Author: SMI

Highlights from August 2014 Uganda Trip


IMG_20140825_154223925Upon arrival, we discovered that Andrew and the two orphan boys from the A&O vocational school (Innocent and Kamuntu) had already handmade 6,400 bars of our 8,000 soap bar order for Soapbox Soaps!   In addition to providing work to these orphans, we were able to distribute 2,500 bars to the Ibanda Baby Home and Ibanda Hospital, 500 bars to the Sanyu Baby home in Kampala, as well as 500 bars to a baby home in Jinja.  We are identifying other orphanages, villages and schools in need for the remaining soaps.  The administrator at the hospital said the soap will bring dignity to many of the women coming out of surgery, who don’t have the means to purchase their own soap to cleanse their incisions and wounds.  What a joyful and humbling work this was!

Well-Drilling Enterprise

IMG_20140821_100530815When we arrived at the airport in Entebbe, we left for a road trip to Eldoret, Kenya to take delivery of our very own well drilling rig to bring clean water to Western Uganda.  This 1,500 kilometer round trip venture over difficult roads with our overloaded 20 year-old truck may have been a bit too ambitious. But after 6 days, 5 hours detained at the border, 3 alternators, 4 new tires, new brakes, and a new clutch, we finally arrived safely back to Kiburara with our new drilling rig.  In our remaining time there, our Kenya trainers taught our four orphan students how to find water underground with copper wires and to successfully drill two bore holes (one on our SMI land for orphan care and one at a church location at Kabingo).  The third well will be drilled at the remote location of Kyaiswarra when the dry season arrives in January.  We are very excited about the business and ministry opportunities that come with owning our own drill rig.  Once we get established, our desire is that other NGO’s will hire our SMI crew to install their wells in Western Uganda, and we will also raise funds to install our own wells.  Since the majority of churches and their communities in the network of Pastor Moses still have no access to safe drinking water, this will be SMI’s first priority.

Lake George Filtration Project

IMG_20140418_103654572SMI is in the process of raising the funds needed to bring a water treatment facility to a remote village on Lake George in Western Uganda.  This fall we will conduct an online auction for this purpose.  The goal is to open the facility in January 2015 through a combination grant and loan from SMI to the community.  Last month the community formed a water committee and elected the committee members.  The committee promised to reach all the households in the community and ask them if they are willing to join the water club.  To date, the community has now registered 116 households and each household head already paid the membership agreed to by the members.  With the monies collected, the community opened an account at our Sustainable SACCO (Savings and Loan).   using the funds that were collected.  The current plan is to have a “Water Club” where households will pay 50 cents per week to have access to clean water from the store during open hours (7am-7pm each day).   We anticipate that 130 households will participate in the club, bring safe drinking water to over 500 people for the first time.

SMI Health Clinic

11.03.09 - Blog - Nurses as Surgeons in Sub-Saharan Africa - PhotoAccording to a 2011 UNICEF report, only 42% of births in Uganda are attended by skilled health personnel.  This figure is likely much lower in the remote areas where SMI is based.  As a result, maternal death rates are high.  In addition, a 2006 WHO study reported that Africa accounts for 24% of global diseases but only 3% of the global health workforce.  In Kiburara, there is no health clinic.  The closest full-service hospital is over two hours away in Mbarara.  To help address this need, SMI desires to open a clinic in the future on its 26-acre parcel of land.  SMI envisions hosting medical teams in the future that can provide critical training to clinic staff and care to patients in the surrounding communities.  Please pray for us as we pursue this important endeavor.

Nwatwine House Project

IMG_20140821_094823842In our last update, we mentioned that SMI provided funding for the students at the A&O school to build a new house for our neighbor Nwatwine as part of a construction class and gospel outreach.  When we arrived last week, we discovered that Nwatwine had professed Christ weeks before and he greeted us warmly at the church on Sunday.  He also came and helped us every day to drill our SMI well, and would carry his bench to the drill location for us to sit on.  What a joy it was to worship with him last Sunday.

On a final note, last week we were very excited to receive our IRS approval letter certifying SMI’s status as an approved 501(c)3 organization.  If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to further our ministry efforts, we would be glad to receive it!  Just follow the instructions under the “Giving” tab.  Thank you for your prayers and support for SMI.

Highlights from April 2014 Uganda Trip

Update from John Emelio


IMG_20140413_163805087We just returned from our latest trip to Western Uganda and it was quite a productive time.  Our main focus was to see if we could successfully make soap on a large scale on behalf of an American soap company (SoapBox Soaps) that donates soap in needy parts of the world.  There were many challenges along the way, but in the end we made our first batch of 200 bars of all natural soap!  Our goal is to demonstrate to SoapBox that we can produce 8,000 bars as a first order to donate on their behalf to orphanages and villages during our upcoming trip to Uganda in August.  We are well on our way!

