This is the next blog in our #GoBeyondHope Series, featuring on-the-ground updates from Annette and Nathan as they visit our ministry locations in Kenya and Uganda.
Yesterday, I was led to a grassy cliff overlooking Lake Victoria. Walking down the narrow dirt path, I enjoyed the breezes coming off the lake... they were cooling and I enjoyed seeing the grass swishing in waves like the sea. The idyllic setting did nothing to prepare me for the coming encounter.
I was led into a clearing with a small shack, really nothing more than a pile of logs. Just beyond it, there were two small children. A baby sat with her naked bottom on the dirt playing with an empty bowl. Her little brother stood looking at his hands, fidgeting nervously. He wouldn't look up at me, even though I tried to get his attention. I looked around the clearing and there were no adults to be seen. These two were all by themselves. A neighbor on a distant hill had seen us coming, and came over to us. She explained that the mother was off in the woods chopping wood to start rebuilding their house which had recently been destroyed in a storm.
The baby girl, Annet, is 9 months old and the boy, Mohamad, is 5. Mohamad briefly lifted his shirt and I saw his belly, distended from malnutrition. Both seemed listless... like children who hadn't eaten in days. Later, the oldest sibling came back from school, and she too seemed lethargic and underfed.
While the mother was still away, we quickly set out the gifts we had brought: a Critical Care Pak, full of staple foods, enough to last this little family for one whole month!
Eventually, we saw her coming down the path, a large log on her head. She was so happy to see all the food! She began thanking and praising God!
We sat together for a bit and she told me about the terrifying night a few weeks ago when a powerful storm rolled in. Her home already had severe termite damage and then this storm dumped buckets of rain down on them. But what eventually destroyed the house completely was the strong winds. She said, "We were all huddled together inside listening to the howling winds and the rain pounding on our fragile roof. We were all very scared! Then suddenly, the whole house came crashing down on us! The next morning, we picked out the few things we could and began building a temporary shelter with wood and palm branches for the roof."
I looked at their shelter... it looked like something kids in the US would build in their backyard as a playhouse.
But her hardship doesn't end there. When I asked where she went for water, she pointed to the lake in the distance. She went to fetch water there twice a day. Each trip took her 2 hours - so she spends 4 hours a day just getting water! I can’t even imagine doing that every single day. She gets a bit of money helping other people with their vegetable gardens, but it's not much. She also tries to plant a few sweet potatoes for her family (though her recent crop was destroyed by the rains).
When I first walked into their encampment and saw her 5 year old and 9 month old baby fending for themselves, the word "neglect" came to mind. But the reality is this family is in survival mode. She has no nearby neighbors to help her, and no husband to share her burdens. She is doing the very best she can to try and take care of all three children. She is in an impossible situation, but I admired her as well. With a bit of help from a man from town, she goes to the forest every day to chop wood to build a new home for her family. The food from the Critical Care Pak will help give her the energy she needs to get her family's life back in order. Life will by NO means be easy for her once her home is finished, but the rice, beans and other items will help them get back on their feet again.
Thanks to all our donors who make it possible to help mothers in need on Ssese Island!
-Annette, writing from Uganda
Childcare Worldwide is grateful to partner with generous people all over the world to build a better life for kids in need. If you would like to help families like Annet's, please prayerfully consider making a Critical Care Pak gift.