I have enjoyed a week at home with Sarah and the kids as the students at the school have a three week holiday term break. Every holiday the management team at the school makes it a priority to visit certain students that we know have an extremely difficult situation at home. Staff members are given the opportunity and encouraged to join us on the visits and the vehicle is always full as we visit students in and around Kampala. Let me take you on a brief visit with us to our most recent home visit and hopefully paint a little bit of a picture of the lives of the students we help. Please note that names have been changed to respect the privacy of the students we help and most importantly love.
Robin is a grade five student that has struggled academically since joining the African Children’s Choir. She has done an excellent job improving due to an increased effort and level of discipline. We begin our home visit at her home as there is no father and her mother is back in the village with some issues that have forced her to live with her auntie. Her auntie is a government teacher earning very little and has five other people in her house to feed and care for. She does her best to help Robin over the holidays. We are grateful for this, but visit to make sure that everything is going okay and offer some support as we leave in the form of a food parcel.
Our next stop is the home of a grade six boy (red shirt) who lives with his two siblings and mother. The father died in a car accident when Sam was not even one year old and since then the mother has faced the constant struggle to try and provide for these young ones. The house consists of two rooms and there is a pit latrine nearby. Our main concern during this visit is that last term the house where they were living caught fire and burnt down along with the few possessions they have. We wanted to see how they were functioning in their new house or more accurately ‘shack’ according to western standards (even by Ugandan standards too). I feel humbled by our food parcel as she knew we were coming and provided a very nice meal by Ugandan standards of liver, potatoes and tea. I can’t help but slip her a little money on my way out to make sure that her meal of love is covered as she continues to struggle with the other two children she has. But she has not given up hope and tries to make a living cooking local food at a very simple one room restaurant.
Our third stop is the home of a grade three student with the best smile ever (next to Seth and Jodie). She is so excited to see us that she can’t contain her excitement and begins to jump for joy. She lives with her mother, but once again there is no father. The mother is reluctant to take us to her home and when we arrive we understand. Her one room house is so small it barely fits the five of us who came to visit them. Needless to say we are excited and our food parcel is a nice encouraging touch for Lori and her mom who currently has no job.
We make another stop to see another one of our students and then head out into the country side to an area known as the Luwero triangle where many people died during the years of fighting in the 1980’s. I enjoy the visits out in the villages as there is space and some open areas compared to the overcrowding in the slum-like areas we find most of our kids. It is pineapple season and the turn-off of the main road into the village displays hills of fresh pineapples. Yes, the best pineapple in the whole country and so of course, we stop. Our math teacher negotiates and a pineapple is bought for every member of our team for a grand total of 5000 shillings. $2.50 Canadian for five fresh pineapples would be a great deal in a supermarket back home. Our first stop is Jeff’s home, a very sharp young boy who lives with his mother and three siblings. His mother works in a nearby shop and is very excited to see us. During our visit we learn that when Jeff is on holidays he wakes up early, cleans the simple house and prepares a simple breakfast for his siblings as his mother is already out working at a one room shop. His award certificates from the school are hung with pride and are about the only thing on the wall.
Once we leave we beat the upcoming rains to another nearby house of a grade four student and then I can’t resist a stop to see a former student who is now in high school. He never knew his mother or father and lives with his godly, but very elderly grandpa in a very run down house. Trevor is not there, but the grandpa is very excited to see us and welcomes us in. The rain has subsided, but water continues to leak in the holes in the dilapidated tin room. He offers to sit on the floor and gives us a simple wooden bench that three of us sit on but we insist that he keeps the reaming stool for himself. We chat and thank him for the excellent job he is doing with Trevor and encourage him not to give up. He tells us he is sick, can’t afford the medication and seeing nothing in the house we make sure he is given a food parcel and a little money to buy some medication. As I leave I think about the house being built for Trevor and his grandpa by former choir members who have come through the organization and I am excited to be able to contribute to this project. It is not a fancy house, but the door will lock and the roof will not leak. Regardless of how long or short God keeps us in Uganda, I make up my mind that before we go that house must be finished.
Our day consisted of visits to seven students and we had the opportunity to give a little bit of love in a practical way. We arrive back in Kampala six hours later, tired, but much more grateful for what God has given us than before we left.