Community Cafe update from Katie

Saturday 20th February
Saturday 20th February 2021 saw approximately 30 people join our special Community Cafe via Zoom in Conversation with Bex Henderson. It was a fabulous morning hearing from Bex and learning more about her vision, the LOVED Centre.

The government do not provide any financial support for the LOVED Centre. Bex is supported by Ken the Ugandan Director (it was important for Bex to have a national in this role and not a white person or ‘muzungu’), who does a lot of the admin, and 10 volunteers. Bex’s favourite job is to play and spend time with the children but she also communicates with the sponsors and has another tasks. The Centre has been granted funding for a nurse for a year and so was able to employ Mama Praise, a former volunteer ‘foster mum’. The Centre also has a security guard in the day (who sounds like a key first contact folks have with the Centre) and two guards at night to protect the property. The Centre has capacity for 100-110 children (normally aged 6+ months). At the moment, due to COVID, the authorities have granted permission to have 65 children there. A further 15 children are helped from their homes.

Bex talked to us about how lockdown had been for the people in Mbale in Uganda. She advised the LOVED Centre had given out the following to families during lockdown: 15,000kg of food (rice beans, dried fish, posho), 4300 cups of milk, and 3700 eggs!

Bex then shared the story of Rachel, one of the LOVED children, and her family. Rachel, who is now two years old, joined the LOVED Centre at two days old! She was born with her right leg ending at the knee and her left leg as a club foot, also having cerebral palsy. Rachel’s alcoholic parents had already given up one child with a disability and her mother would lock her in the house to go out. The Centre supported the mother to go into hospital and get sober however the addictive environment around made things challenging (the community feel if you get sober you are bettering yourself and so will even bring free alcohol to the homes of recovering addicts to tempt them!). One day the mother was going to leave, she was at the bus stop but heard God’s call (she was a non-Christian at this time) to return to her baby. The Centre has been able to establish a great friendship since, with daily mother checks, and Rachel comes to the Centre 7am-9pm. This week Rachel is finally gaining weight (Bex said Praise the Lord!) and will have the operations she needs.

Bex then showed us a video of the newly constructed LOVED Centre:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/fqpvnlsw2qk3z6d/new%20song.mov?dl=0 Bex also advised about the big prayer needs for the community (perhaps others might consider including these in your prayers too): 1) that COVID doesn’t impact the LOVED Centre 2) for protection against sickness for all involved 3) that Rachel would continue to put on weight and for her upcoming operation 4) for the addicted parents and the challenges of a very addictive environment 5) what to do with those children who can’t come to the Centre 6) for continued strong staff team and equal relationships.

Finally there was time for questions and we certainly had a lot! – ranging from what does your average day look like, what materials do the children have, do you have any time off and what do you do with it, to what does church look like in Mbale.

A day at the LOVED Centre is split up into approximately 45 minute sessions. On a general day 7am arrive, 8am porridge, praise and worship, milk and tea, storytime (books in English), and fruit and eggs. Feeding the children is very important! The children are then split into four groups – the babies go into the creche and the other groups enjoy various activities. Playing chalkboards and in the sandpit (i.e. the Centre compound grounds) are very popular. The Centre has a lot of the sort of resources we have for our Church and Messy Church; books, crafts, edible playdoh etc. The Centre is closed for two weeks at Easter and up to a month in December although this varies to ensure they don’t return to malnourished children, and staff can take their holidays throughout the year. On a weekly basis Bex has Wednesdays and Saturdays off and enjoys swimming, plus she often goes to eat western foods including pizza in an international hotel on Wednesdays! Church takes up the whole Sunday – including two hours of prayer time, a chaotic experience of the community praying for everything and everyone, in their heads, out loud, singing, drumming you name it! There are six languages spoken at the Centre. Bex is currently three hours ahead of us in the UK. There have been 300 deaths from COVID in Uganda, although potentially more which have been attributed to other things. The LOVED Centre usual area of coverage is the equivalent of Berkhamsted and Potten End but there have been cases from further afield (the equivalent of Berkhamsted to Kings Langley). Bex gets around on her trusty bike! Bex has been in Uganda for approximately seven years now – she caught malaria in her second year there and was quite poorly bur has been fine since and doesn’t take malaria medication. There were many more questions but hopefully that gives a flavour for those unable to join!

We concluded thanking Bex and everyone agreed it was a very special morning. Feedback included “This was such an inspiring zoom meeting with Bex.  What a Christian example she is to us all.” and “Really enjoyed it and was pleased to see a number from our house group there.”

To find out more or donate: To find out more about the work of Jenga: http://jengauganda.org/ and LOVED Centre Facebook page:  https://m.facebook.com/LOVEDChildren/?tsid=0.25338486697997187&source=result If you want to donate to the LOVED Centre please contact John O’Brien [email protected] as he can ensure 100% of the money goes to Bex (no fees). If you want to contact Bex: [email protected]

Saturday 20th March
Saturday 20th March 2021 morning saw half a dozen households coming together for a virtual cuppa and chat (no cakes shown this month to make me jealous!) for our seventh Community Cafe on Zoom. As always it was lovely to have the time and space to connect with others and deepen relationships. Conversations ranged from how our jobs are going, bits within the Lent book some of us are reading, and how kids are getting on back at school, to how we might mark Holy Week ourselves, and what we’re getting up to for the rest of the weekend. A fabulous way to start a Saturday…

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