Kitengeesa was our destination today, a short 10km drive from Kijjabwemi and we arrived at the school which sits next door to the church.
Around 20 of our sponsored children attend here and assistance has also been given in this community to provide two water tanks, educational materials, school lunch and bibles as well as setting up a piggery project.
The first thing we notice is the play equipment and the nursery age children jumping and dancing as they learnt their vowels, their teacher was joining in too.
As we met with Mariam the Lay Reader and the head teacher Paul, we quickly realised this was a far less formal school than is the norm. A warm welcome but no speeches, a quick tour of the classrooms but no formal introductions, we felt like we had been transported to another universe. As the children gathered under the tree, no formal lines here, we were briefly introduced and then invited to say a few words, it was time for some CHI (causing havoc intentionally).
This followed much the same pattern as yesterday but this time we divided the children into age groups to avoid the little ones getting crushed in the ensuing havoc. The teachers joined in and a great time was had by all.
Then as the balls were gathered in the drums arrived and an impromptu song and dance was quickly arranged, no table and chairs for us today, as we sat on the grass with the children watching anyone who felt so inclined join in (teachers included), singing songs to thank us for our visit and some traditional dance, we were moved by the lovely relationship between the children and their teachers. We couldn’t imagine the stick wielding discipline we have become used to happening here.
After a traditional lunch of luwombo (meat cooked in banana leaves) at Mariam’s house, we said a sad farewell to the children and headed out to see the pigs and visit the homes of some of the sponsored children.
The pigs are held in three locations, each group being the responsibility of some of the youth in the church. In this way they are learning to take responsibility for them and as the pigs breed, they will be distributed amongst the community and provide an income for the church. On the whole this seems to be working well and some have given birth to piglets.
One group of pigs were being housed in the garden of a church family. Both very active in the church, he taught primary 7 students in the school, Maureen teaches the Sunday School. She was delighted to show us her 14 day old baby girl, the youngest of 5 children, she then told us how her husband died…. 17 days ago. There were no words, we stood by his grave, a few yards from the pig pens and prayed.
We visited a number of homes of sponsored children. We met Joyce, a delightful elderly lady who cares for her 12 year old grandson Akram. They were also the recipients of one of the solar lamps recently provided. She took us inside the two room home she had built herself to show us how well the lamp worked. There were no windows they cost money, the only chinks of light filtered through the holes in the walls and roof. In the first room the fire was lit under the pot in which she was cooking dinner, the room was full of smoke, through the curtain the room was full, it contained a small dining chair and the single bed she shares with her grandson. She told us: “He cannot sleep on the floor because of the snakes that enter at night”. As we returned to the garden (with one eye on the ground) she thanked us for visiting her, she could not imagine how we could ever visit her home. We shared a hug and then a dance, which still needs practice, before moving on.
Our last stop was to visit Mary, as we approached Patrick quietly told us “she is positive”. Her husband had died of HIV/AIDs, of her 10 children 8 had died. After learning she had been infected she made a promise to take in any child that came to her. She is currently caring for nine abandoned children, at least two with disabilities. Currently three of them are sponsored through CHI. Gift is 9 yrs old and a sheer delight, a very bright outgoing child who has a problem with her legs, walking on the uneven ground is a challenge which causes her to fall often. Mary had a small plot of land on which she grew bananas to feed the children, however on returning to it recently she found it had been ‘taken’ by others. She now has no means to provide for the family and told us they live by God’s grace.
Another day of two halves that has moved us to tears and left us humbled by the faith of those we have met.