In the coming weeks, we will be sharing some thoughts from team members who recently made the trip to Uganda. Today's contributor is Mary Schlie; this was the first time she had been to Uganda.
When I was in Uganda, I couldn't help but think about the beautiful Starfish story. It goes like this...
A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.
“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die."
“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”
The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”
That last line of the story..."It made a difference to that one" really is true with the sponsorship program through Hearts and Hope. In each village on our trip, I was able to meet children whose lives have been changed because of being sponsored. I met a young woman who used to be sponsored and she is now a teacher in one of the villages. I met a young man who walks with a crutch but has a huge smile on his face because he has been sponsored and now has a wife, beautiful child, and owns his own small business. I met an older boy who is in secondary school and asked for special permission from his school to miss classes for the day so that he could come and thank our group personally for the sponsorship that he is receiving.
I was also given the special opportunity to meet my own sponsored child named Doreen and her mother. I would guess that Doreen is about 12 years old, the age of my own son, Will. Doreen is a beautiful girl, with a lovely smile. She doesn't speak much English yet, but Violet was able to translate for me and explain to her and her mother who I was. While spending time with Doreen, I couldn't help but put myself in her mother's shoes...thinking about my own son being about Doreen's age. In my own little world, I so often take for granted the fact that Will is able to go to school, has enough food to eat, and fresh water to drink. My prayer is that Doreen and her mother are blessed through the sponsorship program and that it will truly makes a difference for them.
One other moment that sticks in my mind from our trip, was visiting a village where the families do not yet have a well. The children and parents were so happy to welcome us to their village just the same as all of the other villages that we had been to...but this village was different in that so many of the children showed signs of sickness...runny noses and coughs. Fresh clean water is so important for overall health and I am confident that a well installed in that village will truly make a difference for the children who live there.
In the movie, It's a Wonderful Life, Clarence says to George Bailey... "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" I am so thankful for everyone at Hearts and Hope...for all of the people who "choose to be around" by being the sponsor of a child, because by doing so, they are touching so many other lives and they are making a big difference.
Mary, Doreen, and Doreen's mother in Nakabango.
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.