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DeKalb youth director headed to Uganda on mission trip

Published: Friday, July 19, 2013 5:31 a.m. CDT
(Provided photo)
Eric Gilbert, director of youth services at The Salvation Army DeKalb Community Corps., looks through a camcorder at children belonging to the Grace Children's Home in Uganda. Last year, Gilbert went on a mission trip to Uganda with Child Initiative International and plans to go again this August.

Eric Gilbert still finds himself drawn to help the people of Uganda despite the extreme conditions that exist there.

Gilbert, who is the director of youth services for The Salvation Army DeKalb Community Corps., has been to Uganda four times and plans to go again in August. When he realized the level of destruction in Uganda, he wanted to offer what help he could. 

“I heard the Gospel and the calling to go and help those in need,” Gilbert said. 

Gilbert will be traveling with Child Initiative International, a faith-based charity organization that focuses on helping children throughout the world. During the mission trip, Gilbert will teach children and help those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

He also will receive leadership training on how to manage mission trips. Phil Klikas, lead pastor of Child Initiative International, said he will teach Gilbert how to lead people and carry out the intensive job of mission work. 

One aspect of leading a mission trip is preparing people for the extreme situations they may encounter in a place like Uganda, Klikas said. Outside of jarring cultural differences, people will see others living in conditions where they are sometimes relying on faith for a clean glass of water, he said. 

“It’s like the commercials you see for some of the other organizations,” Klikas said. “The difference is you can’t change the channel because you’re there.”

Members of Child Initiative International will constantly check on people after they’ve seen something disturbing, he said. 

In one case, the organization was helping a child who had a hard time speaking and seemed depressed, he said. The doctors and teachers had a hard time figuring out what happened to her and some speculated she may have been tortured. Many of the children the organization helps are orphans, he said. 

“A lot of the time when the children come here, there is no accountability for how they got there,” Gilbert said. 

Klikas said while Child Initiative International seeks to help children, they are not looking to create a situation where people are reliant on them for help. Instead, they want to give people the capacity to help themselves and their community, he said. 

The organization managed to help one orphan receive a solid education through one of their programs. He earned a scholarship to attend a school system in Africa that is normally reserved for the wealthy. He plans to become a doctor and come back to his community to help them, Klikas said.

Gilbert expects the next trip to Uganda, which will last for more than a week, to be a good one with plenty of opportunities to learn and help. 

“I’m excited for the research we’re doing,” Gilbert said. “We’re helping the children.” 

Before the organization leaves for Uganda, they will hold a motorcycle ride on July 27 in Cherry Valley to fund the trip. The ride costs $25 for anybody who wants to travel from Cherry Valley to Sycamore on their motorcycle, Klikas said.

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