Saturday, April 17, 2010

Families in Northern Uganda

I've met a lot of generous people in my life. People around the world have shown me incredible hospitality and genuine friendship over the years, and the memories are etched into my heart. Since arriving in Uganda, I've been overwhelmed at another brand of giving that seems much the norm here. Extended family in the broadest sense of the term.

My host mother in Gulu, Uganda has sheltered, raised and educated over 20 children in her short 53 years on this earth. Her name is Grace. I couldn't describe her more accurately than that. Her home is exceedingly modest, but I could learn from her priorities. Her primary focus is on the education of the children under her roof. As she said, "I didn't see many books in my life. I had to fight for everything I have." The income she receives through a small canteen she has at the local university and a secretarial service is all directed to the future of the children around her.

At present, there are some 10 children under her care. I struggle to remember their names, but I will never forget their faces or stories. They are children born in captivity during the war, abandoned as soon as their mothers escaped their dismal realities as sex slaves. They are boys abducted by the rebels to serve as child soldiers in the war. They are children orphaned when HIV/AIDS took the lives of their parents and left them to contend with the same disease. Few of them have known either parent, and even fewer would have had a chance to thrive without Grace's interventions.

She is a model of the possible. On the one hand, I feel ashamed to be hosted by her, knowing that my sacrifices have been so few compared to hers. On the other hand, I feel empowered to continually reevaluate my priorities and do more. I would like all the world to know about the stories of people like Grace.

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