One precious lesson I have learned over the years, as we diligently care our for own families, and for the unfortunate children in our local communities. There is always room to broaden our reach to others who desperately need our help; children that are at a greater disadvantage than we may ever comprehend.
This past year I had the opportunity of traveling to Uganda with my husband. What I found amongst the poor (which constitutes over 80% of the country) was quite extraordinary. There were no Social Services or Welfare benefits; no Medicaid or food pantries; no such thing as fundraising events, corporate sponsorships or foundations raising money. There was no government aid to help children in distress. And there were children dying, sometimes at the hands of their own parents. I came to the realization that the poor in our country don’t know what it means to be poor.
This was my second visit to Uganda in response to an invitation to train staff, child care workers, and volunteers at many children’s orphanages and schools, as well as hundreds of Ugandan parents. It was also the forming a wonderful partnership with Arnold Muwonge, a dear friend of ours who has devoted his life to housing and educating children that are dropped at Kampala Childrens Center (KCC), a cluster of small houses filled with children rescued from harsh situations.
I visited KCC and was impressed with the level of compassion and diligence that was put into valuing these children. I also visited the slum areas where many of these children had come from. I held a child in my arms (picture above) whose fate was turned fortune as a kind neighbor whisked the unsuspecting child out of the grasp of a mentally distressed mother about to strangle the life out of her child. The child was brought to Kampala Children’s Center by a government that refused to help in any way.
Hundreds of children in Uganda are left homeless due to a variety of reasons. Some are orphaned from the trauma of the rebel fighting up north, others because their parents died from AIDS, and there are others snatched from the arms of mentally disturbed parents who are overwhelmed and attempt to offer their children up as child sacrifices. Yes, that’s right: child sacrifice. I didn’t think these rituals still existed, but in desperate places, people do desperate things.
As I walked through the slums and heard the stories of families doing all they could to survive on one dollar per day income, I realized why it is no wonder that one mother could not afford to provide two of her children with a six dollar malaria treatment, and instead found herself watching them slowly die. (We were able to provide the treatment for the children and they are doing well now.)
These things don’t happen here, but are all too common in Uganda. Still, no challenge is too great, and I have had the joy of speaking with many of these children, who in their resilience can rise up above their challenges, survive, and redefine their own communities with just a little encouragement and support. It is exciting to imagine that we can connect the services of Children of the City into a country that has little or no access to such services and programs. It is imperative to expand our horizons; to bring the resources that have been proven successful here in our backyard, and extend our scope and influence to the deserving children of Uganda, as Hands Across the Water.
We will continue to keep you updated on the impact Children of the City is making in the country of Uganda.
-Joyce Mattera, Executive Director