A startling day in Kampala
Marty Jones, owner of the Wildflower Farms and Garden Center in Edwards, recently spent three weeks in Uganda visiting the child he sponsors through a Denver-based organization called Christ Aid.
He sent several e-mails to his wife and four daughters, family members and other child sponsors at the Gracious Savior Lutheran Church in Edwards. Most of the children in Christ Aid’s programs have lost either one or both parents to AIDS. Jones and three others, including the organization’s Ugandan-born president, David Mporampora, arrived just after Christmas with presents including goats and bicycles.
A goat can be particularly valuable to a Ugandan family as one female animal can be used to start a herd. The male animals can be eaten and others sold. The bicycles are a key form of transportation in Uganda, Jones says.
“They use bicycles like we use light trucks – and they carry almost as much on them,” Jones said.
Christ Aid’s goal is to build schools so the children can get an education and move beyond the region’s subsistence economy, Jones said.
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“The goal of the group is to be transparent,” Jones said. “They let you come over and take pictures of your child receiving a goat or bicycles.”
Those interested in Christ Aid can call Jones at 926-5504 or visit the group’s Web site: http://www.christ-aid.org.
The following are excerpts from Jones’ e-mails. Other excerpts will be published in the coming weeks.
– Matt Zalaznick
By Marty Jones
Special to the Daily
PHOTO: “group of kids.JPG” in LOCAL NEWS BASEVIEW
Yesterday was a truly indescribable day. I have no words that can come close to describing what we experienced.
We got in our car and drove through downtown Kampala. What a nightmare of traffic, people, potholes, bicycles and motor scooters. No stoplights, no stop signs, an occasional traffic cop – we saw two – and total chaos as people tried to get from one place to another.
We hit the front tire of a bicycle. The bicyclist and our driver exchanged words, then off we went. Apparently no damage done.
We drove to the outskirts of town – the suburbs to use the term loosely – for our first home visit. There were two children there who had been on the trip to the source of the Nile with us.
We remembered them in their crisp clean clothes and smiling faces. Today the scene was different. We drove down a four-wheel dirt road with houses on both sides. Children everywhere.
We stopped the car and got out and followed Buks, our friend and guide. We went through a gate into a different world. Not different from what we had seen outside the gate, but different from anything we had ever experienced.
Dirty, grimy, filthy is the polite way to describe it. We met the grandmother who was responsible for the care of the children, all seven of them. She was overjoyed to see us.
Then we met the children. Their clothes were ragged and dirty but their smiles were still there. The grandmother showed us into her home, a three-room building made of local brick with a corrugated tin roof.
There was no running water in the house. We saw kids all over hauling water from a local faucet or in some cases getting it from the rivers and streams. Little did we know at the time, this was the best of the homes we were to visit.
We took video of the visit and talked to the kids and gave them candy, which was a big hit. We said good-bye after a short time and got in the car. Belinda broke down completely. We had no idea from the time we spent with the kids the day before what kind of conditions they lived in.
We went to our next home. This time the filth was even worse – imagine an old service station in the middle of the country, where the owner had not cleaned anything but the floor since the 1950s.
The furniture was dilapidated and doubled as beds for some of the kids at night. In the bedroom, clothes were hung over a rope piled two or three deep.
This woman had seven children also, in two small rooms. She made her living distilling alcohol and selling it to her neighbors. Her dress was in rags and she was a little high. She was quick to move a cup behind the curtain that divided the two rooms.
There was a 50 gallon oil drum in the front room with a large stick in it. We were told and could smell that this was where she kept her alcohol. We tried to see the kids but the one who was there went to get his brother and didn’t return so we left.
Then we went on to Jane’s house. She was a charmer from the beginning. We met her the first day we were here and she also came on the trip with us. She has a beautiful smile and is not afraid to show it.
We went down a pleasant path to her home. It was a little nicer area. There was a garden outside with flowers and other ornamental plants.
The houses were not so close together, either. There was probably 25 feet between them. The other houses just had a path big enough to walk between plus a drainage ditch for there sewer.
Jane’s grandmother greeted us. What a lovely smiling woman, thrilled to have visitors from America in her home. Jane’s parents, as with most of the kids, were dead. Her grandmother and a couple of aunts were taking care of eight or more.
No one worked, but there was an Uncle who gave then daily support from his job. The aunts could not find any work.
We took more videos and pictures and gave the grandmother some money, as we did to all the parents – $40 would keep them going for a couple of weeks.
Back to the car to head to our last visit. This was Joanne’s home. She was also here the day we arrived and went on the trip with us.
When we arrived at her house her mother was asleep on the front stoop. Buks awakened her and we sat under a shade structure in the front of the house. We were brought cold soda and welcomed.
Her mother sold sodas from her house to the neighbors to bring in money. Her mother was sleeping because she is sick. She had just that day gotten out of the hospital.
She has AIDS and is going to die.
There were six children, two of whom were sponsored in the adoption program. Joann’s older brother Dennis, 18, is looking for a sponsor. He is tall and supposed to be a good basketball player.
He has dropped out of school because there is no money for school supplies. He has three years to graduate. We gave hugs and money and went back to the hotel.
“Sea of helplessness’
I was in shock. What we experienced didn’t sink in till later that evening when we were talking with David. Then I lost it.
We went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and had a great meal. I almost fell asleep during dinner I was so exhausted. It was 8:30 p.m. I went to bed as soon as we returned to the hotel and slept for 11 hours.
It was truly a day I will never forget. What David and his team are doing here and is incredible. How they choose kids out of a sea of hopelessness must be difficult. From what I understand they look for good students. Education is their ticket out of the slums.
Now I understand better David’s speech to the children about the importance of their school work.
Today we are going shopping in Kampala then to a hospital to visit AIDS patients, then on to a radio station for an interview on a youth segment. I’ll bring back videos and photos for everyone to see.
Tomorrow we are headed to Fort Portal. I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to write but I’ll try