The past week and a half have been a whirl wind to say the least.
Last week we decided to take a week off from venturing to the village to camp due to exhaustion and a lot of sickness. Instead, we worked in primary and secondary schools, as well as some colleges, hospitals, and babies homes. It was a complete change of pace. We generally left early and started our day either doing a feeding program for a primary school or out to a babies home. The feeding program was such a blessing to take part in. It is literally heart wrenching to know that the porridge we make for them may be the only meal they get. Every kid is beyond excited to see the mzungus and their joy is contagious. It is so humbling to see how they live day to day. Their brother is in the hospital with malaria. They didn't eat last night. Their mom died. Three out of their seven siblings are dead. They only live with their step dad because their mom and dad passed away. They are worried about finding money to go to school next year. They want to be doctors. They want to be teachers. They want to be lawyers. Their stories are so powerful, and stories that no child should ever have to tell.
These past three days were spent in the village. It was filled with rainstorms and powerful winds, exhaustion, games, and new faces. This time at the village was a little different than the last. In past, days were spent building, gathering timber, fetching water, carrying bricks, and helping with construction. This time, our days were spent doing programs at a nearby primary and high school, as well as the village. Our first day there, as we were setting up camp in a new spot, we got about half way done with the tarp above our tents when the mother of all storms torn our camp to shreds. We were literally holding on to the tarp and poles with all our might as the wind practically lifted us off the ground. Once the rain let up we continued to walk to the main part of the village to do our children's program!
After a wet night sleep, we woke up the next morning to school children singing bright and early. We headed to a primary school where to my surprise I found a sweet welcoming face. It turns out that was the school that Ivan was attending! Gosh, my heart melted when he ran up to me calling out my name with that sweet smile of his. When I decided to sponsor Ivan, he was simply a picture on a wall waiting list. When I first met him, he was a timid boy sitting playing with a blade of grass. When I first told him I was sponsoring him, his smile began to form as he realized what it meant. When I saw him at school he was a friend. A friend that I will always have and always love. I feel that he will always be a part of my family. When I gave him my little brother's book bag with books, pens, pencils, a Clemson tshirt (he obviously has to be a tiger fan), pictures of my family and some other clothes his joy was contagious. He wore that book bag like it was his most prized possession and continued to thank me. He is an absolute gem.
After the feeding program and an intense game we shared the story of the Good Samaritan and helped clean up and left back for camp. That night we did a program for the village kids and it was by far my favorite. I had that moment. You know, that moment when everything is slow motion. I'm watching kids who never get to smile jump and scream for joy as we did a relay race. I watched parents gather around and laugh as the mzungus got in on the action. I watched little kids hold our hands. I heard the sounds of Luganda fill the air. That moment I will never forget. That moment is when I realized that one of the main reasons God sent me to Africa was to teach those kids how to smile. I am blessed with the opportunity to show those kids how to be a kid. How to dance like no one is watching and make up games with the few Luganda words I know. Apparently telling them to come here (Jangu) and then go away (Genda) as I make funny faces is hilarious. That night made camping in the village worth it.
Thursday morning we woke up and heading to a high school. Here, instead of doing our normal program, we were there to simply encourage the students (there were only about 20) to stay in school. We had a time of questions and answers and it was so humbling to see what there "school" is. They all have dreams just like I do. They all have hopes of their future. The difference? I knew that in high school I was going to college and would likely reach those. These kids don't have that. Many of them don't get to go to university. It will take extreme amounts of determination and faith to work through primary and secondary school. Then, it will take a miracle for their families to have the money to send them to high school and university. I have never realized the impact of sponsorship. It is literally maybe the only hope these kids have to escape the villages and become doctors, nurses, lawyers, and teachers.
Friday was spent roaming around Kampala. We boda-bodad (motorcycle form of a taxi) to downtown to get some American food (Praise the Lord!!) and then wandered around to find a craft market! Looking back, its actually quite humorous to think of the things I can accomplish here. I am quite proud that I can successfully ride on the back of a boda and find a restaurant AND a craft market. Such a needed day of rest and fun.
Today, I am SO excited about. The van just left to pick up our sponsor kids from the village. The kids have NO idea where they are going. These kids have never been to the city. Not only do they get to come to the city, but we are taking them to a mini amusement park (closest thing I can think of to call it) with a pool and some slides! Ivan has never swam. Ivan has never tasted ice cream. He has never been "out to eat". He may have never been in a van. I get to give him the time of his life today. Gosh, I can not wait to teach him how to swim, to share his first lick of ice cream, to get his face painted, and ride the rides. I can't wait to update y'all on Ivan's day of firsts :)