There were nine in the bed, and the little one said – roll over, roll over …..
Walking into this humble two-roomed house was a shock to me. There piled in the corner was the entire bedding shared between 9 children, including teenagers.
This family was part of the local village in a remote impoverished area of Uganda. An area where the locals soon became our friends, as we went visiting some of the students who attended ITFM Integrity School.
The mother had been left to raise her own children, but in her kindness, she took in two more kids when they were left by their mother, and their father had been stabbed to death.
This made for a house of nine humans, that this sweet Mamma had to find some way to feed, clothe, educate and care for. She is a lovely lady, with a smile that warms your heart, and what I like is the fact she tries.
So we needed to find a way to help them without looking like we were giving gifts unfairly to some of the villagers, and not to the others.
So Kimberly, from ITFM Integrity School came up with the idea that the children who were awarded a scholarship for school, could have a gift for their hard work of studying hard (one student per class was selected). A gift that would be of benefit to all the family.
When we first arrived, Mamma was out at the weekly market buying a cabbage and some dye to make her reed mats she was going to try to sell. So we gathered the excited children in secret, and did a “Home Makeover”.
We encouraged them to pull everything out of the room, and to clean it. Yes nine of them slept in one tiny room! Then they cleaned the small front area up outside the house along with the front yard, whilst the bigger kids helped inside to set up the bedding.
Just as we were finishing ‘Mamma’ came home on a ‘BodaBoda’ motorbike taxi, just as we had the kids wash their feet, sneak in, and lie down.
We led ‘Mamma’ in blindfolded, then “surprise” was yelled loudly by giggling kids all clapping and cheering on the bed.
Mamma fell to her knees with thanks. It was just the best moment to share!
This was the start of the project “Beds for the poor”. We were able to involve our Facebook and social media friends in helping us to raise money to buy something around 20 mattresses, sheet sets, a mosquito net, a thick blanket, and even soap to wash their feet.
What pleased me with this family was that when I walked past a few days later I saw they had washed the sheets nicely. They cared for what others had given. I was so impressed. It made me want to give more, especially when I realized how much they appreciated it.
The next house, however, was one of the worst filth we viewed.
Not even a mattress. Huddled on a cold and damp mud floor lay children in squalor that I cannot express to you – just sad and unloved neglect and putrid conditions.
Rags and an old foam piece lay in another room for an adult. The decaying metal sheet roof had gaping holes.
This would mean that when it was the wet season, these poor children would be very wet, and probably be quite ill. They are raised by their Grandma, whom we feared enjoyed the local homebrew, but of course, this was just a guess based on behavior.
Regardless, the state of the home was a squalor – it even had chickens running through it. In fact, this chicken had the best bed! This room was just pure filth.
The leftover food is a breeding ground for rats. Rats cannot control their bowels or bladder, so they run around and urinate and leave excrement as they go – yuck! Rats make homes in the piles of rags and chew holes in the school uniforms. Often the uniforms are stolen by older children who have nothing to wear. It seems so hopeless.
Before we left, Kimberly had given them a stern talking to about basic hygiene.
Grandma had washed the children from head to toe in the back garden in a bowl, it was so cute to see. I think it was the first wash they had in a long while! She then dressed them in their school uniforms for a photo. She was genuinely thrilled.
Soon Grandpa appeared to help, even pulling an old bike out of the room, and the daughter from next door with her children also was ‘in on the act’.
We set up the beds, with concern that they would get wet on the first rains, but also hoping they are still used for the kids, and not taken by the adults.
We had to get one boy out of the new bedding straight away as he had ‘jiggers’ in his feet; a nasty and painful parasite that needs removal.
We wondered why our driver didn’t come into the houses. It is because presumed they had bugs. We were bitten alive with what we think was mites or fleas, to the point that we both came back to the compound and had to have a hot scrub and clothes were even boiled -yuck! Can you imagine these little darlings have to live in these conditions?
Next house was a single Mamma. Most of her kids had malaria as they had no mosquito net. Blood noses and headaches are also signs of malaria and one girl (who was awarded the scholarship) suffered badly. It is sad to think children in Africa are dying of a preventable and treatable illness.
The old and tiny African house was so dark inside I couldn’t even walk in to photograph. It was a ‘point and shoot’ chance photo with the camera. It showed terrible conditions – and piles of rags. What a mess. It was a traditional round mud hut with thatched roof, and was ever so cute to look at from the outside, but would be terrible to live in with no windows, and I am sure a lot of bugs living in the holes in the walls as they are mixed with animal dung.
