(NOTE: the photos quit uploading, so I’ll add those when I can!)
We went down into the community, visiting new families. This took me back to our first visits down in the slums, before we began doing the micro-business grants. The families we visited on Wednesday were in dire straights, their needs really overwhelming. I didn’t realize quite how much better off our ladies were now than when we met them until Wednesday. Some of what we encountered:
We visited the home of one of the new first year boys at the Ray of Hope school. He lives with his elderly grandparents, as his parents have died. The grandfather is in his 90’s, the grandmother in her 70’s. They currently have no income at all, and are eating only because a neighbor has been sharing food. Their rent is only 30,000 shillings a month, but they are going to have to move because the landlord wants to renovate. If you could see this place, you would know what a joke that is — it needs to be razed and rebuilt! Their options for making money are extremely limited by their age, but they don’t want to go back to their village, where they could have more food and more help. Emily and Christine are going to keep working on that option, as their prospects in Namuwongo are really quite limited.
Another family had been abandoned by the husband and evicted from their home for not paying rent. They were living in a church. The 16 year old daughter had been working as a maid but was raped by the man in the house and is now pregnant. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon, and is virtually never prosecuted. We are going to pay 3 months rent somewhere so they can get out of the church, and work with her on what business she can start.
The last family we visited is the one that is really sticking with me (we visited 8 families that day). The mother is somewhat lame but works in a quarry pounding rocks into gravel with a sledgehammer. Her children, ages 7, 8 and 10, also work in the quarry. They make about 1,500 shillings a wheelbarrow full… No child should work in a quarry.
I had a very bad migraine Wednesday night, so didn’t go down on Thursday. I rested and slept in the morning, then, feeling better, worked on writing in the afternoon. We had a lot of rain and wind, so it wouldn’t have been a good day to visit the slums anyway.
First we visited Ebenezer Secondary School, where 15 of our sponsored kids are now going. We spoke with the headmaster, Mr. Mali, for quite a long time. I was impressed at how much he has learned about the kids just since the start of the term (about 2 weeks). The school did very well on the national exams last year, including having one of the top scoring students in both chemistry and math (both girls, surprisingly!). Our kids are adjusting well, and we saw some of them as we toured the facility.
We visited another student’s home, not down in the slums but in a “nicer” area that doesn’t floor. (Nicer is a relative term, but it did smell a lot better and it doesn’t flood.) The grandmother is supporting 6 grandchildren and her daughter, who is quite ill with HIV. (I suspect she has full-blown AIDS, as she is very malnourished, so we are going to look into a hospice referral.) The grandmother has been working in a coffee bean factory for 1,500 shillings a day, but it is not the season now, and the owner has also brought in a lot of machinery to replace the workers, so there is little work. We are going to look into her renting a stand and selling matoke; there is a another lady in the program doing this who can advise her.
We went WAY far down the tracks, in the opposite direction than I’ve been before. This is an even poorer area, although it doesn’t flood. The houses are even more inexpensive than the central part of the slums (25,000 instead of 40-50,000 for the same size place), but there is little opportunity to have a small business. We visited two families here. Both were abandoned by their husbands. One has to move because the landlord is going to raze the home. The mother works 7 days a week for an Indian family doing laundry, and makes 50,000 shillings a month (about $35). We talked to her about selling something cooked in the evenings near her home, since her children are small, and she said she could cook casava and pancakes. The other woman had remarried, but the husband won’t take care of her first daughter (almost 7 years old) because she is “not his,” so the child suffers from that. The mom used to hawk bras and things but lost her capital when the baby was sick and she had to pay medical fees. We’ll look into restocking her, as she is young and healthy and could do that to earn money.
Finally, we visited an Acholi family in another part of the slums I’d never been to. The husband “went mad” a year or so ago and returned to the village with 3 of the children, leaving the mother in Kampala with the younger 3. She has cancer and has been receiving free treatment at a government hospital here, so going back to the village, where she’d have to pay, is not really an option. I’m not sure what she can do for income – communication was difficult as we had no Acholi translator, and she is also weak from her treatments. She’s going to go to the Ray of Hope office to try to figure that out during the next week.
So, overall, it’s been challenging these last few days. We don’t have as much to invest in micro-business grants as we’ve had in the past, and yet the need is as great as ever. As always, I don’t want to say no to everyone, and yet taking on new commitments isn’t possible this year. So we’ll be meeting next Friday to discuss all the proposals and see who we can help and with how much. That is always so hard… When you see how they live, it is almost impossible to say no. But facts are facts, and we have a finite amount of money. I covet your prayers to allocate it properly!