A joyous yelp rang out through the weeds….

Part 2 of guest post by Jessica Duran

Tiny huts appeared in the landscape amid the weeds and farmland as we drove down a red dirt path. Women and children were seen out in the fields and would wave as the van full of Mozungus (white people) passed by. As we neared the Carepoint, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The excitement I had lost the night before was back.

An orange concrete building appeared first, then a group of enthusiastic children. We could hear them from down the path even before we could see them. We climbed out of the van before two long lines of children, singing and dancing. “Ayalama,” they sang. “Thank you,” the very words I whispered to God as their voices filled my ears.

An unexplainable joy came over me as I danced through the human tunnel with my fellow team members. As we made our way into the Carepoint building, the voices became stronger, bouncing off the concrete walls. I couldn’t help it; I was crying, laughing, and smiling all at once. Their song changed from gratitude to greeting, “Welcome, visitors! We are happy to see you today.” Their accents added and took away a few syllables to sing, “Wel-e-come, vistas.”

I had never felt so welcome anywhere in my life. A group of strangers quickly became instant friends. We introduced ourselves to the few hundred kids who spanned all ages. A few of their caregivers were also there to greet us. As I scanned the crowd I studied each of their faces, overwhelmed at the gorgeous smiles pointed back at me.

Those of us on the team weren’t anyone special, just everyday people who sponsor at least one child through the Children’s HopeChest organization. There were nine of us in all, from Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado. We were each anxious to meet our “child.” Some of us had the chance that week; others would have to wait a week for the next village.

Our main task at hand was to play with the children. In Ugandan culture they are seen as a nuisance and are often neglected. In the short time we were there, I did all I could to love as many of these little ones as possible, most of whom are orphaned by one or both parents.
We also planned to visit some of their homes, get photographs of each child to bring back for their sponsors, and hand out and designate some gifts to the children.

I went on my first home visit with team leaders Dylan and Jen (Swenson) DeBruin. Workers from the Carepoint and the Bukedea HopeChest social worker came as well, to translate and offer advice. We had three children with us, two of whom were siblings. We walked through corn and potato fields, passed groups of huts and women carrying water jugs on their head. As I walked further into the bush following the path marked out by the small feet walking ahead of me, I had no idea my world was about to wrecked.

Levi and his Tata’s new home

A joyous yelp rang out through the weeds as I followed Levi into his grandmother’s arms. The aged woman was greeting us with an overabundance of happiness. She kissed my cheeks as she shook my hand and hugged my neck. Jen and Dylan had met her last December when they visited the Carepoint. At that time the team felt led to purchase her a new hut. That would explain her joy! She and Levi showed off their new home and the old one, which was being torn apart and recycled into a small kitchen. Dylan began recording a video to share the story.

That’s when I first began to realize how ridiculous my life has been up to this point.
Seventy-five dollars. 75 U.S. dollars. That’s how much it cost to purchase Levi’s grandmother a brand-new hut. “How is that even possible?” I thought to myself. That’s a new pair of jeans, a weekly grocery run, or even an occasional night out in the city. My throat began to well up.

When she shared how much money she earns per week, I wanted to cry. “$1 to $2 a week,” the translator explained.

I’ve heard of people living on $2 per day, and I thought that was bad. But a whole week’s wages? That is literally pocket change to me. I thought of all the purses and coin jars in my house that have collected my “spare” change. I felt sick. The caring “taata” (grandmother) was so pleased with us, but I felt cheap.
As we left her home and ventured a few more kilometers, we came to the most heartbreaking story I’d ever heard.

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