Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mildred Alene Dunn Barlow, the Volunteer of Volunteers!

Have we ever told you how much we love our mother, Mildred Alene Dunn Barlow.  She has been a great example to us as she has served in so many ways and cared for so many people throughout her life.

She was the youngest child in her family and so at 89 yrs of age she is all that is left. Grandpa passed away in 2002 and since that time she has made the best of life trying to continue to serve “. . . like Lincoln would expect me to . . . got to endure to the end so I can be with Lincoln, ‘cause we all know where he is at now.”

This past year she was released from the Relief Society and asked to teach the 8-10 year olds in Primary. Now she is 89 and she has every right to expect that she might well desire to continue to read her scriptures every day, read her Relief Society lesson and her Gospel Doctrine manual during the week preparing to enjoy her Sabbath day of worship. But, no at 89 yrs she is going to teach rambunctious, a little wild, new to the church converts in primary (2 hours worth each Sunday).

Did she want to teach Primary? No . . . Will she teach primary and give it her best shot? Yes. She has had almost a year of teaching these children and this summer held a birthday party inviting her primary class to the church for a celebration with a theme of “The 13 Articles of Faith.” They played games, decorated cupcakes, made little treasures,, ate a lot of food and celebrated Mis' Barlow’s 89th birthday. She also gave them each a birthday present.

She use to drive to Atlanta each month and spend a week (a 4 hour drive) to serve in the Atlanta temple.  She finally realized that the trip was just too much for her and so she looked for other ways to be of service. She called Hospice and asked if she could be a volunteer having had service from them when her sweet Lincoln was so bad. She has joined the Bluebird volunteers at the Colquitt Regional Medical Center serving 3 days a week and volunteers at the food bank once a month.

This service has continued for the last 7 years. She is a favorite at the hospital, knows everyone and everyone knows her. She has worked in many areas (and I do mean worked some times as long as 8-10 hrs) and has been the chaplain for the volunteers for the last 2 years. This has been a great missionary tool as she gives them a rousing sermon each month at their meeting. No little thought from the Internet for her. She always focuses her message on how to improve, grow or serve better. There is always a challenge to her audience to strive for those Christ-like attributes she has tried to practice all her life.

Recently the hospital CEO, Jim Lowry told the volunteer’s president that he would like for the volunteers to be recognized by honoring the service of a volunteer every quarter and present them with a $50 check. A box was placed in the volunteers room where the volunteers could cast their votes for the honoree. Grandmother was selected for the award at their September meeting and presented with a check for $50. There are around seventy volunteers and grandmother felt honored.

Each year the volunteers make an annual donation of $10,000 to the Hospital Foundation. This donation is always given in honor of some community figure. Last year it was decided that the donation could be given in honor of one of the volunteers. . This is the second year it has been awarded to a volunteer. The award was to be announced in their October meeting and they were told that Mr Lowry would come to their meeting to make the announcement. When the time came for the announcement to be made the President said that Mildred Barlow had been chosen to receive the award. Grandmother said she could hear many of the volunteers around the table say 'she earned it'. The President noted how willing Mildred was to work where ever there has been a need and pointed out that she had worked in wound care, transport, pharmacy, front desk, gift shop, various offices and had served on second floor. She pointed out that for more than a year she had done all the filing for their former gift shop manger and that was done after she had finished her assignment for the day. Grandmother said that they made her sound real good.

Grandma said, “Mr Lowry complimented me first on my inspirational thought and prayer it was flowery...I think I am the first chaplain that has ever done anything more than read something. I felt, very loved. I will sit at the Founders table in the spring when we have the Founder’s banquet and be recognized with all the Founders. I am blessed to be honored for doing something that does even more for me. Life is good!”

That’s our grandma. We are just a bit proud of her. She is probably the only “Mormon” that most of her peers know and she is a great representative of the gospel and a great missionary ready to share the gospel with whoever shows an interest.

