Yesterday, we filmed the first two of many short Q & A sessions with local residents near our school. The questions we asked them were mostly lighthearted and straightforward; questions that if asked in America, would receive mostly happy answers. Yet here in Kabale, I cried my way through both sessions. I’ve worked here for the last nine years, and I never cease to be surprised by the widespread heartache experienced by the people of Kabale.
The second interview of the day was “D,” pictured here. As we asked D about his family’s Christmas traditions, and what gift he would want if he could have any gift in the world (and so on), his smile radiated joy from within him and right into our hearts. His smile is simply incredible, as you see here. However, when I got to the last question, which is a little more serious, my heart broke.
We asked him, “What is the biggest problem you are currently facing in your life?”
He began talking about how older children and adults “abuse him” (the Ugandan word for bullying) because his family doesn’t have money and he can’t afford shoes or a uniform to go to school. (He was not in school when we found him in the field beside our school.) He broke down in tears and we cried with him. We would never, ever want to exploit anyone, and this was far from how I was expecting the Q & A to end, but it’s still an important story to share.
I don’t normally do things for individual students, but God often calls us to do things we don’t normally do.
We took D into town to get him a pair of shoes and a school uniform. When we told him to go clean himself up for the car ride, I have never seen a child run so fast, or get dressed so quickly. As we were driving the short distance to town, we could see him taking in everything around him in awe. We asked him when was the last time he had been to town. He couldn’t ever remember a time. He said once, when he was much younger, he came to town to see the President, but he was too young to remember.
Can you imagine a life where you never remember leaving your neighborhood? That’s the reality for most of these village children.
I know very well that a new school uniform and a new pair of shoes are a temporary fix for a much larger problem. However, I pray that they give D the boost in self-esteem he needs to walk into school, to ready to learn, and without feeling shame. Sadly, I also now know that if I did 100 more “interviews” in this same village, I would cry through 99 of them.
Friends, this is why our school and community center are so incredibly important.
Though D is too old to join our school this next year, he lives right next door. He will likely be a participant in our Sunday “Kid’s Days,” which will be a day for ANY child from the community to come and join our programs. Kid’s Days will include a hot meal, an educational session, and a whole lot of rukundo (love). The impact of having someone to love you, tell you that you are important, and tell you that you can be something goes farther than we could ever imagine. In addition, our school will serve children in the neighborhood who are just like D – children who can’t afford a uniform and shoes to go to school with dignity. Children who have no hope for a quality education. Children who have no hope of leaving their village for the nearest town, much less a University.
Stories like D’s are why I started Rukundo International.
It’s why I spend my own money to fly here to personally monitor our programs, and visit these beautiful souls who still smile through all they’ve been through. Each time I return, I’m reminded that everything I go through with this organization is worth it because we are changing lives. We’re impacting the lives of people who never dreamed things could change. We’re helping to change lives of children just like D. I want to see him smile… I want to see them all smile. I want them to know rukundo (love).
In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” We are asking you to join us in the harvest field. If you are able to help us with our next step in this project – building our fence – please visit here and give what you can. I thank you for taking the time to read D’s story. If nothing else, I hope it makes you feel grateful for a life where you’ve been able to explore and experience the world beyond your own neighborhood. There are thousands of kids (and adults) in Kabale who can’t say the same.
Thank you for your generous support,
Founder & President