Dear Friends: I am Hellen Lunkuse Tanyinga, a member of Bulungi Tree Shade Friends Meeting in eastern Uganda. We are a new Friends meeting, inspired by David Albert of the Olympia Friends Meeting. We have worked with David for many years and have felt a lot of love and admiration for him, so we started asking him questions about what it means to be a Quaker. He answers fire pumped us, and in February 2018, sixteen of us met under a mango tree in Kamuli and resolved to start a Friends meeting. We now meet every Sunday, 9am to 11am, under that mango tree in Kamuli. We agreed on the name “Bulungi Tree Shade,” thanks to our mango tree, which gives us shade during worship. The word “Bulungi” means “welcome,” and we are welcoming to all. On any given Sunday, we have at least 53 adults and 75 children, many of them orphans and children with HIV, as we meet on the campus of a school and orphanage.
With guidance and support from David Albert, and using North Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice, we are getting ourselves organized, and we have established different committees for the health of the Meeting. We held our very first wedding in our Meeting in May 2018, and the couple is happily married. This wedding won us a lot of admiration in the villages because there was no dowry and no minister. Our membership has grown since then from 16 members to 37 presently.
We have a need: In May 2018, there was a nationwide crackdown on terrorist groups in Uganda. During the crackdown, security agencies rescued hundreds of trafficked children. Some were being sold into Tanzania for their bodies. Some were being sold into slavery in the Congo. Some, both boys and girls, were being sex-trafficked. Some were being trained for terrorist activities. Many have HIV.
As a growing country, the Ugandan government always depends on non-profit, non-governmental organizations to look after such children. The government approached our Meeting about these children and we took in nineteen orphans between the ages of eight and seventeen. These children were starved, beaten, radicalized, and are living with HIV. We took this action in the Light, placing the children under the care of the Meeting. We are grateful for the decision we took, and we are prepared to provide housing, food, counseling, and friendship to these children over the long-term.
However, we had not counted on the children’s huge medical needs. Because they have been beaten, starved, raped, and held in extremely poor conditions, all nineteen have had to be hospitalized. As I write, nine of them are hospitalized for acute infections and pneumonia. We are pleading with you for a helping hand, as we are choking in hospital bills – currently $7,580. In Uganda, no one receives medical treatment until the bills are paid in advance.
If you can help, please contact David Albert via Olympia Friends Meeting (NPYM): http://olympiafriends.org/contact-us/ ~~~