She is blessed. She always says she has nothing to complain about. She feels good, she feels loved, she has her volunteer work to keep her going. Well that and teaching primary for 8-10 year olds who ‘will not stay in their seats or stop talking or listen to a thing I have to say’ but every week they come back to get some more of that love that oozes from her every pore.
You are never too old for a little motherly advise.
Well, now I have told you. . . I love my mother (in-law).   I love her every bit as much as Farrell loves her, maybe more. I am sure she loves me more than she loves Farrell, at least she makes me think she does. Actually we could have a real argument over this as each of us children (and grandchildren) think we are the favorite, and . . .we probably are.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Day In Masaka

Beautiful Scenery
 Beautiful Weather
 Beautiful People

We spent two day in Masaka this week seeing the progress of the clean water project.  This project is turning out to be the best water project ever.
  • 60 protected springs
  • 10 clothes washing stations
  • 16 latrines for schools including a handwashing station
  • 15 rain water catchment systems for schools
  • Hygiene and Sanitation training for 3 sub-counties
  • Model village with 25 family latrines and 500 latrine slabs - training on how to build a family latrine targeted to raise the standard of living. Family latrine coverage from 40% to 70% 
    Typical unprotected spring water source - children stand on these boards and submerge jerri cans in the water as they gather the water needed for the day by their family.
    Construction of the spring showing the back of cement face currently this is the water source.  I wouldn't walk out on those logs.  There are snakes in those waters, even cobras. . . True!
Newly completed protected spring from the same source as above.

(This baby cobra was found at a construction site for a spring we were visiting.  Ssimbwa found it before we go to the spring and made sure we stayed away till they had killed it but there were children playing by the spring.  Spring was located where a natural spring drained into a swamp.)

In the villages wash is laid out to dry on the grass or bushes.  Someone washed their blankets today and left them to dry in the sunBlankets are real treasures and often are cut in half so share with other famiy members.

A new addition to our water projects is the washing station located right next to the new protected spring.  In Africa most people wash their clothes in a pan or bucket one for soapy water and if you have two, one for rinsing.  Before you wash you must haul the needed water up to your home and wash all your clothes using those two buckets of water for all your clothes.  A washing station has many advantages. 
  1.  It puts you close to the water source so you don't have to haul water
  2. You can change your water in your bucket as often as needed and have the opportunity of getting your clothes really clean.
  3. You have a clean place to do the wash rather than just in the dirt
  4. It offers an opportunity to do this chore with others in the neighborhood affording you a chance to socialize with your neighbors.
As we headed down the hill to one wash station we could hear the women talkiing and laughing as they did their wash.  All laughing and conversation stopped as we approached but too late.  We knew they were enjoying working together.  These washing stations are in great use and include a 3 line clothesline to hang your clothes up instead of drying them by laying them on the grass or bushes.  The project only has 10 washing stations but they have been placed at the busiest spring sites..

 Now you may not appreciate a pit latrine but believe me this is a luxury and one that this school is very grateful for.  They have 3 other latrines 2 old and one new but all three are falling into the pits.  The new one was not constructed well and it was built on a sink hole and is unusable as it has tipped over and fallen down into the sink hole.
We have made some changes to the latrine design also.  It has 2 stances for boys  plus a urinal and 3 stances for girls but a new addition is a bathroom (washroom) for girls to take care of their monthly needs.  It has a water source (a jeri can) and a drain so that used water can be disposed of.  This is a new mandate of the government that all new latrines have a bathroom for girls.  Girlsl are regularly absent from school 5 days as there has been no way to manage their needs while at schools.   All latrines are now constructed to be accessable to those with disabilities , ramps have been added and if there are children using wheelchairs one stance is altered to be wheelchair accessable and is provided with a sit down toilet seat.  See things are improving all the time.

Note the handwashing station.  This design has been upgraded to provide a cement base with a trough to divert the water away from the area and providing cement for students to stand on while washing their hands.  We are looking at a design that provides water catchment off the roof of the latrine sending the runoff to the water tank for handwashing.  We need to get that design a little more cost effective before we can include it.

