Showing Mercy

GWU Alumna Serves Orphans, Communities in Uganda, Africa

“To say I was disturbed would have been a tremendous understatement. I was completely crushed. These children hadn’t eaten in over nine days.” – Sarah Hales, Founder of Ekissa

Although she had been warned about the devastating conditions of the African orphanage she was about to visit, Gardner-Webb alumna Sarah Hales (’99) was stunned by what she witnessed during a visit to Uganda in 2009.

“Despite the heat of Uganda, [the orphanage] was cold, eerie and deathly quiet,” she described. “There were half-dressed, distended bellies laying on springs of broken bunk beds with emaciated, gaunt young faces, eyes void of any signs of life, foreheads hot to the touch due to the lethal bite of a mosquito.”

The visitors stocked the orphanage with food and medical supplies—providing some short-term relief from the disturbing reality. But when Hales returned to her home in Clemmons, N.C., she felt hopeless—unsure of what her next steps would be. She soon realized the trip had provided the inspiration she needed to embark on a brand new calling that would make a difference for dozens of Ugandan orphans.

Hales had intentionally visited Uganda with plans to learn about ways to become involved in orphan care ministries. She knew it would not be an easy task, as she had previously been exposed to harsh environments through her experience as a social worker and during trips to China to adopt her two youngest daughters. Yet, Hales admits that she was unprepared for the disturbing conditions she would witness in Bweya Village. “I returned home with a deep sense of conviction and a weighty question God spoke into my heart: ‘Your eyes have now seen—so what will your response be?’” Hales recalled.

She answered that weighty question when she founded “ekissa” ministry—based on a Ugandan word meaning “mercy.” The organization became a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit in 2009 to serve children in Bweya Village. Through ekissa, Hales and other volunteers have taken more than 20 trips to Uganda, resulting in work with locals to shut down the orphanage and establish educational opportunities for area children and adults.

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