employment of a nurse. She checks in on the children on a regular part-time basis and provide medications when needed.
The main goal of Change the Truth is to change lives by providing an education for those children who could not otherwise afford the tuition and materials required for secondary school (our equivalent of high school). CTT is currently assisting the following students with these fees. Henry and Emma Vincent are featured in our video, by the way!
Emma Vincent Mulindwa
Billy Bonny Tumusiime
The secondary school fees are US $95 per term; there are three terms per year. There are other expenses, as well, including books, uniforms, transportation and in the case of the girls, boarding fees.
The first major project CTT funded, other than providing school fee assistance, was the construction of a brick-making facility on the grounds of the orphanage. The funds CTT granted enabled St. Mary Kevin’s to purchase everything from cement, eucalyptus poles, nails, raw clay material, a pavers machine and a half-brick machine to a ventilation system and brick molds. The beauty of providing this to the children is that the vocational skills learned empowers the kids, and the income generated from the sale of the bricks helps the orphanage tremendously.