Today we headed North to Gulu. Before heading off on our 6 hour road trip we visited Missionaries for the Poor. This is a Christian organisation that runs two homes for orphans and disabled people that others can’t or won’t care for.
As with all the places we’ve visited we were welcomed warmly and our donations received gratefully. But I couldn’t help feeling that, despite the warmth in the welcome, the Brother who spent time with us felt he had better things to do. No one could argue with him.
He and his 4 colleagues have 220 girls of all ages to look after. They cook for them. They clean for them. They wash their clothes and soiled bedsheets, supply their needs and send to school those capable of going. Every single day.
Approximately half of the girls at the home we visited are able bodied orphans. These are the ones that are lucky. They now have a roof over their head, food to sustain them, clothes and the pastoral care of a family of sorts. But as with most families, they must help look after the others in the home. Those with cerebral palsy or other disabilities or illnesses (physical or mental) that make them bed ridden or chair bound, often parked against the wall among a litany of used and decrepit wheelchairs.
When we arrived breakfast was being eaten. The helpers patiently feeding and cleaning their charges. Childhood is a part time state in Uganda. It’s hard to comprehend what’s being asked of these 8-15 year olds. But they’re happy. They’re grateful for the care they have, the opportunities that being in the orphanage affords them and the chance to have love and compassion for their ‘family’ around them. They also have fun! Singing and dancing to pass the time when their chores are done.
I’ve discovered that little things mean a lot in Uganda. The kind words from our guide to an older blind woman who speaks only Lugandan (a language many of the brothers don’t speak, as their church is a Jamaican based organisation). Her face lit up as she conversed with an adult in her native tongue.
Sometime just a handshake or a touch can mean a lot. I’ve seen many sights in Uganda that have enriched me but the one that will stick in my memory will be the smile of the little girl with cerebral palsy as I reached out to touch her arm to say hello. She was sitting in her black t-shirt and skirt, parked out of the way against the wall in her wheelchair. That smile. It started in her eyes. They started to sparkle. Oh, the love in those eyes.
Her face began to stretch as she tried so hard to show me how much that touch meant. Her smile was contagious. Her mouth stretched as her cheeks rose and her eyes just kept sparkling as she reached out to hold my hand. I think my eyes may have sparkled then as well.
I have massive faith in those that simply do the right thing because it is right. The brothers at Missionaries for the Poor have my admiration. They simply do the right thing because it is right. Every single day.
Written by Gerry Cawson, Kain Lawyers