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Experience #16 - Kampala, Uganda

This country has a special place in our hearts for being the first Christmas and New Year far from family and home. I like the feeling of union, love and family that soar during this season of the year, even disagreeing with the unconscious consumerist proportion this festivity got to – couldn’t miss the critic… – For not putting the society habits aside, I gave me a shining sandal for two dollars…

Beyond the complexity we had when we got to the house in Kampala, as I told about in the previous though, our walk to find the local transportation was fun with the whites packed of bags walking around the city centre asking everyone how to get to where. When we found the mini bus we were relieved. Just after seating with the twenty kilos bag in my lap (as there is no trunk) we faced a traffic jam where we were totally stopped for one hour.

The most incredible of these sixty minutes is that I kept remembering that one year ago in the marvellous traffic of São Paulo, alone, in my spacious car, with air conditioner, my favourite song and replying messages in the mobile I was mad for feeling like an idiot there stuck and wasting useful life time… And there, in the unknown Uganda, in a man yelling at his mobile, not knowing when to get off the mini bus, concerned about Gabi and the importance of our bags, I was peacefully calm.

Well, if you find out why, call me please…

We ended up staying a bit far from the city to rest and we had the privilege of a relaxing place. Gratitude!

In our quest for organizations, our reader Elisa Martins, made the great kindness of indicating a project called TORUWU, the name is not a local language word, as the genius of mine presumed… it comes from Training of Rural Women in Uganda. Thank you Elisa!

We got in contact with one of the founders, Augustine Yiaga, who promptly put himself available to pick us up in the city, very kind. The project is in Kikajjo village, nearby Kampala. After working many years with a generous Indian, he decided to quit and simply work in the development of his district. He genuinely believes in the power of community work aiming together for the collective wellbeing. What in the other direction, we know that, unfortunately, the planet is not this “community” anymore it’s being a long time…

He invested all his resources together with Sophie Bemba to initiate TORUWU. She graduated in nursery and was deeply inspired for the generous work of her mother who used to help people suffering without asking for payment. Therefore she didn’t resist dedicating herself to do the good. Both impressed me with the consciousness of what they need to do and how.

The project educates and empowers women, mainly widows, with sawing classes, handicrafts, mushroom grow, production of wine and soap. It is all seeking for ways to teach a mean of subsistence to generate income and develop autonomy for the women to lead their own lives. The way they explain their mission surprised me: “Equip the rural women with economic survival skills and knowledge so that they can become more independent; take care of themselves and their families”. This is an essential principle for the TORUWU work. Amazing! Besides, they also give computing and music classes for the children, most times orphans.

A detail that I intensely admire in organizations like this, is that they found their financial independence. In their case, through production and sale of wine. To grow and change the life of more communities, they still depend on contributions, as their focus, obviously, is to help more people and not to make to wine business highly profitable. This is a tenuous line when growth is planned not missing the mission focus. But they’ve shown clear priorities.

Another inspiring detail is the school they created for orphans and children who don’t have the means to pay. Even with the challenge of paying the professors, as they are not volunteers, they never gave up on prioritizing the fundamental importance of the teaching content. This is because considering a group of kids with very different ages, they could have chosen the easiest and cheapest way of dividing them in only two classes. Instead, they took on the responsibility to maintain the education by grade and put the children in seven different classrooms, according to their age. Each one has a teacher and, in average, eleven students. There is also a cooker to all of them.

That is different from what we’ve seen in many other countries, where schools have classrooms with sixty students of diverse ages together. I’m not criticizing them at all, they already make a miracle, but finding ways to surpass challenges like this is even more admirable. This concern proved us to be a commitment with the future of the community throughout the children. Change maker is not enough for them!

As if it wasn’t sufficient, they transmitted us pure humbleness when asking our opinion about the organization, what we have been seeing and how could we help. We had a long conversation about cases we’ve met as a reference for them and also about the importance of continuously communicating their work so more people get to know it. Beyond the financial help, that always contribute of course, they appreciate people willing to stay days or months in the community to lead a new project. One more proof of how nicely elaborated is the work scope of TORUWU.

