Bukedea Day 1
This morning we left the city of Soroti and headed South away from Ogoloi and the kids that have captured our hearts, towards the Bukedea CarePoint. We arrived a little later in the morning (around 11am).
Bukedea is a small town located on the MBale Highway, a bumpy pot hole laden half gravel half tar half everything else road that connects the northern and southern portions of Eastern Uganda together. The town serves as a small trading post for the surrounding villages, making it significantly more exposed to the world than its sister CarePoint in Ogoloi.
The area was a large military camp during the long and bloody war against the LRA that ravaged the region, and as a result is plagued with incredibly high numbers of HIV deaths and ongoing infection. Strangely, the region has also been victim to a drawn out spate of poisonings that has resulted in hundreds of deaths. As I understand this, there is a group of locals who are killing people by poisoning their food over disputes and because of jealousy over the success of others. Hard to fathom really, but it has been going on for about 3 years. As a result, we actually stay about 30 minutes away in a small town called Kumi so as to avoid any potential exposure to the threat.
The kids in Bukedea are slightly more exposed to the outside world and culture (a good and a bad thing). They speak far more English than the kids in Ogoloi, but they are also a little more rowdy…as the team discovered today. The fact that this CarePoint is located in a slightly more developed region (I use that term very lightly) in no way means that the needs here are any less. In fact, I would argue that they are much worse in many cases, both because of the increased levels of HIV and the fact that land is even more sparse here than in Ogoloi. A family of 5 here needs about 5 acres of land to cultivate in order to survive (between crops for eating and crops for selling in order to purchase other essentials). The majority of these families are much larger than that, and live on small 1-3 acre plots (if they are that lucky) and simply cannot support themselves. In more dire circumstances (see below), they own no land or are kicked off their land as widows and have no way to provide for themselves or their kids.
God is Good – All the time 🙂
This morning we were greeted by the kids with a song that I have heard before but never understood. My aTeso has reached a point that I can now pick out many of the words and sentences, and after beginning to understand this song I asked some of the widows to fill in the blanks for me. It goes like this:
Tikolo eong oTwana
Im Happy, Im Happy
God is Good
I would have died
God is Good
I realized that the song is likely meaningless to Americans, who most often consider God to be good because he has blessed us and our “Christian Nation”. But in this part of the world, where no less than 5 of the kids I hugged and sat with today have lost their parents within the last 6 months. Death is real here. Every day.
So to hear the kids singing, with smiles and joy on their faces…that God was good….even if they were to die….God remains good….was touching, and very real. I caught myself whistling and singing the song later (like it was a nursery rhyme) and realized the gravity of the words in their context. I wonder how many of us (who get annoyed with God when life doesn’t go our way) could ever consider the real weight of this song, or sing it with a smile in the circumstances that these kids are enduring.
We sat with the kids in the multi-purpose building for the usual ceremonies and songs from the kids. The team greeted the kids, many of whom recognized Matt and Tyra and Joe. And then headed out to spend some time together in the African sun.
I headed out for the morning to the Huge Mango tree across the road from the CarePoint with a few of the staff and around 20 of the children (and their guardians) who arrived to be profiled for future sponsorship. This was an all day process as usual, but we successfully got profiles put together for around 20 more kids which will be available for sponsorship within a couple of weeks. Like the Ogoloi kids that we recently profiled (see recent blog: Day 3 in Ogoloi
), we are open to reserving any of these children for you. Just drop us an email at email@example.com and we can let you know who is still available.
Here are just a few of the profiles and stories behind the beautiful faces of the kids being added to the program:
Emmanuel is an incredibly stoic little 6 year old. I’m sure it was just because it was 2:30pm, and he had not eaten lunch yet, but he seemed very sad. Some of the widows (watching with amusement as I danced in front of the kids to get good pictures and smiles) assured me he was just hungry. Emmanuel is in P1 (1st grade). His father is still alive but abandoned him when his mother died while giving birth to him. From what I can gather, she was sick and having issues with the pregnancy, and the doctor elected to operate. Samuel was saved, but the mother died during the procedure. He currently lives with his uncle and aunt, who themselves have 7 other children on a small plot of land. He will benefit greatly from the sponsorship program and the ability to attend school again.
