Five Reasons to Go Back to Uganda #3: Food

I’m not a big eater, nor a big person, but food plays a big part in my life. Meaning, I need to eat, just like everyone else. And if I don’t eat somewhat regularly, I get grumpy, kind of like a toddler. This past year I learned to cook better, and we’ve been known to make some pretty good meals at our house. We’ve also made some pretty good meal attempts, which didn’t always pan out (HA – get it? “pan” out). Anyway, food is a big deal for me.

Along with the word “food” comes another word – “options.” Like many or most Americans, if I don’t feel like eating what’s in my pantry or refrigerator, I can go to the store and buy something else and cook that instead. Or I can go to a cool cafe on the beach, or Burger King, or In & Out, or literally a hundred other places within minutes of my house. Almost every Saturday morning, I go to the bagel shop. For something that plays such a big role in my life, “food” is really never a serious problem.

But, I’m not a Ugandan mom. I’ve never had to choose which of my children gets to eat today, and which ones have to wait until tomorrow. My child never had failing grades in school because of being hungry. When my daughter was a baby, she never developed any life-threatening illnesses due to malnutrition. But it’s quite a bit different for millions of Ugandan families – there’s not a supply of forgotten food in anyone’s pantry, most don’t have refrigerators (or electricity), there’s no In & Out Burger nearby (the horror), and the struggle to just put something, anything, into a child’s stomach can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, Loving One by One is able to help many families in our local community with our Nutrition Program. When we discover a starving child or children, we immediately get involved with the family to see if they are willing to let us help. We deliver food to the family, and make weekly visits to ensure the food is being used. We take malnourished children for treatment with a local clinic, and sometimes we bring malnourished children to our home to provide nourishment until they are well enough to return home.

The little girl in the photos at the top of this post is Elizabeth, a girl we found in our community in the summer of 2016. Elizabeth and her twin sister Maria were around two years old at the time, but they each weighed the amount of a newborn. Along with other severe disabilities, Elizabeth was blind in both eyes. The photo on the right is Elizabeth when she came to stay with us; the other photo is Elizabeth six weeks later. She has since been returned to her home, under the supervision of an elderly woman in our village (Elizabeth’s mother has not been able to provide much care). We have been following up with the growth and development of both girls for the past three years. They will continue to have a challenging life ahead – but they’re not alone, and as long as we’re in the neighborhood, they can count on us.

If you would like to support my work in Uganda this summer, or would like further info on the work of Loving One by One, please contact me at charley@charleymiller.net.

 

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Five Reasons to Go Back to Uganda #2: The Neighbors

 

It’s coming up fast, my friends. In just under three months, I’ll get on a plane in LA and head to Dubai, and then on to Uganda. There, I’ll spend four weeks working with Loving One By One in and around the City of Kampala. Also coming up fast is my fundraising concert for this trip – scheduled for THIS COMING SUNDAY, March 31st. Details below.

Because this is my fifth trip to Uganda, I’m writing five blog posts, describing five reasons  to go back to Uganda. By the way, when I was planning my first Ugandan trip in 2011, I was a little under-enthused about it; I agreed to go in order to get people (well, one person) to stop bugging me about it. I figured I’d go once, get through the two weeks in Africa, and that’d be it and I could get back to my normal life. Things didn’t go the way I thought they’d go, and now I’m making that trip for the fifth time. The things that happen with Loving One by One have a way of getting hold of you, and now I and many other LOBO veterans just can’t get enough of the exciting things that happen on a LOBO trip.

Anyway, here’s Reason #2 of the Five Reasons to Go Back to Uganda:  The Neighbors.

From the time of my first trip in 2011 until now, the focus of Loving One by One has narrowed considerably. While we still travel around a bit and work in some areas that are a little far away, most of our work and focus has settled into our own neighborhood, in and around the small town of Kiwenda. I’m sure when you read the word “Kiwenda,” all of you immediately said to yourselves, “Oh yes – that area located in Wakiso District, about 32km from Kampala City off Gayaza Bulemezi Road.” Well yeah – everyone knows that. But what you may not know is that Loving One by One (LOBO)’s headquarters is there, on approximately 14 acres of land. We have three houses, a school and a new medical clinic. From that location (known as GRACE Land), we spend our days serving our neighbors. That’s why we’re there.

We provide help for new moms, who are often raising small children without a father in the home. We provide affordable and sometimes free education for children. We provide a new, modern medical clinic so moms can have a safe place to have babies. We provide training for some of the local pastors of the many tiny churches nearby. We provide food for families who don’t have enough, and we provide employment for some of the local residents. **Oh – and when I happen to be in town, we provide free ukulele entertainment.

Compared to most of the residents of Kiwenda and the neighboring villages, we take up a lot of space. Our hope is with that space, to create a lot of impact.

