It was December in Uganda and the kids at boarding school came home for winter break. The couple running the NGO St. Nicholas Uganda Children’s Fund thought it’d be a great idea for me to meet a few of the Ugandan orphans they help put in school. The organization is incredible and they get these kids all the supplies, clothes and money they need for class… but more than that they give them emotional support. They care about these kids like their own. Matter of fact, they left their own families for years to be here taking care of their new kids.
I had a meeting place and time. 30 minutes late (Ugandans are not known for time keeping. The girls didn’t have watches so they guessed) they girls arrived with a baby boy in tow. Three sisters: Sarah, Michelle, and Alison (FYI, those are fake names…). They handed me the baby, laughing, “white people love our babies!” and told me they were watching him for their neighbor. They did it every day for no pay. Within ten minutes the diaper-less “Prince” peed on me, something I came to get used to as not all can afford diapers here.
I went to their house for lunch. The girls started off as strangers but were like family within a month. Ugandans are incredibly hospitable. In India, people look at me like an ATM. I NEVER had that feeling in Uganda, in fact they insisted upon paying for things and made it very difficult to buy for them.
We ate lunch together often, dinners too. Mostly cabbage, potatoes with g-nut sauce, and rice that we had to sift the rocks out of.
The girls are orphans. The oldest, and caretaker, Michelle, was 17 at the time. She had been raising her sisters for four years. They told me their father died of tuberculosis and their mother then died of a broken heart, which is “very common”
The girls shared a twin size bed and one pillow. The three of them were just too big for that. The NGO was getting bunk beds made for them and my parents and I got them blankets, pillows, and Christmas presents.
I asked the girls what they wanted. “High Heels!” said Sarah and Alison. Michelle said “cooking oil and a new pan”. She truly was the mother of the three. Christmas morning they opened presents from their American sponsors through the NGO as well as a few from my parents and me.
For less than 100 USD the girls now had brand new outfits for Christmas day church service. I cringed when I saw the shoes they wanted. Did you know that the clothes donated to Salvation Army and Goodwill are sorted through in the U.S. and the unwanted remainders go to Africa? It wasn’t shocking to see people with U.S. football shirts on. The shoes were clear heeled and sparkly aka stripper shoes. If you didn’t know what stripper shoes were and you were 17, I suppose you’d think they were the most gorgeous shoes in the world, like Cinderella’s glass slippers. I talked them into getting some mostly black heels instead.
We got loads of food, a live chicken for Christmas day, and all the cooking supplies they needed. They only eat meat once a year because it’s so expensive. Expensive being *I think * less than 10 dollars for a chicken.
Michelle came to me a few days later and said, “I hate to ask for more from you, but all the girls have their hair done…” Michelle’s head had been shaved at school and she wanted artificial hair put in. It was 10 dollars. She looked great with her new braids.
The girls showed me photos of the dresses they made for a school dance. They made them out of their school bed sheets.
A few days before I left a new girl was there. Their “auntie” had dropped the girl off and said, “she’s yours now, and I’m leaving.” Their “auntie” had found a new man that didn’t want a child. This is apparently common in Uganda. I can’t remember if it was their cousin or sister that they didn’t know about, but Michelle now had another mouth to feed.
One thing about developing and third world countries that I love is how much pride they take in appearance. The girls would wake up at sunrise, wash their clothes each morning, laying it out to quickly dry in the scorching sun, iron everything with a coal iron!, and finish getting ready. By 11 they would have food over the coals outside to slow cook while they ran out to do errands. Lunch was at 3 and tea was for dinner. Once the sun went down it was bedtime.
They gave me a card that played music. It was extremely meaningful because in comparison to how little they have it was such a generous gift. The nurses I worked with gave me cards too. It shows how caring Ugandans are. They are giving and they appreciate gifts and say thank you over and over. In India, it’s not in the culture to thank people, which is frustrating sometimes.
They wrote a letter to my parents saying that they think of me as their sister now, which makes my mom and dad their mom and dad too. It was touching.
These girls want to be teachers and doctors. They are withstanding all odds. If that doesn’t put things into perspective, I don’t know what does.
Join my email list and get exclusive updates & news straight to your inbox.
I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.