Orphans no More. God Cares School Offers Hope For Uganda’s Children. (Part One)

Life Happens Here

I could not have anticipated how life-changing my journey to this colorful and captivating country would be. Within every inch of every dirt road, life happens here … raw and unfiltered. Nothing in Uganda sits at a standstill.

It’s a strange juxtaposition, this land where time slows down, yet senses come alive. The hard part is returning home to the polar opposite. Here in the West, life is largely purpose-driven and materially blessed—but it can also be antiseptic, shallow and relationally disconnected, making it seem soulless in comparison. (More about my reflections on what I miss about Uganda in an upcoming post.)

My chief assignment while at God Cares School in Kampala was to take photos and collect stories. As any photojournalist would tell you, this requires a certain degree of detachment—at least, if you’re going to ply your craft well. That’s a difficult challenge when you’re surrounded by a sea of orphans, all of them clamoring for your attention. But I had a job to do, and my reasons for not being more “present” were, I believe, justifiable. If I told the story well, both visually and through the written word, then the cause of educating Uganda’s orphans would bring in more badly needed sponsors—changing lives … and ultimately, a nation. That’s the power of story.

A Lesson in Cultural Sensitivity

That’s not to say that I never came out from behind my camera. A few times I did “give it a rest” so I could take time to love on the children, as well as sort through piles of donated pharmaceuticals in the school infirmary. Sick children—one who possibly had malaria (an adult I interviewed had recently contracted the disease)—would come in and lay down on cots, waiting for the nurse to attend to them.

The loveliest school nurse on the African continent. Together, we identified and sorted all the donated pharmaceuticals and sundry medical supplies. All that “knowledge” gained through watching TV medical shows so religiously surprisingly came in handy. Who knew?

I also volunteered to read stories, though the book that I had chosen from the school’s library (The Velveteen Rabbit) turned out to be culturally irrelevant to a classroom full of third-world orphans, who most likely never owned a stuffed animal. Nor, for that matter, did they have the ability to conceptualize the kind of fantasy world this Americanized type of story evokes. Unfortunately, I was already halfway in before I realized this fact, prompting me to revise the story as I went along—contextualizing it to their reality. All I can say is that some of my lessons in cultural differences were learned the hard way

Orphaned, but not alone. When it comes to adjusting to their new lives, God Cares School students employ an “All for one, and one for all” approach. Still, their hunger for mothers and fathers was readily apparent as soon as we stepped off the bus.
Grandpas Needed. Climb out of your RV and get to Kampala. That buffet line can wait.
This trip cost one young volunteer an arm and a leg … well an arm anyway.
“Ha, ha this is fun … uh, kind of. Feeling a little hemmed in here, kids.”

Mob Rule

It didn’t take much to make these children as excited as kids in a candy shop. Actual candy would have certainly done the trick, but in this case, it was bubbles and stickers that caused a throng of hyper-adrenalized children to mob us like Black Friday shoppers at the break of dawn. When things got quickly out of hand, I was quickly assigned “relay duty” by Buyamba Uganda’s* director—as in, “Pleeease, take this bag and run, don’t walk, to the admin office to hide it!” I dutifully obeyed, sprinting towards the office, only to be quickly followed by a splinter group of kids who chased me down like I was some kind of Kardashian. (Makes you almost have sympathy for those poor, trod-upon celebs.)

Faith, Hope, Joy, Peace. But the greatest of these is … the Ninja Turtle?

Nothing is impossible. Don’t believe it? These children do, and if they can believe it, so can you and I. Watch this heartfelt “music video.”

Well, as Bugs Bunny would say, in his inimitable “wascally wabbit” way: That’s All Folks … for Part One, anyway. Lots more photos coming your way on my next blog post.

Meanwhile, to get a brief history on God Cares School and the critical work they do in rescuing Ugandan orphans and giving them an education, click here. I hope your heart will be moved, as mine was, to help sponsor a child’s education. It costs a mere $35 a month (a week’s worth of Starbucks for most us ) and will absolutely change a child’s future. Guaranteed.

*Buyamba Uganda is the US-based administrative arm of God Cares School.

Read Part Two of Orphans No More here.

*Buyamba Uganda is the US-based administrative arm of God Cares School.


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