So this summer, I’ll be in Uganda for a month, helping with some of these projects. If you’d like to help support this summer’s trip, I’d welcome your help.

On March 31st in Torrance, California, I will be hosting the “Music for Uganda 2019” Concert. The concert is at 4:00 pm, and the location is at 308 Maple Ave, Torrance, 90503 (thank you, Life Covenant Church, for the use of your building). If you’d like to attend this FREE event, you’ll enjoy good music, and you’ll also enjoy good tacos, because I know a guy.

If you’re not able to attend the concert on March 31st, but would still like to support my 2019 Uganda project, please contact me at charley@charleymiller.net for more info. Thanks!

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Five Reasons to Go Back to Uganda #1: It Shouldn’t Be this Hard for Kids

img_1445.jpgI used to be a more enthusiastic blogger. But I’ve gotten older (as has everyone), and I’m finding it takes a bit more to get me to put forth the effort to write posts. One thing that always motivates me – come on, say it with me – Uganda.

This summer I’m returning to Uganda for what will be my 5th trip there, to serve once again with Loving One by One. Five times is a lot to go anywhere, and Uganda isn’t exactly Maui – so why would I want to keep going back? Well, since this is the fifth time, and I need to write blog posts, I thought I’d write five blog posts telling you Five Reasons to Go Back to Uganda.

Reason #1: It Shouldn’t Be this Hard for Kids. But in Uganda, it is very hard for kids. Not every kid gets to go to school; just maybe the one or two in the family who the parents (usually the mother because dads typically don’t hang around) feel has a decent chance of doing well in school. Most kids who do start school, don’t finish school. Not every kid eats every day. That’s another decision a lot of Ugandan moms have to make – which kids eat today, and which ones wait until tomorrow. The water is full of bacteria, and one of the unpleasant byproducts of that water is a nasty little intestinal parasite, affecting 100’s of thousands of Ugandan children.

Then there’s malaria. Lots of it. Malaria is the leading cause of death in Uganda, and approximately 13% of Ugandan children under 5 years old die from it.

But it shouldn’t be this hard for kids. That’s one reason I’m going back to Uganda – all these problems are fixable. Loving One by One successfully treats children (and adults) for malaria all the time. We provide food for many families in our local community. We provide deworming tablets to effectively treat intestinal parasites, which then allows children to be better nourished from the small amount of food available to them. And, we provide a free K-8th education for children in our community.

It shouldn’t be this hard for Ugandan kids. So Loving One by One is doing something about it, and I’m happy to help. This summer, I’ll be in Uganda for a month, helping with all these problems. If you’d like to help support this project, I’d welcome your support.

On March 31st in Torrance, California, I will be hosting the “Music for Uganda 2019” Concert. The concert is at 4:00 pm, and the location is at 308 Maple Ave, Torrance, 90503 (thank you, Life Covenant Church, for the use of your building). If you’d like to attend this FREE event, you’ll enjoy good music, and you’ll also enjoy good tacos, because I know a guy.

If you’re not able to attend the concert on March 31st, but would still like to support my 2019 Uganda project, please contact me at charley@charleymiller.net for more info. Thanks!

 

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Stop With the Paprika – & Other Lessons From 2019

Simply-Organic-Smoked-Paprika-19517-Front_32Today is January 1, a day which only comes approximately once a year. It’s a day to sleep in, get up and have breakfast at McDonalds, go look at the ocean, put a beef stew in the crockpot, and reflect. Reflect on the previous year – which only seems like yesterday – and hopefully turn some of the events of last year into teaching moments. What important lessons did I learn in 2018?

Lesson One – Stop With the Paprika.  2018 was a year I learned more about cooking, which was good news for me, and for my daughter who lives with me. We both became more experimental in the kitchen and cooked a lot more, and some of that food was actually good. But a glaring reality stared me in the face this morning as I was putting together the above-mentioned beef stew… I have at least four containers of paprika in my pantry. Oh sure, one of them is smoked paprika, and so it’s good to differentiate that one. But there are at least three – and possibly more like seventeen – containers of identical paprika in my pantry. One of them is the giant size, about the size of a super big gulp. It’s just too much, and obviously I’ve gotten a little careless and impulsive with the paprika. So what I’ve learned, and hope to pass on to you is – stop with the paprika. You probably have enough. This lesson is not a metaphor for anything – just stop buying so much paprika. That’s it.

Lesson Two (Also From the Kitchen) – Check your labels. Two refrigerated bottles of dark-colored liquid, of similar size, stored near each other in your refrigerator, are not necessarily the same thing. Another way to put this lesson – worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar are not interchangeable. This lesson is also probably not a metaphor, but I guess it could be.

