Yesterday, we went for a trip up to the other orphanage we visit and help. We took with us a girl who is going to be able to pass on donations and make sure that things are travelling well there. It was a stark reminder of the vulnerability of children. We had had a phone call on Friday or Saturday to say that food was running short but were unable to go up until yesterday (Monday). We did think that there were other sources of food but also made sure that despite other things happening that we did make it. We found the children not having eaten properly since Saturday lunchtime.
In Australia many people join in the 40 hour famine - going without food for 40 hours, though it has also developed into going without other things rather than food. These children did not have the luxury of a barley sugar (in fact they would rarely if ever get sweets anyway) and yet they had not eaten a meal for more than 48 hours.
There are so many different slants that I could take on this. Let me think through just a few. Well, really this orphanage is not our responsibility, we have done a lot for them and so whatever we continue to do is a bonus. I could happily argue this if we were not talking about vulnerable children, but unfortunately we are. We have not promised them anything but by the very fact that we know of their need means we need to do something. For those of you who think I might be beating myself about it, I am not but I am cross.
I am cross because I know that there should be food for them. I am cross because I do not like to see people, especially children, feeling like there is not hope for them. I am cross because there is corruption in this country. I am cross because part of me did not want to know the realities and now I do. I am cross because I cannot solve the problems of this country. I am cross because these children should be safe and properly cared for in an orphanage. I am cross because people have let them down, and we probably in their minds fall into that category.
There, I have vented some of my frustrations. I now know the realities of life here for so many. Children in an orphanage are reliant on people taking care of them and when there are no means then they miss out. Children in villages are reliant on neighbours and kindly people helping where they can. Children in our village are so fortunate, they have many people that see them as their responsibility and would make sure that they always had food, shelter and love.
So, what do we do? The first answer for me has to be to pray. To pray for wisdom each moment of every day. While we are here we can help those who are hungry - or give a small amount of money to buy water (Something that happened this very evening) when we are presented with the situation. However, the cry of my heart is for people to recognise the need for change.
Many people think that change can only happen through governments but it has to start with people being willing to put their faith into practise. Those who call themselves Christians must not be willing to cheat, to steal and to not look after each other. In saying that, I know the same thing happens in Australia but in different ways - faith is meant to be put into practise. I was shocked yesterday when a friend, who can be called a peasant as she has no source of income but grows her own food. She told me that because her maize had ripened early, people had stolen lots of it! This seems so low.
There are amazing differences in crime here. I have rarely seen someone who I thought would do me any harm. However, there is so many little things that people just expect to happen. Corruption is rampant from the lowest position to the highest. Just today Ron read at least two examples from the newspaper citing aid being removed due to funds not being spent on what they were intended for. So, each person has to stand up and not be involved in this corruption at any level. One day I handed out lined paper in class for an exercise to be handed in. I counted the pages and knew there was at least 80, one per student. However, as students handed them out we were short. Why, because students had taken more than more and hidden it! About 20 students must have done this, they then handed them back when they realised others did not have. This exemplifies to me that change has to happen with children, they need to know it is not all right despite what they see happening all around. The expression "This is Africa" or "This is Uganda" is not all right when it implies that this is the way it is and the way it will always be.
Enough ranting. The main purpose of this blog post was to identify the fact that before I came here and built up relationships with people I could give to help but I was really ignorant. I was ignorant of the real picture. A statistic and the sight of a person struggling is hard to see on the television. To know someone in that position is entirely different. It makes that small luxury so much harder to pass off. It means that I will not and don't want to forget these children both in the village and those outside. They are precious and need to see, feel and know God's love shown to them in the most practical of all ways. Then, they can see an example worth following, one of goodness not corruption.