After years of supporting the village of Kayango in Uganda, it has come full circle for Jeff and Tricia Michael of Holyoke.
Both this couple and the people of Kayango have been transformed in the last five years, and now after a recent trip to Uganda, Jeff and Tricia’s kids are also transformed and impacted in ways they never knew could happen.
A group of 14 traveled to this African country Jan. 26-Feb. 9. In addition to some from Grant, Neb., the group included Jeff and Tricia with their kids Kaylee, Kyla and Aaron as well as Rusty McCabe of Holyoke, who is a bit like an adopted son to the Michaels.
Jeff and Tricia have been to Uganda three times through a mission with the E-Free and New Life Fellowship churches in Grant. Several years ago, the churches started a CarePoint in Kayango where they sponsored 100 children through Children’s HopeChest.
The sponsorship provides food three days a week, discipleship and school fees for the children.
The Michael family had the opportunity to visit their two sponsored children, Margaret and Innocent, and the rest of their family during a recent mission trip to Kayango, Uganda. The Ugandan family is pictured in center, from left in front, Innocent, Isaac and Vincent; and behind them, Margaret and mom Scovia with the littlest boy Aaron at far right. The Holyoke group is pictured in back, from left, Rusty McCabe, Kyla Steinman and Tricia, Jeff, Aaron and Kaylee Michael.
The Michaels sponsor a sister and brother in Kayango, 14-year-old Margaret and 12-year-old Innocent. Tricia explained they are single orphans, meaning they still have one parent. Double orphans have lost both parents.
Margaret and Innocent’s mom is named Scovia, and her three other kids are Vincent, Isaac and Aaron, who was actually named after Aaron Michael.
The Michael family had the unique opportunity to meet and interact with their Ugandan family—a first for the Michael kids who had never been on an overseas mission trip before.
“It’s come full circle for us,” said Tricia, who met this family on her first trip exactly five years ago.
The Michaels have made sure Margaret can continue to go to private school and further her education, and they are happy to report Scovia is doing great in Kayango.
Scovia, who started with one acre of land, now has seven acres to farm. She has three huts—one for sleeping, one for showering and one for cooking. “Our family is self-sustaining now and is helping others,” said Tricia, noting Scovia is now providing some food and shelter for others in need.
The Michaels have seen what a night-and-day difference the CarePoint and mission teams have made on the community, including the addition of a water hole and garden. People are even painting their huts now, and they can tell how the health of the village has improved.
While the mission began with Children’s HopeChest, the Grant churches eventually broke off so they could better pursue their vision for the village. James Harms of Grant goes to Uganda every three months to train leaders, and because of him, Kayango is now getting a new school.
With hopes to be fully up and running next year, the first level of the grade 1-7 school is done, and the mission team got to help with construction of a playground at the school.
When 15-year-old Aaron wasn’t playing soccer or climbing trees with the kids, he was helping the Ugandan construction crew digging with shovels and pick axes. He said they hired some people there, who dug all day for simply $2 wages, which was a lot compared to the $3.75 a week they would earn working in the rice fields.
It’s pure joy for this Ugandan boy who gets to experience the newly built playground and climbing wall installed by a mission team at the new school in his village.
A group of kids give a happy welcome to the mission team in Kayango, Uganda during their Jan. 26-Feb. 9 trip.
Once the playground was done, Aaron said they had to teach the kids, even the teenagers, how to swing as they had never had access to such equipment before.
The mission team also got to do some tutoring and educate the Ugandans a little bit about computers, which they watched in awe as the Americans easily made programs and documents disappear and reappear.
The girls got to be involved with a three-day medical clinic they held at the newly-constructed school in Kayango. They helped buy supplies in a neighboring village to serve the 400 people that came to the clinic.
They don’t have any help there, said Tricia. “The lack of education keeps them in fear.” For instance, she mentioned how an older woman was very concerned about the “hot flashes” she was experiencing, where as in America, women know that is a normal part of aging.
“A simple medication that costs $5 in America could be life or death for them,” said Tricia.
The girls said they got to help with things like malaria testing and blood pressure tests.
In the midst of helping the Ugandans with their medical issues, the mission team was facing medical issues of their own.
Looking back, they can laugh about it, but at the time it was no joke. Sixteen-year-old Kaylee was the one in the Michael family that got quite sick for two and a half days. They concluded it must have just been flu-like symptoms that the team brought over from the states, but it wasn’t very reassuring when the people in Uganda thought it must be malaria.
Kaylee and her mom were just thankful she didn’t have to go to a Ugandan hospital, after hearing some not-so-pleasant stories about them.
Despite a rough couple of days, Kaylee didn’t hesitate to say the trip was fun and a great experience. “I love it,” she said. “I want to go back. I didn’t want to come back here.”
The girls spent time teaching the kids some English and found out just how much someone can say without real-ly saying much at all.
All of the Michael kids found themselves connecting with specific Kayango children during their short time there, like Aaron with James as well as Saome, a little girl with a “contagious giggle.”
Kaylee found herself drawn to a couple little boys, while Kyla spent time with the sassy and fierce Sauda and the shy girl with a cute little dimple named Smila.
“I’m not really a kid person, but they made me like kids!” said 16-year-old Kyla. It was easy to get the kids there excited about everything.
“Saome was 9 years old and all smiles when I first saw and met her—it was hard not to fall in love with this little girl,” said 25-year-old Rusty. She was fascinated with the color of his skin and his tattoos, so much so that after she saw the stars on his arm she showed up later with her own stars drawn on her arms.
“She was my follower the whole trip,” said Rusty. “This girl is best described as a little girl who shows love through actions with very little words!”
“It’s awesome to see how we affected them in the short time we were there,” said Kyla.
A young girl stands at the door of her hut in the village of Kayango in central Uganda.
And as much as the Ugandans were affected, the mission team was affected just as much, if not more. “The trip was eye-opening, as if it were meant to impact the missionary group more than it was supposed to impact the sponsored children and the village kids, along with everyone else we encountered,” said Rusty.
The Michael family got to experience a new culture, living conditions, poverty and just what it feels like to eat rice and beans much more than they ever cared to.
They will remember their interesting trip to an African market and even the fun adventure of white water rafting on the Nile River, but their impact on Kayango and its impact on them is something that won’t be forgotten.
“When helping hurts is how best to describe everything,” said Rusty. “God has blessed this whole experience that keeps on giving.”
Although things have come full circle with Margaret, Innocent, Scovia and the rest of their family, the Michaels are not yet done with Uganda. Since Kayango is becoming more self-sustaining, Jeff and Tricia said they will be investing more in the village of Wera, Uganda.
Through another partnership with people in Holyoke and a church in Oklahoma, there is a CarePoint in Wera where the Michaels sponsor two boys.
There are many exciting things being done in Wera, like the development of a tailoring school and providing oxen and plows so the Ugandans can not only survive but thrive by providing work and food for the people of the village.
Holyoke Enterprise March 6, 2014