Not all of the children come from a home lead by an old grandmother. Some of them lived with their aunties or older siblings. Victoria is the only child in our care whose mother is alive. When Vicki was one month old her oldest sister chose to run away with her four younger siblings to protect them from their mother.
According to big sister when her father died the mother couldn’t cope and it caused her “madness”. The mother beat her badly , and she showed me the ugly scars she wears as a reminder. So at fifteen years old this strong girl escaped and took care of three little siblings, including Victoria at age one month. She had no job but she did what she could. She washes laundry for other people. She has a husband who doesn’t stay with her. Occasionally he will give her a little money for her own three children but mostly she’s on her own. Vicki’s siblings live with other people, only Vicki remained with her sister and that was mostly to help with the children. So Victoria at age eight was a full time caregiver.
“Where is the mother now?” I asked. Robert explained, “you can see her on the streets. She hangs out by the fire station. (didn’t know they had a fire station!) She wears tattered clothes, weird hair and she uses bad behavior towards everyone.” I am wondering to myself does she have schizophrenia? Are there no programs to help the people who have mental problems? Are they really just left to roam the streets and be a danger to themselves and others? That makes me feel so broken because even with her madness she is loved by God, created in his image, and not meant to be cast aside for an illness in her brain that removes her ability to even ask for help. There must be some medicines that could help balance her chemistry, halt the delusions and quiet the hallucinations. But instead she becomes an embarrassment to society, ignored, and dismissed. I hope on my next visit I can meet her. Phiona tells me that when Victoria sees her mom on the street she buries her face in her arm and cries from embarrassment. I wonder how confusing her life story must be for her.
One thing I am learning again and again is how adaptable Ugandans are. When life get a little bit harder, there aren’t complaints, they just step it up and work harder. If it continues to get harder and harder, they accept it, pray through it, and keep on working. I come from a culture with high expectations and quick complaints when we don’t get what we expect. If our cable goes out, we are on the phone in an instant. If our internet isn’t strong enough we get it adjusted. When something is broken we fix it right away, we don’t adjust and live without it. We expect our doctors to have an answer for what ails us and fix us right away. When we go without electricity for more than a couple hours it cripples our life. They lose electricity daily and sometimes for days without any recourse of action. Running water is not a guarantee, jobs for college graduates are not available, roads will always have potholes big enough to break a chassis, diseases kill before they are ever discovered, people die before they can get a doctor to look at them and father’s disappear under the pressure of family responsibility leaving too many babies in the care of unemployed young mothers. I find that they get stronger, sigh longer, and work harder without expectations of a better life. We fall apart and need therapy.
As for Victoria’s mom it has just been accepted that she went mad and nothing can be done. I don’t think like that. My first question is how can we help her? What can be done? How can we change this terrible situation and make it better? Where’s the best doctor? I’ve also learned the HARD way that every problem can’t be helped. And first people want to be helped before help can be put into action. Our willingness to help can be seen as an open invitation to take advantage of us for personal greed and selfish ambitions. So I know going in that the first sort of help and the best type of help is prayer. And the wisest thing I can do is be more Ugandan than American with the pace of action that we take. And finally, accept that more times than I care to admit there is nothing we can do.
Our sweet Victoria was growing up in a slum area where she was at risk of being prey to drunks. When she was brought to our attention we welcomed her to our home. Having been raised by a child her whole life she’s had a lot to learn about being in a family. But she’s doing a great job of learning the rules, working in school with her best effort, and helping around the home.
Victoria is a very shy little girl. When I give her attention she tries to hide her face and not let me see how much it pleases her. She has a big belly! And we keep thinking she needs to be dewormed, but when we met her sister, she is built exactly like her. So we don’t have to worry anymore. It’s just the beauty that God gave her. And the two sisters have nearly identical faces, and they so obviously love one another.
Big sister thanked us over and over for helping her with Victoria. She says “thank you for loving her on my behalf”. I told her all the love comes from God. That’s what I believe. It’s the love that God pours into me that spills out into this ministry. It’s not me. It’s God that does all the good work. If you want to see shy try to compliment me personally for this work. I’ll bury my face and say “no it’s not me. God alone can accomplish this work. I believe what he has begun he will faithfully finish, with or without me.” I count it a great blessing he chooses to use me in this work.
Victoria is not yet fully sponsored, so if you are interested in seeing this young child grow and develop contact me and we can talk about how you can make a difference in her life and in the family of Kirabo Seeds in Uganda. firstname.lastname@example.org