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Help save Edward’s vision!

October 22, 2013 in Agriculture, Projects, Roots International by Roots International

Edward with his wife Katty and oldest daughter, Cinderella

Two years ago Edward Opio, his wife Katty, and their seven children relocated from their home of Lira, Uganda to Yei, South Sudan. Edward had previously worked in South Sudan, as a carpenter, building most of the nation’s first churches with Samaritan’s Purse.  Eventually he decided to leave his home and return (this time with the entire family) to help grow the Chrisco Church of Yei as well as the world’s newest nation.  Edward also managed to bring along two oxen which he had already trained for plowing farmland.

Edward Opio donated the bulls to the church with a vision of providing a means for the church to support itself and to provide work for its youth members.  However, due to pressing financial needs of maintaining the church and school, it was decided to sell the oxen.  Unfortunately there is no local market for trained oxen, so they would be slaughtered for meat as ordinary cattle.  See the bulls in action here.

When Edward explained the situation to us, he was very disappointed that the bulls would be lost without fulfilling their potential and his vision.  Rather than allow the oxen to be sold as meat, we would like to instead sell them piece by piece (not literally) to anyone with a heart of developing agriculture in South Sudan.  Your support will allow both the church to meet its needs and allow the bulls to feed a hundredfold over the course of their career with Roots International!


Help reach our goal of: $1,300 by donating via the paypal button on the homepage or by mailing a check to Roots addressed to:

Roots International c/o Alan Weissman
508 SW 9th Street
Cape Coral, FL 33991

Tick learns a lesson 4.22.13

April 22, 2013 in Scott Montgomery by Roots International

Anyone who is friends with me on facebook has probably seen a picture of my three year old neighbor named Tick. And as some of you know when I first met Tick he would stand shyly behind the gate to their plot and watch me. As small as Tick is he is a bit hard to miss due to having a high energy level, curiosity of a cat, and a big (by proportion) necklace on at all times.

Tick and I think alike, which is helpful since until a week ago we didn’t share a single word in common. I am slowly learning some Arabic, but Tick has only been learning a local language called Dinka. About a week ago he finally began calling me kawarga (white man in Arabic) due to overhearing everyone else calling me that. I always greet Tick and if I have some spare minutes than we play cars, listen to music, or play with my compass.

On Saturday there were many kids outside and one of them had a cheap, plastic ball so I started kicking it around with them. Naturally it went in the puddle of water a few times and by the fourth time Tick decided instead of retrieving the ball he would just play with it in the water instead. After kicking the ball, running in and out of the puddle, and trying to put his sandals back on while they floated around on top of the water, he was pretty well soaked. After his mom punished him for getting his new clothes wet (I hadn’t see his outfit before); I left also to do something else to do to stay out of trouble.

This morning it began pouring rain at about 5 AM and didn’t let up until around noon. I walked to breakfast nearby and I saw a small thing wrapped in a towel in the middle of the path ahead. Then the towel shifted and I could tell by the shorts it was Tick. When I got over to him he had the most miserable look on his face. I could tell by the South Sudan pound rolled up in his hand (worth about .25 USD) that his mom sent him to the store, but he was stranded because the water had flooded a ditch blocking the path. Once I lifted him across I could tell he didn’t like the water anymore. Between being rained on all morning and also the cold weather (I don’t think it was more than 65 degrees) he had learned a lesson.

Flooded Path

We listened to Peter Tosh’s track “Pick myself up” (from the Bush Doctor CD) on my Iphone on the way to the store and back (since we wouldn’t be able to cross without me). That only cheered him up a little bit before we parted ways as I turned back to go to breakfast.

4/22/13 Juba, South Sudan

Sabbath at the Abayudaya Temple, Mbale 2.1.13

April 6, 2013 in Scott Montgomery by Roots International

February 1, 2013

Sabbath at the Abayudaya Temple, Mbale 2.1.13

Rabbi Greshom and others at the Abayudaya Temple prior to Shabat service.

