Despite all the drama that occurred while I was in Uganda, there were many happy and beautiful occasions to celebrate. I’m an incurable optimist, so even during the bleakest moments I am able to smell roses. For example on Wednesday while my lawyer was visiting the orphanage all day long and we discovered many disturbing lies said about all of us to keep the people there at a wide distance from me and Phiona. Despite the heartache of learning this truth, I continued to seek out happy occasions with the children.
At the time when they were to be expected home from school I asked Phiona to walk me to their school so we could greet them. I’m not hard to spot from a distance in Uganda because of my hair and pale skin. From very far away one of the children would say, “Mama Tonya” and then they would all run at full speed towards me. I had to brace myself, because they are in some ways stronger than I am with that kind of momentum. Receiving hugs, greetings, and smiles makes the whole bowl of boiling trouble worth it.
We continued to walk all the way to the school and collect all of the children so no one could say, “she didn’t come greet me!” I can’t say when I’ve ever been so popular, and I confess, there’s something about being adored that I’ll not push aside, and really, the adoration is mutual. It is for them, and them alone that I have travelled this wide world, been given full time work to do, and am willing to fight hard to protect them. They are as precious to me as my own children.
I know the children get a mere handful of food at school and their bellies growl as they walk home, so I carried with me a bowl of peanuts. Peanuts are such a good source of energy, protein and fat for their growing bodies. I asked Phiona to make sure they buy peanuts and bananas every week for after school energy.
As I was at the orphanage all day long with the mama’s and little ones who don’t go to school, I discovered the sickness that overcomes when hunger is allowed to go too long. There was a lock on the food storage room, and the boy who was the keeper of the key leaves for school at 5:am to walk two hours! He sets out the breakfast food before departing, and then he doesn’t arrive home until 7:30pm. That’s a long long time for people to go without food. I know it made me dizzy, weak and grouchy. I’m sorry but that is cruelty considering how much money I was sending to buy food every month. ($1200) Involuntary fasting is what they all call it, and I’m sure they use it as an opportunity to draw closer to God. I admit, I used it to blow a little steam and grumble.
It will take us some time to determine how much food is needed. We’re establishing a record book of measurements to keep track of what is used and when it is distributed. Eventually we will discover the right balance.
As I walked home that afternoon with the children we were all on a happy high to be enjoying the comfortable weather, each other’s company and a snack. The bolder children competed to hold my hand, arm, or wrap around my waist. They really love to get a kiss on the cheek from me, they all lined up for that. The need for physical affection is universal. The children are not so shy around me any more so they are beginning to practice their English with me. I love this! And I really want to encourage it. They will come close to my ear and whisper something they learned in school, or what they hope to become for a career. I’m a fierce promoter of unlocking the potential within a child and let them dream and achieve. So it makes me so happy to know that they are indeed dreaming! One of the boys, Ezra, showed me a drawing he made of a plant and it looked like it should be in a museum, it was perfect in all the detail, shading, and use of light. I was astounded by the quality, and yet, it has just come from within, no one taught him. He expressed it with a simple pencil and sheet of paper. Who knows what else is hiding inside these childen.
The only return I ever hope to receive for all the effort I have put into Kirabo Seeds, is to see these children achieve goals, to know God the Father Jesus the son and the Holy Spirit counselor, grow up knowing they were loved, protected, and encouraged to be all God has created them to be. That’s what I get, and it’s all I want.