“Count your blessings” - It’s a phrase which we’ve all undoubtedly repeated to ourselves from time to time when we’re feeling a little down. At Hearts & Hope we see and hear many stories that strongly solidify this concept. With over 900 sponsored students spread across some of the most disadvantaged parts of Uganda, it’s unfortunately easy to come across children suffering from ailments that are highly preventable in other parts of the Westernized world. Examples ranging from cases of Typhoid caught from unclean water sources, or Malaria, which is the leading cause of death in Uganda. To say we are used to students needing medical care for malaria complications is an unfortunate truth. Yet, occasionally we come across other woes that these children endure which shakes us to the core and intensifies our motivation to provide means for a better future for them.
One recent example of this is of a small boy in Kamuli village named Gerald. He is seven years old and lives with his grandmother after both parents abandoned him and his siblings. After we were sent photos of the students receiving their portions of the food distribution, we noticed something was obviously wrong with sweet Gerald’s face. His eye was very swollen and we were concerned with what could’ve caused this ailment and whether he had been treated. We were told that a rat bit his face at nighttime which caused an infection around the bite near his eye. The majority of the children in our program sleep on mattresses very low to the ground, or they sleep on bamboo type mats directly on the ground. This, partnered with the rural environments their house structures are located in (near small farms, plots of land with crops), puts the children at higher risk for animal bites in their sleep.
We were relieved to be informed a few days later that he was taken to a clinic and was undergoing treatment for the infection. It is slowly healing and Gerald can now see through both eyes.
This is yet another reminder that there are humans, children even, in this world suffering in ways that we may not necessarily ever grasp. To go to sleep at night with the fear that a rat may bite you while you dream is not the ideal bedtime we envision for a 7-year-old. This however is the reality for many children in Uganda. We do, on the other hand, envision a better future for children like Gerald through the gift of education and we ask for prayers for all of our sponsored students whose current circumstances may hinder their hope of a better tomorrow. Through it all, we pray they can be comforted by the knowledge that they are deeply loved by God and with him all things are possible.
Last month, thanks to the generous help of hundreds of our supporters, we were able to distribute food & hygiene supplies to our over 900 sponsored students. Our local Ugandan staff and LCU leaders worked diligently and handed out a month's worth of food supplies to each student. While we were hopeful the lockdown in Uganda would be lifted after that month, we were also preparing for the next step in case it was extended. While restrictions across the US have been loosening over the past couple of weeks, Uganda remains under lockdown with continued rules limiting the ability of the public to return to their normal work lives, mainly due to restrictions on transport. While private vehicles are now allowed back on the road, with only up to 3 passengers, public transport - the main use of travel by the majority of the country - is currently still banned.
This meant the students we sponsor and their families were again at risk of hunger with the supplies from last month quickly running out. Because the initial response to our COVID-19 food campaign was so great, we had the means to complete a second round of food distribution to each student. The staff and LCU had worked through the kinks of the first round and perfected the process, making the ease of the food handout even smoother. Each student received the same sack of maize (corn) flour, used to make the staple posho dish, as well as pinto beans. This round they also received salt and another large bar of soap for their hygiene needs.
As the country moves to ease their lockdown restrictions, they stand at 413 confirmed cases of COVID-19, mainly from truck drivers and their contacts, and zero deaths from the virus. The president will be addressing the country this first week of June to update on any further lifted lockdown conditions. The Government also plans on distributing free masks to all citizens in the country. Thereafter, no one will be allowed to appear in public places without wearing a mask. This will in theory help stop the spread as businesses, markets and schools open back up.
While Uganda makes baby steps to cautiously return to "normal" life, we will continue to monitor the status of the communities and students we serve. We tremendously thank everyone who has supported our COVID-19 campaign thus far and we ask for continued thoughts & prayers over this next month as Ugandans adjust to challenges in a post-lockdown life.
Photos from each village's distributions
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.