After working since 5:00 AM I forced myself to go to service at the Abayudaya temple outside of Mbale, Uganda.  At the last minute I invited two good friends who are volunteering in Mbale from Europe.  Luckily they joined me in town and we started the slow drive up to the temple for their first Shabbat service.  I briefly explained the service on the way there.  I would have gone into more detail had I remembered that there is separate seating for males and females, which meant I would not be able to help them follow along.  Granted I rarely bother to try to follow along myself; instead I simply sing the songs which I know and watch the children sing the ones I do not.

Before the sun sets the service begins with music (guitar and drums) and the songs are a mixture of Luganda and Hebrew.  I wondered how my friends would enjoy it but while I danced around the bema with the children I saw they seemed to be enjoying it.

Halfway through the service an older white man (muzungu muze) entered the synagogue and was given a seat.  He was quite disruptive and interrupted part of the service to address everyone.  I soon realized he was autistic and realized he wasn’t exactly ruining the service.  He began leading the songs and adding dance to the service and eventually yielded to Rabbi’s words to continue the songs at the Kiddish. (the social gathering after service)

After talking with the rabbi I learned that the man’s name was Benjamin and he is Canadian by nationality and had recently travelled from South Africa.  He arrived at the temple a day prior travelling alone and with little to no money.  He learned prior to Shabbat the plane ticket he had for travelling to Nairobi was for last week and had past.  Therefore there was a lot of confusion on what would be done in the coming days for him.  There is a guest house at the temple, but after only one day he was already starting to test other people’s patience.

Before and during the Kiddish, Benjamin told lengthy and detailed stories of his travels to temples around the world and of people he had met along the way.  It was interesting to observe everyone’s patience and politeness shown to him.  To his benefit, due to the culture of respect to elders in Africa he was allowed to speak and speak without any ill feelings shown toward him.  For the most part, here there is no awareness of mental handicaps or ailments, but instead people are just explained as ‘mad’.  It’s possible he can have an impact on the average person’s attitude towards others whose minds operate differently.  He certainly showed his value and contributions.  In the end it was a blessing to have his love and enthusiasm, which was much more important than his social differences.

Before Benjamin was finished telling stories and singing, I said goodbye to Rabbi Graehom, mama Zipora, and their daughter Neva.  Within another week I would be travelling to South Sudan and may not be back for some months’ time.  My friends enjoyed the service so much and were very interested in learning more.  I felt proud hearing that from those friends who, as do I, have low expectations and have found little value in most religious services.

On Sunday after following up, I learned that Benjamin left as quickly as he had arrived and it was still unclear how where he had come from or where he was headed.  If an autistic man can travel through Uganda alone without much trouble, let’s trust he will be okay at his next destination.

Shabat Shalom,

Scott Montgomery

Bon Voyage 9.25.12 Part 2

March 30, 2013 in Roots International, Scott Montgomery by Roots International

Continued from

I began to leave Entebbe airport and as I was ten steps from the door, I was asked, “What are in these bags?”  I explained to the customs staff that they were medical supplies for an NGO I work for and was told that the items must be inspected first.  I then waited for about one and a half hours for a representative from the National Drug Authority of Uganda (NDA) to arrive for the inspection.  As I mostly deal with accounting matters, I was unaware of any regulations for bringing items into the country which I began explaining to the NDA staff.  Upon inspection many of the supplies had sterility issues such as being past the expiration and/or opened.  The NDA staff was very helpful explaining which items would not be allowed to enter and the process to clear the other items for entrance.  The customs staff did not share the same professionalism and started getting hostile, demanding for my passport, making accusations, etc.

Fortunately I was able to keep the situation from escalating, ensure the items we kept safe, get a receipt, and not fall asleep (by now I had been awake over two days straight!)  Unfortunately a large box of water filters which I purchased in the US and brought with me was disturbed by the other NGO’s items and also had to stay at the airport.  During my fourth hour in Uganda I finally reconvened with my travel mate and finally met our driver, Wandera.

Wandera was very friendly and after watching many near misses with other vehicles, people, bodas (motorbikes), and animals I began to realize that the driving style is much more aggressive in Uganda and he was in fact a very good driver.  I don’t sleep well in cars either so instead I watched the banana trees, sugarcane, corn, children playing, the roadside shops all zoom by through the window.  It got dark by the time we reached Jinja which is about halfway to Mbale.  After taking some passion juice and vegetable samosa we continued to Mbale.

