|Ang Tulay (The Bridge)|
Ang Tulay! Actually, the timing of my arrival in Uganda was perfect because the team from Precious Jewels Ministry in Manila, Philippines, came back in June to begin training YWAM Uganda to implement Ang Tulay in Uganda! I attended the sessions last October, which is Phase 1 of the program, then we attended Phase 2 in November and now we are in the midst of Phase 3 and have been since June!
Ang Tulay simply means, “The Bridge” in one of the Filipino languages. It is a week long “journey” over the bridge using steps that help both children and adults work through their grief and trauma. See the link below for more information about Ang Tulay and also Precious Jewels Ministry.
What I love about it is the creative nature of the program. It includes stories, music, art, drama, small groups, and activities. I have seen with my own eyes the difference just this one week can make in a child’s life, helping them to share their painful experiences, for some, maybe the first time in their lives.
From June we have been adjusting the program to fit the culture of Uganda. I’ve been part of the team working on activities that use local materials, while other teams worked on stories, others worked on visuals until we were ready to actually run an Ang Tulay session.
We began in Jinja, first a 2 day mini Ang Tulay with the YWAM base children. Then we did an entire week at Siita’s Nest Children’s Home near the base. I was an assistant small group leader there, with 9 kids, aged 14 and 15 years. It was intense but very rewarding, helping the children open up and work through many issues ranging from the death of parents due to AIDS, abandonment, abuse by relatives or step-parents and worries about getting a good education and the finances to continue on in their studies.
We took a week break after that to re-group and prepare for Ang Tulay in Soroti, eastern Uganda. This is where there is currently a famine, people are struggling for food and some have also died from the lack.
It was such a joy to bring these young people from the village for a week and feed them 3 good meals a day as well as tea in the mornings. One of my favourite parts of the week was serving the food and handing each child their plate knowing they were getting proper nutrition at least for this one week.
These youth are part of Life Skills clubs in the village run by YWAM Soroti’s FACE program. FACE (Facing AIDS with Compassion and Education). They are vulnerable children, usually from families struggling with HIV, poverty, lack of education etc.
I was again an assistant small group leader with a group of 16-17 year olds. We had a challenge of language, but we managed with the help of one of the girls who knew English well and could translate into Ateso for the other members. It was such a privilege to be allowed into the painful experiences these youth shared with us. At times, it was very difficult not to cry in front of them as they shared about deaths, beatings, being sent from home to home, and their deepest desire to be educated but no one to help pay for their fees. Some of the youth remain in the primary school level because it is government funded though they are old enough to be in secondary. Some of them also came with only one set of clothing for the week, no soap, no mattress. We gave out soap and toilet paper and brought mattresses for them and I think they were really blessed to be so cared for and leave their troubles for that week.
I got so attached to these youth and it was hard to see them leave knowing some of them are going back into difficult situations. But we believe they gained some good tools for handling their situations and we keep praying for them.
Now, I am back in Arua. Two weeks ago we began preparing to have Ang Tulay here on our base with our staff so they can see the benefit for themselves of this program. I was in charge of supplies and materials as well as songs and icebreakers for the week! On Sunday after not knowing if our Jinja team would even arrive due to the riots in Kampala, it was a great joy to see our Jinja team to arrive!
The week was challenging but amazing and rewarding! Our staff all responded positively. Every morning, we began preparing early, and didn't stop until late at night. But for me, it was a privilege to be involved and see some of my close friends and fellow staff members being touched by God in special ways.
The Filipino team has made a commitment to YWAM Uganda of 5 years to implement Ang Tulay here. So, we continue to move forward eventually being trained to train others! I had no idea the process is so involved but I see the huge need for this ministry to be done well and effectively. I’m glad the Filipino team is taking us through step by step!
My life these last few months has been all about Ang Tulay and these children and youth. I have definitely felt a shifting within myself, an opening up of my heart to the young people of Uganda. I hope and pray I will get to continue walking with these children and see their lives changed!