Monday, February 21, 2011

A letter from Ellen

*During my recent visit to Uganda, I was able to tell the older children that in Canada, we will be funding their education. They were excited and encouraged by the news - and each of them promised to work hard in school. In Uganda, internet is not common and, in fact, most children at the orphanage don't even know what email is. But, they do love to write letters. So, in a small attempt to connect all of you who have helped make the scholarship program possible to the children you are helping, I asked some of them to write letters that I could share with you. Here is one from 16-year-old, Ellen. That's her in the photo, wearing a fine African dress that was generously donated by Chrisa Hoicka.

To my friends in Canada,

It's me, Ellen, from NOTDEC Uganda. I am really happy for you people living in Canada because you have good, caring hearts for us children living at the Nzirambi Orphanage.

We are very happy that you have given a hand to support our education.

I want to tell you that we enjoyed our Christmas and New Year. Here in my country, Uganda, people burn old jerry cans, old motor tires and other useless things as a way of welcoming the New Year. I hope you enjoyed yours as ours.

As per now, me and my sisters, Patricia, Priscilla, Pelucy and Veronica are waiting our results, but Veronica is ahead of us, so she is waiting for her Senior 6 results that will determine her going to university. The rest of us are waiting for the Senior 4 results that will tell which school we are accepted to for Senior 5, which is an advanced level in Uganda.

I have written this letter with a lot of happiness. We have enjoyed our stay home with Karen, plus her aunt Lynn.

During Karen's stay, we have made some craft of making stars with different types of beads. We really loved that.

I love you all. From, Ellen Kabugho

**Just to update you, Ellen and the three other girls were accepted into their senior levels of school just this week. Our funding will be used to pay for their education. In 2 years, they will be eligible to apply for university.
***The beaded stars Ellen refers to will be used at Christmas to help raise funds.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sweet Jane

On my last night at the orphanage, I went to visit House Mother Jesca and the babies in House #5. To my surprise, when I walked in, one of the little girls – about 2.5 years old – was running around the house and then vaulting onto a mat laying on the floor. She’d roll over in giggles and then a second toddler, Aaron, would run and jump on top of her. The two would then scramble back onto their feet and repeat the routine, squealing with laughter.

I said this was a surprise because the little girl was Baby Jane. Truth is, in the days I was there, I didn’t see Jane so much as smile, let alone laugh or play. She observes the others with such a serious face – her eyebrows creased and lips pursed tightly together. Even last year, I remember that she was such a stoic baby.
She’s really quite sullen!
I even asked House Mother Jesca if the child every smiled. She told me: “She has her moments.” And, on my last night there, she was clearly having one of those moments.

It was a wonder to watch the change in her, if only for an evening.

Baby Jane was brought to the orphanage on Feb. 12, 2009 by a probation officer and her uncle. Her parents had died, and the uncle was trying to care for her, but did not have the means. The child was brought to the orphanage naked and starving. She was so frail, the House Mothers couldn’t exactly determine her age, but assumed she was about 15 months old at the time. She had four teeth and was not even crawling.

She’s so plump and healthy today that it’s impossible to imagine her in the skeletal state that she arrived in.
Baby Jane is a reminder of the scope of what the orphanage does. They accept children who have been abandoned or left behind. Some of their parents die from many of the causes that continue to plague much of the continent – AIDS, malaria, maternal mortality. Some parents are killed or injured in car accidents because the roads are just so unsafe.
Too many are there because their families couldn’t care for the children properly and the children are malnourished and ill. And there are even more sad cases of children who were simply abandoned on the streets or at garbage dumps by their families. These stories are indicative of just how desperate the plight of some families can be.
The women at the orphanage love the children as if they are their own, helping them to cope with the trauma they’ve experienced at such young ages. They are raised to think of their House Mothers and the other 85 children at the orphanage as their own mothers, brothers and sisters.
The orphanage gives hope to these children who otherwise may not have stood a chance at surviving. And now the kids aren’t only surviving – they are flourishing.
*Photo by Brian Pieters