Last year when I was here I visited the village of Musima for the first time, some of our friends Kilya and Fred live in the village, and we went to visit their home and their family. I fell in love with the village that day and knew I wanted to do something to help the orphaned and vulnerable children there…so I started a sponsorship program to help pay the school fees for 113 children who are from Musima.
I was so excited to get back out to the village and see all my friends again, we were going to be staying in the village for three days, I was a little uneasy about it at first, I had never stayed in the village before.
When I arrived at the village, I had no idea how amazingly I would be welcomed. We pulled the car in and immediately I heard them all singing, and chanting as they came up the road to greet us. Ugandans do this high pitched call, I don’t even know how they do it, but its like music to my ears because I know it means they are happy. The big group came and greeted us, lots of hugs and smiles, then they sat me in a chair and lifted me up and we marched back into the center of the village. It was incredible.
When we got to the center, all the kids and parents were there, they danced and sang and celebrated our coming back. I love watching the kids sing and dance. Their songs and dances welcome us, tell stories, tell about their love for God and about their lives. Of course eventually they pulled us up and into their dance, sometimes I think they like to laugh because mzungus can’t dance, but they love that I try to do their dances and they are so patient as they teach me.
We met with Patrick, the director of St. Emmanuel Community Initiative, and Margret, our program coordinator. We talked about the sponsorship program, the schools, the kids and the future of the program.
Patrick is an amazing man who with his wife are raising 20 children, seven of his own and the rest that he is caring for. Patrick saw the need for change in the village, that there needs to be a way for people to make a living and provide for their families and have a better life. He started an agriculture program, where the families were given the supplies they need and training on growing crops. He and Margret have worked on improving sanitation in the village and in the homes.
They showed us where we would be staying, and that included using a pit latrine, ok so honestly that is the first time I’ve used one, but it was important to me to be a part of the community and to live like they do. We walked to the well to help fetch water, they carry 3 liter jerry cans filled with water for sometimes 2-3 kilometers. I tried carrying it a few feet and it was so heavy, I don’t know how they do it.
We spent hours talking with the kids, they taught me how to speak Lusoga the native language they speak. We told stories and laughed and giggled ALOT. At night we sat around the campfire telling folklore stories, and dancing, lots of dancing.
I fell asleep listening to some of the boys playing drums, and woke up early each morning to the sound of roosters crowing and the women bustling around preparing food, cleaning and getting ready for the day.
My Ugandan big brother David came to the village with us and stayed with us the whole time, which make it even better having him there. He slept on a mattress outside of my room making sure I felt safe.
We walked miles and miles around the whole village visiting every home of the children who have sponsors. Climbing hills to the very top of the village, meeting their families, seeing where they sleep, where they live. We delivered presents to the children who’s sponsors sent over gifts, which they were so happy to receive. We gave out over 300 pillowcase dresses that were donated from all around the US. We took new photos of the kids who don’t have sponsors yet, so we can have current photos on the website. We played soccer and did crafts, and ate lots of wonderful food.
We visited one of the schools that some of our sponsored kids go to, the headmaster greeted us and showed us around, when we left the school I looked at Patrick and Margret and said “I don’t want my kids to go to this school anymore”. The school is run down, and not fully completed and some of the teachers are not qualified. Then we went to a new school called Musana, it was started by a westerner named Andrea, she came to Uganda and fell in love with the village she was working in…sounds familiar doesn’t it? She started with an orphanage, and over the last five years it has grown into a primary school that is mixed boarding and day school, and a NGO (non-governmental organization) that focuses on the communities that the students come from, providing job training, and counseling. After visiting Musana, I knew it was the school that our sponsored kids would go to.
There are so many stories I could tell you all about the kids from Musima…like how Mutesi Sumayia is an amazing dancer, with a smile that just shines…how Namususwa Sharon is so sweet and shy, but get her talking finally and she’s precious, or Nangobi Nasimu who ran to me when I visited her house and hugged me so hard I almost fell over. Or about Kintu Mark and Waiswa Kaiga who got to meet their sponsor Callen, because she came out with us and how they got to spend time with her. About Pande Joel and amazing young man who stole my mom’s heart, who has big dreams of becoming a doctor and is now my big brother (we are sponsoring him now) or about sweet Elvis who was “pending” being in our sponsorship program but I decided to sponsor him myself because I absolutely fell in love with him and all that he has overcome in his short life, Elvis was burned badly when a kerosene lantern fell over in his house and caught his mattress on fire, but the scars on his face only make him a million times more handsome to me.
Or how about some of the kids that are still waiting on sponsors, for someone to choose them. Like Joseph who has an incredible spirit, and is always the life of the party, dancing and singing but he also loves animals and always wanted to show me his baby goats or the baby owl he found, or how he told me that at 17 he thinks he will never get a sponsor. There’s Daniel and Priscila they are the two older children of our friend Kilya, their baby brother Elijah has a sponsor, but they don’t or their aunt Namulondo Shalua, who is 16 and doesn’t have a sponsor either.
As I looked at all the faces, I saw faces of the children who have sponsors, the faces of Mutesi, Namususwa, Nangobi, Emmanuel and others….but I saw so many faces that are still waiting on sponsors, faces that are trusting me when I promise that I will work so hard to find them sponsors. The older children who feel left out, because they see the younger ones getting sponsors while many of them still wait, I promise them I will find them someone. I look at the faces of the parents and guardians, they are trusting me to find someone who can give their child a future. These are hard working people, they are doing the best they can to provide for their family.