Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012...so much going on today!

Uganda’s people are extremely soft spoken.  Many times at the school, it is difficult, if not impossible, to hear the children speak and I must ask them to repeat themselves.  These children are forever polite, even curtsying to us after being given something or bringing something to us, all out of respect. 

While coming to class, they are quiet, in a straight line, and focused on their task.  In sewing class, if they speak at all, they almost whisper.  Even the littlest ones barely speak aloud to the adults but they are all very animated and chatty with their peers, giggling with full body smiles reflected in their eyes. 

They are often seen with their arms around each other, holding hands, and always caring for each other, regardless of age.  However, they are quick to smile and their eyes light up when made to laugh and given attention.  The camera is a constant source of delight and they giggle and squeal and point when they see their own faces and that of their friends reproduced on the screen.  They will pose and indicate they would like their picture taken and then rush to see it.  This is a daily favorite activity...for all of us! 

I first saw Simon as he was slowly limping towards the nurse’s office.  He was bent over like an old man, favoring one side, with a pained look on his face and huge eyes that spoke volumes.  He would stop periodically on his way across the grounds and then continue until he finally arrived at his destination. 

Lydia, the nurse, spoke to him and then called me over to see his problem.  His groin area was swollen beyond recognition  and was lopsided due to this swelling.  It was no surprise this little guy couldn’t walk.  I asked him how he felt and he said in a typical whisper, “Fine.”  The nurse tended to him and sent him on his way but as he attempted to return to his classroom, his problem was preventing him from making any progress so she retrieved him and brought him back. 

I went and got him some of the things we were giving to the orphans after we took their photo, in the hopes we would see a smile on his face - small toys, Beanie Babies, candy.  It worked but his problem was still there.  He had lunch and then left again, slowly making his way, still limping and in pain, leaving me worrying about what would become of him and his problem. 

Update:  I shouldn't have worried.  Upon hearing about Simon, Sylvia immediately went about contacting his family demanding that they take him to the doctor to address this problem.  No grass grows under this woman's feet when it comes to solving problems and her reaction is swift and productive. 

Apparently, Simon had not been in school for the past week.  Sylvia arrives and Simon returns.  It seems that, often times, when families hear of Sylvia's return (and they ALL know when she is to return!) they send their child to school with instructions to go to the nurse with their medical concern in the hopes that it will be taken care of at no cost to them.  Note:  having taught in public education for 37 years, this is not unusual behavior for some parents in the United States, as well. 

Simon's sister came to school, was given money for transportation and instructions to take her little brother to the clinic for treatment.  I remained anxious about Simon's condition and worried about him as I thought of Liam, our grandson, who is the same age as Simon.  I simply could not imagine allowing an issue like Simon's to go untreated for any length of time and it brought forth again the realization that Simon and Liam occupy the extreme ends of the spectrum in lifestyle and medical care.  It is not an easy realization to absorb even when presented with it every day during our time here in Mbiriizi.  But, this difference that separates us from so much of the world creates a resolve to be a part of the solution, starting with one small village - Mbiriizi.

Simon returned in the late afternoon with his sister and a smile on his face!  He was walking more comfortably, standing tall, and grinning from ear to ear.  I was shown his sterile dressing where they had lanced an abscess and had some of my concerns alleviated...some but not all...I simply could not get the thoughts of Liam out of my head.  It was moments like these that made the situation here difficult to accept.   But, Sylvia understands and supports these people.  Part of the goal of her work is to enlighten the rest of us and move us to become involved.  I am learning - learning to accept these differences as not negative circumstances but simply an alternate set of diverse conditions that exist in a dissimilar way of life.  Until you see this, though, it is nearly impossible to understand.  Without a doubt, this is a challenge.
Keeping in mind that the general attitude of these children is strong and positive, today's activities were nothing less than uplifting!  We were treated to demonstrations by the students and their club activities and we were not disappointed.  The students showed us "what they've got".  By all accounts, they've got plenty!!! 

This was a perfect antidote to any doubts I had about the possibilities for these children.  They exhibited an enviable poise and intelligence that, often times. belied their age.  They were eager to share with us what they had learned, what they were accomplishing in their club, and wanted to involve us along the way. 

The science club made soap that will be used at the school and sold at market.  The craft club demonstrated and exhibited beautiful and impressive sisal rugs, baskets, drawings, jewelry, fabric, and weavings.  We were treated to both an energetic and fast-paced football game (soccer) and a handball game played with both girls and boys.  Lively and vigorous dancing and singing performances were an integral part of the days activities and the math club presented some complicated and thought provoking logic problems.  The social studies club carefully explained the creation of the Rift Valley to us complete with maps and a confident presentation.  The music club demonstrated their guitar and drumming skills with the teachers participating, as well. 

It was heartening to see the accomplishments being made by these children and to have proof of their potential to flourish in the future. This is  the result of the encouragement and support they are given through the faculty and caretakers at the school and through all that Sylvia provides through her organization. 

Children not involved in the demonstrations could be seen looking in the windows and wanting to be a part of the activities. Adults were occupying that window space, as well!  Naturally, the hope is that more and more students will become involved in these extra curricular activities as time goes on.  This is a huge step forward for Mbiriizi!

Just watching these performances was exhausting for some of the little ones!

...and some were taking it all in, just happy to be a part of it!

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