During the rest of the drive it rained, but I was surprised to see many people walking, riding bicycles, or taking boda in some areas where you could not see any towns or even lights for miles.  Also one of the first noticeable differences in Africa is children travelling by themselves or with other children is very normal.  This was true even at night on the side of a dangerous road during the rain.

We finally reached Mbale and upon arriving at the guest house quickly met all of the Uganda team (mostly again).  I found my room and figured out how to arrange the mosquito net.   I still couldn’t sleep for about an hour, but after turning on some music I finally fell asleep ending my 60 hour journey.  Tomorrow morning another visiting group planned to tour a program near the top of a nearby mountain called Wanale.  It sounded like a nice first day but who knows if I would wake up tomorrow.

Scott Montgomery

Bon Voyage 9.25.2012 Part 1

March 13, 2013 in Roots International, Scott Montgomery by Roots International

‘Scott are you blogging?’  -Well no not really at the moment.  ’Start NOW.’

Point taken, brother.  Maybe I should start from the beginning?

September 25-28 2012

Ararat, VA

I woke up that morning in my childhood home and after saying goodbyes to my grandparents, I departed with my mom and dad to see my sister in Radford, Virginia.  I was surprised by my mom and sister with a necklace she picked out from a good friend which is made of very old and tiny rocks.  The rocks supposedly have protective qualities which Scott Eutsler personally can vouch for!  After eating at a Mexican restaurant I said goodbye to my younger sister and traveled to Roanoke to begin moving out of my apartment.

Roanoke, Virginia

After about six hours of hard work and giving away lots of things I was mostly moved out.  My mom cleaned once I did all that I could do, and we hoped to get much of the security deposit back.  By 11 PM I finally reached Martin’s Downtown in Roanoke for my going away get-together.  Since I was so busy moving out I was a bit late and even missed seeing a few people!   After talking with friends and enjoying some music, I then headed to my employer’s office to move out of my cubicle.

Once I had nearly removed all remnants of myself from my desk, at about 2 AM I began packing my bags for Africa.  I was not at all prepared to find out that my bags were all overweight by about ten pounds each!  After removing a few obvious things I then (due to being tired) found myself irrationally shifting things from one bag to another.  The next two hours were painful as I was forced to choose between taking more of less water filters, more or less personal items, more or less books for medical personnel, etc.

By 4:30 the Kissito HR Manager had arrived (ever so kind of her) to bring me to the Roanoke airport.  I then met my new friend Maegan who was also travelling with the company to Uganda.  We were able to keep each other company in between the flights which we enjoyed the company our Ethiopian and Ugandan row mates.  I was concerned about the strict rules for carry-on luggage, but I was lucky to have one of my carry-on bags checked for free before the Ethiopian Airlines flight.

Dulles Airport, Washington, DC

After browsing the airport shops we then boarded the long flight to Ethiopia.  Thankfully the seat beside me was empty but soon it was being slept in by the Ethiopian man in the same row for the next eight hours.  I was unable to sleep anyway for the entire twelve hours as my mind was too awake from the curiosity of what I would find on the other side.   As we approached Addis Ababa, Ethiopia I watched green fields below, mountains, and many buildings under construction on the edge of the city.  When I stepped off the plane it was about 60 degrees Fahrenheit which was a little confusing.  After some math I determined it was about 7AM local time and since Addis is indeed in the mountains that it most likely was Africa after all.

Bole Airport, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

When we landed I couldn’t find any food, but luckily Maegan had a pack of cashews which she was able to spare for me.  Since there was no salad or vegetables on the flight I had fasted and was pretty hungry by then.  We continued waiting for our next flight to Uganda and passed time by observing our Ethiopian, Sudanese, and Ugandan brothers and sisters pass through the airport.  I finally boarded the flight to Entebbe, Uganda after about 48 hours into my ‘day’.  While in route to Uganda I might have slept thirty minutes until the sun finally heated the plane so much that it was impossible.  Soon we arrived in Uganda and made it through the visa queue and were on our way.  Or were we?

