Thursday, December 31, 2009

Upeme Christmas!

I have been out of the loop for awhile, and I am so sorry! I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and has fun plans for New Years! Some of you may have heard I (Katie) had to go to South Africa to have a surgery, so I have been away from the internet for awhile…but I am back, the surgery went very well. I was taken care of very well, and am now recovering! Here is what has been happening:
A very wonderful woman who lives not too far from us here at Upeme and who also happens to be a pediatric doctor, comes to the orphanage once a month to check up on all the kids. She brings medicines and whatever else we might need. Her name is Dr. Carolyn Bolton (she is also the one who arranged everything in South Africa for my surgery - really amazing!) Most the time she comes with some gifts as well, usually from her garden. This time she came out to have a little Christmas celebration with the kids. She brought some of her family and friends to join in the festivities. Together they all brought presents, snacks, and a lot of fun.
Here is a picture of Dr. Bolton with Gift, Pamela and Boyd (all grade 5)

When we first got here, there was a dog named Scooby. She was a good dog but unfortunately belonged to somebody else. Well, Scooby has recently gone back to live with her family, and we decided we needed a dog to help give us some security and to teach the kids a little responsibility. We found an animal shelter in Lusaka and went to visit. We had originally decided on one dog, but after visiting the animal shelter we couldn’t decide on one so we picked out two. A few days later after we had brought some kids into town with us for church, we surprised them by taking them to the animal shelter to see if the two we had picked out would be good around kids. They were very gentle little puppies and it seemed like a good match. So now we have two new members here at Upeme.
The bigger one is a boy and is named Spot, the smaller one is a girl and is named Tango. They are really good dogs!

And finally Christmas Day: We wanted all the kids who weren’t able to go be with any family during the Christmas holiday to have really special Christmas Day with us at Upeme. (Christmas was also my first day back with the kids after my surgery.) First thing in the morning we got out the Christmas tree and decorations, also made some of our own decorations and put them on the tree. Also, when Dr. Bolton was here she brought us some food to make a special Christmas day lunch. This consisted of very nice chicken, potatoes, rice, cabbage, and lots of treats. The kids were so excited they started singing and dancing when we told them what they were having for lunch. After lunch we opened presents (Curtis did all the Christmas shopping and did a wonderful job), which everybody enjoys doing, and watched a movie on the projector. After it got dark we all went out to the soccer field and lit off a few fireworks (they were just little, but the kids were impressed nonetheless).
Here is a picture of Grain putting his newly decorated ornament on the Christmas tree. And this is a picture of (left to right) Boyd, Nelson, Gift (twin to Grain) and Maybin opening their presents.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our Vacation

So many people have asked us what we are doing for Christmas, we are staying in Zambia...we made a commitment a long time ago that we would spend Christmas with whatever kids were at Upeme for the Holiday. So we decided to celebrate Christmas ourselves a little early - Curtis and I took 4 nights away to celebrate Christmas and refresh ourselves for the next year, it was wonderful and just what we needed :) We pampered ourselves, went swimming, exchanged Christmas presents, and opened some from our families. Thank you! {I bet some of you are wishing you could enjoy Christmas in swimsuits!}

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The easiest way to give $$$$ to Africa Hope!

GoodSearch: You Search...We Give!

What if Africa Hope earned a donation every time you searched the Internet? Or how about if a percentage of every purchase you made online went to support our cause? Well, now it can! is a new Yahoo-powered search engine that donates half its advertising revenue, about a penny per search, to the charities its users designate. Use it just as you would any search engine, get quality search results from Yahoo, and watch the donations add up! Curtis and I are doing our part - every time we are at a cybercafe (the only way we can use the Internet) we change the homepage to - just click on the banner at the top or bottom of this post and start searching...but that's not all... is a new online shopping mall which donates up to 30 percent of each purchase to your favorite cause! Hundreds of great stores including Amazon, Target, Gap, Best Buy, ebay, Macy's and Barnes & Noble have teamed up with GoodShop and every time you place an order, you'll be supporting your favorite cause. Plus, has lots of valuable coupons to save you money.

