Former missioner Madeleine Richey is returning to Nkokonjeru, Uganda, where she served for a semester in 2014. While there for ten days she is building a protected spring well with the help of her community in Fort Wayne, and her Ugandan family. Madeleine is no longer working for CARITAS For Children, but is working in partnership with them to share stories from Uganda.
The Kibera slum outside Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is a sprawling mass of huts made from rusted bits of corrugated tin and rotting wood. In most homes there is no running water or sanitary facilities, and no electricity. The streets are filled with garbage and populated by street children and beggars. It is the second largest slum in all of Africa, estimated to be home to almost 1 million people. As more people move from rural areas to cities in a desperate scramble for work, slum communities such as Kibera are only growing more crowded, encompassing members from all the major ethnic groups in Kenya.
Sitting in the hot Ugandan sun is a girl. She is just outside the Nkokonjeru hospital, a small cluster of buildings inside a compound, broken shards of glass cemented atop the walls like barbed wire to keep unwanted visitors from scaling the walls to get inside when denied entry at the gates. People cluster in the waiting room and the guard sits idly at the gate post. The girl has a sign pinned to her back. It reads: “Enough is enough.”
Topics: global relationships
The rusted tin panels of the merry-go-round, painted in bright red, blue, and yellow, heat up beneath the blistering Ugandan sun. But whether we are sweating in the heat, or doused with a cool rain sweeping through the hills with a passing thunderstorm, the children are undeterred. They dart out from the classroom with its rickety wooden chairs and tables, rotting makeshift blackboard, and paint chipping off the walls, hidden by student artwork, to play on their rickety merry-go-round, slide, and teeter-totter that Sr. Lucy scraped up the money to commission from a local metal worker. I don’t think the children see the rust, ragged edges, and chipping paint.
A little more than a month away from her one-year anniversary of being named Program Coordinator-Uganda for CARITAS For Children’s child sponsorship program, I caught up with Sr. Carolyne Balikuddembe, Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi (LSOSF).
In recent years Northern Uganda has been devastated by a brutal civil war. Perhaps you remember news reports of Joseph Kony and his army of stolen children inflicting a reign of terror; children from outlying villages making a long and perilous trek every night to sleep on the streets of Gulu, preferring to face crime and other unsafe conditions rather than risk abduction. Now that a relative peace has settled over the region, the future is hopeful but still uncertain. For many youth in the region, their childhood has been disrupted by brutal violence. Their education is affected not only by financial need but by the trauma of their past.
In 2009, CARITAS For Children’s founder, Christopher Hoar, sat down to a meeting with a man named Maury whom he had met through a mutual friend. At the front of his mind was a young girl by the name of Wiola. She was about to age out of an orphanage in Chotomow, Poland which had been her home since she was thirteen years old. Without a family to support her and teach her how to make it on her own in the world, Wiola was on the brink of a life changing moment that most of us are prepared for by our parents from the moment we are born. But Wiola didn’t have the luxury of gradually easing into adulthood as many of us do. So it was during that meeting that Chris planted a seed with Maury about sponsoring Wiola and lending some hope to her dreams of New York City.
Imagine you’re standing on the doorstep of an orphanage in Chotomow, Poland, not too far from the city of Warsaw. The ‘dom dziecka’ which means “children’s home,” is the only option you have left.
It smells of moist earth, fresh air, and lush green leaves. It feels like the grass beneath my feet, the cool patter of raindrops falling on my skin, and the warmth of small hands in mine. It tastes of fresh fruit, brightly colored curry powders from the market, and warm matooke that is fresh from the charcoal oven. It sounds like rain, wind, and children laughing. Africa is beautiful, but if you look too closely you can see what some might deem to be the ugly side of paradise.
This past week CARITAS For Children has been celebrating National Catholic Schools Week. Every year in the United States a whole week is dedicated to Catholic schools and the importance of a Catholic education for our children. The theme for this year’s Catholic Schools Week is: “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”1