Mali Latiolais shares journal entries from her trip to Uganda this summer
Mali Latiolais, an 11-year old girl from Lafayette, La took the trip of a lifetime this summer to Uganda. She spent her most of her time in cites of Kampala and Jinja. Latiolais has a passion for traveling and helping others, so on behalf of the Young Living Gold organization, she traveled a very long way to complete mission work.
In order to keep memories of this journey, Latiolais recorded hers days of travel in a journal. She has invited readers to get a glance at her interests and is proud to share her adventures!
“On our way to the airport in New Orleans my mom and I were talking about what we were going to miss the most. I said my family and my bed. My mom said the same thing but she also said she would miss burgers. When we got to the airport we all cried except for my dad. We were going to miss each other a lot. So, 20 minutes later after security we ate breakfast with some of the people that we would be traveling with to Africa.
Most of these people I already knew. We all told each other what we were excited to do and see on our trip. I said the orphanage and Pure and Faultless. My mom said the GEM foundation and Pure and Faultless. While the adults were talking, I was hanging out with my friends Harper and Finley, two girls my age that were also going on the mission trip.
When we were on the plane to Atlanta my ears popped. When we landed I was talking so loud because I couldn’t hear myself. In Atlanta we met another group people who would be joining us. They flew in from Texas, Florida, and Arizona. Miss Nikki Davis flew in from Utah. Even though I had met her before I was still very excited to see her because she is my role model and inspires me.
We had to hurry and make it to our next gate, which was on the other side of the airport. We stopped for a quick bathroom break and we saw a news crew there doing a segment on pet bathrooms in the airport! It looked pretty nice in there for a puppy.
Now it was time to board our eight and a half hour flight to Amsterdam. What on earth was I going to do for such a long time? Well, as soon as I got to my seat I realized we had our own TV screen! I was so happy to have something to do during this super long flight. I watched a movie and went to sleep.
They really spoil you on these long plane rides. They served us two meals and a snack. The food was pretty good. I got a little rest on this flight because my mom covered me in sleep oils. She said I better rest because when we land in Amsterdam it will be a new day! We traveled eight hours and it is an eight hour time difference. Bye-bye 16 hours of my life.
The Amsterdam airport was the coolest! Things were very efficient there. People were there to answer questions and help you get your bags through security very quickly. The food was YUMMY! We ate breakfast in teacups (not actual teacups but big ones that had a booth in it) We ate Stroopwafels for the first time and coffee candies, which I’m not really allowed to have but my mom was really tired and since I was in a different country she said I could try it. They were really good!
After everyone rested and ate, we went to explore. We found this really neat tulip shop that had wooden tulips, glass tulips, and REAL tulips! We bought a few to bring home to our family. We also saw a giant cat made out of yarn.
I really enjoyed all of the unique things in Amsterdam but the best part about our time there was spending time with my mom. I also had my first sneeze in a different country there. I know that’s not super awesome but I was really tired and I thought it was funny.
The next thing I know we were on another eight hour flight but the next time we would be on land I would FINALLY be in Africa! We landed for a quick stop in Rwanda. One more hour and we were in Entebbe, Uganda. We arrived at 10pm. We rushed through to get our bags and stood in a very long line to get our passports stamped at customs.
Then we loaded our luggage into a bus. We finally had all 21 of our team members. It was a two-hour ride to Kampala. Kampala is the capital city of Uganda. Africa is beautiful even at night. We finally made it to Nimerembe Guesthouse. We would be there for the next four days. It was a long night of sorting through the bins of supply we had brought for each organization and unpacking.
I think we finally made it to bed around 2am. My mom and I sprayed our mosquito nets. Malaria is a huge problem in Africa. (More on that later.) Good night from Kampala.”
Sanyu Baby Orphanage
“The babies were crying and when they saw us come up the stairs they all ran to us and hugged our legs. They gave high fives and wanted to be held. When we sat down to learn their names there was one boy named Benjamin that kept staring at me and he was smiling and laughing at me.
Here, the women who help take care of the babies are called aunties. After we talked with one of the aunties we learned that the kids are taught a saying and we had to learn it too. “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.”
We were playing with babies while the adults spent time changing, feeding, bathing, counting the beans, cooking, doing laundry, and sweeping. There are about 50 babies there right now and only a handful of aunties to take care of them. Someone is always crying or needs to be changed but they are all so happy.
