Wednesday, July 23, 2008
by Alana Mello and Rachael Peters
Today we visited Smile Africa and the Karamojong kids. We first went to the headquarters where the nursery school, office, and widows’ store are located. The store, run by widows, single mothers, HIV positive women, and abused women served as a great outlet for the teams’ shopping withdrawals. We bought everything from necklaces and bracelets to fabric and baskets. They were excited to see our group arrive and greeted us with song. Michelle M. distributed sweets to the kids in nursery school and, before we left, the grateful women honored us by giving us necklaces and wholehearted hugs.
While we were at the office, we met Pastor Ruth, the wonderful woman who leads the efforts of Smile Africa. She told us about the history of the Karamojong tribe and we were shocked to hear of their many struggles. Considered outcasts in society, they are forced to take jobs that no one else wants and search through garbage for food that is often spoiled, poisoned, or inedible. When we approached the feeding center, we were overwhelmed by the massive crowd of nearly 400 children who immediately broke out into song while grabbing our hands through the windows to greet us. It was amazing to see such joy and excitement from children who have next to nothing. These kids were often standing naked or in rags while waiting for the rice, broth, and single piece of meat they would receive. Children flocked to us begging to be held and hugged, and, of course, to get their picture taken. When the food was ready, the children all lined up obediently to pray. We scooped the food onto plates from enormous pots, while the children waited patiently as we passed out the food. They eagerly accepted their special treat of meat, which they only receive on Wednesdays.
The Karamojong kids were so appreciative of their small meal and the mzungus who served them. For many on our team, seeing the joy, love and need exuding from these children was an unforgettable experience. Despite the lack of love they have received, their laughs, smiles, and hugs were evidence of their capacity to love.
P.S.— This entire blog was typed by flashlight because both the power and the generator went out in the hotel. Ha ha. I guess this really is Africa (TIA)!