Customs Agent, “What’s in these boxes?”

Entebbe, Uganda

To be continued…


Heading to South Sudan

January 28, 2013 in Scott Montgomery, Water by Roots International

In two weeks I will be in South Sudan for a month to set up a new office and accounting systems with my current employer, Kissito Healthcare International. This time of year is the middle of fhe dry season which began a month ago. During dry season the roads will soon become passable throughout South Sudan allowing aid organizations to mobilize humanitarian relief. During the rainy season relief efforts can be reduced to support by air only due to flooding.  Access to clean water will be a huge problem especially in refugee camps. The filters I have brought from the US can produce up to 5,000 liters per day if I can fund and complete the other necessary equipment.

Scott 1.27.13

Ugandan Jewelry at Ripple Roanoke

January 27, 2013 in Roots International by Roots International

Stop by Ripple Roanoke in downtown Roanoke and you will find these beautiful necklaces for sale as well as pictures from my first three months in Uganda such as this one:  Thanks!

Whose Bananas?

January 27, 2013 in Agriculture, Scott Montgomery by Roots International

Saturday I bought a small bunch of bananas outside the supermarket to give to a street kid, since I didn’t want to give money.  I had some left that I laid on the table in the office.  Later in the day office and a coworker asked who’s they were, so i said take some.  I actually avoided the orignal question because I wasn’t really sure whose they were anymore.

Scott Montgomery


Fighting world hunger with hunger at home

September 4, 2012 in Scott Montgomery, Water by Roots International

A few weeks ago on International Water Day I tried to celebrate with a full fast.  It was much tougher here in the 100°F+ South Sudan heat, and I nearly passed out at while walking through the UNICEF compound.  Just before sundown I surrendered, because the 16 hours without food or water was as bad as 30 hours from my previous fast, back home in the US.

I realized the news article on that fast from the fall in 2011 had disappeared, but luckily I found it on an internet archive site.  So here it is below:  They never followed up the article, but I went the ten full days with water after day 1 and vitamin after day 5.

Scott Montgomery

Fighting world hunger with hunger at home

A Roanoke County accountant is calling attention to the issue by not eating.

By Beth Macy

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stephanie Klein-Davis | The Roanoke Times

Scott Montgomery, 23, started fasting for 10 days a week ago at sundown during the Jewish day Yom Kippur.

More information:

It began at sundown last Friday during the Yom Kippur fast.

Dreadlocked accountant Scott Montgomery was adhering to the Jewish tenet to “afflict your soul” by abstaining from food or drink for 24 hours.

He was working at home Saturday and trying to ignore his growling stomach when the idea occurred to him in a state of “enhanced thinking,” as he recalled.

He’d been searching for a way to support his employer’s in-house campaign to fight malnutrition in Uganda and Ethiopia. His colleagues at Kissito Healthcare International, based in Roanoke County, were already competing with one another, holding yard sales and other fundraisers to see who could raise the most money to purchase Plumpy’nut, a peanut butterlike protein used to combat starvation in the Third World.

Montgomery, 23, would fight hunger with hunger. His own.

He would go on a 10-day hunger strike, with only drinking water to sustain him.

He appealed to 500-plus friends on Facebook that they could save a life if they donated $5 for each day of his strike.

As one contributor wrote on his wall: “We have made a small donation. Now stop starving before you disappear, Scott.”

The Patrick County native earnestly replied: “I can stop starving anytime; we need to help those who cannot without help!”

Program is a partnership

The reaction was mixed at the headquarters of Kissito, a nonprofit with enterprises that range from nine nursing homes in Virginia, Texas and Arizona to seven hospitals in Ethiopia and Uganda.

(Kissito’s international facilities are run in collaboration with governments and nongovernmental organizations.)

Elizabeth Parsons, who directs the international operation, was appreciative but a little alarmed by Montgomery’s gesture. “It’s not like he’s got a lot of extra meat on his bones now,” she said. At 5 feet 11 inches, Montgomery weighed 145 pounds at the start of Yom Kippur but was down to 136 halfway through the strike.