Lesson Three – Get Rid of At Least 53 Friends. That is, if you’re using “friends” in the fake world of social media, where your list of “friends” can grow ever higher, to the point where you’re not sure how you’ve accumulated so many, not unlike containers of paprika. When your friends seem less like friends and more like paprika, you probably have too many (that’s the title of my next book). Anyway, on New Year’s Eve day I decided to look through my list of Facebook “friends” and see if anyone needed to be dumped. Too many “friends” are like too many of anything – you don’t know where they all came from, they’re not really helping you, and they’re taking up space. So today I’m about 53 “friends” lighter heading into the new year.

I’m using quotation marks around “friends,” because “friends” and friends aren’t the same thing, as anyone who’s used social media for a while can tell you. Here’s who got cut from my list…

  • People who I can’t recall ever meeting, or having any sort of remote connection with, in real life. I figure they won’t notice me cutting them, so they’re gone.
  • People who have more than one Facebook account. It just feels dishonest to say I have 650 friends, when a handful of those are duplicates of one another. In a few cases, I had to guess which “friend” was the real “friend,” but I pretty much based it on which profile photo I liked better. Hopefully it will work out.
  • People who are dead. I know a handful of people, both friends and “friends,” who have died over the past several years. Yet for some reason, they’re still in my “friends” list even though they rarely, if ever, post anymore. I hope to see them again someday, but I doubt if it’ll be on Facebook. 
  • People who I have actually met or spoken with in real life, some with significant frequency, but who have turned out to be just nuts. People who post stuff I can’t deal with – because it’s not true, or it’s offensive, or it’s dripping with ignorance – or all three. A few of those people had to go. My guess is they probably won’t notice. To be clear, I don’t have a problem with people who don’t agree with me – I have a lot of non-quotation-mark friends like that. That’s no problem. I do, however, have a problem with people who are crazy, and feel the need to express that craziness in social media. I’m too old, too busy, too something. I don’t need it.

OK, there it is. Three of 2018’s most important life lessons – stop with the paprika, check your labels, and use this new year to trim off some of those excess “friends.” You’ll have a much better 2019.

 

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Walking

 

On Saturday October 13, Loving One by One Ministries will hold its 2nd Annual 5K Walk/Run at the South Coast Botanic Gardens in Palos Verdes. Along with a lot of other Loving One by One fans, I’ll be there with my running shoes on (and other attire as well), completing each one of those 5 K’s. We’re running or (let’s be honest) walking to have fun, and raise funds to further the efforts of the New Hope Medical Centre in Uganda.

New Hope Medical Centre (notice how it’s “centre” and not “center”) is the newest venture of Loving One by One Ministries, an organization I’ve been involved with since 2011. In addition to our work in Uganda with orphans and education, we have always been involved in helping people in Ugandan villages and slum areas with some of their basic medical needs. Well, years have passed, and Loving One by One has grown, and now in addition to some of the mobile, pop-up medical clinics we do in some slums and villages, we now have our own permanent medical facility on our land, near the town of Kiwenda about an hour north of Uganda’s capital of Kampala.

New Hope Medical Centre, just completed a few months ago, is a lifesaver for the people living in and around the small town of Kiwenda. Most don’t have access to any form of healthcare, so it’s common for small, insignificant medical issues to become life-threatening problems. Accidents, burns, and infections are serious when you are basically living in shacks with dirt floors, and malaria and typhoid are commonplace. Not to mention the types of cancer in Africa that I’ve never heard of here in the U.S.  But now with New Hope Medical Centre up and running, the LOBO staff will be able to more efficiently provide the care that is needed in our local community. LOBO’s goal for this 5K is to raise the funding needed to purchase a sonogram machine, and a CBC machine. A sonogram machine is familiar to us; a CBC, or Complete Blood Count Machine, will be used to perform necessary tests on a patient’s blood to come up with a diagnosis – quickly. Until now, we’ve had to put patients in our van and drive to the nearest medical facility that has these capabilities, and more often than not, the machines would be unavailable or not working.  Having our own CBC and sonogram machines will enable our clinic to function more efficiently, for the good of our local Kiwenda neighbors.

My goal is to raise $1000.00 toward this equipment. If you’d like to participate in this effort with me, here is the link for my Facebook Fundraising account. Just click on it, and you’ll have the opportunity to give whatever you’d like toward this project.

This is the link. Click it. Thank you.

Next summer, I hope to return to Uganda for the 5th time, and you’ll hear more about that in a few months. But for now, thanks so much for your willingness to help with this project!

franco

 

 

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Why I Won’t Yelp About Food

pinkI’ve never been a big Yelp-er, but once in a while, when a restaurant or other business really does a great job, or more often a really bad job, I’ve felt compelled to tell the world about it. And today, I almost Yelped about my lunch experience, but then I just couldn’t go through with it.

