Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce reflects on his life-changing humanitarian mission to Uganda
What do you do when you’re in a third world country, surrounded by dozens of impoverished children, and a man selling ice cream shows up? You ask if he has enough to serve all of the boys and girls.
When he tells you “Yes,” you buy everything he has in his cart, then you start lining up the children to wait their turn to get a frozen treat. While this simple act of kindness only cost Eddie Joyce about 50 bucks, the smiles on the children’s faces were priceless.
The Bay of Islands MHA took part in a humanitarian mission to Uganda in February. He and other volunteers with the St. John’s-based charity Helping Orphans Prosper through Education (HOPE) spent time with children in an orphanage and visited the schools that HOPE supports.
HOPE is affiliated with the Canadian-registered charity Love is the Answer.
Known by its acronym, LITA works in Africa to help empower and educate orphaned children and support grass roots, community initiatives that benefit children and lead towards sustainable self-sufficiency.
Restoring Health & Hope
Thousands of people in Uganda suffer from a crippling parasite called jiggers that infect their feet. When heading on his trip, Joyce brought with him a suitcase filled with medical supplies including antibiotic cream, bandages and pain killers, thanks to Corner Brook physician, Dr. Sheldon Butt.
Joyce volunteered at a clinic run by a group called Sole Hope. The organization helps remove the parasites from the feet restoring both health and hope for the future.
Joyce’s job was to wash the children’s feet before they had the jiggers removed.
“I knew I’d like to do this because I knew I could make them laugh. And we had suckers to give them, and stickers,” Joyce said when contacted by phone about his trip.
Joyce also bought dozens of pairs of shoes, while in Uganda, to help protect the children’s feet from the painful parasite. It’s better to buy the shoes over there rather than bring them with him, he said, as the money stays within the communities. Over 100 children were treated for jigger removal the day Joyce volunteered with Sole Hope.
Joyce downplays his role in the mission. Rather, he speaks often about HOPE, Sole Hope and LITA. When asked if there was one particular child who made an impression on him, he is quick to name a four-year-old boy he met at the orphanage.
Like other children, he said, Jeremiah was fascinated with his sunglasses. “Some of them never saw sunglasses before. I’d put mine on the kids and I’d take a picture and show them,” Joyce said.
Jeremiah would often reach for Joyce’s hand. “When we had the picnic he would turn to me to hold his food while he ate. When he got tired at the picnic he would come over and get in my arms.”
The child also enjoyed helping Joyce give out stickers and candy to the other children. The birth date of many of the children is not known, Joyce said, but one special day is chosen to celebrate the birth of all the children.
When he was leaving Jeremiah after the child’s first day in school, another child, five-year-old Ellie, assured Joyce that he and the other children would take care of Jeremiah. Ellie is five years old. Jeremiah, Ellie and the other children have certainly found a place in Joyce’s heart.
He is already planning a return visit to Uganda, hopefully sometime this summer. In the meantime, he’s fundraising to buy more shoes once he gets there. (Joyce raised about $60,000 last year for the children in Uganda).
He is now asking people to donate $5 to buy a pair of shoes. If 25 pairs of shoes are purchased while he is over there, Joyce said, it will provide food for the family (the local vendor) for an extended period of time.
Donations can be sent via e-transfer to Joyce’s sister Veronica at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can also be dropped off at Joyce’s home mailbox or mailed to him at 26 Allen’s Road, Corner Brook, NL A2H 3T9.
“Such a small donation of five dollars can make a huge impact on a child’s life,” he said.