I have finally arrived! I've been here for four days - and to say that my first day here was overwhelming would be an understatement. I'll write some more, shorter blogs soon. Right now, internet is a scarcity - actually, there are barely computers here and even many of the older children still do not even have an email address.
Tomorrow is the "official" opening of the orphanage - in fact, it has been going on for more than 20 years, but generous donations from a group called NOTDEC in the UK have raised funding to build the fancy new houses you see in the picture below. For the event, I was able to help write a speech to be read by the chairman. I thought I'd post it because it gives you the history of this orphanage, and Dorothy, the real hero behind the orphanage. In my following blogs, I'll tell you how our donations are being used, introduce you to some of the children - and tell you where the need still lies.
One child here is only a few weeks old. He was found left in a pile of garbage on Christmas Day. He has survived and seems to be doing well now. Each of the children here has their own story - I can't wait to share it with you.
This orphanage is the calling of Dorothy Nzirambi.
Dorothy took her first child in more than 20 years ago while she was still living in a grass-thatched house. She has always been a natural care-giver.
When she was 15, Dorothy, who dropped out of school because she could not afford school fees, was given the responsibility of caring for the two children of her elder siblings.
She raised four children on her own after her husband was killed in 1978 during the regime of Idi Amin. She took work at the Kagando hospital where she witnessed the death of many mothers in the labour room – this is a problem that continues and is the reason most of our children are with us today.
It was in 1984 that Dorothy had a vision to read the Book of James, Chapter One, Verse 27, which says: “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God, our father, means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles and refuse to let the world corrupt us.”
The very next day, she visited the maternity ward at Kagando Hospital. She learned that two men had taken home a two day old baby after the mother had died. There were concerns, the child would die in their care. Outside, Dorothy found the two men and the baby, all of them crying. The men told her they wished the child had died.
Dorothy knew this was the message she was meant to receive. She took the child to her home and prayed t God: “Here is the child I have nothing to give. Bring mana from heaven as you fed the Israelites in the desert for this baby.” The baby was fed that night with a cup of breast milk collected from new mothers at the hospital.
Word spread that Dorothy was taking in children and this is the humble beginnings of the orphanage.
In 1989, Dorothy met Dr. Hodges, who eventually adopted one of the children, Rachel Hodges. By this time, Dorothy was caring for 15 children, still in the grass-thatched home. Then in 1996, she met a Swiss woman, Eleanore Wismer, who decided to finance a new house for the children. In 1998, Dorothy finally left the grass-thatched home and moved to a brick house in Kasinga. By this time, Dorothy’s sister, Milly, also began working with the orphanage.
A few years later, friends of Dr. Hodges, Janet and Antony Johnston visited the orphanage and were inspired to mobilize their church to raise funds. The Kasinga house was becoming too small and so it was decided that new homes were needed. It is because of the generosity of our partners in the UK that we were able to buy the land that you see here – 30 acres. With expertise in construction, John Leftley, and his wife, Carlee, came from the UK to help build the four houses.
St. Paul’s Church has also created a program so that all of the 70 children here has a sponsor who helps pay for education, day-to-day expenses and medicine.
These four houses were built over nine months. The plan is to have another four houses built here to accommodate the growing number of children. The remaining land we will use for growing food.