Sometimes at night, if you walk outside of our guesthouse you can hear the babies crying. I didn’t realize it until much later in our trip but this place is a happy place. It’s safe and it’s a place where these babies are loved and cared for. I went to find Benjamin. He was crying for a sweetie (a sucker) so I picked him up and held him for the rest of our time there that day. I even put him to sleep for a nap before we left the first day.
The next day we came back to the orphanage while the most of the team went to the slums. I stayed behind with Mrs. Jessica, Harper, and Finely. On this day I met a little baby named Joannah. She was the cutest. They said she was about 10 months old but they really don’t know how old she was when someone dropped her off there. We were able to bring them to class. I got to see Benjamin again and I taught him how to say my name. There is a country in Africa called Mali but it is pronounced differently.
It was really hard to say goodbye to the babies. For the last four days we went to them every morning. While I was there I felt connected to my brothers and sister at home. I would play with the babies and help to feed them just like my own siblings. I love them. I hope this is the hardest goodbye we will have on this trip. Good night Kampala.”
Pure & Faultless
“Pure and Faultless is an organization that helps to recue young girls from the slums who are exposed to the sex slave industries. It is a place that provides food, water, shelter, clothing, counseling, and love. Oh and oils too! They use oils for all kinds of things there, just like my mom does at home. Some of the girls shared their stories about how they became involved with prostitution and/or drugs.
They also shared how Pure and Faultless found them and rescued them. Some of them go to school now. Oil Sistas Serve has funded a project for them as well. They are building a chicken coop for ten thousand chickens. Isn’t that amazing? The girls will learn how to care for the chickens but will also be able to sell the eggs to help support the organization. They will learn how to run a business. This will be a skill they can use once they have left Pure and Faultless and return to their homes.
We met a girl named Sarah. Sarah is a girl who was recused from the slums and now has learned to make clothes. She is very talented. Her story is pretty incredible. She has found the Lord and love here at Pure and Faultless. She spoke to us about how God has healed her heart during her time there. She dreams of being a fashion designer. She would love to eventually come to the US.
On the last day we were with them we had lunch that the girls cooked for us. They sang songs and we all danced together. We also did a make and take with them were they made spray bottles of bug spray and rollers to help with tummy troubles. After we all sat and heard more of their stories. We all cried a lot.
Each and every girl there is beautiful and just needed someone to help them believe it. I will miss all of the new friends I have made here. I learned something there. Something I will take home with me. We all need to remind each other that God loves us and we are beautiful always in his eyes. If we could all just be kind to each other I think the world would be changed.”
The GEM Foundation
“The GEM Foundation is an organization that takes in disabled children. In Uganda disabled children are considered a curse to some. Many of these kids are left abandoned or abused. They are unwanted. GEM takes these kids in and cares for them. They do not just take care of their medical need but they also give them love and show them that they are gems. It was a very overwhelming day.
It’s really hard to see so many sick kids in one home. There were moments of happiness. We were able to gift them with a few new toys as well as other supply they needed like diapers and bibs.
There was a girl we met there named Bethany. She is so funny. It was really hard to understand her but she smiled the whole time we were there. Mrs. Nikki paid her 3000 shillings to pour water on Mrs. Jessica. She was so happy to do it and made sure everyone watched.
We really didn’t stay there long and couldn’t be of much help but it was still nice to visit with the kids. Next time I go to Africa I want to figure out a way to be of more help. Even though it was hard to be there and at some moments I was uncomfortable, I was really happy to have had the experience. Good Night Kampala.”
“Jinja Connection is an organization that rescues boys from the street of Jinja. Lots of kids live on the streets or in the slums and collect scrap metal during the day to sell for money to buy food or drugs. We met a boy today named Brian that walks two hours each way every day from the slums to the streets.
My mom and other team members had a street walk this morning and took nine boys off of the streets and brought them to Jinja Connection. There they will have a shower, a meal, and go to school until later in the afternoon. We went to meet them after their classes.
We had to make sure they didn’t take our water bottles. Sometimes they will take bottles and use it to make a drug they call “glue.” They sniff it so that they don’t feel the hunger or the cold at night. It is really sad that they would have to do something like that just because they don’t have any food. I’m thankful our team was able to bring a few of them to Jinja Connection today.