Gratitude dear Augustine and Sophie, we wish you gigantic fulfilment! Their site tells more about the project and how you can get in contact to contribute somehow:

Wander around the city restlessly, as we usually do, the kind Joseph Kiwanuka approached us in a main avenue ask how European we were… We thrilled him when we said our Latin origin. People never mistrust we are Brazilian, unfortunately… When we told him about Think Twice Brasil, still walking, he promptly got excited and briefly told us about his life, thrilling us back. He is orphan and has lived in the in the streets once. After he managed to leave that life through arts he got together with friends, with similar backgrounds, to take care of boys who were still in the streets.

So they created the orphanage called Mission of Hope Uganda.

Those five minutes were intense and a mutual gift. We exchanged our contacts and agreed to meet the kids in the first day of the year, to start with lots of love. That’s what we did and went with Joseph and Simon Mukasa, also founder.

The orphanage started in October 2013 and still doesn’t have a structure, as they still need funding to do so. The boys don’t go to school as there is no money to pay fees, but in the meantime they do activities like acrobatics, learn music and are part of the church. An important rule is not to work in the streets, as it generates a negative cycle and would take them away from the orphanage.

Even with certain experience of seeing the realities around here in the past months, we had a great impact when we got into their “home”. It’s just a room rented in an unprivileged area of the city, it has twelve square meters. It’s quite humid and wasn’t exactly clean. We saw blankets on the floor that serve as their bed, old backpacks on the wall, a few clothes thrown, small pans, dishes and bags of food in the corner. Fifteen orphan boys live there.

We were very nicely welcomed with their acrobat performance which tired me of just by seeing their strength and capacity to pile one over another. I’ve never seen so closely and the training really takes to perfection, independently of the conditions. Seriously.

After getting to know where they live and more about the project, each one of the seven boys, who where there in that moment, told us a little about their history and their dreams. The emotion was uncontrollable as we could feel an intense energy in the sad tone of each word they said. It was a huge shaken of realities that we don’t know and, perhaps for denial or hope, we rather telling our brain to think that it’s all untruths.

Each movement of the universe has a meaning and that moment, in the 1st day of a new year, meant so much for me.

The dilemma there is to think what we can do to improve just a little of all that is still needed for them to have a more dignified life. We couldn’t resist starting with nourishment, of course, so we went to the closest market to buy all the money we had in our pocket in food. The joy when we arrived back already paid of all the money in the world, by the hugs and smiles. Just that.

In all the conversations we had we asked what they miss the most today. Besides school, obviously, they mentioned things that Gabi and I never had to ask for in life, like mattress, clothes, shoes, notebooks, dishes and food. It was impossible not to think about the quantity of things that are stored in my room still today, while there, fifteen youngsters live in that room and that’s all they have. Hard not to feel selfish and weak for wanting to accumulate so much for nothing…

What all of them asked for by the end of each individual conversation is something that today seems to be scarce in the planet: Love. I’m not dramatizing, they said they need more love.

We left there thinking about out of everything they told us what we could take them in the following day, to change a piece of their lives from that day on. In that night we were on a spacious bed in a comfortable room, I couldn’t stop thinking that in that exact second those fifteen boys were crammed in that small piece of land trying to sleep.

Perhaps impacted by the sleeping, we decided to buy mattress for that floor, dishes for that food and books, pencils and games so that they could learn having fun, while they still can’t go to school. I talked to my family that day and, maybe for feeling our emotion, my parents wanted to “sponsor” the act. Gratitude! It was an adventure through downtown to find everything and take to them, but we made it.

The delivery was a unique moment, we wanted to be there to give more than those material goods, but to transmit that it was a form of love, the one we could give that day, that we were a water drop in the ocean, but we expected to leave them with hope and perseverance.

When they received us back, we noticed that that energy and the clap of their hands were way more than a “thanks for helping”. It was deeper than a gratitude for the love, for knowing that someone cares about them. It was almost as if we were covering a small piece of that whole in their hearts formed by the love of father and mother that they never felt. You can feel a bit in the video.

It was tough. We, who had the privilege to have the real love from our parents will never know how it is. Gratitude! But we can always, everyday, donate love to anyone for free, without commitments, love is priceless, love doesn’t expect a return, love is generous and is immeasurable, love heals any problem and respect is his best friend.

A teaching I learned from Buddhism and that I ask everyday to still be capable to put in practice genuinely is simply to love everyone, just like we love our mom. It’s possible! Dad, I love you too!



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