Travels and Travails

In a way the late summer has seemed quiet, but in fact there has been a tremendous amount of activity.  The title of this blog sums it up best.   There are travels to update you on, and there are travails.

Good news first.  The Travels:  We had an amazing turn of luck, the genesis of which was at the Refugee Day festivities that Fidel MC’d in June.  We met 2 new friends, Michael and Peggy Doucette.  Michael, a High School senior, informed us he was headed to Kampala with a youth trip and Peggy, his Mom, a Boise Physician, was going to accompany him.    This was exciting news.  Someone from Boise was headed to Kampala and was interested in trying to help  find Fidel’s parents and make a connection.   We soon realized Peggy might be able to ease some healthcare concerns we’ve had for the family, especially Fidel’s Mom.  Michael would be a nice connection to Arnold and his 4 siblings.

Peggy and Fidel's Family (photo by Michael)

Peggy and Fidel's Family (photo by Michael)

They made their trip in late July, and it surpassed all of our hopes.  They brought back news and pictures of the family’s living conditions that gave us our first accurate glimpse into their real circumstances.  On the health front, Arnold and Murambo had conjunctivitis (pink eye) that was interfering with school.   Mom had recurring issues w/ her arm and shoulder from injuries sustained while in rebel captivity.  Peggy was able to treat the conjunctivitis and the arm/shoulder pain, and assess and improve the overall health of everyone there.   Michael was able to connect with Arnold and the other kids, which was special for all of them.   Their visit was, in short, tremendously uplifting to the entire family and to Fidel and Ruth and me. 

The second trip was a trip Fidel took to Canada for a wedding of a very close friend.  For details of that trip you should jump to Fidel’s blog (see link on this page).  Having had to make the decision to  forego his own trip to Kampala, the Canada trip became vital to Fidel.  (We used personal funds, as did a another Boise friend of Fidel’s, to send Fidel to Canada.  We were concerned about his mounting frustration with his financial circumstances, and felt he desperately needed some time to connect with important friends in his life).  In the end, he did in fact meet with dozens of fellow refugee freinds from his past.  The trip exceeded his expectations.  Again – read the details of that trip on Fidel’s blog.

As for the travails, it’s important to be reminded how life differs if you’re a refugee.  Early in the summer the transmission on Fidel’s car went out.  The cost to repair the transmission is over $400.  He is still without a car.  Fidel also suffered a skull fracture in a soccer game and the cost to diagnose and treat that, all w/in his deductible (try to explain deductible to a refugee sometime) was over $700.  This is money Fidel, nor Boise To Bukavu, has as we’re focused on living expenses in Kampala.  We’re still working to find a way to help him out. The far more upsetting news, however, is that a cousin of Fidel’s  who was in Kampala from Bukavu on business, was killed in the recent outbreak of riots there.  Fidel’s father has just returned from helping deliver his body back to his family in Bukavu.  It’s a reminder how different life is in Africa, even in a well established and comparatavely stable city like Kampala.

As a final note – the money we were planning on using to send Fidel to Kampala was redirected to Fidel’s father to fund a business that will allow the family to become self-sufficient.   In our next post we’ll update you on how Fidel came to that difficult decision, and on what Ruth and I have learned about what ‘work’ looks like as a refugee.