And if you download the GoodSearch – Africa Hope toolbar, our cause will earn money every time you shop and search online - even if you forget to go to GoodShop or GoodSearch first! Add the Africa Hope toolbar at

GoodSearch: You Search...We Give!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

3rd Term Celebration

The end of the third term also marks the end of the school year here in Zambia. The kids that have passed will begin the next grade beginning in January. This is also cause for a lot of celebration. Education is unimaginably important to this community as well as most of Africa, as it is not something guaranteed to their children. Large school fees, and lack of access to schools (not within walking distance) stop a lot of children from receiving the education we in America just expect. When a child is able to receive an education, it is something to be highly respected, and something to be celebrated. At the celebration for the end of the school year, parents and guardians came to support and congratulate their children for everything they have accomplished.

I enjoy photography (as I am sure you have guessed) but capturing candid people shots, is not my specialty - at this celebration though I got two really good shots of extremely proud parents and children!

Here is a picture with Wendy (1st grade) and her mother, Josephine, after it was announced that Wendy was #1 of all the first graders. Wendy is very smart, and this was expected, but none-the-less, she was very happy!

Here is a picture of Rebecca (1st grade) and her father, Julius, after it was announced that Rebecca was #2 out of all the first graders this term. Last term she was "most improved" so to get all the way to number 2 this term was a huge feat! He ran from the crowd of parents to pick his daughter up and give her a big hug. Rebecca stays at the centre as her father is unable to take care of her without a mother. Julius is the best father at coming to meetings and doing anything he can to help out at the centre. When he comes he has to ride is bike over 7km!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our Garden

Well, as the kids say: "It's God's turn to water the garden"...and that is SO true. Curtis and I have been talking about having our own garden since before we came. Finally, the time seemed right, so we planted green peppers, spinach, and broccoli. Of course all the kids wanted to help. Once we got this much in the ground we realized we had a lot more space for more; we are thinking strawberries for sure, and I don't know what else! Any suggestions? The first picture is me with Catherine, I tell Curtis that Catherine is my name-sake, and hopefully someday will be my prodigy . She loves shadowing anything and everything I do. She is very content to do anything, as long as she is with me...

We also planted some flowers by our door. Here is Curtis putting a small brick fence around our flowers, I am still worried the kids are going to trample them - but I hope not! They are a really beautiful flower that I had not seen before. The name sounds something like Salvia, but I don't remember exactly :)

And finally, this is Layson. He is always around to help however he is needed. Some of you my remember Layson stayed with us for the last holiday. This term Curtis and I have both seen Layson blossom so much - I think he has really connected with us and that has helped his self-confidence infinitely! At the end of 2nd term we weren't positive he would be able to pass 5th grade, but now at the end of 3rd term (closing party tomorrow) we just learned that he got 6th place in his class! Way to go Layson!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Aprons!

This may not sound like a big deal to any of you - but it sure is to these women! Uniforms are a sign of being employed, and having a good job. These women have been pushing for full uniforms for longer than I have been here. Talking with the women made me realize that they want to have a way to keep their clothes clean while working, and also look nice. Together we decided that rather than full uniforms now we would start with matching aprons. I bought the fabric, and one of the women (Tabitha) sewed them into these aprons and hair wraps, they are SO happy!
In this picture left to right standing - Catherine, Faides, Tabitha, Chuma, and Precious (coordinator), sitting in front Helen S. and Helen M. These women are the cooks and cleaners here - feeding 48 kids plus all the day students (200+) is a hard job - remember, they are doing the majority of the cooking over an open fire! I really enjoy these women - I feel so lucky that these are the women I get to work with.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Maybin Luya

For those of you lucky folk to have visited the Upeme Project, I am sure you have met Maybin, and like everyone else, been very impressed with him. Maybin has been living at Upeme since it started, he helped build the orphanage, and has done a lot of other jobs around the site during his breaks from school. You will be happy to hear, Maybin finished his grade 12 exams! Unfortunately, his school didn't do any sort of ceremony or anything. He is now in the process of deciding what he wants to do next - a huge decision for anyone. He cannot apply to colleges and universities until he gets his results back, and that could take until April - in the meantime he is looking for work! A big CONGRATULATIONS to Maybin!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


A few posts ago, you may remember us talking about the 7th graders finishing up their exams and now getting to go a for a long holiday while they wait for their results. Samuel was one of those 7th graders - but since the last break he has been asking us if he could make something out of beads - I keep saying yes, but not right now, and then before I knew it he had started exams. He was the last one to get picked up, and that was making him feel a little left out. So one night, we told the other kids to send him to our house, alone! He came and we made beads on a very cool Bead Loom that Sara and Sam had left for the kids. Samuel was so happy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A small treat!