During the latter part of our trip, we also met with leaders from the village of Kabingo to discuss bringing clean water to their village in a sustainable way through the installation of a bore-hole well and the establishment of a water club.  In this model, each participating family pays an affordable price (16 cents a week) to access the clean water.  These funds would be collected for loan repayment and well maintenance, and a significant portion would then be deposited into savings accounts on behalf of club members.  We also met with village leaders at Lake George to discuss a year-round clean water solution for their village through the installation of a water filtration facility near the lake.  It was a very fruitful trip!

Highlights from January 2014 Uganda Trip

Update from John Emelio


We just returned from our fourth trip to Western Uganda in a little over a year and once again it proved to be very fruitful for SMI’s efforts in the region.  Below is a summary of what the Lord enabled us to accomplish in our three weeks there.

The 26-acre SMI parcel has now been completely fenced, and culverts are being placed for access to the main road.  The Road Authority is currently holding the titles to all lands along the road so please pray that our title is released so we can complete the process of putting the land in our name.  This will allow us to start construction on our projects and buildings, including our future orphan home and staff/guest house.

We have already helped to establish the Sustainable SACCO LTD (a Savings and Credit Cooperative) in Kiburara, which operates like a Savings and Loan with members who have shares.   SACCO’s are often the only providers of financial services and loans in rural areas.  They can improve the lives of rural farmers and businesses based on the loans they can offer.   Members can build equity and pass their shares on to their children.  The establishment of a SACCO is a foundational ingredient to improving the standard of living in the area.  The SACCO will soon be offering mobile money options as well.  Monies received from our recent paper bead jewelry sales (made by local artists in surrounding village churches) allowed many more villagers to open accounts in the SACCO, and the sales almost doubled the amount of funds available for loan at the SACCO.

We made good progress on the trip preparing for the establishment of a soap making enterprise in Kiburara.  Much time was spent gathering market data on competing soaps and researching and visiting suppliers for key ingredients.  To save money, we realized we could initially start producing the soap from our existing leased space that SMI has obtained in the town of Kiburara.  The picture above shows our space.  This was a former bar that we took over last summer.  Bringing industry and jobs like soap-making to the area will help build sustainability while funding charitable and mission efforts for the church.  In addition, we hope to buy essential ingredients from local growers to help them provide for their families.  We will be traveling back April 8-21 to set up the soap operation, buy ingredients, materials and tools and hopefully start making soap.

We are considering starting our own well drilling company by purchasing a portable hand-powered drilling rig that can be assembled in an hour and would fit in the back of our SMI pickup truck.  This would create a local, sustainable well-drilling business that creates local jobs in our zone of ministry.  It would also provide a source of revenue for SMI’s charitable efforts, allow us to bring clean water to remote areas unreachable by a well-drilling truck, and install wells at a fraction of the traditional cost.  We could also organize the men in the villages receiving the wells to operate the drill, further lowering installation cost and increasing local ownership and buy-in.

Last August, members of our team met with the Deputy Director of the prison in Kiburara to see if they would have interest in building an airstrip on part of their 6,000 acre grounds.  The airstrip could be used for emergency medical transport and to ease access to the area (a 1 ½ hour flight vs. a 9 hour drive!), as well as for commerce and tourism.  They were very receptive to the idea. On this trip, we met with a former member of parliament for the Ibanda district who was very interested in the project.  We then met with staff from the Minister of Internal Affairs as well with the Undersecretary for Prisons to move the project forward.

It is sobering to realize that water-related illnesses are the leading cause of human sickness and death.  In fact, 80% of diseases in the developing world are caused by contaminated water. Thanks to our training efforts last year, local staff are now able to fix the wells that we repaired on our earlier trips.  One well that has failed twice in recent months has been repaired both times by the local village who raised funds and had it repaired.  This is good progress!  In addition, we will install a Rainwater Containment Systems (RCS) at the Lake George church as soon as the church completes construction of their walls and roof (they are getting close).  We are in the process of completing a detailed survey that we hope will lead to the installation of a gravity-powered water treatment system to purify the polluted lake water at Lake George and provide safe drinking water year-round for the first time to this location.  Currently, there is no clean water source and the majority of children in the village suffer constant dysentery.  Through a gravity filtration system, clean water could potentially be sold by the village at an affordable price, increasing sustainability, economic development, and local ownership of the clean water source.

