For three weeks now the size of the village has been double what it had been for the past eighteen months. This is the biggest change that the village will ever undertake! From now on it will be a much smaller ratio that will be added when each two houses are filled. Fortunately, God has been gracious, it has been a very smooth transition with very few difficulties. The children have settled in well and the new mothers, Persis and Rose, are managing their roles beautifully.
The children have been profiled for a while. This is the process of finding the children most in need and making sure that the information that we have about the children is correct. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances of life here, there can be lies told so that children can come to a place where they will be able to go to school and be fed regularly. Ivan does this job and it is an amazing and important task. There are so many in need and he has to distinguish between them. Then, the board in Australia approves the children and then their case is presented to the probation officer. This went much smoother than expected, thank you God.
The houses needed to be ready, this was not quite at the completeness we thought through no fault of anyone. The tables needed to be made, the bunks made, the locks on the doors (some of which were much harder than expected) and the cooking area made. Also, so many things needed to equip the houses: pots, sheets, bowls, mugs, lanterns, etc etc. So, most of these things were ready prior to the children coming, though the cooking stove (made out of mud) needed more time. Lots of lessons learnt and new timelines made for next time - but that is the process.
Saturday morning dawned and off we set in the village bus (this is usually just used as a fund raising bus). Thinking it was a little bit of a drive to the first place but..... TIA (This is Africa)... two and a half hours later, after travelling small bumpy country roads we arrived. The two boys were at the water pump and hopped on the bus. We then took them to their grandmother's house and officially collected them. For me, this was incredibly emotional, the grandmother looked fragile and is the only one these boys have. We offered them a bag to bring anything they would like to bring - they had nothing! We will of course endeavour to help this grandmother see her grandsons again but it is a long way away and she seemed very frail. A new life at a cost. The boys settled into the bus well and the younger one Sebudde played pick-a-boo with me, Steven was a little less certain. It was good to stop and buy some food, that helped them as they ate what was probably a big treat for them, buns and bananas.
The next stop for the bus was the slum that we have been to on a number of occasions, where Ron and I feel quite at home in a very surprising way. Here, we were picking up five young girls ranging in ages from about 3 to 13 years of age. Their father had died about 18 months previously and their mother about 6 months ago. They were living with an aunt (who we had met and thought she was about 18!) who has four children of her own. They have been able to attend school but struggled to find food to eat. These girls were all ready for us to pick them up and though it was hard to hear a cousin cry that they were leaving, one knew that it is a good solution. They will be able to keep contact but there is security in their lives. At Kikaramoja children hold your hand, you take care where you walk as there is likely to be faeces in your path and you walk over open drains/sewers. The girls names from oldest to youngest are Brenda - who is in Senior One and achieved well in Primary 7 exams despite having to look after a sick sister and the other circumstances of the year including her mother's death), Santina Christine who is quiet and had just had a front tooth removed, Carol who is in Primary 4 and a happy girl, Rachel who is in Primary 2 and then little Angela who has two ways of being - happy/enchanting and stubborn/crying. They all speak some English unlike the rest of the children we collected on the Saturday.
The next stop was in a different place in Kikaramoja. This was always going to be hard as this little boy's mother died on the previous Thursday. She had wanted him to come to the village but here was a boy in mourning. After discussions it was decided that it would be better for him to finalise all the burial rituals and then come on Monday. He looked like he had not eaten for a long time and is very small. I think that, despite his mother not fully knowing that he would be picked up as quickly, the timing seemed perfect. He was able to be with his mother until she died and now he is able to be well looked after. I need to show you two photos of Maliko to show the difference. He is a very street wise young man, he has needed to but with the new environment seems to have settled in quickly and well. The fighting that happened when no adults were around appears to have stopped. He is such a happy fun-loving young boy and looks like a great runner but this might just be lack of nutrition.This picture only partly shows the happiness that it is evident to us each day but I want to get this post finished so I'm not going searching more pictures.
Then, it was up to Bugembe to pick up a child who we have met at church. Michael has a lovely grandmother but it is very hard for her to continue to look after Michael and he needed a new home. Michael is funny for us, he comes to the door and asks to come in and then will commence to talk "Auntie Anne..." or "Uncle Ron...". The problem, the rest of the sentence is in local language and he thinks we understand. We think he understands more English than he speaks and so thinks we are the same! It is quite amusing as we have no idea most of the time. Michael found it very difficult to leave his grandmother but has settled in well.
Then, on to a place in Wairaka, where I was pleasantly surprised to see a lady I know from Women of Hope and it was two of her grandsons who are twins. Waso and Kato are two lovely little boys with very different personalities. Kato is much more outgoing and was sitting instantly on my knee. Their grandmother has AIDS in the later stages, their mother has died and their father who is very young is in Kampala. Unable to look after the boys they are given to the grandmother who has about 6 other grandchildren to look after. She shared at Women of Hope what a great relief and blessing it is that the children are here.
Time was moving on and Ron needed to go into town to collect the tables, so we dropped him off at the village and went on to Kairaka. Here, we were picked up two children who's parents had both died, a sister and brother, Martha and Peter. Martha is HIV positive but is well and on treatment to maintain that situation. Peter is the child that has found it hardest to fit in and has been a bit unsettled. However, this is improving on a daily basis, he will continue to need encouragement and support with his school work.
Then, finally home to a great celebration. Yes, if you count up we had only added twelve children. One of our new mothers Persis has two children that have come to be part of the village. She was in a poor situation and so her children were also vulnerable. Then, on the following Wednesday Ron, Ivan, Luke and a mother were able to go and get Joshua. Here are pictures of these three. The first one is a picture of Brenda (one of the original children) with Willington . Then, there is a picture of Purpose and then Joshua.
Well, I will finish now and hopefully we will continue to have power and I won't have to make such long posts that take all morning! It is such a great adventure and so good to see children so happy. Food at first was stockpiled in bedrooms - no longer needed. Children are learning that there is always enough for them. It is exciting and I have to go - time to kill a chicken for dinner - I am going to help (maybe).