The Mamma never knew that germs were preventable with washing hands after the ‘toilet’. Basic things Kimberly from ITFM shared with them as she educated them on basic hygiene principles.
Delivering the mattresses and bedding was a job involving the whole family as there was no road up to the house, but a small path. It was such fun.
We returned the next day with the mosquito nets, and the Mamma fell to her knees with gratitude. It really touched my heart.
One of the families we went to surprised me with the tidiness of their home, as they did not know we were visiting.
The original father had died, and the Mum had remarried. But they had stayed married and the new older Dad was around. This was the first time we had seen a marriage intact, and the man not running off and having several ‘wives’. They welcomed us into the home. In saying that, the new Dad refuses to provide for children that are not his own.
We saw a neat room the ‘uncle’ slept in – it was his bed, but then were told the kids had the floor to lie on, with just rags. It was cold and uneven and had rocks protruding through the dried mud floor.
How uncomfortable this must be for them.
The other room was filled with maize cobs drying, so the chickens could not eat it. They cleaned this room out for the children, so we could set up the beds in there.
We had the kids wash their feet, but it was too late to notice the bowl was done well away from the house. So Kimberly and I piggy-backed them inside as their feet drip-dried – it was such fun!
Look at these delighted faces all lined up and tucked under their new sheets. Thanks to our friends that helped us raise the funds to give these children a good night’s sleep!
This family again were a delight to bless and give to.
On a return visit (I just was walking so popped in), Mamma welcomed me inside and immediately took me to the bedroom showing me it with pride. There the bed was neatly made, and all the school shoes were hung on nails in neat rows on the wall.
At another home visit, ‘Jajja’ or Grandma had complained (last time she saw Kimberly) that her bed was full of bugs. We presume Bedbugs. YUCK!
When we arrived with a mattress and bedding for her, she fell to her knees and cried.
We had her relatives clean out her bedroom – we did not do it (I was not going to risk being bitten again or have the bugs hitch-hike in my clothing), and then we asked them to burn the bedding. (The room is to be sprayed to kill the bugs.)
This act of kindness and Grandma’s appreciation, of course, made us cry too. It was tears of joy mixed with tears of sadness that wrenched my heart at the reality of how little these people have, and what they must endure.
I have never seen such gratitude. I just was so honored to be able to help in a small way to enable a positive change in her life.
This young girl lives with her Mum. She also has suffered from malaria, and the mother has been very ill and spent some time in hospital – I think 2 months. We helped clean the ‘shoe-box sized’ room out, and this was the tiniest home we saw. The Mum had a bed, and we gave her a new sheet set.
We set the daughters bed up on the floor, and I had to show her how to get in between the sheets. Imagine not knowing how to get into a ready-made bed?
Doesn’t she just look so happy? She no longer sleeps on rags. This precious soul can have a good nights sleep, and study hard during the day at school. We hope this gives her hope in her somewhat hopeless surroundings.
Our last home to help was really heartbreaking. This girl often gets tied up so the Mamma can go and work the fields. She is severely disabled, and can only ‘walk on all fours’, like a monkey. She cannot speak and needs help with everything.
She had been sitting naked on a sack in the dirt and was filthy, and her Mum washed her in muddy water from a jerry can that was poured into a tub, and we gave her the new bedding. (It was funny as she loved the noise of the cellophane wrapper the most).
The house was really, really filthy inside. The Mum raises all the children plus works in the field, and she told us she is not coping. She has a new man who will not support her children, and she fears he will get her pregnant again, and she doesn’t want any more babies. It was really heartbreaking to see, and she needed medication for the girl, so ITFM took the details and will purchase it when they next go to Kampala for her. Small ways to help, but the medication really makes an improvement in her daughter, and she was so thankful.
We did not meet one family in this area that had the original mother and father who only had one marriage partner, and who also provided for their children. Most children (over 60%) were raised by grandparents, neighbors or family friends. Parents die, HIV and STD’s are rampant, and other parents desert their children.
There were other families we also helped in the area too (not shown here). It was a very moving and fabulous project that we were involved in, and we thank all our friends and readers who helped to make it happen.
You can support In The Field Ministries – please leave a comment if it is for a specific purpose.
However, we cannot change the world. We cannot change Africa. We cannot change Uganda. We cannot change even this remote area or even the whole village. We can only help to change their future by sharing love and compassion and hope.
ITFM can help change their lives too by educating the children. These students can grow and get jobs that are not just farming the land. The girls can have hope, not to remain in a hopeless cycle of getting pregnant at 14 or 15 years old, only to be deserted later in life with a house full of children to tend for, when the father goes off to find another less ‘used up’ wife.