Howdy from Texas!

The work in Uganda is in safe hands and is going well. While Robin, Rayah and Sarah continue to enjoy their time in the US, David will be traveling back to Uganda at the beginning of April for two months. He is aiming to procure and fit out 16 bathrooms at the guesthouse and to prepare our recently extended home for the family’s return in October.

The girls are enjoying 3rd grade at Fairfield Intermediate School and playing on a soccer team. Their accents and their being from Africa gives them a degree of celebrity status at the school. David has had opportunity to meet with long-spoken-of family and friends for the first time. This weekend we will enjoy a big family reunion! We have been able to reconnect with some of Robin’s supporters as well as sharing in two Adult Sunday School classes at our US home church, First Baptist Church, Fairfield.

We had been looking forward to letting you know the good news that we were expecting, but sadly we lost our baby at 15 weeks, just 10 days before we left the UK. It was again a hard time, but we felt, and feel, the healing love of Father in so many ways.

As in all that is before us, we journey with him, grateful for his constant love and guidance just as we are very grateful for your valued support.

David & Robin Stearns, Zemba Children's Foundation
Family Strengthening in Uganda

Things have not stopped while we are away! Blessed and Andrew are doing a great job of heading up the work, not only maintaining it, but developing it. Mega and Desire are alongside them in this task, looking after the chickens and pigs, keeping the home ready for emergency admissions and welcoming visitors to the farm. Since we left in August, 17 children have gone through our program and are now back on track, healthy and growing well. Right now we are working with 14 families that need intensive support with their vulnerable children.

NOURISHED back to life ...
Andrew Otema writes

“Shabban lives in a slum, under the care of a blind dad and a poor mom. He is the last born of the four children. His grandma, who used to help in raising them, passed away a few days after Shabban’s birth. His mother earns money by digging, washing clothes and preparing dried fish called mukene, yet she does not earn enough to provide essential foods. Shabban became progressively malnourished to the point that at 12 months, he moved very little. At first his mother ignored this, but later took him to a traditional healer who tried to cure him with herbs and lies. His health further deteriorated and his body became a playground to all infections. Visitors urged her to try health practitioners, and at last she took Shabban to the hospital. The situation got further out of control and he was eventually discharged when doctors failed to help.”
“We came to know this family while visiting in our community. We convinced Shabban’s mother that nutritional treatment could rescue her child and they joined Zemba’s nutritional program. Blessed visited every day for a week, teaching Shabban’s mum to make F100 - World Health Organization's formulation for high protein, high calorie nutritional rehabilitation. We supply the ingredients, sugar, olive oil and milk, which are locally available, but too expensive for most families to purchase. We teach what proportions to mix and how much to feed. When they see the result families are motivated to continue making the mix. Later we helped with high protein soy porridge. Shabban received this food together with medical treatment. After 2 months on treatment, his life became a living testimony. One community elder said, ‘Anyone who saw him before, would have believed he had been cursed and would certainly die. It’s so common here.’

Shabban was nourished back to life, by his own family, in their own home. He was rescued from the curse of poor nutrition and is now 2 years old. His life today is a striking contrast from his journey with pain and sickness. He lives a happy, admirable life."
Robin recalls how the referring organization wanted us to take Shabban home into our care, so bad was his condition. But he needed his parents. The family needed to go through this together. Taking him away would have only put the spotlight on us, keeping treatment a mystery. When a mum is given the training and the ingredients she needs, powerful tools are placed in her hands that can benefit so many around her. The family and community were surprised by what they saw with their own eyes - a simple recipe at work. Keeping this behind closed doors would have only increased their dependency, empowering us with the myth of a secret ingredient - ‘white man’s magic’. The community witnessed a transformation and Shabban’s family members are now advocates in good nutrition. This Muslim family, were connected with us through a life threatening challenge. We prayed with them for healing, sharing what we had - love, knowledge and a few simple ingredients. Their lives have been touched by the Father, who first loved us.
Blessed and Andrew have observed that in reaching vulnerable kids in the community, the family also has to become vulnerable and open up to us. "Child caretakers can easily feel guilty for their kids’ poor health. They are not free to express themselves, and take time to trust us in counseling." Blessed has always been there for them.

Every child that comes into ZEMBA care has a unique background that influences how we offer support. We hear many single mothers in Uganda say, “I have no food for my children, no house, no blanket and I am dying.’’ Malnutrition is a common result of poverty in our community. Poverty you can see and can touch! Tragically, many mothers in such circumstances, come to believe that the only way their children can be helped is through giving them up. We are not only integrating nutritional treatment and prevention of acute malnutrition into basic health services, but look to strengthen families so that they stay together. Blessed is planning to form and motivate village health teams to ensure that a greater number of vulnerable children and their families are reached.
We are so thankful for partnerships - partnership with our supporters around the world, partnership with our passionate Ugandan colleagues and partnership with families in our local community.
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