H/S graduation class of the model village
 The Hygiene and Sanitation training has taken a good step forward.  We took only 4 trainers to Masaka and they have trained the sub-county health officers and the village health officers in the H/S program.  Each participant commits to being a trainer and is given a certificate of completion of the course and a t-shirt to wear when training.  The shirt designates them as a Hygiene and Sanitation Specialist (emblasoned on the back) and has the logo of the church on the front.
Their was no problem recruiting trainers and facilitators as everyone wants a t-shirt and who wouldn't want to be designated a specialist of something. 
Each participatnt took a turn teaching a principle of the H/S training.
It was wonderful to watch the excitement of the class and how well they were all responding to the program.  It is hard to believe that there are people in the world who have never learned the importance of washing their hands and how to help their families prevent illness.
Each trainee told of something new they had learned and would now be able to teach others about H/S.
Hard to believe that these principles are new but most of the remote villages we visit have never had outside training and welcome any new information.  
 As a result of the H/S training in the model village their is almost 100% compliance in building of a tippy tape for a family hand washing station.  The sad note here is that most of the people say they don't have access to soap.  We are working on a plan to show them how to make soap, something that our partner, Peace and Hope from the Maturation Training  project, is teaching in other villages.

Family latrines were being constructed and latrine slabs being distributed.  The 25 family latrines that are being constructed will go to families at risk, widows, elderly, handicapped, etc. 
 One of the recipients of the family latrine was pretty excited.  She told us thank you several times.
 She posed for a pic but not before she took off her head scarf.
 I gave her my necklace - she was very appreciative - and I got a big thank you hug.
It looks better on her than on me. 
Anyone willing to build a family latrine will be given a cement latrine slab to use as the base.  The trainers for the latrine construction have had to simplify the construction design for families building their own as they are unable to afford the bags of cement for a base or wood for siding.  They are using bamboo woven to make a mesh and then applying mud for the walls and a thatch roof - but the cement slab is a welcome addition.  They lay a base for the slab of logs and set the slab on top over the pit or they make clay bricks and build a base which they can take apart and move when the lartine is full.  The pits can not be dug as deep as usual as the water table is too high (close to the lake) and in digging you soon hit water.  The goal for the model village is 100% family latrine coverage.

Balloons were a big hit in the village but no one knew how to blow up a balloon or to tie one off either.  Balloons soon ran out and it didn't take long before all the suckers were gone also.
 Some kids didn't have time for suckers or balloons.
Where did he ever get that wheelbarrow - that looks easier than carrying it on your head- by far.
Hey, that's Farrell walking down to a spring.  The only bad thing about a protected spring is they are ALWAYS at the bottom of the hill.

Trek through the banana forest.
 Got to love Masaka - hills and vales, mountains and streams, forests and very ugly storks.
That nest and stand in the top of very tall trees in any community where there is garbage to eat.
But to make up for those very ugly storks there are many, many beautiful children.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Preparing to make and keep sacred covenants.

We attended Nsambya ward today for Relief Society and Priesthood meeting.  The lesson was on "Eternal Marriage."

Our discussion leader was a young sister, not married, but was anticipating a time when she would be married and would want to go to the temple.

We talked about how marriage is a vital part of God's plan and is ordained of God.  We discussed why eternal marriage was essential for exaltation.

We read in the Doctrine and Covenants that an eternal marriage must be performed by one who holds the sealing power. The Lord promised, “If a man marry a wife by … the new and everlasting covenant … by him who is anointed, … and if [they] abide in [the Lord’s] covenant, … it … shall be of full force when they are out of the world” (D&C 132:19).

I was asked to share what I thought were the benefits of Eternal Marriage.   I realized I was talking to six sisters who I was almost sure had not gone to the temple and had not received their endowments or been sealed as a family .  I told them about the blessings that come to a husband and wife as they continually work together for that goal of eternal life - that we are entitled to His help in raising our families and solving our problems when we have covenanted with Him in the temple.

The next part of the discussion was "How do we prepare to go to the temple?"
As I listened to the sisters I realized they were struggling to come up with the steps to prepare for the temple.  At that point I saw 'in my minds eye' the Personal Progress book from Young Women.

I remembered the beautiful picture of the temple on the front of the book and inside a picture of Christ  overlayed with  an outline of the temple.

I realized that Personal Progress literally is preparation for going to the temple.

