The whole community and schools went to mass this morning. It was from 7:30-9:30. Mass in Uganda is very different than mass in the United States. For example, everyone sings all the verses to the songs…and then some. Everyone is relaxed and cheerful because Sunday is the Lord’s Day. No one is in a hurry. They also have announcements where they tell the community what is going on. Today there was an announcement for a wedding and the whole community (more that 500 people) was invited to the wedding and reception. Community is a way of life. Also, everyone was asked to bring something to support the new couple: chickens, cows, shillings, water, and anything that would help them. When we left, the children said, ” eh look, Baby Ben came to church today.” I love the new nickname. Even though I have only been here for 4 days, I see these children as my family.
After church, we ate lunch at the convent with most of the sisters: Sr. Jerome, Sr. Elizabeth, Sr. Rose, and Sr. Columba. They showed us our convent and cooked for us. We also went to visit the blind school. These children are so joyful and grateful for everything they have. The living conditions are horrible. Some do not have mattresses, and they just sleep on the metal framing. The floor and courtyard is uneven and full of rocks, causing many to have wounds on their feet. Despite these horrific conditions, they are the happiest people I have ever met. All the blind children help each other by holding hands and guiding each other. Some can see a small amount, while others are completely blind. All of them look out for each other, making them a great team. They all said “We hope the mzungus will visit tomorrow.” Dad is discussing the needs of the compound (primary, secondary, and blind schools) and we will decide where to put the donations and supplies. (More information for those who donated….stay tuned!) The first picture below is Erasmus, a brilliant teacher at the Primary Blind School. Some of his many challenges include teaching blind children prime factorization and brail.
Later, we met Sr. Cissie’s family. We drove an hour and a half to a region called “Katakwi”. It was in the middle of nowhere. These conditions are even worse than the school…mud huts, no running water, no electricity, basically nothing. Despite the poverty, they are rich in many other things: love, joy, compassion, generosity, and laughter. Sr. Cissie’s mother is named Florence and she has three sons and two other daughters: Betty and Monica; Michael, John, and Martin. Michael is married and has two adorable children. Seeing the conditions that they live makes me appreciate (an understatement) my home even more. We talked about their lives and their past. It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear that Monica could not continue school because there was no money. She went to high school but could not continue to a vocational school (she wants to focus on water engineering). A private donation was given to the family. They will use the money to build a permanent home (as opposed to a mud hut) for the mother, Florence. Because the family was grateful, they presented us with three chickens. I wish all of you back home could experience this. It is truly life changing. John even said, “You are my new brother Ben.” They are my second family. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I have done so far. Today has been emotionally and physically draining. Appreciate everything that you have back home: running water, electricity, air conditioning, clothes, shoes, soap, technology, and your house…because some people literally do no that any of that.
Below is a photo of Florence, Sr. Cissie’s mother. She has one of the biggest hearts.
PS. The sunset was breathtaking (Lion King style).