The problem is, I’ve been reading too much about poverty and the billion-plus starving people in the world. And to make my Yelping problem worse, I’ve been to Uganda several times and worked with some of their millions of people who can’t afford to eat every day. And that made me feel a little small for wanting to gripe about my lunch inconvenience.

But, I was facing quite a dilemma. Because I waited in line gosh darn it, and paid kind of a lot (about two weeks Ugandan wages), and then waited again – almost 20 minutes (oh the horror), and I finally got the food only after I went up to the counter to express my annoyance. And the whole time I was waiting, I was thinking two things – 1) I’m going to Yelp the crap out of these guys and let the whole world know how slow they were, and 2) there are a billion-plus starving people in the world, many of them in Uganda, and I’m mad because I have to wait a little while to get the overrated, overpriced hot dog I paid two weeks Ugandan salary for.

I wrestled with it for a while – a long while, actually, because the food place was pretty slow. Then I finally got the order, and found a table in the food court, and sat down and got my phone out and got ready to Yelp the crap out of this overrated, slow, overpriced hot dog place (without mentioning the exact name). I pulled up the Yelp site on my iPhone (because I need an iPhone), and then I was annoyed again because I was going to have to wait again, while the Yelp app reloaded on my iPhone, which I just replaced a month ago. So I was having a pretty bad lunch so far – waiting too long for an overpriced, overrated hot dog, and then Yelp taking forever to download on my new phone. Didn’t they realize how much I paid for that hot dog (in case you’ve forgotten, it was about two weeks of Ugandan wages)?

And then I realized, again, how much I paid for that hot dog and how the price of my overpriced, overrated hot dog could have fed a family in Uganda for several days.

**Here’s the point. I don’t want to make this a lecture about how we shouldn’t be going out to lunch and eating overpriced, overrated hot dogs because kids are starving, etc. etc. It’s nice to be able to go have an overpriced, overrated hot dog once in a while.

But – having the opportunity to get an overpriced, overrated hot dog, and then wanting to complain about it online, when a billion-plus people won’t eat anything today…. well, that seems kind of small.

So although I may still occasionally Yelp about other things, it just seems kind of small of me to Yelp about anything having to do with food. So I’m not going to do that anymore.

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Yesterday I Got Older

164510786-612x612Yesterday was my birthday. That’s good news and bad news; good, because birthdays are generally fun. You get stuff. You hang out with people you like. (Yesterday I got a new ukulele, which is good because you can never have enough ukuleles). It’s also good because people sing to you, tell you how great you are, and write Facebook posts with a lot of emojis. And although I don’t get the appeal of the emoji, there’s no denying that the appeal exists.

The downside to birthdays, however, is the numbers just keep getting higher. I’m turning into an old man, whether I like it or not. I got out of bed on the morning of my birthday and my back was sore. If I play the piano too long, my fingers hurt (and the listeners’ ears hurt). My hair is mostly gray, and I need reading glasses – not that they help all that much, because I’m always losing them. I wake up early even when I don’t need to, and I want to go to bed by 9pm. I enjoy having conversations with people about which freeways to take to certain places, and why those freeways are better than other freeways and although I know those conversations are painfully boring, I can’t make myself stop once I’ve started. I peek through my blinds to see who’s walking past my yard. And I think most music written past 1980 is stupid. Not that I can hear all that well – although, I guess I can just keep getting bigger speakers and turning them up. If I can just find a way to carry those bigger speakers around without hurting my back.

Sometimes children at school ask me if I have grandchildren. Those children, of course, receive F’s.

There’s always a temptation to fight getting older, and I certainly fall into that. I walk a few miles most days (on purpose). I eat fairly well. I have a lot of young friends; but there’s the rub – I’m finding that more and more people are younger than me, so that means my “young friends” list is always growing. I’ve played in bands for many years, and I’ve gone from usually being the youngest member of the band to usually being the oldest member. That’s where being the band leader helps – no one’s going to say anything about me being the oldest member.

All things considered, you really can’t fight it – the numbers keep getting higher. The only alternative is dying, and I’m too young for that. So you just keep finding ways to make the most of your life (which should be true at any age). Trust God. Learn new music (but nothing written before 1980, because it all sucks). Make new friends, and deal with the fact that they’re all kids and don’t know anything. Go to Uganda – or someplace where they need you – and make a difference. Play the ukulele, and keep piling up more of them. Take advantage of the fact that old guys are supposed to be grumpy, and have fun with it. Tell people to get off your lawn, and if you don’t have a lawn, tell people to get off someone else’s lawn and act like it’s your lawn so people will think you’re crazy, and they’ll be fine with it.

And have fun with the “big one’s” – those age numbers that end in 0. But – don’t ever let anyone make you claim one of those numbers until you absolutely have to. I have another year before I have to deal with one of those. And now, I’m going to grab my new ukulele, go play it on the lawn, and yell at people walking by.

 

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