We got to play field games with the boys that afternoon. We played sack races, egg on a spoon, bobbing for apples, and I even taught Brian “double-double” this this. It’s a hand game we play in America. We had a lot of fun playing for the afternoon. My mom said we could sponsor Brian so that he could go to real school and he would have a meal every day.”
“We are here in Jinja Uganda now and are staying at the Sole Hope Guesthouse. It is really beautiful here. Jinja is very different from Kampala. It has a lot of trees and green plants and the streets seem safer. We will be working with three organizations while we are here in Jinja. One of them is Sole Hope.
Sole Hope is run by a friend of my mom named Asher. She and her family live in Uganda. She is an American. We met her the day before we went to the Sole Hope outreach center. She told us that one day she was watching a video about jiggers and how much of a problem they are in East Africa. Jiggers are like sand fleas that burry themselves in your skin and lay eggs. It is such a big problem here because a lot of people cannot afford shoes.
Sole Hope is an organization that provides jigger removal. They hold removal clinics in the villages and they also bring in people to the outreach house who have severe cases.
Today we went to the outreach house to participate in removing jiggers from adults and children. When we got there they had the clinic set up outside under a tree. There are a few different jobs for the team to help with. You could be a feet washer, a charter, someone who assists in holding the kids or praying over the adults, or you could be me and the girls. We gave out sweeties before and after the removal.
Today was another overwhelming day. It was very hard to hear the children cry and scream as they were having their jiggers removed. There was a boy and a girl who were twins there today. They were both blind and each of them had one hand that had six fingers and the other hand had five. They came from a village that was pretty far away.
Mrs. Nikki held the boy while they removed his. My mom tried to help the staff with the sister twin but she was crying and screaming. She wouldn’t let the nurse touch her feet. Everyone tried to explain to her that we were going to help her feel better and that she needed to get the jiggers out so that she wouldn’t become crippled. They tried for over an hour but eventually they had to let the girl rest.
I watched my mom and Mrs. Ally hold a boy who had over 500 jiggers removed from his hands and feet. You could tell he was in a lot of pain. Once they finished using a safety pin to remove all of the jiggers they wrapped both his hands and both of his feet in lavender soaked pads. Once it dried they would give him socks and shoes.
Mrs. Asher said that most of them stay at the outreach house for about two weeks. They check them each day and teach them how to care for there hands and feet if they would ever get another jigger. It is so important to educate them on what to do once they leave the outreach house. Hopefully they will be able to go back and help others in their village.
The Young Living Foundation has partnered with Sole Hope and they are building a very large Hope Center. It is right on the Nile River and will be able to help a lot more people. I’m sure it will be built before I am able to come back to Africa but I can’t wait to see it in person. We were able to walk the grounds today and tour the shoemaking workshop. It was a very hard day but I really felt like our team made a difference. Good Night Jinja.”
Healing Faith Malaria Center
“Today we got to work with Healing Faith. Healing Faith is an organization run by Mr. Jason and Mrs. Kari. Basically they have a center where people can come and be tested and treated for Malaria. They also go out into villages and hang mosquito nets. I made friends with their daughter Hadley. She is a really nice person.
You know sometimes when you meet someone your own age, you expect them to be a certain way. It was very different coming to a new country and meeting someone my own age that lives there. We are different but also alike. I’m so glad to have made a new friend in Uganda. I can’t wait to FaceTime her when we get home to America.
Anyway… Healing Faith. Today we walked through a village and hung mosquito nets. It was my most favorite day so far. I was able to help hang nets to help save lives. Malaria is caused by a mosquito bite. The mosquito carries a parasite that gets in your blood and it reproduces very quickly making you very sick.
Many people in Africa die of Malaria every day. I think my mom said every 30 seconds someone dies of Malaria. Malaria is preventable if you hang nets around your sleeping area and if you do not go out after dark. It is also treatable if caught early enough.
We also got to visit the Healing Faith center today. They had people there being tested and treated. I got to hand out lollipops to the children after they had their finger pricked to test their blood. We also played football and danced with the village kids that came to play. Today was a great day. I’m sad that our time in Africa is almost over. This place will always be special to me. Good Night Jinja.”