Since arriving in Kabale I have been primarily involved in supporting the team building the new residential centre for the street children – ferrying water to the site to mix concrete, organising food supplies, planning and having various meetings. Important as these things are, they can separate one from the reason why we are here and the people we are here to serve. Today this changed and I was given a forceful reminder of the realities of the life a child in Uganda has to live.
The morning started well – as I arrived at the Amasiko Drop-in centre, I could hear peals of laughter as the children washed and played. Then morning porridge was served and it was a joy to watch the older children taking care of the younger ones. I had a very big smile on my face. After a short devotional session full of joyful singing and more laughter most of the children went to the local stadium for their daily sports training, whilst I travelled with Peace (Amasiko General Manager), Ellese and Kerri (volunteers from the UK) to the homes of John and David (not their real names), two of the most vulnerable children in the care of the Amasiko Street Children programme. What we encountered was appalling.
John (7 yo) and David (4 yo) live with their malnourished grandmother, Dorita, and their younger brother, James, who is only 2 years old. They live in a two-room mud hovel that cannot in all justice be called a house or a home. Both John and David have been infected with jiggers, a particularly nasty parasitic flea that lays eggs in the toes and other sensitive parts of the body. Dorita has been unable to care for the three brothers but was not able to send them anywhere else since they were abandoned by both parents several years ago.
Next door to this family lives Ellen (not her real name), 6, with her grandmother in a single mud room which is almost beyond description, and for which the grandmother has to pay 20,000 UGS (£5) rent each month – a lot of money for an elderly, malnourished and sick lady who is lucky to earn 1,000 or 2,000 shillings (25p or 50p) per day working in somebody else’s garden.
John and Ellen have been walking the mile or so to Amasiko each day for a few months now, and recently little David has joined them. We are delighted to say that we now have sponsors for John and David, meaning that they can receive proper care, a healthy diet and an education, whilst the burden of care placed on Dorita has been dramatically reduced. Unfortunately, Ellen does not yet have a sponsor and so she and her grandmother will continue to struggle to exist from day to day for a while longer.
The highs that we experienced first thing this morning are what keep us going here – the lows of seeing the appalling conditions that children are forced to live in reminds us how lucky we are and what a privilege it is to be able to help.