In today’s final (for now) post about Loving One by One (LOBO) and the many ways you can get involved, we’re going in a slightly different direction. The first four posts were about ways you can contribute financially – sponsor a child in our school, or sponsor a child in our home, or give to our Hope Fund for bigger medical needs, or contribute toward future expansion. All that is important.
Today isn’t about what you can give monetarily, but rather about what you can do. I guess you could give money toward someone else doing what I’m about to describe for you, but really, I’m trying to get a bunch of you to actually do it. Today, I’m writing about LOBO’s summer and winter teams.
Throughout the summer, and for two weeks in January, LOBO brings teams of volunteers into Uganda to help with medical clinics and various other humanitarian projects. This is something I’ve done twice with LOBO, and plan to continue until I’m too old to do it, and I figure I have about 15-20 more years I can reasonably expect to keep going over there.
In an effort to be succinct – what do LOBO teams do?
Medical Clinics – Over the two weeks we spend in Uganda, we go to various slums or villages, wherever we can find a church or school or public building to use, and move in for a day. We bring a few doctors, and a lot of other volunteers, and our clinics help up to a thousand patients in a single day. We do this same thing about five times or so in a two-week period. Medical Clinics are the biggest thing we do on a team – the most expensive, and the most exhausting. And, the most exciting. Anything can happen, and usually does.
Helping Other Organizations – When we aren’t doing our own medical clinics, we go to a few local organizations that are doing great humanitarian work in Uganda, and we help them out for a half day or so. We go to a home for men who are getting free from drug addiction, and another home for young women becoming free from prostitution. We go to a home for babies who have been abandoned, and to a place for senior citizens who need encouragement, and to a school for severely handicapped children. Even though these organizations aren’t officially “our places,” LOBO team members have developed relationships at these places and have found great ways to help.
Hospitals – There are two hospitals in Kampala that we visit – Mulago Hospital, and Mengo Hospital. When I say “visit,” it means everything from simply going bed to bed and encouraging people, to singing (and playing ukulele, baby!!), giving gifts, and generally trying to support people who are in a very bad way physically. The reality is, many of the patients we visit will likely not survive their hospital stay. But more than typical visitation stuff – frequently our teams’ hospital visits have been the difference between life and death for some patients, as we have become involved in some patients’ recovery. Going to the hospital in Uganda isn’t like going to the hospital in more developed countries, and without a family support system, or without much money, the hospital isn’t going to do much for you. Often, LOBO team members literally become that support system. Truly our hospital visits can become some of the most dramatic and rewarding (though difficult) experiences of the trip.
And the list goes on. Basically, LOBO team members hit the ground in Uganda, and after about a half day to recover from jet lag, we start finding needs and meeting them. We have an agenda for each day, but things come up – serious, life-threatening needs are encountered, and in those cases, we do our best to adapt and respond.
Who can go?
The minimum age is 18. The maximum age is whenever you can’t ride around on a bus and do stuff anymore. Both of my teams were comprised of people as young as 18, and as old as mid 60’s.
You need to be a professing Christian, and subscribe to what we would consider to be orthodox faith. Sure, there are minor differences between what Christians believe about some things, but in the biggies – we need to be on the same page. You need to believe that we’re over there because God cares about people who are suffering, and we have an opportunity to do something about some of that suffering. If you have questions about that, just ask!
You need to be flexible. Like I mentioned above, there’s an agenda and a carefully-thought-out plan, but things happen and when things happen, we like to be able to respond. So that requires a degree of flexibility and patience from everyone. You need to be able to roll with changes with a good attitude. I can’t emphasize this enough.
You need to have a good sense of humor. Or, you need to at least appreciate people with a good sense of humor. Because some of these LOBO team members are among the funniest people I’ve ever met.
You need to be able to raise a few thousand dollars for your flight, your room and board, and other related expenses.
Medical skills aren’t required, but they’re helpful. Our teams are comprised of nurses, teachers, musicians, pastors, professors, builders, homemakers, farmers, bus drivers, college students, and everything else. Just come with what you have, and you’ll find a way to use it.
You need to be willing to get in there and get your hands dirty – literally, and figuratively. You’ll deal with people who are suffering and struggling with poverty-related diseases. You’ll get dirty. You’ll smell uncomfortable smells, and see tragic situations. You’ll get very tired. At times you’ll feel at a loss to do anything constructive with the overwhelming pain you’re facing. And then you’ll pray, and talk to other team members, and jump in and do your best.
And again, there’s the ukulele thing. Just thought I’d mention it again.
So is a LOBO team the right thing for you? Maybe. Let me just say this – there are about a dozen friends I have here in Southern California who I believe can do this, and need to do this. You’ve been generous to help me go the past few years, and I’m thankful for that. But now, for some of you, it’s your time. And if that’s true for about a dozen people I know here in SoCal, it’s true for a bunch of my readers in other areas as well.
Is a LOBO team right for you? Maybe, or maybe not. But don’t just rule it out right away. Some of the best things we are currently doing at LOBO are happening because team members came up with those ideas, while they were there in Uganda doing other things. We allow and encourage our team members to use their talents, and their personalities, and their passions to contribute to the exciting things LOBO is doing. We get the best teams, and the most creative people. Maybe you need to be one of those people. Maybe you have a son or daughter in college, who needs to come be with us for a few weeks in their off time between semesters. Maybe you need to come with them. Maybe this is something you and your spouse can do together, or maybe one of you can come alone the first time to see what it’s like, and then both of you can come together another time. In any case – don’t just say no.
This is my final post, for now, on the work of Loving One by One. Thanks for putting up with me, as I turned my birthday week into one long informercial for LOBO. There have already been responses from people, which is gratifying. If you’d like to know more about sponsoring a child in our school or our home, or contributing to our Hope Fund or toward Future Expansion, or if you’d like information about being on a LOBO team, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, you can contact Sherry Roberts at email@example.com.