Sunday, October 28, 2012

School Days

We have had another adventure last week with our Humanitarian trip to the area called Lahad Datu.  I have spent most of the week in tears.  We have seen poverty beyond anything we ever imagined.  We started our visit at a school in Lahad Datu that was literally held on a rooftop.  They had made a make shift roof out of tarps and sheets of tin.  When it rains, and it is the rainy season now, the rain pours into the school.
Whenever you enter a school, all the children immediately arise to their feet and the designated class leader leads the class in saying, very loudly, "Good morning visitors.  Welcome to our school.  We are happy to have you visit us."  And they stand until you tell them they can sit down.
This is one of the rooms in the roof top school.  There are three rooms altogether.  It had over forty students crowded in.  You can see the tables they are using are just wooden planks nailed on rickety legs.  I don't know how they manage to stay up.  They use anything they can find for a chair to sit on.  The students in primary/kindergarten classes range in age from 4 to 11.  It is the first time the 11 year olds have been allowed to go to school so they must start out in the kindergarten class and learn from there.
This is the only source of water for the school.  It is collected from the rain water off the roof and is not fit to drink.  The children must bring their own drinking water for the day.  It gets very hot during the day on this roof top as you can imagine so the children try to bring as much water as they will need.  The water in the blue tanks is used for cleaning and flushing toilets which brings me to the one and only toilet for the whole school
It doesn't work.  The children must try to "flush" it with a bucket of water.  It was smelly and disgusting because you can never really flush everything away.
I hope you can see the school motto on the back wall "Nothing ventured, nothing gained".  Several times during this visit, I had to leave the room or turn away so the children wouldn't see me crying.  It broke my heart to see children wanting so bad to have an education that they would do whatever they had to do, even go to this rooftop school and sit in the heat and stench day after day just for the chance for an education.  I wish children in the US could understand how blessed they are to have it just given to them, free.

The next day after leaving the rooftop school we went to the Island of Bum-Bum in this beautiful sailing yacht
It's the one on the right, not the nice shaded one on the left.  We just had to sit on boards placed across the boat.  I wasn't very sure this boat was very safe and sea worthy.  We had only been out on the water about 5 minutes, when I heard a very loud C R A C K  and then Ben was yelling in pain, "My foot.  My Foot.  Get off my foot".  The seat in front of us had broken right in two and the 3 people who were sitting on it were dropped right to the bottom of the boat on top of Ben's foot.  I thought for sure it was broken.  But luckily, he only had minor scrapes and it only swelled a little.  That was a tender mercy.  Bum-Bum island is a very dirty, poor island.  The people never throw their trash away in a garbage can or dumpster.  They just throw it on the ground.  There is so much litter it is hard to see the ground in places.  We visited three schools on this island.  They were a little better than the rooftop school.  They had better roofs and better rooms and better furniture but you have to remember "better" doesn't mean much when compared to almost nothing.  Again, their problems are lack of clean drinking water and sanitation - toilet- facilities.
This is one of the better living houses on Bum-Bum.  Litter all around.
This is our group walking down one of the roads on Bum-Bum.  Notice again all the litter and the poor housing.
This little infant, a little over a year, came walking down the road holding on to her daddy's hand.  She had on no shoes and the saddest little dress.  Again, I was in tears.  I wish I could have gotten a better, closer-up picture for you to see.  She too is one of God's children but she is going to have such a test and hardship in her life.  Why was I born where I was and why was she born into such a life of poverty?
The organization which is trying to run the schools is called HUMANA.  It is an NGO run by Torben Venning (4th guy on the left, the white guy) and his wife Rosalyn ( 3rd on the left in the brown shirt).  They are wonderful wonderful people who are trying so hard to make a difference in these children's lives. Their son Mark is sitting by his mother and the Frandsen's, the short term water specialists from SLC, are in the front.  We do hope the clean water and sanitation projects we have put together for these children will be accepted by the Asia Area Welfare office.

It has been an emotional week for us as we have seen so much poverty and heartbreak.  But we have also seen the determination in the eyes of the students to learn, even if they have everything in the world going against, they are determined to learn.  And learn they will.  I hope we can make their learning a little easier for them.

Several of you have asked what you can do to help.  The best thing you can do is to donate to the Humanitarian Fund box on the tithing receipt form.  The Church is doing wonderful work here and throughout the other 164 countries they have humanitarian missionaries in.  You can be proud that you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the church is using your money so wisely.  The donations are truly helping lives and strengthening families.

