Written by Ted & Jennifer Stacey
Wednesday took us to a location known as Railways. This was a location that was originally inhabited by Northern Ugandans who were escaping from the war in the 70's. The refugees set up home at an old railway barracks location.
The first thing we noticed about the area was the smell. The scent of rotting garbage and human sewage is stagnant before you even get to the immediate area. Having never been there before, but having been warned about the smell, I knew we were close when I caught a whiff a long way down the road.
The buildings are cemented, but the "homes" are tiny units measuring 8' x 8'. Each unit has a doorway covered over by a blanket or a tablecloth, long since donated to them from visitors from years past. Some homes have 15 people living in the very same unit.
Many people were sitting out front of their homes scaling fish, or cooking on an open fire. The children ran to us almost as soon as we got off the bus. Having long been taught that the Muzungas will bring food or clothing. They immediately latch to your hand and walk with you. Poor Ted had 3 boys pulling on his arms the whole time, trying to get him to lift them up into the air. We finally had to ask the translator to tell them to stop hanging on him because he was getting rope burn on his arms...LOL
I politely asked a couple if I could take their picture while they were descaling fish, and they said no. I moved away and smiled anyway. Later I found out that the size of the fish they were eating were too small to be legal, so they probably were afraid of the evidence.
After touring the site and meeting the children, we proceeded to the park area outside the school where we would be providing breakfast to over 300 of these children.
Two "Aunties" had cooked the huge pots of porridge, and we set up to serve a cup full and provide a packet of cookies to each child. We started by the translators telling them to get their cups, and the kids instantly dashed away scattering everywhere to grab their cup.
We lined them up in two lines, served the porridge, gave them a packet of cookies, and we personally walked the little ones to go and sit with an adult (preventing any chance of the older kids from stealing their cookies). We were able to serve seconds because we had so much, and the kids looked thrilled to be there.
Our next stop was to the orphanage for severely disabled children, called Home of Hope. Most of the kids at this orphanage have Cerebral Palsy and some of Hydrocephalus (water on the brain). They invited us to take a child for a ride in their wheelchair and take them outside. Ted chose to take Charity, a 7 year old girl with Cerebral Palsy, who couldn't speak or hold her own head up. I took a little boy named Ashram who was considered one of the babies, even though he was 3 years old. He also had Cerebral Palsy. He couldn't sit in a wheelchair, so I just carried him in my arms. He had a noise at the base of his throat that sounded like he was constantly congested. I was told he was born that way. He drooled all the time, so I was always wiping his mouth with my own bandana.
We took them outside as a large group and sang songs to them and dressed them in the new clothes we brought them. There were some real spit-fires amongst this group, including Rashida, who was 7 years old and insistent that she could wheel her own chair around, and almost ended up in the road several times. LOL There was also Washua, who knew everyone's name, and constantly asked if we remembered his name!
We fed them all some milk, which was difficult in the case of Ashram, because he couldn't drink by himself. One of the volunteers poured milk into his mouth, while another volunteer held his head. It constantly sounded like he was choking to death, although I was assured he wasn't. When I said goodbye, I left him my bandana and cried like a baby - thinking of him being there alone. It was an incredibly emotional day, and I had difficulty talking about it until today.
These children are often left on the streets by themselves by their parents, because having a child with a disability is considered an embarrassment to the family. The volunteers and employees from Home of Hope scour the streets collecting these kids to bring them back with them. The youngest was 1 year old and the oldest was 25.
The past volunteers on our team were very impressed, as last year they were in a very small space and the smell of human sewage and conditions were deplorable. They are now located in a brand-new facility, larger than they need currently, with a lot of room to grow.
Home of Hope works only on donations of others, and from the sale of paper bead necklaces, which we sold in advance of our trip. The excitement Edith, the director of Home of Hope, showed when we handed her all the money we had raised, was unbelievable! She started shrieking and insisted on hugging each of us, lifting every single one of us at least 1 foot off the floor! She is a strong woman!
Today, we went to the Kiryowa School to continue with the construction we started on Tuesday. The two classrooms are made with plaster walls, and we have decided to sand them, paint them, and also to build a Rain Water Collection System, so that the community can use that water for cleaning and cooking.
Ted was named boss of the whole Kiryowa School project, and I was named Supervisor of the painting, while Ted led the team to build the Rain Water Collection System...LOL
The rain was helpful for Ted to assure them that the slope of the eaves trough was correct. They managed to get most of the eaves trough done, and the base for the 5000 Litre holding tank was almost completed by the local masons. We will back tomorrow to complete this work, while also providing a breakfast for the 120 children that live there.
Everyone is bone tired from the work, and most have already gone to bed as I write this, except for the hardcore domino players! LOL
Ted & Jennifer's Ugandan journey continues... Part 3