Friday, July 6, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

We started updating orphan pictures today for the school records.  These groups of children quietly walking behind one another in a straight line showed a calm discipline atypical of children, in general.  As I watched these 240 orphaned children parade up to us and stand quietly, I couldn’t help but think of my own children and my grandchildren and how beloved and treasured they are, how much they are cared for and whom I couldn’t imagine living without.  The love and affection my grandbabies receive is a natural daily occurrence, ever-present - the hugs, kisses, words of love and affirmation - and general paying attention to them is simply the norm.  

I have seen that these children are well cared for and nurtured in Mbiriizi and they are happy and are flourishing there.  It is a haven for them, a place that gives them hope for their future on countless levels.   It is a fulfilling solution to the parent-less situation in which they find themselves.  The guidance, support and love all children need is provided by the dedicated faculty at the school despite the number of children needing so much.  Mbiriizi is clearly a kind and encouraging community in which these children are living as they continue to grow. 

But it is my standard, my norm of child rearing that gets in the way as my heart aches for the infrequency of the behaviors I hold so dear - the consistent hugging and physical touch we engage in during our interaction with our own children and grandchildren that is simply not possible here on the level I am used to.   This is where I struggle with accepting the hand that these children have been dealt in my attempt to understand the general approach and position here in Uganda. 

However, the children are responsive to hugs with huge smiles and giggles and that is a heart-warming sight....and then I really see them for the beautiful little beings that they are! They are strong and confident.  They are engaging and optimistic.  They are accepting, patient and free of complaints.  They have taught me so much through their example, especially not to judge their lives through the filter of my norm.  Their positive attitudes are contagious!

The children at Mbiriizi help to care for each other, holding each other's hands, keeping each other out of danger, reminding each other how to behave.  They become independent at a very early age and working hard is easily accepted as their responsibility.   Filling the water tower that serves the small nurse's office fell to a group of boys who independently organized themselves to get the job done.  They worked hard and cooperatively until the tower was filled with water, climbing a man-made ladder while carrying these heavy jerry cans of water.  It was real team work.

Namata Michelle's sewing center offers significant opportunities for the children to not only repair and make their own uniforms but also to create a business that could help sustain them in the future.  Today, Michelle worked with the sewing teacher, John, and students teaching them to create patterns, the importance of measuring properly, and maintaining a quality of work that will set them above the rest.  All students listened intently and went to work on the foot pedal sewing machines, doing repairs, helping to replace zippers and starting work on their own projects.  Both boys and girls worked hard at learning and doing well and were all intrigued with what could be accomplished.  This sewing center offers huge possibilities!

We also assisted with organizing medical records today.  Alphabetizing these names was a cerebral challenge that was mind numbing!  Some of the names were so similar that alphabetizing had to be done to the 10th letter or more!  After a while, Joanna and I were really not sure what letter belonged where but we persevered and completed the task over the next couple of days while laughing at our own inadequacies along the way!

Interacting with the children at the school was one of the most rewarding things we had the privilege of doing.  They loved to follow us, to pose for photographs, to simply interact with us even through the challenge of alternate languages.  It didn't matter.  Their giggles and smiles...their eyes... were all we needed to know that the mzungus were a welcome distraction.  Just look at their faces...look at their eyes...

Such irresistible faces....
Jason Davis, a reporter from Minnesota, and his cameraman came today to film the school and Sylvia for a documentary he is producing. He spent a number of hours with us today interviewing most of our group. It will air on KRSP in Minnesota in July. Maybe those of us in NJ can see it online!  I'll have to find out the date and keep you posted.  I hope this is an opportunity for more people to find out about the work that Sylvia is doing and about the difference she is making here in Mbiriizi.

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