Life in Uganda is hard. So hard. I’ve been to Uganda three times now, and I feel like I’m starting to think and feel new things about the whole Ugandan experience. On the surface, the people are happy, smiley, and so excited to see you. The children are always singing, laughing and competing to hold your hand. The sun is warm, the flowers and trees are beautiful. The colours are gorgeous. The landscape is breath taking with rolling mountains, endless greenery and a flowing river. On the surface, it looks like absolute paradise.
But this is not paradise. I found myself saying at one point “I think heaven must look like this”. But I was wrong. This is not paradise. Yes it’s beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful. But heaven will not be like this. Because under the surface, poverty runs deep and is at the core of everyone’s life here. People are fighting to survive, a constant struggle to make ends meet. There isn’t enough to go round, not at all. There isn’t enough food, clean water, and there certainly isn’t enough medicine.
I realised, with the help of a fellow team member that it’s all about choices. People here have to make the most impossible choices every single day. Do you go hungry to send your child to school? What if you can only afford to send one child to school, who do you choose? Your oldest child, smartest child, do you send your daughter or son?
What hit me the most, the moment that stuck with me the most, was the choice that one 7 year old orphan made. Her name is Zulpha, and she’s the orphan I sponser. At St Mark’s school every orphan gets fed, porridge in the morning and Posho (a dough made from Maize flour) and beans for lunch. The fee paying students are supposed to either bring lunch or go home for lunch. The truth is though, that many of the fee paying students do not go home or take lunch because after paying the school fees there is simply nothing left. Pofia is the perfect example of this happening. Pofia, is 5. Pofia is cheerful, bouncy, full of life, and loves cuddles, she has a smile so sparkly she can light up a room. But Pofia, is a fee paying student. She does not bring lunch, and she doesn’t go home. She just doesn’t eat.
One day I was sitting watching the orphans eat their morning porridge, and Pofia had followed me in (she was my near constant shadow). English children might cry if they saw other children eating food they were not entitled too, but here it’s normal to go hungry it’s every day for her. Pofia was simply glad to be playing with my hilariously white fingers. But Zulpha had other ideas. She took Pofia by the hand, sat her down, and shared her porridge.
A 7 year old orphan, who has known nothing but hunger her whole life, chose to only have half the food she had to ensure her friend had something to eat. She could have given her just the leftovers, but she didn’t. She meticulously shared mouthful by mouthful for her hungry little friend. She didn’t look concerned or worried, that the food she was eating had to last. This little girl knew more about friendship, love and generosity than I’ve ever known. This little girl had to make the kind of choice, selflessly, that I have never made and will probably never have to make. I have never had to choose between friendship or a full stomach for another. But this 7 year old, hungry orphan girl did. And she chose well. Motivated by love, not hunger or desperation but love.
Let’s remember these children in our prayers, and lets all consider the choices we make, and lets make them out of love. Just like little Zulpha did.