Clamoring for clothing
KAMPALA, Uganda – We went to Doctor Joyce’s home. She is the doctor who treated me for malaria and my sinus infection. The people were just beginning to arrive so we decided to go to our next stop – an orphanage, which was not really a home but a place where children could gather to get support. We came out to a crowd of children singing a welcome song. We had the men drop eight bags of clothing in front of us. We spread out with some of the staff and had the children and the women and men line up by sex and age. We began trying to fit the article of clothing to the child in front of us. This was working well for a while until the crowd, which had doubled in size to 200 by now, started pressing closer and closer. We had to shout at them to get them back. By the time we were out of clothing, it was definitely time to leave. We went back to the doctor’s house and there was a crowd there, also. We began to distribute the clothes. We had four bags and there were also almost 200 there. No white people had ever been to their village, let alone white people giving away clothes. We sent the truck back to town to get more, we had so much there. The first batch ran out and everyone waited patiently for the return of the truck. An impromptu program was put together. Singing, speeches, the usual. Then the truck arrived. Instead of the six bags we expected there was one, unsorted. We quickly sorted it and began to give it out. The order broke down quickly as desperate people were lunging at us. We again got in the trucks and left hurriedly. The crew at the office had not understood our request for six bags. They did not know of the need there. Then we went to our third and final stop. The people here were not as needy. You could tell by the way they were dressed.
We distributed and left without too much incident. We later sent six more bags of clothes to the doctor’s house. What a day. We were all exhausted. The next day promised more of the same.Lisa takes chargeWe started out at the school where we went for our welcome to Fort Portal last year. The Ahadi kids were supposed to be there. We went in and the children were very orderly, stood in line and received their clothes. Joyce Kiza and several of our other children were there. It all went fairly orderly. Then on to Kichuna. This is where a bulk of the clothing was going. David had guards for us and a corral made of rope to work out of. We began to distribute clothes again to long lines of people. After we had been working for two hours we noticed the lines were getting longer, not shorter. Lisa noticed people getting clothes, going away and handing them off or stuffing them under their shirt and getting back in line. She suddenly jumped out of the corral and tried to grab a stick from one of the guards, who was not doing his job. He would not let go of the stick so she dragged him over and told him to chase the people away who were getting back in line. It was quite a sight – quiet Lisa running down the road, people scattering before her. But it was somewhat effective. We gave out probably 30 bags of clothing and then gave up due to frustration and lack of energy. The balance was loaded on to a pickup truck and it was onto our next stop – a small village of Joyce’s, one of the Christ Aid staff. This was to be our most challenging distribution yet. We were in a small area surrounded by bushes on two sides and ropes on the other.
I was giving to the old women. Again it started peacefully. I didn’t have much for old women. They all wanted dresses. I probably had three. I gave out three bags myself. There were some scraps on the ground which the chairman and Yousef decided to throw into the crowd. Big mistake. You would have thought they were $100 bills. People fighting and shoving for a bikini top or a pair of underwear. Lisa said, “let’s get out of here.” The only place we could go was to the rear through a juniperlike hedge. We were able go grab a low hanging branch and swing under it to the road. We then ran to the truck and left quickly. What a day. It was, however, not quite over yet. A special boyWe had scheduled a visit to the local prison. Our minds were reeling with what might lay ahead. When we got there we had to explain who we were and what we wanted. We had six bags of clothing with us for 800 men. We were given permission to take video and were guided into the courtyard of the prison. It was very sad to see the men’s lack of clothes. One man was wearing a little girls dress and several others had on women’s clothes. We started out giving clothes to the chairman of each cell block. He would tell us how many men he had and we would give him a corresponding amount of clothing. There were 35 to 50 men per room. Then they brought in about 20 women, four of which had babies. We gave to the women, but the guards quickly decided that they would see to the distribution. We left to growing tension.
The next day, Sunday, we went back with eight more bags. We went in and held a church service. David was with us this time. We each had to speak to the men. We talked to them about opening their hearts to Jesus and that their sins would be forgiven and that their lives could begin a new chapter. It was well received and they were very grateful for the clothes. On the way home we realized that we were burnt out. It was time to go home.That night Joel’s aunt and uncle came to the guest house to pick him up. He was glad to see them. We had dinner, his favorite, hamburgers and chips. But it obviously wasn’t his aunt’s and uncle’s favorite. Joel is a special boy to me. He was with us through out all of these adventures except Bwindi, sometimes helping and sometimes sitting out. I bought him school books and a new uniform. He didn’t get books in school. He said they would help him out a great deal. They cost about $25 – a good Christmas gift for these children. We hugged and he got into the truck his uncle had borrowed to get his bicycle home and they were off. What a great time it was, for him and me.New impressionsThis trip affected me much differently than the last one. Last year I was almost overcome by sadness when I was exposed to the poverty these people live in. This year I guess I was accustomed to it because it didn’t bother me so much. Many things were different this year, especially my perceptions of their culture.
They all want to come home with us, to our beautiful land of opportunity and plenty, but they are all great full for us coming to them and bringing the clothing and gifts. But most of all they are grateful that we came to see them and love them and give them hope. In God’s Grace,MartyP.S. – Reverse culture shock: When I got home and could finally venture out of the house, I had to run some errands. One of which was a trip to City Market. I walked in the front door and stopped, my mouth hanging open. I was truly amazed by the selection, the lights, the coolers and the colors. This truly is a land of plenty especially here in our valley. Compared to life in Uganda this is “a separate reality.”Vail, Colorado