At last the end of the hot season is over as the rains have started kicking in pretty regularly. This brings a lot of change to life here. Most importantly the temperature has cooled down considerably, which makes just about everything a little nicer. One of the changes that comes along with this change of seasons that is not so pleasant is the massive amount of insects that have started infiltrating our house at night. Some of these insects are pretty interesting with bright shiny colors, others are so big we could put a leash on them and keep them as pets. There is a certain type of insect here that just about everyone (not Katie and me so much) is excited about is an insect called Inswa. They are the size of a small cricket with wings and come in the thousands. At night they swarm and just about cover the house (because of the light on the outside) and everyone scrapes them off into buckets to save, and to eat. Apparently the fry it and it is suppose to taste like chicken, but they haven’t offered us any yet.

Here is a picture of Catherine (2nd grade) holding a bowl of her recent catch. She was so proud!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Zambian Summer!

While the United States is gearing up for winter, in Zambia we are in the middle of a HOT summer! At first I thought it was just me (being from Minnesota and all) that couldn't handle the heat, but it isn't. Everyone is doing whatever they can to stay cool....I thought this was pretty funny. This is Gadrose using a fan that Sara and Sam left from their visit. BUT - this isn't an ordinary fan, it sprays water. The kids love coming over and spraying themselves - it is so funny to watch! Gadrose has nicknamed this fan Mr. Manzi (which means Mr. Water).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tests, tests, and more tests!

This past week was a very important week for our seventh graders - they had tests! These tests will determine if they are able to go on to eighth grade or not, a very big step. These tests could be considered the equivalent to our ACTs...the results will determine what school will accept them.

We have 11 kids from our Centre, 16 total from our school who took the tests. Now that the tests are complete they have to wait to find out their results - I think waiting will be the worst part!
The ones who pass will leave our Centre and move on to Secondary school - we have two houses there - one for our boys and one for our girls.

Now that the kids have finished testing many of them have set off to be with their relatives for this extended break, it was hard to say goodbye this time, once they are at Secondary we only see them once a week, we are used to seeing them ALL THE TIME! The kids are sad too, but we are all excited for the big next step!

You get to enjoy a little but of my computer art - we didn't remember to get a group picture - sorry!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


From Curtis:

Thank you to everyone who donated the money to purchase some musical instruments for the kids. I have finally found all the instruments I wanted, and am now ready to start teaching some music classes. I was able to find: 1 large marimba, 1 small marimba, 1 large double sided drum, 1 finger piano, and of course 1 guitar.

Here is a picture of some of the girls learning how to use these instruments.

In the front in the pink shirt is Rebecca, holding the guitar is Agness M., playing the drum is Irene, and playing the big Marimba is Wendy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

October 24th marks Independence Day for Zambia (45 years). On Friday the school that is our closest neighbor invited us to have a joint celebration. Both our kids and their kids worked really hard to put together some performances which included songs, dances, poems, and skits. It was a great day of celebration, and all the kids had a lot of fun.

Above: a mix of kids from our school as well as the Centre. They are dancing a Traditional Dance.

This was one of the skits (or sketches as they call it) about when the Europeans came to Zambia to take slaves. With his back to you (no shirt) was one of the day students acting as a Chief. Talking to him in the white shirt is Jospeh, next to him in the blue shirt is Samuel, next to him in the pink shirt is Longo - a day student, next to her in the red shirt Shelly, next to her in the peach shirt is Skalela - a day student, behind her in the red is Pamela.