“Seriously,” Parsons added, raising an eyebrow toward him. “If you get dizzy, you have to stop.”

Keisha Graziadei-Shup, the company’s integrated media manager, thought Montgomery’s fundraising stunt was cool and complemented the company’s nontraditional business approach. “I wouldn’t be able to function myself, but props to you,” she told him.

Four days into the strike, Montgomery reported that his energy was low and his emotions dull. “Starving children don’t show emotion, and I’m kind of like that now,” he said Tuesday. “Somebody made a joke yesterday, and I didn’t laugh at all.”

The hunger had lifted, but he was exhausted and sleeping 10 hours a night. He struggled to get out of bed in the morning.

The number of push-ups he was able to muster: one. “Which is not that many fewer than I can normally do,” he said, cracking a smile and, quite possibly after all, a joke.

He hadn’t told his mother yet because he knew she’d worry. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease his sophomore year at Longwood University, he was already following a vegan diet, eating mainly fruits and vegetables.

He typically eats salad at every meal.

By Wednesday, a friend had persuaded him to take a multivitamin, and he was not ruling out the possibility of drinking fruit juice toward the end of the ordeal.

Montgomery handles accounting for the company’s international operations. It was he who recorded that four women delivered babies via cesarean section in Kissito’s Ugandan facilities one recent day. Before the maternal center opened in March, “That could have been eight deaths instead of four births,” he said.

Kissito’s malnutrition program is an extension of hospital operations in Ethiopia and Uganda, as well as a partnership with a Ugandan nongovernmental organization called Serving His Children, run by Bedford County native Renee Bach. “You look at the press, and sometimes the numbers [of people starving] are so big, people go brain dead,” said Kissito CEO Tom Clarke.

“A lot of people think it’s only happening in Dadaab, a refugee camp in northern Kenya. But the food shortage is all over the Horn of Africa. I was in a town last week where the mayor told me they’d buried 18 children, dead of starvation, in the past 15 days.”

Kissito’s facilities alone have counted nine children this year who were too sick to be rehabilitated. By the time the starving reach the hospitals – Clarke said some walk from Kenya to reach his facilities – they are often so sick they can’t eat.

He spoke from his cellphone in London’s Heathrow airport, en route to Roanoke from Uganda, where he and a Boston University researcher had spent the past two weeks fine-tuning a partnership between BU medical residents and Kissito. Clarke said a partnership with Harvard University’s Global Hunger Initiative is also in the works.

Clarke knew Montgomery was special when he hired him, he said, though his dreadlocks did initially give Clarke pause.

“While some people may say he’s just doing accounting work, he understands his role is critical in saving lives,” Clarke said.

Employees pitch in

On Thursday, Montgomery’s boss sent him on an errand that was not unlike sending an alcoholic into a bar.

Reached on his cellphone, he was standing in a Western Union line to transfer money to Kissito’s international accounts — inside a nearby Kroger. He was also going to buy pomegranate juice for possible use later in the strike but hoped he’d be able meet the 10-day mark on water and vitamins alone. (As of Friday, the juice was still untouched in his fridge. He was down to 134 pounds.)

Companywide, employees had pitched in nearly $7,000 toward the Plumpy’nut campaign. Montgomery’s portion was $576, counting the $150 he would have spent on food, which he also planned to donate. (By his count, one $58 case of Plumpy’nut can save one life.)

During a Friday staff meeting, a manager had passed around a bag of Hershey’s Kisses, apologizing profusely when he realized the candy might be tempting Montgomery. It wasn’t.

Another concerned co-worker offered to buy out his hunger strike early, but Montgomery planned to negotiate a buyout donation at the 10-day mark instead. After all, at 74, Mahatma Gandhi famously survived 21 days of total starvation, and some strikers have fasted as long as 40 days.

Reared in rural Ararat, Montgomery has never traveled internationally and said this was his first act of social protest.

Asked what he planned to eat first after the strike, he smiled shyly and brushed his dreadlocks back from his face.

“A salad, probably,” he said.


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