I asked the sisters if any of them had been through the Personal Progress program.  Two of them had and they bore testimony of how much they grew during their time in Young Women's and how they have continued to practice the  principles of learning that they used in the program: setting goals, giving service, reading the scriptures etc.  Personal progress had become a way of life for them.

I asked them if they remembered the Young Women's Theme and we recited it for the rest of the sisters.
WE ARE DAUGHTERS of our Heavenly Father,
who loves us, and we love Him.
WE WILL "STAND as witnesses of God at all times
and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9)
as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:

Faith • Divine Nature
Individual Worth • Knowledge
Choice and Accountability
Good Works • Integrity
and Virtue

WE BELIEVE as we come to accept and act
upon these values, WE WILL BE PREPARED
to strengthen home and family,
make and keep sacred covenants, receive
the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy
the blessings of exaltation

I told the sisters that I had been invited by my granddaughter, Rachel, to participate in personal progress with her and her mother.  I have been working on the values ever since I have been on a mission and I have learned a lot about myself and about my Father in Heaven

I encouraged them to get a personal progress book from the distribution center and work their way through the program and when they finished they would know they were ready to go to the temple.
What you can learn and gain from participating in personal progress.
You are a daughter of Heavenly Father.
You can increase your faith in and testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
You can remain worthy by obeying the commandments and living the standards of the church.
You can come to recognize and act upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
You can prepare now to be a better wife, mother, homemaker, and leader.
You can keep your baptismal covenants and be worthy to make and keep sacred temple covenants.

Thank you Rachel for inviting me to participate in Personal Progress.  What a wonderful way to prepare yourself to go to the temple.  Any women whether she was a member of the church or not should be striving for those values listed in the YW theme. 
What would the world be like if every woman strived to have Faith, a Divine Nature, if she knew her Individual Worth, if she strived to continually gain Knowledge, if she would try to make good Choices and was Accountable for her actions, if she was continually doing Good Works, if in all things she showed great Integrity and if she truly understood what is 'a woman of virtue'.
I love the church and the opportunity for personal growth that it affords me as I have participated in all the wonderfully inspired programs.  I often wonder who would I be if I wasn't a member of the true church of Jesus Christ.  I am grateful for a husband who accepts his role as leader of our family, who honors His priesthood, who loves me and will continue for all eternity.
I have come to realize something about myself:   I am centered in the gospel. . .  it defines me . . .it is who I am.

 Young Women Personal Progress Program

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Peace and Hope doing good.

One of the great finds of our mission so far is a little group called Peace and Hope. After striving to help the people in their neighborhood they organized themselves in 2006 and became a recognized NGO (non governmental organization.)

They have sheltered young homeless girls, they have taught a sack gardening program to improve the nutrition of families, they started up three sewing training centers: one for women with HIV/AIDS, another for orphaned street girls, and another for girls at risk in their own neighborhood. Through this program they have taught basic sewing skills and training to mothers and girls to sew their own reusable sanitary pads.

Peace and Hope have developed a program teaching maturation clinics for young girls to learn basic knowledge on women’s health and the prevention of HIV/AIDS. They have helped them set up a business of sewing reusable sanitary pads. 
Peace and Hope Training Center
When we visited their center we were impressed with the sheer volume of activity happening there and the number of people benefiting from the services.
Olivia and Elder Barlow in front of Peace and Hope Training Center
The director of Peace and Hope is Olivia Sserabira. She is an amazing woman doing good at every turn and always looking at ways to support those in need. She came to us with a project to train girls of maturation age in school on how to make reusable sanitary pads. She was made aware of a great problem here of girls missing 5 days of school each month because they have no way to manage their monthly needs in a school setting.

The first Peace and Hope project was written for 12 schools and 21 communities to receive health and maturation training. The project provides a sewing machine for the school and even some of the communities. They are taught how to make the reusable sanitary pads and why it is important to embrace this program.

The program provides a bag containing the sanitary pad kit for each girl of maturation age in the schools and then they are taught how to make the pads along with the girls counselor, who keeps the sewing machine and continues to train and mentor the girls.

