For the last three years, Alfie Jelks, 52, a Columbus, GA, native, has been building a hospital in Uganda through his nonprofit organization The Soul of My Footprint.
A Chaplain in the United States Army, Jelks traveled to Uganda for mission work every year since 2000, bringing various supplies, including medicine, to the people with every trip.
It was during a three-day medical mission trip, in 2017, where he brought a medical team to the country, that he decided that it was time to give the people a hospital.
“We’re about 70 percent done but still have a ways to go,” Jelks said. “The hospital just sits in the middle of nothing. It’s in the middle of a village. The nearest hospital is 50 miles away. They have a few clinics within 20 miles but the clinics have no medicine. All they can do is check their blood pressure and weight.”
With the help of his organization, the people of Uganda, and the country’s government, a 4,000 square feet building currently stands as what will be the future hospital.
“We’ve cleared off and leveled the land. The foundation is complete. The structure and walls are up. We put in windows and doors on the outside. The tiles, plumping, sinks, and all of the power for the hospital are in,” Jelks said.
He continued, “When I was building this hospital one of the biggest concerns I had was electricity. Uganda has supported us in a great way. The country of Uganda gave us the transformers. That’s over $40,000. They gave us the poles, the wires, and the manpower. They understand the significance of building a hospital in the middle of nowhere.”
To complete the project, Jelks and his organization will need another $70,000, of which $30,000 will go towards construction and landscaping, while $20,000 will be used for furniture, equipment, and the purchase of an ambulance or vehicle to transport patients.
Jelks has been a member of the Army for a total of nine years. He enlisted in the Reserves at the age of 41 and served six years. After being out for three years, he decided to join again at 50-years-old.
He made his first trip to Uganda Over 20-years-ago, after having a dream where he says the voice of God instructed him to go to Africa.
“About 20 years ago, God came to me in a dream and he simply said ‘Go to Africa and help my people.’ It wasn’t an audible voice, it was just a voice I heard,” Jelks said. “When I woke up, I called a friend of mine who was in ministry and I told him about this dream.
“He told me that he had three friends that he knew that were in Africa. They were in Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. So the first person he contacted was in Uganda.”
It was during that initial trip that bean bringing supplies to the people, almost anything he could get his hands on and fit into his luggage.
“I packed my bag with children’s shoes, children’s clothes, basic care items, food, and supplies. I went to Walmart and bought a whole bunch of over-the-counter medication. I was so committed to what I was doing that I didn’t pack any clothes. I managed to put in one pair of pants, a couple of shirts, a couple of pairs of underwear, socks, and I had the clothes on my back. That was all of the clothes that I had for thirty days,” Jelks said.
After that trip, he began to visit Uganda at least once a year, repeating the process of bringing as many supplies to the people he could. Eventually, other people started to contribute to Jelks’s efforts and make the trip with him.
Around the same time, he also started his business, Alfies African Treasures, a store in Columbus that sold African artifacts. While the store is still open and holds African artifacts, Jelks decided to focus more on selling apparel to National Pan-Hellenic Council (Black Greek) organizations.
After seeing his impact, Jelks started The Soul of My Footprint in 2015, allowing him to gain more support for his mission and bring more people with him to Uganda.
“The first time a person came to Uganda with me was five years ago. The following year it was five people. The next year it was 17 people, the following was 23, and last year was 35 people,” Jelks said.
“I started a campaign of taking nothing but shoes because I had to narrow down exactly what I wanted to do and have an impact. One of my partners is Walmart. They started donating shoes to me all year round. I took shoes, medical supplies, and food. We would purchase food over there. Last year, we bought 1,000 pounds of rice and 1,000 pounds of sugar. We feed 700-800 people.”
For people wanting to get involved with the mission of The Soul of My Footprint, Jelks says that they can either choose to donate their time by coming to Uganda with him or through providing monetary donations that help complete the hospital or supplies for the people.
For more information visit https://tsomf.org/get_involved and find out how to get involved.