By JENNIFER PETERS
SINCLAIRVILLE - Five years ago, Dean and Karen Houser and their daughter, Alyson, who is now 19, started participating in mission work in Uganda, Africa. The Sinclairville family is going back this summer, leaving Tuesday, for three and a half weeks, with Alyson staying for six weeks.
Top: Alyson Houser is pictured with children from Uganda that her and her parents sponsor. Bottom left: Karen Houser is with two teenage girls that she and her family have helped. Bottom right: Dean Houser, right, is next to Dr. Reuben Musiime, who is director of Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel International.
They started working with Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel International. AMG has six child care centers, three medical clinics and a Christian academy, with the headquarters in Chattanooga, Tenn. This program in Uganda has been going on for the last 15 years The Housers have done work at all of these locations, but they chose to focus their studies in Uganda, specifically with the children. They not only do home visitations, but they also go to the schools as well.
The Housers got involved with the mission work in Uganda when they began sponsoring a child in 2005, Eva Agwe. "Everything started with the child sponsorship," Alyson said. "As a result, we started sponsoring more kids. We sponsor a total of five; I have a little boy in Peru as well."
Part of the money they raise in their church helps these children to be able to school. It not only assists with school fees, but also to protect the children from diseases and unhealthy water. "These kids are able to get treated for something that's curable," Karen explained. "The sponsorship helps with that, and they get food, at least one meal a day."
The girl Eva that they sponsor lives in a one-room house, no bigger than a standard kitchen. There is a wooden door with a pad lock where they have to hang a curtain to keep the mosquitoes away. On the other side of the curtain is a twin bed and five people that had to live there together. There is no refrigerator or bathroom; all of those necessities need to be taken care of outside.
"They don't have clean water, so we try to make sure that water is available in some of these villages, and there is another organization that does that, trying to get safe drinking water to them," Karen said.
When the Housers do the home visits, they help with food by bringing, rice, cooking oil, even soap, enough that can get them through that day. "Sometimes when we've given them food, they are so thankful that we came when we did because that is the only food they would have had that day otherwise," Dean explained.
Besides a lack of food and clean water, there's also the concern of diseases in Uganda as well. "A lot of those kids can get AIDS through birth," Karen said. "All of the kids we sponsor are HIV negative, but there's one boy we know that's HIV positive, and he gets the medication he needs."
Many of the children are raised by a single parent, some with no parents, so they need this encouragement and support to know there's people out there that care for them. The money that they have been raising through their own work, and also the help of various churches, friends and family, has helped these children get the help they need.
The Housers provide children with hope that life won't always be that way for them and to hang on to the hope that God is there watching over them.
Alyson also mentioned a lady named Teddy, who was said to have no skills, so Alyson wanted to help her out by sending her $80. Teddy had a roadside stand where she would sell ground nuts and ended up saving enough of the money she made, along with the help of Alyson donation, to build a brick house with two rooms in it. She now sells fruits and vegetables right in front of her home and is continuing to increase the size of her house. With just a little push and some financial burdens lifted off of Teddy, she was able to build a safer, bigger home and better herself.
The Housers set aside much of their time and energy to help people and try to make an impact on the world. "When you go to these kids homes and see where they live, you just want to do something. You feel like you have to," Alyson stated. "We are just an average family. We can't be giving money everywhere we go, but we go there and bring these stories back with us to try to raise awareness and support for these kids to just get basic needs. People here take things like water for granted, when people in places like Uganda have to struggle for it every day."
The Housers really feel that awareness is the most important thing one can do to help. "Uganda's like my second home," Alyson continued. "I feel so at peace when I'm there. I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, what I'm called to do."
Karen also talked about how they plan on continuing their mission work there, providing these children with strength and encouragement. "We have strong, personal relationships with so many people there. We don't know what will happen form one day to the next, but our hearts are there; we want to continue raising awareness and help as much as we possibly can," she said.
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