This was one of the last was called "Talking Viruses". This was about HIV/AIDS. left to right - Kelvin, Winford, Frank. I maintain they just did this skit so they could run around in their underwear! They painted their bodies with ash to look like viruses. Pretty creative!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Tribute to my Grandma

On Sunday morning my Dad called me to tell me my Grandma (my Mom’s Mom) had died. My Grandma was 82 and healthy as can be. She died of an apparent heart attack, but seemed to die very peacefully.

I wasn’t able to go back to Minnesota for the funeral, and didn’t write anything for her funeral, so I thought I would make a little eulogy here instead.

Well, let me start with the picture. This is the last picture I took with Grandma before I came here. She and the rest of my family came to a “sending service” our church did for us on our last Sunday in Minnesota (end of March). After church (an evening service) we all went for ice cream. Left to right: Curtis, me, my Grandma, and my Uncle Rob.

My little sister Becky spoke at the funeral, and I am copying part of what she said as a starting point: My other sister, Katie, is living in Africa right now. After studying abroad in Kenya, she returned home, got married and then moved to Zambia. She and her husband Curtis work with the nonprofit Africa Hope to run an orphanage. Grandma couldn’t have been more proud of Katie and Curtis.

Grandma spent her whole life in the Lutheran church, and mission work was important to her. She watched the newspaper for articles about Africa, and worked with librarians to read Katie and Curtis’s online blog.

Before moving to Zambia, Katie had a nanny position in the Twin Cities. Katie loved bringing the baby over to spend time with Grandma. Grandma adored the baby, and loved giving Katie advice, and telling stories about her own kids at that age. Once again, the feeling was mutual. When Katie left for Zambia, she said one of the things she was going to miss most were her weekly visits with Grandma.”

I loved my almost weekly visits with my Grandma. Some weeks I would take the baby over, and more often I would go over to her house on one of my days off. I would take my Grandma out for lunch, let her cook for me, or take her back to my house and cook for her. We had a lot of fun! As soon as I got the Blog all set up, I brought our laptop over to her house to show her what the Blog looked like, and how to find it. She promised she would read it, and I know she did. She even tried to post a comment once, but got stuck. Even though she wasn't as technologically savy as most of her grandkids, she tried to stay connected in a way that was accessible to us. She did not like using computers or the internet, but she was willing to try so she could read about our life here.

My other grandparents all died when I was young or before I was born. My Grandma really stepped up to her role as our (my sisters and my) only Grandparent. My Grandma always made us feel loved and treasured. I will miss her greatly!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sara and Sam's Visit!

Sara (Curtis' cousin) and her husband Sam came to visit us. We had so much fun!
They brought a TON of donations with them - a HUGE THANK YOU to all the people who donated school supplies and other things - everyone really appreciates it! Sara did a lot of fund-raising before they came - everyone was very happy with the results - so thank you!

These first two pictures are all the donations Sara and Sam brought: pens, pencils, candy, markers, crayons, soccer balls, footballs, hacky sacks and a lot more. Next is Sara and Sam distributing a bag to each of the kids at the school - there are over 200 kids and all got a bag of educational goodies (and a few pieces of candy!)

Sara is also a very good dancer, so she taught the kids some American style dancing - they loved it! For those of us with two left feet we cheered from the benches and took pictures :)

Sara and Sam on the river Safari with an elephant posing behind them - we were so close to them.

And of course, no trip to Zambia would be complete without seeing Victoria Falls! This was also a first for Curtis and I, and it really was amazing! We saw the falls (of course) and went on a Safari (in Botswana) and that was amazing! The safari was a full day thing, started with a 3 hour river safari and then a 3 hour game drive, with a buffet lunch in between. We also went to a drumming circle and learned to play Djembe drums.

Sara and Sam - THANK YOU for an amazing trip - we had a blast with you!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thank you!

A huge thank you to my Mom, as well as the wonderful people of Hope Lutheran in Sunburg, MN...they mailed us t-shirts from their Vacation Bible School. We made the t-shirts a prize for the kids - each term we have them do memory verses, any of the kids that do more than 10 verses in a term (3 months) get a prize. During second term between the 48 kids that live at the Centre, they have 718 memory verses - wow! The winner of the whole contest had 50! The kids got to choose their prize - some picked t-shirts (they went the fastest) others Chitangas (traditional cloth for skirts), some New Testament Bibles, and much more!

