Posted by: tonyalatorre | October 27, 2012

Nurturing nature

Growing food is as natural to a Ugandan as getting in the car to go to the grocery store is for an American. Gardening is called “digging” in Uganda. Children can’t remember being taught to grow food, they watch, copy and perfect their techniques over time. Some of the smaller children in our home have been given a few seeds from our garden and they dug out a corner at the house, bordered it with rocks they found, and planted their own crops. Every day when they come home from school they check on their babies, looking for growth, removing weeds, watering when necessary. One of the older boys decided to “fertilize” their tender plants by urinating on the garden. The plants burned up and died, and he got big trouble.  They started over like the good hardworking Ugandan children they are and now new plants are flourishing again. They are learning to nurture, develop patience, and appreciate participating in God’s nature. Christine was eager to show me her little beans that are growing. What joy she will have when Auntie Julie cooks them up and serves them to the family.

Christine loves to dig. We are buying them all rubber boots this week for their safety.

Taking good care of something helps develop character. This is why the children love to run to the land and work in the garden on Saturdays. I believe children benefit greatly from having a pet. A plant might be a good start, but I’ve been introducing the idea of getting a kitten for the children. All of the adults, except Robert who is an animal lover, wrinkle their noses and say that cats are used by the witchdoctors and carry curses. I rolled my eyes. We are Christian, we don’t believe that nonsense. A kitten is born in the animal kingdom created by God and can’t carry a curse. Robert grew up with dogs and is eager to get a puppy. I told him I will bring dog training books for him so he can teach the children consistent training methods for raising a puppy. I selfishly want to be there to introduce the puppy. They want a German shepherd, which is a breed that is easily available, and a great guard dog at night. I am all for that! Someday we will bring home a puppy but not until we are all ready to train it with good manners.

One afternoon while George was filming Phiona for the video we walked to a quiet restaurant. She forbid me from watching her because I made her nervous so I walked around the garden. This little calico kitten came over and began purring and rubbing against my leg. I picked it up and we got acquainted  long enough for me to get attached. The people at the restaurant laughed when I asked if I could have it. In a place where the people hardly get enough to eat they don’t have much sympathy for an animal if it starves. I understand that, I really do. They find it offensive to listen to someone talk about a pet as if it were a person.  So they said yes I could have her, and then probably talked about how absurd Americans are with their pets. (we are.)

Ronald and Ryan

I didn’t take her home right away. I gently began to introduce the idea of bringing home a kitty to the family. The adults were unenthusiastic. Robert was willing to try though he has no experience with cats. The children were excited to have a pet. So after days of talking and setting rules, such as, no one picks the cat up, and how to gently shoo it away they were ready for their first pet. The main rule is they must sit and wait for kitty to come for petting. It will teach them patience and self control. And it will protect the cat from getting squeezed, scared, and ready to defend with claws.

On my last morning we stopped by the restaurant to get kitty, but she was nowhere to be found. Sad. They took Robert’s phone number and promised to call him when it reappears.

A lady from the restaurant took us to a woman who has a cat. We met her and there was a tiny baby kitten that looked just like my Coco at home. I wanted her so badly! We offered the old woman a lot of money to have the kitty and she said no way. The person who gave her the cat would be angry if it wasn’t there when they visited. I couldn’t believe it! In the same place where people beg me to take their children I couldn’t buy a cat. It was mind boggling. Phiona and Robert nearly ran over a cat one morning so they chased it down and brought it home. But this one was feral, unfriendly and afraid of everyone. She went to live on the land and help us with rodents.

This is the one that wasn’t for sale.

On Sunday while I was in the air over the Atlantic ocean Robert got the call and picked up calico kitty from the restaurant to take home. Phiona named her Grace and the kids are crazy in love with her. After two days in her new home, kitty went missing for two days.  Everyone, even the naysayers were depressed at the loss. Robert found her three kilometers away and brought her home, and there was a great celebration! Everyone was happy to have kitty back, now she is Amazing Grace.

Teaching children to nurture whether it is plants or animals will help them develop good character traits. I know for me, when I am being quiet with my favorite animals it has an immediate calming effect on me. I am reminded that love is simple. A soft touch is a gift. Giving affection is good for the heart and can cure lonliness. Talking about feelings isn’t a cultural practice in Uganda. That doesn’t mean the feelings aren’t there. I have a “feeling” the children will work out some of their feelings by loving and nurturing both plants and pets. I’m happy that the kitty who found me found its way into our home with the children.