In the villages the group works with women's organization or they help women get organized and then they train them on the reusable sanitary pad program and give them the personal health and hygiene training using the church’s Family Health and Hygiene manual.

Women learning how to make reusable sanitary pads.
The issue of disposable sanitary pads is a huge sanitation problem in the cities and in the rural areas girls and women are unable to purchase sanitary pads and menstruation is difficult to manage especially if a girl is trying to go to school.
Olivia’ s reception in the schools was wonderful as the girls and their teachers embraced the program and were delighted to get a sewing machine which will sustain the program for years to come. The schools are taking the Health and Hygiene manuals and creating a health curriculum for all the children in school.
expect 40 and get 140
The most overwhelming response was with the women in the villages. We attended two training sessions in the community. Each session was suppose to bring in 30 community members to train on making reusable sanitary pads and discuss health and hygiene. The first session had 80 women and men in attendance and the second session ended up with 140 people attending, far more than anticipated. Dr. Bayigga Michael Lulume,Member of Parliament in this area, has attended every training session and even given some of the Health and Hygiene training as he is a medical doctor.
MP teaching hygiene and sanitation
Communities are left with a trainer, a sewing machine and materials for furthering the training. Peace and Hope also gives them enough material to get started in making the pads which they will sell to generate more sewing supplies for more pads. An average of 3-4 training sessions are conducted in each community.

While doing the Hygiene and Sanitation training Olivia realized that often the women do not have soap to wash their clothes or cooking pots. So she just went ahead and taught them to make soap. She shared with them the idea of sack gardens for those who had no space for a garden. She even taught some groups how to make candles. All of these trainings are potential income generation projects which the women can use to improve their family income.

The Member of Parliament stated that the training has given his people much needed concepts to improve family health, something they had never been given access to before. This training was only covering half of his constituency and he asked if we could extend the project to cover all of his area. At this request we have been given approval to do another project so that all of his constituency will benefit from this program.

Women state that they never understood what causes illness nor did they understand the role of nutrition in the health of their children. Women are being empowered to impact their families health and nutrition and younger girls are learning to be their own advocates and being empowered to manage their own needs.
Studying the Health and Hygiene manual
One father thanked Olivia for training his daughter in maturation and the prevention of HIV/AIDS as his wife had died and he felt helpless in how to teach his daughter the things she needed to know. He called her a blessing and knelt down in front of her. Olivia was at a loss as in Uganda the women kneels before man not man before a woman. It was such a wonderful expression of gratitude.
Mother and daughter going over the healthy pregnancy information
This project is so successful at motivating people to improve their health that one woman’s organization has petitioned Peace and Hope to become a satellite of their organization. Peace and Hope have granted permission to the group and they have already started making plans to go deeper in to the rural areas to share the information they have learned and they have started a commercial business of selling the sanitary pads to fund their outreach.

We visited the second project last week and found women working together to improve their abilities to sustain their families. They were already organized in to clubs concentrating on farming, cooking and baking and the third of making, marketing and selling crafts. These are rural women finding ways to unite together to solve their problems. One group has a bank in which each member puts in 2,000 shillings a month ($1) and the bank can make loans to the women for school fees, starting a business or even for needed health care. The loans are paid back at a simple interest of !0% with no time frame stipulated. Pretty impressive. . . 
Some make paper beads and sell them as a group to strengthen their organization

Some women weave mats and sell them in the market
Peace and Hope is working with them , giving them the Health and Hygiene Training and the concept of reusable sanitary pads. The women are embracing all the information and incorporating it into their organizations even committing to take the training to the schools themselves making it possible to reach many more schools than we had planned for in the project.

This is called perpetuation of the project and will ensure the sustainability of the training which all of our projects strive for.

One of the concepts we have learned:
If you give people good information and the tools they need to be successful they can govern themselves and accomplish great things.


Suckers help make friends.

While buying that huge jackfruit we met some beautiful children. 
Hey, muzungus!

Anyone want a sucker?

Can I help you unwrap it?

(She's going to unwrap if for me!)

(Maybe she can unwrap it.)

(Come on muzungu, you can get it.)

Thank you. . . . . . . . Bye.