All issues relating to the ministry of mercy are difficult and require the wisdom of Solomon. In other areas on this site there is information on helping with used clothes and other physical gifts, avoiding dependency, and the effect of money in the third world. I urge you to consider all these comments. Short-term missionaries, taking a lot of things and money and just dropping them in the hands of poor people and then leaving can be a very bad thing and can especially do damage to permanent missionary work in that same area.
Having said that, let me also deal with the issue of need. There are a number of well-known organizations that do a great job feeding hungry children in the third world and I see no reason to duplicate or compete with them. In fact, I have not personally seen much starvation in Uganda. Malnutrition (improper diet) for sure, but no one dying due to lack of food. On the other hand, I see death and sickness ever trip from preventable diseases, lack of sanitation, and poor medical care. So I try to focus help in these areas whenever possible.
Non-Monetary Benevolent Gifts
Many of the necessities of life are readily available in Uganda. The lack of funds makes these items difficult to obtain. Generally heavy and bulky items are not good candidates for benevolent gifts but funds can be carried to Uganda and such items purchased there. This saves valuable space in your luggage for smaller items that will benefit more Ugandans. The following list contains suggestions giving some idea of what gift items to take. It is also helpful space and packing wise to take items from boxes that are easily crushed in transit (band-aids for example) and repackage them in small Ziploc® bags. How to send a package to Uganda provides information for those who wish to ship items to Uganda via the mails. You can also use the familiar package services but they are not cheap. Also, when a package shows up at Ugandan Customs filled with a significant quantity of brand new items, import duties can equal or exceed the value of the items or even taken by corrupt custom official who turn around and sell them.
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- Health and Hygiene (generic brands with at least 6 months before expiration date)
- triple antibiotic ointment (Neomy Sulf/Bacitra/Polymyxin B) band-aids, rolled gauze and surgical tape, 4x4 gauze pads, burn cream, anti-bacterial soap, hydrogen peroxide (I would take the band-aids, gauze, and 4x4 pads out of their boxes and put them in Ziplock® bags)
- aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen
- children's chewable acetaminophen and ibuprofen
- acetaminophen drops for babies - do not distribute indiscriminately
- adult multivitamins and prenatal vitamins (with folic acid & iron)
- children's chewable multivitamins (without iron)
- Epsom Salt (mangesium sulfate, MgSO4 7H20) used as a soaking agent for sprains, bruises and minor cuts, and as a saline laxative
- toothpaste and toothbrushes are now readily available so just take some extra funds and buy these there to save baggage weight
- Eye Glasses
- reading glasses with magnification from +1.00 to +3.50
- old prescription glasses can also be used (passed around until someone is found they help) but in either case, place them in individual snack type Ziploc® bags
- School & Educational Supplies for Children
- pens, colored pencils, crayons, construction paper, erasers, small pencil sharpeners, colored markers, scissors for cutting paper, coloring books (be sensitive to the picture to be colored, good reading materials (children, youth, adults)
- small stuffed animals, black dolls, balloons, soccer balls (best to take deflated and take a few hand pumps too), bubbles are fun, but packing liquids can be problematic and just one spill and all the fun is over (avoid items associated with violence)
- Sewing Items
- buttons, pins, needles, simple patterns, sewing scissors, beads, spools of thread, wide elastic
- Agricultural Items (note: hybrid seed do not produce reusable seed)
- seeds - tomato, pumpkin, corn, beans, carrots
- Household Items
- towels, bath clothes, twin bed sheets, pillow cases, light blankets, mosquito nets
Used Clothing How to send a package to Uganda
Used clothing for adults is readily available in Uganda. Therefore, I recommend using the valuable space and weight we are allowed to provide clothing for children. Shorts, shirts, underwear, and dresses can easily be placed with children who really need them, especially orphans. Good used shoes are also useful items.
Good Samaritan orphans on Easter Sunday, 2003,
proudly wearing clothes sent by a church in Florida.
Photo by Bob Chedester with World Harvest Mission
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