Uganda Week Four
Claire’s Uganda Trip Week Four
25th September to 2nd October
Before I left the U.K. I was asked if I would bring some knitted jumpers with me to give to institutions or place where they could be put to good use.
As you know I am staying at the Shalom Guest House which is owned and run by a Christian organisation called Fields of Life. They sponsor an orphanage, Kindergarten and primary school. spoke to admin officer and she made arrangements for me to go to these three places of Wednesday 25th September. I was a little worried as I had pictures in my head of all these children holding my hands and pleading with me through their big brown eyes, the sort of images you see of TV. So as I got in the car to leave I had reservations as to whether I was up to it. How was I going to react? How would I feel?
In my ignorance and arrogance I expected to see people sitting around looking miserable, tired and hungry and without hope, but in fact it was a lively, busy and bustling community; the people having dignity, pride, hope and life.
The principle and his wife came a greeted us and so did a couple of the teachers. We were not able to spend much time hear unfortunately as I would have liked to have looked around the school but the Deputy Head called Andrew joined us as we went on our way to the Orphanage.
On the way I asked Andrew about the history of the area. He said that this was originally an area where witchcraft took place. There was approximately 60 centres of witchcraft and was a place where very bad and evil things happened. Please try imagine this area as being a hub which is surrounded by three other areas, these being; the ‘Place of hooligans’, ‘Kosovo’ and the ‘Place of the dead of one more’.
There was a king, a long time ago who realised there were a lot of poor people in these areas the area in between and bought a piece of land which was called the ‘Place of the disadvantaged ones’ and he moved all the poor people who were living between the three main areas into the area of the ‘Place of the disadvantaged ones’. This then became the slum area.
Years later, but also a long time ago a Pastor came across the area of the ‘Place of the disadvantaged ones’ and the area of witchcraft and began to preach the Gospel. People began to go and hear him and took the understanding back to their communities. More people went to listen to him and many were converted to Christianity and so some of the witchcraft centres started to disband and others became naturally smaller as the community members died away.
At this time there was a very powerful lady who did not really hold with the teachings of the Pastor, but something and no-one knows what, had befallen this lady and witchcraft had not helped her and so she went to hear the Pastor. Suffice to say that the situation or things improved for this lady and she went back to the witchcraft centres and told the leaders that the power the Pastor had was bigger than witchcraft and so more people went to hear the Pastor and more people believed.
Eventually the Pastor set up a Church and his preaching continued. This was the turning point as today there are only about 25 witchcraft centres which is a good reduction.
The ‘Place of Hooligans’, the ‘Place of the disadvantaged ones’ and ‘Kosovo’ still exist. In the ‘Place of Hooligans the people sleep during the day and steal, rob, murder and rape during night time hours. ‘Kosovo’ was named after Kosovo in Russia because the people in this area started to fight each other, even though they had lived together for years they suddenly started to turn on each other. They said that is what was happening in Kosovo and so they were like those in Kosovo and so it got its name.
The orphanage, Kindergarten and Primary school, are all situated in the ‘Place of the disadvantaged ones’. The orphanage was a square concrete building behind a wall with colourfully painted pictures on it. The air was dusty and the atmosphere still but had a feeling of bleakness about it. On entering the gate the atmosphere changed. It was evident that love existed in the place. The first door we came to lead into two rooms one behind the other. In the first room sat a lady watching TV and on the wall was a poster saying this was the ‘Eaglets’ room. This led into a room at the back where there were a dozen small babies (zero to 6 months) asleep on two mattress, naked and snuggled under soft blankets. It was bed time.
Andrew told me that these babies are bought here in the mornings by their parents so they can go to work knowing their babies are safe and looked after and then they are collected at night. Some families have so many children that they have to decide which one to feed that day. Some families also bring their toddlers, but the over fours tend to stay at home looking after themselves. So the orphanage doubles up as a baby day care centre in the day.
The second door we came to lead into one room where the carer was a sleep on a mattress at the other end of the room. This was the ‘Eagles’ room. These were older children between a year and two and half years they too were all asleep top to toe on mattresses.
We then went to see the cook and the people who, and as you can see from the photo the Kitchen is something very different.
The Orphanage is a very happy place and the children are well looked after and they were very pleased with the jumpers.
On the way back we stopped at the kindergarten called ‘Treasured Kids’ for children between the ages of 3 and 7. When we arrived there were not many children as they are normally collected at one but for some of them their parents were late. Again there were lovely designs on the walls making it cheerful. In the playground was a huge pile of logs and sticks were the cooking is done and the children keep warm when it is cold and where they play. It is all very relaxed and the teachers very welcoming.
On the way back to the Primary school Andrew showed me a huge piece of land called the ‘Place of the dead of one more’. He said that this vast area was the area in which Idi Amin buried the dead that he had tortured and killed and that long, deep troughs were dug and that the people living in the ‘Place of the disadvantaged ones’ saw trucks piled up with dead bodies passing on a regular basis. The local people then started to add their dead relatives to the number and so it became used by the community. Andrew said that no one knows how many thousands, perhaps millions, of people are buried in this area and they are all in unmarked graves. Only recently have records been kept and stones erected for those now being buried in this place.
His main concern is, is that one day someone will excavate this vast area and all manner of horrors will be uncovered. I found this quite harrowing again showing the struggle and turmoil these peaceful people have had to endure.
On Thursday I was taken to the Sanyu Baby Centre. It is another orphanage but not run by Fields of Life (FOL) but supported by them. It is next door to a hospital which is really convenient as some mothers have their babies in the hospital and then once the babies have been checked they are taken to the Centre. When we arrived there were about a dozen small babies strapped into pushchairs being taken out for a walk by teenagers from the local secondary school.
In one pushchair were twin girls and Edna told that their mother was married to a Boda Boda driver (a motorbike taxi man) who did not look after her or the five children very well. There was a boy and two sets of twin girls all under 4. She decided she could not manage anymore and decided to set fire to the house with the children in it, in order to put an end to her situation. She thought prison would be preferable to the life she had. Someone called the police and she did not go to prison but the children were put into the Sanyu Baby centre.
The unit homes up to 44 babies between the age of zero and 4. I took the smaller jumpers here for which they were very grateful. Many of the babies and children only stay here a short time as they try to home them in families and some eventually adopted. This is a new venture for Uganda as there has not been a culture of adoption, so they have gone abroad but now the children are staying in Uganda. Two twin boys were adopted by a family because they had two girls but wanted boys to leave their possessions and money to.
We had a look at their bedrooms where all the cots were and the dining room. By this time it was lunchtime and as is the normal looked like organised chaos. The children who can feed themselves are seated at small low tables:
but the babies who are too small to feed themselves are wedged or slotted like letters between two pieces of wood. Both pieces of wood are horizontal, the back one being flat so they can lean or be propped up against it and the piece in front flat like a table. Two helpers then have a bowl of food each and a spoon, like a low budget version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and they feed whichever one has its mouth open. They do all get fed and fed well though.
On the wall outside facing the playground was a picture version of Moses in the Bulrushes.
In the playground were climbing things and swinging things and chickens. This again was a very happy caring place.
I have again had the most amazing week. I have so fortunate to visit all these places and am amazed at all the care and attention these institutions show.
I am sorry my notes are so long this week.
Love Claire xxx