In the picture left to right: Kelvin, Joseph, Frank, Floyd, Samuel

Sunday, September 27, 2009


We never have a dull moment! Someone asked me what we do when our kids get in trouble - what is a punishment...well, usually we have them water the garden. The other day, however, one of the older boys pushed my buttons too many times. We have field that a few years ago they grew maize in, and it was never cleaned well. It is right in the middle of the property and it doesn't look nice. I had one of the boys clean it up (he didn't do that good of a job, but enough that I was satisfied with his punishment). The other boys thought this was a great opportunity to clear just a little more and make a little stunt jump! These boys are talented! The would run, jump off the cement blocks and over the stick and do a flip! In the first picture Nelson and Precious are holding the stick and Simon is flipping. Second picture Nelson and Simon are holding the stick and Peter is jumping. Last is a video, it is only 12 seconds, and very worth your while - enjoy! Peter jumps first, and the Frank second....they are jumping over Simon :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A First!

We had a first this week...if you remember, awhile back we had a post about killing snakes. I said the reason we do this is because snakes are dangerous here, and we don't want them around the kids...guess where this is going!
Yes, one of our boys got a little too close to a snake, and not a dead one! He didn't get bit, but rather the snake spit venom and it landed in his eye (don't ask me how). So Curtis and I rushed him to the clinic, they washed his eye out and but some medicine the next morning he was fine, but just as a precaution we bought a special eye drop for him, he is completely fine now - but what a scare!

Pretty sure all the kids think he is a hero now!
Dennis, third grade (he is so cute, and was so brave!)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Youth Leadership Council

From Curtis:

To help the children here at Upeme gain leadership skills, and to give them an opportunity to impact their surrounding community in a positive way, I have put together what we are calling the Youth Leadership Council.

I have chosen one boy and one girl from grades 5, 6, and 7 to be a part of this Youth Leadership Council. I had them write a letter to convince me they are the best leader, and the most convincing letters were chosen. The goal will be to have them come up with their own ideas for a project to carry out that will help make the community and the world a better place.

We had our first meeting yesterday and they “leaders” chosen were very excited about having this opportunity. Here is a picture of them after we finished the meeting. From left to right: Memory (7th grade), Peter (6th grade), Nelson (5th grade), Simon (7th grade), Harriet (5th grade), Abigail (6th grade), and that’s me in the back.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just goofing off!

With the electricity going out regularly here, we have learned how to improvise with the kids. Here are some pictures with the bigger kids (7th grade) goofing around with the camera during a night we were waiting for the lights to come back on. They love taking pictures...

In this picture: on the floor are Joseph and Margaret, standing: Memory, Kelvin, Gibson, Frank.

Here are Joseph and Gibson (keep in mind the power was out :) )

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Welcome back!

A group photo: hugging CUrtis is Precious, in the teal shirt is Ng'andu (they are sisters) and in the red shirt Bertha (also with extensions)

The kids are back from the break and everyone is gearing up for this term! So many of the girls came back with their hair done very nicely (extensions), and of course, wanted me to take pictures of them. They are all smiles and hugs - even though I know it will be exhausting with all the kids and my break is officially over, I am SO glad to have all the buzz and chatter and joy that these kids are some of the pictures.

this is Wendy, with her hair like this she reminds me of a cute little Cabbage-Patch doll.

Irene is in the back with the white shirt, in front of her is Rebecca, and next to Irene in the blue shirt is Natasha (she is a day student)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Creative stuff!

Wrapping up the fun from our break: Namakau (in the brown skirt)and Mary spending some time beading. It was really fun. I am planning to start and arts & crafts club next term so I am gathering supplies including beads. The girls saw the beads and of course wanted to each make something – so I let them. They had so much fun, and were so cute!

Then, as we were finishing Nelson came in to give us a present: a clay elephant he made! Nelson is amazingly crafty! In the past he has made clay trucks, melted metal scraps he finds and makes other stuff as well. I think he was so pleased that we like his elephant that we might have a whole zoo coming; he has since brought us a giraffe and horse. I don’t have pictures of them yet, but we have them all saved and proudly displayed. When he saw the girls beading he joined in also.