Meet Lis, International Coordinator for Sole Hope. Lis is a rockstar, seriously! She has a heart for people and a desires to spend her life loving others and serving well. We've asked Lis to share a bit with you all about Sole Hope and their role in orphan prevention, please take a moment to read below!
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Sometimes orphan prevention & family preservation can look completely different than you may expect.
Sole Hope’s mission to offer HOPE, healthier lives, & freedom from foot-related diseases through education, jobs, & medical relief.
The main focus of our of work in Uganda is to fight against the issue of jiggers. Jiggers (not chiggers - jiggers are parasitic burrowers) are small chigoe fleas that live in the dust, and are found on the dirt floors in schools and the homes of many families in Uganda and other similar climates. These parasitic insects cling to livestock and transfer jiggers into homes primarily in rural areas. The female jiggers burrow into the surface of skin that has been exposed to the flea. Once embedded in the body, the jigger lays eggs and creates up to pea-size egg sacks, continuously multiplying by laying more eggs.
The infection can lead to severe secondary infections such as gangrene, sepsis, the loss of toenails, amputation of the digits, and even death. There is also a large stereotype that accompanies jigger infestations. Jiggers are often left untreated due to the shame, embarrassment, and other untrue facts believed about the cause of these infestations. At our Sole Hope Outreach House, we treat and rehabilitate children, their caretakers, and other patients with severe jigger infestations.
While the terms “orphan prevention” or “family preservation” are not specifically used in the Sole Hope mission statement, we believe that health promotion/disease prevention is orphan prevention. Often, if not treated, jiggers can lead to such severe infection that the individual can no longer walk, attend school, or even work to provide for their family. In this way, treating the jigger infestation can allow an individual to return to work and/or school.
However, it does not end there. An important part of recovery is education. Through this education we are able to teach each family unit as a whole to prevent and treat jiggers, so that in the future they are able to stop the infestation at the source and treat each case before it becomes a debilitating disease. This education, paired with treatment and rehabilitation, children are able to remain in school, caretakers are able to continue working, and families can remain together as a solid unit.
Sole Hope also aims to create jobs to provide locals with a way to earn a steady income and provide for their families. We provide each patient that stays at our Outreach House with a new pair of close-toed shoes that are produced in country by local tailors and shoemakers. This not only fights against jiggers (close-toed shoes are one of the main ways to prevent jiggers), but also provides an income for local artisans, working towards family preservation through a different avenue. Sole Hope employs over 30 Ugandans between our Outreach House, Guest House, and shoemaking program. Each of these individuals is able to advocate for those suffering with jiggers (a rarity in Uganda) & also provide for themselves and their families, another important step in orphan prevention & family preservation.
Orphan care goes far beyond adoption & foster care - orphan prevention & family preservation allows families to never be separated in the first place. This is such an important, if not the most important, part of orphan care. It allows parents to provide and take care of their children, preserving the family unit and allowing children to grow up in families. Disease prevention is just one avenue of family preservation, and we are honored to play a small roll in that here in Uganda. There is HOPE and JOY to be found in the darkest of places - let us advocate for this HOPE, for a country without jiggers, and for families to remain together.