Isaac is 9 years old and in P4 (4th grade). He lives with his older sister (married). Their father died of HIV/AIDS and the mother is also HIV+. The family currently supports 10 children on 4 acres of land after relatives took the land that their father owned (it is common for a man’s brothers to lay claim to their land when they die, leaving the children and spouse homeless). Isaac’s mother works in other peoples land (they call it “digging”) for a measly pay in order to afford her ARV drugs and food. The kids have not been tested for HIV. Isaac’s brother Abraham (below) has also been profiled for sponsorship.
Abraham is the older brother of Isaac (above) and shares the same story. They are both happy little boys who loved to see their own pictures in the screen of my camera.
Peter is a gorgeous little boy with big healthy eyes that look straight into you. He is 8 years old (“kanyauni” in eTeso) and is in P2 (second Grade). His mother is still alive but also bed ridden ith HIV/AIDS and unable to provide for the family. The father has left the area and provides no support for the family. Peter’s siblings (Elizabeth Apio and Rose Atipe) will also be available for sponsorship.
Rose is a 12 year old girl (sister to Peter above and Elizabeth below) who is in P4 (4th grade)
Elizabeth is 10 years old and in P3 (3rd grade). She is the middle sister of Peter and Rose above
Silas is yet another beautiful little girl with 3 siblings already in the program. She is 8 years old and attending a local school in P2 (second grade). Her father died in 2001 of HIV/AIDS. Her mother has been tested and her results were negative so there is a glimmer of hope here. However, the family owns only 1 acre of land, and although 3 of the kids are already in the program there are 9 children in the household.
We have several others that we will work to post when we return, but wanted to make just a few of them available to any of you who had expressed interest in sponsoring before we left.
The team spent most of the day just playing and getting to know the kids. Tomorrow they will venture out in groups to visit the kids homes in the surrounding villages with social workers and our local staff to interpret. These are always great visits and we learn so much each time.
But before we get to tomorrow, a quick update on a family that many of you have heard about, and several of you have met. We were shocked to learn today, that Peter Pan’s family (actually his name is Samuel Malinga) was once again removed from the place they were calling home and had to seek shelter in the home of a neighbor. Samuel is the most adorable little boy, who is much older than he looks, but hasn’t grown much – no doubt due to lack of sustenance.
I wrote about this family in August (“Mom will be dead in a Year
“) but you may recall that Samuel’s mom is HIV+ and suffering from some form of pancreas disease. The doctors have told her that there is little that they can do to help her, and the reality is that she will likely not be around in a year. In any case…she (and her 4 kids) were kicked off of their land when her husband died by the heirs to the land (the husband’s brothers) and was forced to live in the corner of what had been her father’s land (now owned by her father’s brother – her uncle) See the pattern here?
|Samuel and his brother with the Good Samaritan
From what I have gathered so far, it sounds like the family that they were living with decided that they needed the tin roofing sheets on the hut that she was sharing with the kids for another project, and asked her to leave. She begged people in the area to let her stay with them and she has found temporary shelter in a spare hut of a terrific woman (I went and met her) who calls herself merely a “good Samaritan. We are committed to helping this family, and I am committed to helping this good Samaritan. I was proud to meet this young outspoken woman, and we talked for about 30 minutes today. I will be glad to visit her home in a day to learn more and see how we can be of assistance.
We also decided to profile Samuel’s younger brother so that he can have his schooling paid for and receive his meals at the carepoint.
Please check out the photos in the Facebook album entitled “Bukedea Day 1” in the Orphans of Teso FaceBook Page.
I have included pictures of most of the kids (we didn’t quite get photos of all of them; a few were absent and a few are traveling with family due to school vacations through February)
And with that, I look forward to our second day in Bukedea and spending some good time both with the kids and with the community members who continue to help me learn their language and ways. Till then….