By this time next year, we hope to have constructed an orphan home on our SMI land.  The first home would house 8 orphans age 2-12.  We must first obtain a clean title for our land and then obtain the licensing from the Ugandan Government.  Once approval is granted, we would identify and house the most desperate cases first.

Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support!


Highlights from August 2013 Uganda Trip

Update from John Emelio

08/29/13- We just returned from a very fruitful trip to Western Uganda where the Lord continued to open doors for SMI’s work in this region.  We are so grateful for our friendship with Pastor Moses Nkwatsibwe and are partnership with him as he seeks to reach his district and beyond with the gospel.  Below is a summary of what the Lord enabled us to accomplish in our two weeks there.

We were able to oversee the repair of two broken wells that CLC/GUW installed in remote villages, restoring the availability of clean water to thousands of people each day.  As a result, all the wells are now currently working, and the local staff has been trained to repair them in the future.  This will greatly reduce the cost of future repairs.  One well we thought was broken was not, so we left the materials in Kiburara for a third repair by the local staff when the need arises.  Jack and Brett also took water samples to analyze the water quality in the functioning wells and in the local streams.  In addition, we installed two Rainwater Containment Systems (RCS’s) at remote village churches, providing safe drinking water for the first time to these locations.  The third RCS will be installed in the Lake George village as soon as the church completes construction of their roof.  We are now exploring ways to purify the polluted lake water at this location through the installation of a gravity-powered water treatment system.  This would provide safe drinking water through the dry seasons and clean water could potentially be sold by the village at an affordable price, increasing sustainability, economic development, and local ownership of the clean water source.

We met with the District Health Educator, one of the top health officials in the Ibanda District.  He was very encouraged to hear of our activities in the region.  He informed us of the unique health challenges faced by the community.  For example, the malnutrition rate for children under 5 in the region is as high as 44%.  The rates of malaria are among the highest in the world.  80% of the hospital admissions in Mbarara are the result of malaria.  Another 10% are the result of water-borne illness.  This means that effective malaria prevention and clean water could eliminate 90% of hospital admissions!  What’s worse, traditional ACT treatment for malaria is increasingly ineffective due to the emergence of drug-resistant strains of malaria in the region stemming from substandard and counterfeit drug use.   SMI is exploring ways to partner with the District Health office to provide health education in the villages.  We are also considering partnerships and even manufacturing of low-cost mosquito nets, citronella soaps and citronella candles to the remote villages to reduce malaria infection rates.  We also hope to open a clinic at a future time on our 26-acre parcel that would be staffed year-round by local health care providers and supplemented periodically by health care volunteers on short-term medical mission trips from the U.S.

Pastor Moses has had a vision for an orphanage in Kiburara for years.  There are ten orphans just in Kiburara who are in need of orphan care and Moses said the numbers in the surrounding village is alarming.  He shared with us the example of two orphan girls who were being sex-trafficked by their aunt at the local bar.  Moses rescued them and houses them in the dorm during the school holiday to prevent them from returning to the aunt’s home.  He introduced us to one of the girls and it was heart-wrenching.  These are often children who have lost their parents and are living with extended family who neglect and abuse them.  Given the desperate poverty of the region, the parents have a hard enough time providing for their own children.

After surveying our 26-acre parcel, we realized that we could accommodate orphan homes on an ideal location at the back of the parcel.  The structure would be based on the Watoto model, where an orphan home imitates a family/community environment as much as possible with 4 boys and 4 girls in a home with an “auntie” or mother figure (a single woman) who pours her heart into the kids.  Orphan communities are formed in a circle of 8 homes which fosters community and can accommodate up to 64 orphans.  We are pursuing partnership with an organization that has experience in the area of child sponsorship and orphan care.  This organization would sponsor the educational and medical needs of the child, and SMI would provide the land, construct the housing, and provide food for the orphans and a modest salary to the caregiver.  Moses already has 3 female caregivers hand-picked from his church and can fill multiple homes with orphans whenever we are ready to house and provide for them.  We would identify and house the most desperate cases first.  After sending out an initial appeal for funds, we have already received pledges for half the amount needed to start!  We are very excited about meeting this critical need in the community and would welcome your prayer and financial support for this endeavor.

