The husband and daughter of Erica Schmidt are travelling to Uganda this week in honour of her memory.
Henry and Amy Schmidt, as well as family friend Audrey Hovenkamt, leave for the three-week trip on Thursday, Jan. 29 to visit the Uganda Jesus Village Orphanage, which was an important part of Erica’s life.
Erica was reported missing in Abbotsford in October 2013, resulting in a massive three-month volunteer effort to find her. Her body was found in a dense brush area in the 2100 block of Whatcom Road on New Year’s Day 2014, and authorities confirmed she had taken her own life.
Her family – also including daughter Sophia, son Michael and three young grandchildren – openly spoke of Erica’s battle with depression.
Henry, a Bible school teacher, also detailed his wife’s devotion to those less fortunate, particularly at the orphanage in Uganda.
Henry and Erica travelled to many places over the years, and they first came across the Uganda Jesus Village Orphanage on one of their trips in about 2006.
They visited the site about five times, with Erica often packing suitcases filled with goods such as clothing, shoes, school supplies and personal hygiene items to deliver to the kids.
“(She was drawn to the children) because of what they had been through … Some of their parents had been killed in front of them,” Amy said.
The orphanage is currently home to about 60 kids from the ages of 12 to 23 who were rescued from a refugee camp in northern Uganda in 2006.
This was at a time when the warlord Joseph Kony was attacking the Acholi tribe in that area. Orphans who were in danger were brought to the capital city of Kampala in the southernmost part of Uganda.
Erica formed a bond with many of the kids.
“She absolutely loved them all, and they loved my mom,” Amy said.
She said staff and kids at the orphanage were “shocked and really sad” to hear of Erica’s death.
Amy, who has also previously visited the site about five times, said there are a couple of reasons for this trip.
“We want to let them know that we’re OK and how much my mom loved them.”
Also while they are there, friends from Edmonton will build a playground for the orphanage, and it will include a special bench with a plaque to commemorate Erica.
Amy said the family plans to continue its involvement. Some of the older kids are now leaving the facility and returning to their home villages, and she hopes to set up a mentoring program to assist them as they seek employment options, such as starting up their own businesses.
Amy said she will feel as if her mom is beside her during the trip.
“(The orphanage) was her heart, her dream.”
For more information, visit ugandajesusvillage.info.
Above photo: Amy Schmidt is shown with her parents Erica and Henry.