The porch of the guest house is a pretty amazing place. It’s a little ways up a hill, overlooking the main loop road in the valley (we’ve been calling it the ‘Bududa Loop’) and you can soak in all the sights and sounds: people talking to each other along the road, goats making whatever noise that is, and distant Ugandan pop music. It’s a great spot to enjoy some morning coffee, check out some birds, or, as is the case this afternoon, enjoy a (what passes for cold) beer.
It was our last day with the Bududa Learning Center, and it was a full one. We worked with Martha and Grace, who head up the Children of Bududa program which supports children in the community who have lost one or both parents. “Support” encompasses a lot of things: Counseling services, direct housing needs, educational scholarships, and supplemental nutrition for the families. This program matches funds from individual and families to the young people identified by Children of Bududa.
We tagged along with Martha on a some home visits, riding Boda-Bodas up mountainsides and hiking the rest of the way to the small homes of families supported by the program. There’s really no reliable way to ask these families when is a good time to come by and whether or not it’s alright to bring seven muzungus along, but we were welcomed into every home we visited with smiles and handshakes.
Seeing these homes was tough, there’s no way around that. These are severely disadvantaged people in a severely disadvantaged place, but they’d bring chairs out for us to sit in or usher us inside to introduce their children. Martha catches up with the family and translates our interactions. She’s the primary social worker for Children of Bududa, and knows an incredible amount about each child and family. She’s a rock star, doing so much work for the hundred or so children and families supported by the program. The MPPC Uganda team supports a family, and many members of Myers Park Pres participate as well.
For the family that the Uganda team supports, it has a significant, immediate impact. Their primary water source was about three miles away, but now they have a cistern to collect rainwater for drinking, cooking, and washing. Tuition for the child is covered, so an education can be prioritized. Many recipients of this support choose to attend Bududa Vocational Academy (a sister program of BLC), so it can create an ecosystem of community advancement.
We returned and took part in a ceremony to officially open the new boys dormitory (or hostel, as they refer to it). Myers Park Pres joined a number of other partners to fund this project. During their trip in February, the team ‘helped’ break ground. It was completed and occupied by May. Lots of folks stood up an thanked us for the role we played in this project. We danced, sang, and introduced the idea of taking group photos making funny faces. We presented a lovely painting by Jennie Dugan (our wonderful CROSS Assistant Director) to be hung in the new building. The whole afternoom was a wonderful way to say goodbye and to pass along assurance that a group from the church would be as soon as we were able.
We cannot be the NGO or aid organization that blows through and tries to fix a specific issue. We’re called to more than that. We’re called to talk and learn and laugh and know each other on a level that recognizes vulnerability and growth opportunities on both sides. We have the ability to change and be changed. We can’t pass it up. We can’t stop yearning for it.