In a week there will be 20 children and youth drumming up a storm in training sessions night and day. But at Kiwanga home this week, there are only about 2 dozen people besides staff, and holy cow is it quiet! I wish I'd brought my guitar with me, it would help liven things up a bit.
At Children of Uganda we prefer that the children under our care not spend their whole lives in an institution, so during school holidays we encourage all children to visit family. Despite the strong nets of extended family in Uganda, there are some who simply have no one, and they spend holidays here at Kiwanga. The other residents are members of Philip's House, who live with severe disabilities and are cared for here. And a few recent graduates of our program are here while they look for what to do next. Our resident sculptor, Ben, is one of these. He whiles away the time making amazing art. I walked out the first morning I was here, and wondered who the other muzungu (white person) was. For some reason it didn't occur to me ask why she was reading a book to an ostrich and a llama...
Agriculture is booming here, with a very successful poultry project to boot. Here Henry (a Philip's House resident) carefully waters his dodo (amaranth) and tomato plants.
Midway through his education he took a very unexpected re-route, and by now he is almost done with his training to be a hairdresser and fashion designer. Here he is plaiting some new braids for a friend - a two-day task.
I was overjoyed to see my old friend Joseph here.
Immaculate has stolen everyone's hearts, so I'll just chime in with the choir: this girl is amazing. She is the youngest of our children with no known relatives... she was raised by her older brother until last year when she came to our program. She arrived sullen and shy but you wouldn't believe it by now. She is absolutely blossoming under the care of the organization. Some times I feel bad for her - the youngest of this group, hanging around all day with no one silly or patient enough to play "monkey" for hours at a time with her - but I take a moment to remember where she came from. I realize that this environment (which would be seen as horribly boring to most American kids) is far more nurturing and loving than any place she's been in before. I realize that she is flourishing and growing in it, simple as it may be.
Gratitude for the day: singing praise songs (by popular demand) with all the Philips House members, plus Immaculate and one of the staff's children in my lap. Some of the Philip's House members have disabilities that affect their voices, and others just seem to mimic their peers' speech patterns, resulting in a whole group of people communicating primarily in vowels without consonants. Immaculate's sweet and clear voice combined with my voice and the heartfelt howls of the Philip's House members for an unforgettable sound. Between songs everyone would clamor for attention, pulling on my hands and sleeves and skirt, with needs and wants of utmost urgency (though they were to be forgotten as soon as I came up with another song). I could stay there forever, endlessly trying to meet everyone's attention needs, but I am trying to give without running dry. The Luganda words for "stop" and "please wait" came back to my brain in a flash of brilliance. Plus the words for "this has been wonderful, but I am going to bed now." Which, now, I shall do.