31 January 2012
I came third in the sack race today! An achievement I’m quite proud of, but the 170 sponsored children cheering me on were what this was really about.
What an incredible morning. It’s the second day of school here in Uganda, and World Vision was gathering together all the sponsored children in the area – to check on their health, encourage them to get back to school promptly (it often takes a few weeks to wander back to school here!), and just to have some fun together. It was fun being there while some of the children opened presents from their sponsors together as well. Teaching one boy how to play Penguin Bowling was a riot!
Just a couple of metres from the boy with the present, I watched as each child in turn was weighed, measured, and given a general health check up. Seeing them cared for so attentively brought me so much joy. Yesterday I wondered how children with so little could seem so happy and full of hope. This began to answer my question.
Hope for education
Down the hill from the church where the monitoring was held is a school, with newly built teachers’ accommodation (built through child sponsorship funds) just a stone’s throw away. It is a thriving school, which has increased from 500 to more than 700 students in the past two years. The classrooms were filled with smartly turned out, attentive children. Children who just a few short years ago would probably have been out working, were now learning biology, history, and English.
Four years ago, we noted that the poor attitude of this community towards education was a major barrier in the way to the wellbeing of their children. Today, it is completely different, and the fantastic encouragement children receive in their studies is clear. We heard child leaders (young spokespeople for their villages) explaining to the younger children how important it was to keep on going to school; real progress, brought about by child sponsors back home in the UK. Case number two for hope.
And yet, just a short drive away, there remains so much suffering.
Hope for the wider community
There I met Olive. She is 28 years old, already widowed, and has five children to care for on her own. Her eldest son is 16, which means she was married with a baby by the age of 12. She’s also seriously ill; it takes all her strength to walk the eight kilometres to her check up every Thursday, and she needs help from her daughter Margaret to make the two-hour round trip to collect water every day. Her mud hut is hardly big enough for her family to fit inside.
Olive earns a living weaving beautiful coloured mats from the thick grass that grows around her home. There’s a quiet determination about her and she has a beautiful smile, but when you look into Olive’s eyes you see a sadness and tiredness that go all the way to her soul. This is hardly surprising. And yet, even though her children are not sponsored, there’s a ripple effect at work.
More than anything, Olive wants to know that if her health continues to fail, her children will be able to look forward to a brighter future. When I asked her what her hopes are for her children she said: “I’d like them to be able to study and finish their studies.” And if you sponsor a child in Uganda, that is now beginning to happen, thanks to you. Because we’re at work in Olive’s area, all but one of her children are now in school. Case number three for hope.
Hope for sponsored children
Case number four? Two little boys called Kenneth and Rogers. Both of them have been sponsored since 2007 and the difference it’s made to their family was obvious from the moment we pulled up in front of their home.
The joy of their parents beamed from their faces, as they proudly showed us around their beautifully presented house and yard. “In the future, we may buy more land to help the boys with their future,” said the boys’ grandfather. “We will grow, bananas, maize, coffee and other crops. I want them to be able to achieve their dreams.”
Rogers has just turned 11 (he proudly showed off the birthday card his UK sponsors sent him!) and wants to be a judge when he grows up. His brother would like to be an officer in the military, and I have no doubt that both of them will be able to be whatever they want to be.
I was thrilled to call their sponsors in the UK directly from their yard, and let them know how well the boys were doing. Most importantly, sponsorship has given them security they need to build themselves a brighter future. It’s opened up possibilities they would never have dreamt of before. And with possibility, comes hope.