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What can ordinary people do when faced with a humanitarian crisis of gigantic dimensions? When you see overwhelming suffering, poverty, hunger and disease, what does an ordinary person do?  How can we ignore it once our eyes have been opened to it?  We cannot.  If we are caring human beings, we must listen to our hearts, listen to God and one step at a time, do our part to help where we can, and leave the rest to others who will rise to the challenge themselves. 

 

Beginning a spring protection project. Note the lady in the foreground pouring  drinking water from the mud hole, it's all they had.

Hands Across Nations, a small group of ordinary people, banded together to make a difference in the area of Northern Uganda, East Africa. 

In 2001, 14 Christians, from Washington and Oregon, were part of a medical mission to the war torn area where a rebel army had been abducting children and destroying their villages for 17 years.  For a month, under the direction of Path Ministries, they set up temporary clinics in the huts of the outlying Lango tribal villages in the bush.  It became apparent that one of the major reasons for many of the diseases people suffered was a lack of clean water.  There were hundreds of springs, with water flowing out of the ground.  Drinking water was collected from these pools of stagnant water where animals stood and drank.  Before leaving Uganda, the team put together enough money to pay for the first protected spring, in the village of Anyangapuc – a concrete structure with a pipe of free-flowing, clean water serving several thousand people a day.

It takes two weeks to complete a spring protection project.

The following year, a smaller group returned to take part in mobile health clinics organized by Path Ministries, and funds were raised to protect several more springs

Hands Across Nations (HAN), as a charitable foundation, was born in 2003, after a rebel raid on the village of Anyangapuc, the site of the first spring project.  52 people were killed, many abducted, and hundreds fled their homes to the nearest town.  One family, headed by Felix Omodi, who had worked with the 2001 medical team, lost 12 members, but took in almost 100 people, allowing them to sleep in their home.  Worldwide response was slow and sporadic so an organization was needed through which to support the people in the Omodi home with food, clothing, and tools to plant gardens.  HAN, set up under the National Heritage Foundation, a non profit 501C3 charity, was started initially to take care of these traumatized refugees until they could stand again on their own several months later. 

A protected spring can serve several hundred families

The spring program was continued at a slower pace, and medical supplies and equipment were sent in support of Ayira Nursing Home, a small private hospital under the direction of Dr. Patrick Opio, where many refugees were treated.  Each year, dozens of hand made baby quilts are donated to HAN to take for the babies born at Ayira.  Hands Across Nations has provided surgical supplies and equipment, surgical gowns/ scrubs, caps and masks and therapy equipment. In 2009 HAN purchased a large air conditioner for the operating room allowing adequate cooling for the many surgeries he performs each week.  A locking drug cart was donated in 2010.  Dr. Opio has immediate need for a portable x-ray machine, autoclave, sterilizer, and a diathermy machine for blood coagulation.  Carolyn Kurowski, a physical therapist and missionary with HAN, provides training to nurses and students in various physical therapy activities and techniques.

Alito community center near completion. The villagers made the bricks and HAN donated much of the remaining materials.

Education is an absolute necessity to break the poverty cycle, so one by one, young people of high character and motivation have been selected for support at the elementary, high school, University and Post Graduate level.  This is done quietly, one student at a time, not on a large scale.

In early 2007, as the off shoot of several Christian women’s conferences led by Esther Omodi,  together with HAN speakers from the US,  3 village women’s projects were initiated.  The purpose was to unite the women returning to their villages from refugee camps, giving them hope and vision through the Bible, and teaching them how to develop a planting program which is self perpetuating.  Part of their proceeds is given to the church, part to the participating women, part for community projects, and the rest is used to start the next planting project.  In August 2008 each of the three villages were presented with a pair of oxen, with yoke and plow to enhance their ability to plant and produce their crops.  A bee keeping project with 84 hives was initiated in 2009

Also in 2007, a joint project of Rotary Club, Colville, WA and HAN was initiated and by March 2009, 34 villages in N. Uganda had protected springs and clean water!

In January 2009, HAN, came along side a group of Christian women who had prayed for 2 years to start a sewing school for widows, orphans and single mothers.  The first class of 41 women graduated in May of 2009 with a treadle sewing machine provided for each woman to start their own tailoring business.   

HAN supported the building of a large community center/church, using hand made and fired bricks.  HAN assisted with funds for the mortar, roof, doors and metal window guards and in the fall of 2010, provided the funds for the concrete floors and completion of the window frames.  The finishing work inside remains to be completed.

All of the work and projects are under the guidance and direction of the Word of God in the Bible and His Holy Spirit, through prayer. None of it has any eternal value without the Lord at the center of it.

HAN, started and run by ordinary people, is looking for other caring people who desire to add their talent and support to our efforts to help our brothers and sisters in N. Uganda. 

By  Carolyn Kurowski

"The rewards are beyond measure to your soul."

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