Please don't forget about us over here on the other side of the world.  It seems like much of the rest of the world has forgotten about these precious children here.  We love you all.  We love to hear from you.  We check our email everyday to see if anybody reads our blog and if any comments have been left.  We hope you are learning a little bit about what we do through the blog.  We can really only share a little bit of what we do.  It would take pages to show everything.  We love you all.   E/S Read

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jungling in Borneo

We made it back once again from the jungles of Borneo.  We visited about 8 villages and checked out their need for water.  Almost all of the villages needed new water pipes.  The pipes the government gave them have cracked and broken and the villagers are constantly trying to repair the pipes to keep the water flowing to the villages.
First of all we need to get the GPS coordinates so in the future our replacements and others who come to visit will be able to find the right pipes and the right dam for the right village.  LtoR:  Patrick Panai, Rotarian and project coordinator, Ben, and Elder Frandsen who is the short term water specialist from SLC.
Ben and Elder Frandsen walking through the jungle.  The foilage was so very thick it was very difficult to walk in some places.  We had a man who walked in front of us with about an 2' large knife to hack away at the jungle so we could get through. Your feet kept getting wrapped up in vines and the undergrowth.  Fortunately, we didn't see or walk into any snakes.
This is a picture of the stream where the dam is built to collect the water which is then piped down to the storage tanks to store the water for the villagers to use.  It is a beautiful area.  The dam is high up the side of the mountain/hill so the water can get a lot of speed up as it races through the pipes to the storage tanks below.
On the way back down the mountain we ran into a herd of water buffalo who were just getting out of their beauty mud bath.  Now you know why water buffalo are so extraordinarily beautiful.  Mud baths.
All the children who live in the villages  from age 5 through about 12-13 go to a village school (the building in the background).  All the children also board there.  This school isn't that very far from the village we stayed in, about a 10-15 minute drive but the kids board there all week anyway.  They are taken to the school on Sunday evening and picked up on Friday morning. These kids were so cute.  They have been studying English and would say "Good morning.  My name is . . . and I am . . . years old."  They really had good English for as young as they were.

We had some pretty interesting meals while we were out jungling.
I particularly wanted everyone to notice the brownish/blackish stick like item in the upper left.  That was our lunch one day.  It is wild fox bat.  I took the smallest piece I could find and then carefully chose a small bit of meat off of it just so I can now say I have eaten bat.  Of course every meal, morning, noon and night has rice as the main course.  This trip I also ate black small snails and wild boar.  Actually, I just pretended to eat the snails.  But the boar wasn't too bad.  We also had a lot of different fruit:  passion fruit which I thoroughly loved, something called a bui which was very tasty and of course wonderful pineapple, mango, star fruit and papaya.  The fruit here is really amazing.
In each village we stayed, at mealtime five or six ladies from the village would show up with pots and pans and bowls full of food.  The women would all want to bring some food for us.  It was like having the relief society come calling.  All these ladies showed up one morning to bring us our breakfast.  So much food!

Of course one thing you must never ever forget to do when coming our of the jungle is to check for leeches.
YUCKY.  They are so disgusting.  Here is Ben and his leech Larry:
I had a couple on me too.  One leech must have hit a vein or something because I was still bleeding 24 hours later.  One of the side benefits of being an humanitarian missionary, free leech service.

Well, we are leaving in the morning for the palm oil plantation schools to check out their sanitation needs.  We are going to visit about 10 schools far away from the main roads in an area called Lahad Datu.  I'm not sure what to expect on this trip, but I will be sure and report next week.

We love you all.  PLEASE email and let us know what is going on in your lives.  E/S Read

Saturday, October 13, 2012

And We're Off

I thought I should post tonight as we leave tomorrow, Sunday, to head back into the jungle.  We will come back on Saturday, stay Sunday and then head back out for Lahad Datu from Monday through Friday.  Whew! I think I'm tired all ready.

On Wednesday we had another memorial service for Pres. Francis, the branch president who died about 3 weeks ago.  It was his birthday.  The family said they had already planned the party for him so they wanted everyone to come again.  It was nice.  They had an opening hymn, a prayer, a spiritual thought and then a closing song and prayer.  Then they served a nice dinner.  This is the table they have set up with Pres. Francis picture.
Pres. Francis will be missed  by everyone for a long, long time.

This is the new branch president for KK1
His name is also President Francis Ng.  He had a birthday on Tuesday and his family threw him a birthday party.  They are big on birthday parties here.  Pres. Ng has his arm around his son and his wife Susan is in the blue.  He has been a convert of only two years.  He is a great guy.
This is president Sebastian of KK2.  He has these two darling kids, Brianna and Ben.  He is also our taxi driver and whenever we need to travel long distances or go to and from the airport, he is the man we call.  He has a brother Adrian who is serving a mission in Salt Lake City.  He also has twin sister, Laura and Elsie, serving missions in London and London South.  A great guy too.
Bro and Sis Frandsen came to stay with us on Thursday night.  They are Short Term Water Specialists sent from SLC to help us with the water projects we are looking at developing in the jungle.  Bro. Frandsen is a dam engineer (check the spelling) and was the head engineer for the Jordanelle Dam. He knows his water and dams.  His wife, Lena, is a nurse and she is from Sweden.  They live in Heber City and they travel all through Asia and Africa helping with water.  We got up early this morning and took a hike up the hill behind our condo.  You can see KK in the background.  It was a nice morning for a hike and got us in shape to face the hikes in the jungle we will have this week.

