A Little Piece of Heaven
Several months ago I had posted a blog about a small family in a particularly dire situation at the Bukedea CarePoint. I say “particularly dire” because the reality is that every one of the families of the children supported at the CarePoint are living in sad and precarious situations. But the story that we encountered as we got to know this family broke our hearts. We agreed that there was nothing to do in a situation like this but to act, decisively. This is a blog post asking you to help us act.
Our First Encounter
This is Samuel Malinga. We know him as Peter Pan because of the adorable green cut off shorts and shirt he was wearing a year ago when we first spent time with him. We played with Samuel much of the time we were there because his little smile and laugh were infectious. We knew little about the reality that Samuel went home to after we left that week apart from a brief comment made by one of the disciplers on staff about his situation being bad.
8 Months later we returned to Bukedea with a different team, and found Peter Pan and his smile instantly in the sea of faces. On this particular trip we were encouraged to visit his home as one of the many home visits that we take. The trip to Samuel’s home was about a 2km walk down a dusty trail and into the African Bush. And there, we first realized the depth of the hardship that this precious family faced each day.
|Our first meeting with the family|
Samuel’s mom, Jen, was living with her 3 kids (Samuel-8yrs, Richard – 5yrs, and Immaculate – 10yrs) at the home of her uncle. She had been chased from her previous home by the brothers of her deceased husband who had also died of HIV/AIDS. When he died, the brothers (as is usually the case) made claim to the family land and forced her to move away. Samuel’s mom and the 3 kids had moved back temporarily to her deceased fathers land where she had grown up (now owned by her uncle under similar circumstances-mother chased away and brother took over). The uncle provided the family a small hut as a place to sleep, but were unable to provide any assistance for food or other needs.
To make matters worse, Jen (the mom) is in an extremely poor state of health. She is HIV+, and was suffering from some form of pancreatic or liver issue that had resulted in her belly being swollen to the point that she looked like she was about 8 months pregnant. She was emaciated. But strangely her sunken and bloodshot eyes had a hint of Samuel’s in them, probably because of the striking resemblance he bares to her.
We interviewed Jen and spent some time with the kids. It was tough. We knew that what we were really discussing was what we would do when (not if) Jen passed away, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. There was no real solid plan. The CarePoint was providing some weekly food supplies to the family, but not enough for them to survive, and there were no relatives that would be willing to care for the kids. The CarePoint staff informed us that the family would almost certainly kick the kids off their land when the mother died, leaving them alone. It was heartbreaking. We left that day realizing that something needed to be done. I documented the meeting in a blog post entitled “Mom will be dead in a year” and we left some additional funds with the staff to try and get mom some more medical care and extra food for the kids.
We knew that we would see Samuel and his family in a few short months, and hoped that the situation would improve…somehow?
|Tyra (still with tears in her eyes) when she
brought Samuel and Richard to me
The Breaking Point
In January of this year, we returned to Bukedea after spending 4 days in Ogoloi. While profiling a couple of dozen new kids for sponsorship on the first day, Tyra (who had sponsored Samuel after her first trip) came to me under the mango tree with Samuel and his little brother Richard. She had tears in her eyes and interrupted me (which she knows better than to do) so I guessed when I saw her that it was bad news.
In short, she told me that she had learned that the family had once again been chased from their home. This time, the uncle with whom they had been staying had decided that he needed the materials (tin roofing sheets) for something else and had told them to leave. Samuel’s mom, although still alive, had deteriorated even more, and was bed ridden. Immaculate, who is just 10, was caring for the entire family, including preparing the measly meals for her two young brothers and caring for her dying mother.
|Sponsorship profile picture of Little Richard (5 Yrs)|
I told Tyra we would make a plan (what else do you say?) and requested that we add Richard (Samuel’s youngest brother) to the program. He was now 5 years old and therefore eligible to be in the program officially. We wrapped up the day and committed to visiting the family to see where they were now living.
It was 2 days later that we actually managed to make the short trip to where Samuel and his family were now living. We took a short drive to a small cluster of huts near the main road at the entrance of the CarePoint where we met with Jen, struggling to stand, and happy to see us….though the glimmer had clearly faded from her eye. The small 10′ in diameter hut that the family of 4 was living in was on loan to them from a “good Samaritan” whom we had met a day before, a young lady whose aging father owned several extra huts and was able to provide this one to them from the goodness of his heart.
There is no cultivatable land on the site, so their only supply of food is what the CarePoint is providing the family, as well as the provision that the 3 kids receive daily through their sponsorship. Truly, this family is only alive because of the sponsorship program and the CarePoint.
|Here is a picture with the “Good Samaritan”
who provided a place for the family to live
We met with the family on a small blanket under another tree to escape the midday sun. It was an emotional meeting, because it is hard to deny that Jen has only a little while to live. She had visited the clinic again with the funds we had provided but they said that they were unable to help her at this point, with the HIV making it impossible for her weakening body to put up any kind of fight.