This is Phiona with our little Amazing Grace

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  1. I’m really looking forward hearing more stories about AG (amazing grace)! I love animals and I’m thrilled the kids are able to learn to love them as God’s creatures.

    • thanks! Musa loves kitty the most. and Christine hates kitty! We have to help her see that kitty is an orphaned baby and needs a home and love just like she did.

  2. Can’t really go wrong with cats.

    • I agree. I love my cat because of her independence and spunk. I love it when she chooses me and purrs her love out to me.

  3. This is a great piece! Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks for having a look. I hope you will join me as I write about visiting deep in the villages to meet the grandmothers of our children. It was life changing for me.

  4. Such nice smiles from Uganda. I hope they have a successful gardening season.

    • There are three growing seasons a year in this part of Uganda. They are so blessed!

  5. Cats are amazing animals. Americans worship their cats, and go over board with them. This is a great little story.

    • thanks! One of our little girls hates kitty. I am going to write her a story about an orphaned cat who needed a family and a chance for a better life…just like the little girl who hates kitty… I hope it helps her feel for the animal.

  6. makes for very nice reading this. Uganda comes alive for us…

    • Thank you so much! I hope you will enjoy our stories about visiting the old grandmas deep in the villages. It was a life changing experience for me.

  7. Beautiful post, I enjoyed learning how Uganda children learn valuable lessons and skills in life. Your time there must be amazing! Thank you for sharing :-), and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!!

    • Thanks. It is amazing to work in Uganda. The children inspire me to work hard to get them support so they can have a better life.

  8. I just love this in the same way as how I love plants and animals. Your post really caught my attention as how you’ve inspired me to write more and love these creatures more each day because I believe, maybe you too as well that they are God’s gift. I am counting your blog as an inspiration. You did a great job with this post. You showed not only a great humanitarian act to the Ugandans, but also compassion for other living creatures such as plants and animals :)

    • Thank you so much. You make me blush. I hope you will follow more of our work with the orphaned children in Uganda. They inspire me!

      • Yes, sure. Continue with all the noble acts! :)

  9. love is simple. A soft touch is a gift. Giving affection is good for the heart and can cure lonliness. I like that part

    • Thank you very much. Love is simple if we let it be.

  10. Such a compelling story about nurturing and the power of love! . . . Thank you for sharing!

    • My pleasure thanks for having a look. Working with orphans in Uganda opens my eyes to the full extent of love. I hope you will visit our stories again.

  11. Such a precious message, thank you!

    • Thanks so much for having a look at our work. I welcome you to see what work we continue to do with the orphans in Uganda.

  12. Enjoyed this post; thank you for sharing. :)

    • Thanks for having a look. I hope you will visit more of our adventures in Uganda serving orphaned children.

      • Certainly! :) Will try and do just that. :)

  13. Thank you for this short view into the lives of these lovely people. What a curious thing to learn about how they view cats (and pets). And yes, Americans love their pets too much at times, LOL!

    • Yes, our fascination with animals is odd in a third world country. But sharing with children to care about animals is a universal value.

  14. That’s really cool that the children of Uganda are so into gardening or “digging”. At we really try and teach kids the fundamentals of movement so they can stay in the game longer. I would be interested in finding out how to help children in Uganda stay involved in soccer and team sports in general.

    • I wish you best of luck finding a way to serve the children in Uganda with sports. The kids there LOVE soccer (football) and I see them playing it everywhere with home made balls of dry banana leaves.

  15. This is really kind of you to spread this message… We always need these examples to boost our aspirations:)

    • Thanks! I’m humbled to be a part of these children’s lives. It is an honor to share the stories here, and I hope you enjoy the following stories.

  16. A perfect example of ” Children Learn What they Live”. These children you speak of will forever carry the most precious gifts of love, compassion, nurture and work. They will refine it to their lives and pass it along to further generations. A piece of you where ever they go. Well done.

    • You are so right. These children carry on a new legacy. They are released from the cage of poverty and can learn to write a new story for their children and their grandchildren. I’m so thankful to be a small part in this story. Tonya

  17. Wow….awesome post, thanks for sharing. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!!

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement. I hope you will continue to follow the stories about our children in Uganda.

  18. Good to know you’re having a lovely time in our Pearl of Africa :) and congrats on FP.

    • I love working with the orphaned children in Uganda! I feel honored and blessed to do this work.

  19. It must of been am experience to be part of something so wonderful like this.. I can only imagine what it must be like to live your life off the land and what your hands bear…beautiful!

  20. Reblogged this on How 2 Be Green and commented:
    Fabulous Post. Thank you for sharing!

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