This week has been a great story week, Raelee has kept us and many readers of Facebook entertained. Today was no exception but with a sad reason.
Raelee went outside. Usually we hear her playing, if there are other kids she is screaming constantly. If there’s no kids she is usually singing at the top of her lungs or running around yelling “Elsa come back”. When all is quiet for 20 minutes I go looking. Today she was at the guardhouse with Sharifu. (He usually knows exactly where she is!) I see her shut the door of the guardhouse and then open it saying ” Well, that didn’t work” She goes in and comes out with a screaming baby. “Why is that baby here?” “He walked here” (he’s barely a year old). “Take him home” He lives next to us so she took him home but his mama wasn’t even there. Raelee left him with their neighbor. I asked her later what was the purpose of shutting him in the guardhouse and she explained she was laying him down for a nap. I told her that we, nor our guards are a babysitting service and the babies have to be taken home. There are two women, the neighbors who will come to get water and leave their babies. One of the women we have had that problem with her many times. He is always crying and our Dr says he is malnourished. We and others from the village have talked to them about the importance of feeding their baby. Now, she is pregnant again. Even though we got a laugh about her shutting the baby in the guardhouse trying to placate him, it is heartbreaking to hear babies cry all day and all night because they are hungry. And I’d like to feed them but that’s not teaching them to take care of their own. If we fed them once, we would be expected to feed the whole family everyday. If it were up to Raelee and I, we would keep the babies!
Over two million children in Uganda under the age of five are chronically malnourished. It is the cause of nearly 60% of infant deaths and 30% of the death of mothers.
Malnutrition is caused by vitamin and iron deficiency in their diets. It is extremely hard to understand when I look around this beautiful green country that people die from malnourishment. Our Doctor here told us that if the baby I described above could have one egg a day he wouldn’t be sick all the time. The family has chickens but I think they are kept and eggs probably sold for school fees, and/or less expensive but not as nutritious foods… I think a big part is not being educated about what is good for the babies. One mother has given Raelee the porridge that she (and others) feed their children. It is basically corn flour mixed with water – not big on nourishment. One of our workers who is also Vice-Chairman of the district is involved with a program that is trying to educate pregnant women and mothers about what it takes to keep their children healthy and clean. Educating them that getting dirty water out of a ditch does not constitute good hygene. Because the world you and I have been raised in has been so blessed, we take for granted and don’t realize there are people in this world have to be educated on the basic neccessities of everyday life. Granted, when you only have dirty water to wash in what else are you to do? And when your grandparents taught your parents in a time that there was rarely clean water, you are just doing what has been handed down. That is one reason The Mandate is so appreciated here is because of the bore holes (wells) that have been drilled every six months, bringing water to all parts of the village.
Christian and I have been researching and praying on what we can do as God’s hands and feet to reach out and make a difference that is lasting, that doesn’t make people dependent on us but to help them with dignity to be able to care for themselves and families. There is such poverty and struggle here that is it rare for community to reach out to their neighbor because they are barely surviving. We have found a couple of groups in and around Kampala that have been overseeing projects such as our farming project and we have contacted them to ask their advice on the things that have worked or not worked for them. There are a few things that we see helping, with very little cost to us but great impact on the community. The key is training and teaching rather than giving freely. Giving would be much easier but wouldn’t help anyone in the long run. As the old phrase says
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch a fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”
That is a big problem with many organizations who want to help – and are honestly well meaning – but actually end up hurting because once the organization or the money is gone then people are more likely to be worse off than before.
We have found in our year here that what God is showing us is to walk with our community, have relationship with people and live out His truths. Be honest and have a realistic picture of what we can do and what we shouldn’t do – especially if we don’t have His leading in it. We came here with no experience and no personal vision on what to do to help, but as God leads us everyday, more of the picture of His plan develops before our eyes. We have seen so much gratefulness in the farmers with this project, even though we have made mistakes and have learned along the way;; even though these same farmers have grown crops before, getting the good seed and fertilizer has made a difference in their crops. We have seen one farmer who had the best harvest now looked to for advice on what he did to achieve that. We’ve had opportunity to pray with them and give testimony that everything we do is not of ourselves or our organization but because of God’s plan for this village.
The year has plenty of ups and downs, tears and laughter but we have grown through the many trials and joys. I don’t think we would change any of it even if we could, knowing this is where God put us and He has plans not only for the community but for us also. We joke at times that we feel we are actually here because of Raelee, but I don’t doubt it. The joy that she has brought to the people here, and the example of unconditional love she has shown for everyone has probably made more of an impact than anything Christian and I could do. She isn’t shy about making friends or telling about the love of Jesus and because of that many seeds are planted for a great harvest.
We don’t know what this next year will bring, I’m sure many more surprises, twists and turns! But I also know God will bring us through richer than when we started!