As we talked, Samuel and Richard sat patiently, occasionally smiling and giggling as we looked across at them with smiles, most likely completely unaware of the reality of the situation they are facing. Immaculate, just 10 years old, sat motionless and expressionless. She cried only once – briefly. A kid, living out the empty existence that this fallen world has afforded her. We asked the mom what she thought would happen when she passed away, and who she thought would be able to take the kids. She did not know. We asked if she would be OK if the kids were with the uncles (either hers or the kids’ uncles) and she shook her head slowly. They would not want the kids, and she did not want them there either.
|The small leaking hut on loan to the family|
We asked if it would help if Immaculate could be sent to a boarding school, but quickly came to understand that without her at home, her two young brothers would be helpless. She is far too young to be a mother to these boys, but she is the closest thing they have at this point.
It all seemed very hopeless!
|Our meeting with the family under the tree|
We left Samuel’s mother with some additional money for about a months supply of food, and enough to replace the broken door on her tiny hut so that she could leave it without the supplies being stolen, which had been the case anytime they left the hut in the prior weeks.
But we also left with a sincere promise to her: That her children would not be left alone, and that we would find a way for them to be cared for. We didn’t know exactly how, but we knew we would not let this situation stand.
Time to Act
It has been a month since we returned from Uganda, and after quite a bit of deliberation and planning with the Ugandan staff on the ground, and with the Children’s Hope Chest team in Colorado, we have decided on the best course of action for this family…at least, the best one we know.
Some of this will be difficult for people to understand, and although ideally I would just like to snatch these kids up and bring them home with me, it simply is not an option. If it were, I would be asking you to help me finance that endeavor. But we can’t. At least not now. So here is what we can do.
We have located a small 2 Acre parcel of land pretty close to the CarePoint. It is not large enough to produce crops sufficient to meet the family’s needs, but it would make a huge impact in their existence. Land ownership is everything in this part of the world. As you can see, unless you own land in your name (usually only men are afforded this opportunity) you have no certainty in tomorrow.
We have negotiated the purchase of this land through the CarePoint staff, and are in a position to purchase the land as soon as we have the funds. In addition, we have decided to immediately have a small, but solid hut built for the family so that they can relocate immediately. The structure will be constructed with baked bricks and tin sheeting, making it one of the stronger huts in the area. This home (close enough for the kids to continue to walk to the CarePoint) will allow the family to take a breath for the first time in years, knowing that they have a roof over their heads and that no one can tell them to leave.
The land and home will be purchased in the names of the children, through the local LC1 (the local community council and leadership) that will ensure that the kids retain their rightful ownership of the land once mom passes. This is a huge deal, as it provides the children with far more than just a place to stay, but also the hope of a future. Whatever else comes to pass, they will at least know that they can work the land to provide for themselves. And no one can take that from them!
We have arranged that the CarePoint will continue to provide additional food supplies to the family, until mom passes away, at which time we will establish a game plan in cooperation with the local staff to ensure that the kids are property cared for. But (hard as this is to swallow), the reality is that the kids are already fending for themselves. Mom is on her bed (straw mat) all day, and Immaculate spends much of her day caring for her anyway. This incredible 10 year old has learned to care for her family, and although it pains me to imagine that she will need to continue to do so, that’s just the reality of life in Uganda.
I suspect that when this happens (mom dies) that we will rally together to come up with some additional ways to help the family, and I desire so much to give them the life they deserve. But that day is not here yet. Today, we need to provide them at the very least a place to sleep, a place to feel secure, and the hope of a future.
This project is being facilitated with the help of Children’s Hope Chest, and is going to require $5,425 to accomplish. This is $3,550 for the land purchase and $1,875 for the construction of the hut. As soon as we have the funds we can move to purchase the land and should be able to have this family in their home within a couple of months.
I simply cannot wait to get this done!
|Immaculate – 10 years old|
There is an internal fire that burns in my soul when I speak about situations like this one. But this one in particular! I don’t know if it is because little Samuel (Peter Pan) is so incredibly sweet, or because I know that Immaculate deserves so much more. It might be because of the righteous anger that wants to explode from my chest at the idea of the uncles kicking these kids (and their dying mom) off their land. I don’t know. But there is a raging fire. And I simply cannot wait to return to see them in their home, and to know that in just this small way, justice and goodness could prevail.
I want them to feel the inner warmth of knowing that someone cared enough to step in for them. I want them to know the security that comes from not having to wander when they might be asked to move again. I want them to know that they are loved. And if I am honest, I even want to go visit the uncles, and gloat in the small victory that this family has had, despite their unwillingness to help.
But mostly, I want this to happen because when it does, a little piece of the kingdom of God will have been lived out here on earth, as it is in heaven. A little piece of the kingdom where a Good King reigns. Where justice is always served. Where the lowly and poor and broken and neglected are lifted up and held in the arms of a loving father. Where the first become last and the last become first. Where death doesn’t steal our mothers, and family doesn’t care. Where we love one another as we love ourselves. And where the love of Jesus is not a mere theological concept, but a living, embodied reality. For that day I long. But until he returns, to make all things new, this little piece of that kingdom is the best I can offer this family.
Will you help me?
Please consider making a tax deductible donation to the special fund that has been established for this family. Any size donation will help, but we would love to get this project funded as soon as possible. The link below will take you to a secure donation page that is specifically for this project.
I would also ask that you please consider sharing this post, and ask friends and family to consider giving to this cause. We are so grateful for all of the support that our friends and family provide these kids, and we are incredibly thankful that you would consider making a difference in the lives of Samuel, Richard, Immaculate and Jen.
If you have any questions about this family, or about your donation, please call me directly, anytime, at 515 291-1006 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org