So, now we're off to check on water projects for the people living in remote villages in the jungle areas.  What an adventure we are having.  We never thought we would one day be trekking through jungles half way around the world to bring clean drinking water to some of the most remote parts of the world.   The Lord surely must have a lot of faith in us.  Half the time we have no idea what we are doing or how we are going to accomplish what we don't know what we're doing.  Somehow, it all seems to work out and the Lord is there to take us by the hand and lead us.  We Love It.

Thank you for all your prayers and great emails.  Keep them coming.  We love to hear from everyone.
E/S Read

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Who Knew

Most of the past week has been spent helping the sister missionaries and the elder missionaries.  Elder Parker, a really dynamic missionary whom I just love, came down ill last Monday.  At first he thought it was something he ate which didn't make me feel too good because we had just fed the missionaries the night before.  He was running a high fever and said he had a headache to end all headaches.  We talked with the mission nurse and got him the recommended medicine.  He did seem to perk up a little on Tuesday, but by Tuesday evening he was just as sick as before.  He seemed to go up and down and could never really shake the fever.  On Friday we ended up taking him to the hospital to get checked out.  We thought he might have dengue fever.  He had to have some blood drawn and wait about 3-4 hours for the results.  All the blood work came back negative.  They said he probably had a virus (a virus is very universal isn't it.).  He seems to be doing better but is still pale and weak.  He had a very rough week and was a very sick missionary.

The sister missionaries finally got the keys to their own apartment on Thursday, but they say they want to clean it and do some other things before they move in so they are still with us.  I told them they will have to be out by Thursday as we have the short term water specialists coming from Salt Lake on Friday to spend 2 weeks with us.  We spent all day Saturday shopping and buying everything they will need for their apartment.  The apartment has furniture but no furnishings.  It was like shopping for a bridal shower.  So many things to buy.  We had a lot of fun.  We were trying to find them a clothes drying rack to use in their apartment.  So many to choose from, but when we saw this statement about an "elegant home" we knew this was the rack for us:

I had no idea I could have an elegant home simply by having a clothes rack in the middle of the room.  Such a simple idea.  Who knew?  We still have some other major things to get them like a clothes washer, microwave, vacuum, toaster, etc.  Didn't really buy any appliances yet.  I was worried about the cost so I called Sis. Mains and discussed it with her.  She just said to buy what is needed.  We will have to do it all again in another week or so for the elders who will be moving into their new home.  Fun times ahead.  I just hope the church is quick to reimburse us or we may be home sooner rather than later.

This week we also went shopping for the supplies for our Indonesian School Children project.  We had to buy school supplies and hygiene kit items for 275 children.  Again, it was such fun.  We found a school/office supply place here in KK with fantastic prices.  We got the best backpacks, so well made, for the price of Rm 18 each which would be about $6 US.  Unbelievable for the quality.  We ordered all the items on Wednesday and had the church service center in KL do an electronic funds transfer for payment.  They had everything delivered to our apartment on Friday afternoon.  Man, what service.  Here is what items for 275 school and hygiene kits look like:

There were over 16 heavy boxes.  We are still waiting for the educational toys we also ordered from another company to arrive.  The branches have agreed to have a joint fellowship night on Oct. 27 and put all the kits together for us.  The branches are also going to learn the Indonesian song that elder Subandriyo sent us from U Tube.  Now we have the problem of (1) how are we going to get all the items to the church for the fellowship night and (2) how are we going to get all the items to the respective schools.  I'm sure with the Lord's help we'll figure it out.

We had another baptism on Saturday night.  This is Kenny.  He is from Nigeria.  He has been taking the lessons and learning about the church for quite a while.  He wouldn't be baptized until he knew for sure the Church was true and that the Book of Mormon was true.  He finally KNEW and so he was baptized.  He is an extraordinary young man.  He is going to school here and studying Tourism.  Tourism seems to be a very popular major here.
The short term water specialists, Bro David and Sis Lena Frandsen, from Heber City will be here on Friday. They will be with us for two weeks.  We are going back in the jungle again.  One week in about the same area as Buduk Bui and the second week in Lahad Datu, another area further north.  We are going to be looking at potential water project sites in the BB area. In the Lahad Datu area we are going to visit 8 to 10 Humana Schools and see if we can help them with rain water collection and with sanitation.  These are schools that are on the palm oil plantations and most of them are pretty sad.  Bro. Frandsen is an engineer and was the chief engineer on the Jordanelle Dam so he is well qualified.  We are looking forward to their visit.  They are going to bring some Crystal Light and Jello with them.  I don't know if I'm more excited to see them or the Crystal Light and Jello.

Oh, more good news.  I finally found some Karo syrup.  You can't believe how hard I have looked for it.  I bought two bottles when I saw it and didn't even look at the price.  I can almost taste the caramel corn now. And all the other things that require Karo.  Sometimes I open the cupboard and just stare at it sitting there in all its sweetness and glory.

Send us emails and news.  We look forward to opening our email every morning and hoping there is something there from someone, anyone, even our pen pals in prison.  We love you all.  E/S Read