We made great progress on the ground in preparing our 26-acre parcel for development.   We hired a surveyor to survey our property and hired a local contractor to construct a fence around the entire 26-acre plot.  This will provide security, discourage squatters, and allow us to introduce livestock and poultry to the land right away.  We were able to get a decent section of the fence done before we left.  We also obtained approval from the Chinese company that is building the road in front of our parcel to construct two entrance and exit points with culverts to our property at no cost to us.  We were there at just the right time!  In addition, the Lord provided the funds to purchase a four wheel drive vehicle for SMI that will facilitate our ability to get around as well as provide Pastor Moses with a suitable vehicle to reach the surrounding churches and to continue his gospel ministry in the Congo refugee camp a few hours away (there are 40,000 refugees in the camp).  We also delivered to Moses a high quality sound system donated by a CLC member to use in reaching larger audiences in his gospel campaigns.

We met with the Resident District Chairman (RDC) of the Ibanda District, the highest-level political appointee in the district.  The RDC has direct access to the President of Uganda and carries out his initiatives.  He was very receptive to our desire to bring economic development and clean health initiatives to his region, and pledged his full support (as long as we keep him informed of everything we do).  His primary interest was in establishing a SACCO (Savings and Credit Cooperative) in Kiburara, which operates like a village Savings and Loan with members who have shares.   SACCO’s are often the only providers of financial services in rural areas.  They can improve the lives of rural farmers and businesses based on the loans they can offer.   Members can build equity and pass their shares on to their children.  The establishment of a SACCO is a foundational ingredient to improving the standard of living in the area.  The RDC also made a special visit later in the week to see our land and discuss further our plans. We are hoping to house the SACCO as a store front on our parcel in the future, along with other start-up shops.

We continued to prepare to manufacture soaps for a 1-for-1 U.S.-based soap company that gives a product away to someone in need for every product purchased in the U.S.  They are very interested in manufacturing locally in Uganda instead of shipping their soap from the U.S.  This initiative will create local jobs, support local growers, and improve the health of the district through better hygiene.  Introducing citronella into the soaps could also aid in malaria prevention.   This plant could eventually distribute soaps throughout sub-Sahara Africa.   SMI proceeds from this effort would fund ministry and relief efforts locally.

During our April trip to Kiburara, Mary Foster taught a small group of students how to make attractive necklaces and bracelets out of paper beads.  The idea was to start with this small group and sell their jewelry in the U.S. to help cover their tuition costs, etc.  However, when we arrived on this trip we were presented with hundreds of necklaces made by villagers in churches throughout Moses network.  So much for starting small!  Many of the villagers who made the jewelry live on less than one dollar a day in income, given that Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the world.  We are excited that the sale of this jewelry can provide these villagers with enough income to open SACCO savings accounts as well as much needed relief to their living conditions.

Mark and John B. caught a charter flight from Entebbe to Mbarara (two hours south of Kiburara) to determine the feasibility of air transport for commercial purposes.  After interviewing officials, they determined that due to poor infrastructure, high fuel prices and heavy bureaucracy, air transport is not a feasible option.  They did meet with the Deputy Director of the prison in Kiburara to see if they would have interest in building an airstrip on part of their 6,000 acre grounds.  This could be used for emergency medical transport and to ease access to the area (a 1 ½ hour flight vs. a 9 hour drive!).  They were very receptive to the idea.  Bart H. worked with Mark, John, and John B. to develop a sustainable plan. Pastor Moses then discussed the idea with a former member of parliament, and they will be meeting with government officials in Kampala to discuss this initiative next week.

An Update From Cat and Erin

While most of the team visited wells on Monday, Mary and I visited Alpha and Omega Secondary school and spent time with Pastor Moses’ family. We spent time talking with the headmaster, Frank, and one of the teachers, gaining a deeper understanding of how their curriculum works and what they need. I was able to take lots of pictures at the school in order to document the conditions there. Mary took video interviews of several students. We hope that pictures and video will help those at home visualize what life is like here.

Uganda April 187
At the beginning of the week, Mary taught everyone how to make beads out of colored paper and newspaper. The paper is rolled up and dipped in varnish before being hung up to dry. The materials are inexpensive and easily accessible to the community. The result is a professional looking product for very little cost. Our vision is to sell the jewelry in the U.S. for a decent profit by Ugandan standards. This will give students at Alpha and Omega the opportunity to learn a sustainable skill that will boost their confidence. The current dropout rate at the school is 20% due to lack of funding by parents during dry seasons when there are no crops. Students who are struggling to afford tuition will be given first priority. It is our hope that small steps like this one will lead into bigger opportunities. Expanding this initiative into the village churches could eventually lead to positive results such as the ability of church members to tithe, save, start savings accounts, and help fund future well maintenance. The churches could even use profits to initiate their own benevolence campaigns to reach surrounding communities.
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