May 1st, 2011- Children seeing lights
I had never considered how special it would be to watch children seeing lights for the first time. So it was with great surprise and pleasure that I was able to witness this small miracle, in none other than Kampala, the bustling capital city of Uganda, after the sun had gone down and great big lights had turned on to illuminate the towering high rises.
Shallon, a co-worker, and I had spent the weekend travelling to Rukungiri for Shallon’s cousin’s wedding. We were also to take Stella, an orphan, back with us so she could attend the Early Learning School in Entebbe. Stella, a very small 12 year old who had been living with her grandmother, had made a heart wrenching impression on Margaret Tuhumwire, EWAD’s director, just a few weeks prior. When Margaret visited her school in March, Stella burst into tears and begged to be taken away from the village. Margaret took a picture of the sobbing girl, and printed off a copy to help us find the little girl. We ended up also bringing Joshua, Shallon’s curious 6-year old nephew, who had always dreamed of seeing the big cities, especially since his brother stilled raved about his journey to Entebbe with Shallon. Seeing as school was out for summer holidays, Joshua’s parents easily agreed to Joshua’s pleas to let him experience city life for a few weeks.
Most of the 1 hour bodah-bodah (motorcycle), 2 hour special hire (car), 2 hour wait, 8 hour bus and 1 hour matatou (taxi-van) rides across the 500 km of bumpy roads from Rukungiri District to home sweet Entebbe were spent with Stella in my lap. A few hours into the bus ride, I was the first one to shout excitedly after I spotted little groups of wild zebras grazing in the fields, while the rest of the bus giggled at me. After the sun went down and the sky darkened, the children noticed something infinitely more novel than zebras…lights! As we drove deeper into Kampala, Stella and Joshua leapt out of our laps and squished their faces against the window for a better view. Look at the lights! Look at the police! Look at the big houses! So many people still awake! Staring at his first high rise, Joshua pondered out loud, I wonder if I could build a house that big?
That was when it really dawned on me that the village living I’d experienced for just one night with Shallon is the 24/7 day and night reality for most Ugandans. It gets dark at 7pm every night. If there are power lines, they service schools. Only the wealthier families have gas stoves, lanterns and mosquito nets. And yet everyone has a support network of family, friends and neighbours, and they are incredibly generous with everything they have. When I offered biscuits, fruits or soda to Stella, she immediately sought out little Joshua and made sure he was offered food before anyone else. Shallon impressed me too- we hadn’t planned to take Joshua but with us, but it never even crossed her mind to refuse hosting him for the next few weeks.
What a delight and eye-opening experience to watch the wonder and awe of others when they see things you have always taken for granted. I came back to Entebbe a little more humbled and wondering if simply being generous is already having more than most.
-Chida Henry, 2011 EWAD intern