By Denis Jjuuko
About two weeks ago, someone appeared at a Catholic church in Mutundwe, a Kampala suburb for morning mass. The person came with a girl who is about seven years old. Although she could hear, she couldn’t talk. Neither could she walk. After mass, all people left apart from one person — the 7-year-old girl. Somebody had abandoned her there. Probably it was too much for them to continue looking after her.
I can imagine how difficult it is to look after a child with special needs and probably it was too much and that is why the girl was abandoned there. It may sound strange but this little girl isn’t the first or last kid to be dropped in a church or at an orphanage. Many people do for all sorts of reasons. I would never judge them for their decisions. I have never been in their shoes.
On Saturday, the Rotary Club of Kampala Naalya where I currently serve as President together with our partners organized a Christmas party for the children (and some adults) at Missionaries of the Poor, a charity home in Busega on the outskirts of Kampala. The Rotary Club of Nkumba, who too brought in a truck, full of Christmas goodies, joined us. I saw some of my colleagues cry, especially those who were there for the first time. Missionaries of the Poor (MoP) houses all sorts of people. Sometimes the workers wake up and find children abandoned at their gates. Sometimes, parents and guardians come in and ask them to take the kids in. They never turn anybody away.
Because of my position in the club, I interact with the administrators a lot trying to determine what they need and what we can afford. In the Busega home alone (the girls’ section is in Kisenyi), they need 100kgs of maize flour every single day. They need drugs and all sorts of stuff such as wheelchairs, nappies, books, school fees, board games, among so many needs. My friend Rotary Uganda Country Chair Anne Nkutu always says giving supplies to charity homes is not sustainable and we must therefore find lasting solutions for these homes. I agree. On Saturday, I agreed with my counterpart at Nkumba to find a solution to sanitary towels for the girls. Equipping them to make their own sanitary towels (and probably sell the excess) is something we agreed to explore. But that also isn’t a lasting solution to the problems charity homes face.
What about if more and more Ugandans were encouraged to adopt these kids? If most people who can afford to look after kids adopted them, charities like MoP would probably register less people. Although charity homes provide a lot of necessities, there are overwhelmed. They cannot provide the kind of love kids need to grow up if they were in homes — like your home. They would have a Christmas party in a real home setting and not in a charity home where a few Rotarians and others appear for a few hours and then leave. They would be loved more.
There are many people who can afford to adopt children in Uganda. Very many! I know many Ugandans look after kids who aren’t their own such as siblings, cousins, nephews and even parents (who are in old age). They do a wonderful job but one can say, well, these are your relatives. They are your parents. As an African, you are supposed to look after them after all you were probably raised by a village. What about looking after kids who you aren’t your relatives?
I recently had lunch with a real Kampala billionaire and he told me he gets more fulfilled when he helps people who aren’t his own relatives. “You know some of my relatives think my money is their money. They don’t appreciate a lot. Those who aren’t related to me appreciate my support more. At least they come back to say thank you,” he told me, without blinking!
Imagine the life you would touch if you just took in one child and loved them like your own. Imagine the impact you would make. Imagine if you didn’t buy yourself a fancy new car or phone so that you can support one more child? Imagine if of all the apartments you have, you dedicated just one for a child that needs your support?
Imagine instead of giving 10% of your salary to pastors who come for crusades in a convoy of 10 Range Rovers with a Police lead car, you simply used it to support a child in a charity home who is suffering from autism or sickle cell anemia? Imagine instead of flying to Dubai or Disney for Christmas, you instead went to Kidepo and gave the excess which would have been spent abroad to support just one child? Imagine if you can’t adopt, you decided at least to pay fees directly to the school for one child in a charity home? Imagine if your New Year resolutions included looking after one child that isn’t related to you? I don’t want to imagine the kind of country we would have.
The writer is a communication and visibility consultant. firstname.lastname@example.org