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Holyoke EMT Lisa Werts, pictured at left, explains the ins and outs of her “office.” The ambulance was one of several stops on a Melissa Memorial Hospital tour she gave Simon Okello of Children’s HopeChest in Uganda. — The Holyoke Enterprise | Johnson Publications

Children’s HopeChest rep compares Wera to Holyoke on trip to US

    All over town, people received enthusiastic greetings from Simon Okello last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He was thrilled to get a feel for life in Holyoke, and locals impressed by his story were left in his wake.
    Okello, who works for Children’s HopeChest, was welcomed to Colorado by Holyoke’s Hope Uganda team. Children’s HopeChest works to connect communities in the United States and Canada with communities of orphaned and vulnerable children overseas. It uses a unique community-to-community model which “leverages the power of relationships to see long-term, sustainable transformation occur in the lives of children and their surrounding communities.”
    The village of Wera in Uganda is supported by two U.S. communities. One is in Oklahoma, and the other is in Holyoke — primarily through First Baptist Church. Groups and individuals sign up to sponsor children in Wera. That means committing $45 each month to the mission. Such sponsorships help meet children’s critical needs as well as community initiatives in such areas as education, counseling, medical care and spiritual discipleship.
    Through donations from the Holyoke area alone, over 60 children are sponsored. On top of the financial aspect, sponsorship involves writing letters and building relationships with the children.
    While some local people have visited Wera and met the children in the past, this was an opportunity for Okello to visit Holyoke and meet the sponsors. He was also able to see how things compared between the two communities.
    During his brief visit, he visited the hospital, schools and police department. He learned how things are done here and taught others about how things are done in Wera. From students to professionals, Holyoke residents were struck by some of the vast differences in the ways of life.
    Okello visited many businesses in the area and was welcomed with open arms (often literally) by sponsors and nonsponsors alike.
    Though the visit is over, the connection between Wera and Holyoke remains. Sponsorships will continue to support children in need, and Holyoke’s Hope Uganda team will continue to raise awareness of the cause. Current team members are Jessica Cumming, Mark and Lisa Werts, Ron Koch, Julie Wiebke, Denise Smith and Maribel Rodriguez.

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