Our next stop on day 1 in Kampala was a refreshing dose of hope after our experience at Nsambya Babies Home. St. Mary Kevin Orphanage is a home and school for an older group of orphaned children. In contrast to our experiences that morning, St. Mary Kevin provided an atmosphere of love and nurturing to its children, along with encouragement to develop creative talents in art and music. Here, the children seemed more peaceful and happy.
Everywhere, there were cues to remember the goodness of God, to respect others, to find joy and peace in the struggles of life… My personal favorite – “Be silent, or say something better than silence.”
Children’s artwork adorned the walls and shelves, and we were treated to an amazing performance of music and dance by the students, including expressive musical storytelling, a band complete with brass and their traditional percussion instruments and colorful traditional costumes.
While the children performed for us, a small group of children came to the door of the pavilion to watch and listen. One small child came at my bidding and sat with me. I thought it was a little boy I was holding on my lap. When I asked a caretaker his name, however, she said it was a girl and that her name was Chandya. She was a beautiful little girl. She was missing her front four teeth, so I’m guessing she was about 7 or 8 years old. She liked seeing the pictures I was taking of the performance in the display on my camera.
I was impressed by the opportunities for productivity provided by St. Mary Kevin. Whether painting a well, caring for farm animals (pigs, chickens, goats and a cow) or making bricks, there were plenty of opportunities for the children to be responsible and develop skills that will serve them in being productive members of society and developing a sense of dignity and self respect.
After seeing conditions in the North, those at St. Mary Kevin are quite good. It is hot and dusty and not all of the children have mosquito nets over their beds. Still, it’s obvious that the operation is well-managed and that there are volunteers and sponsors who are aware of the need and contributing what they can. Even while we were visiting, in fact, there was a group of volunteers from Denver playing with the kids and working on the facilities – painting, building, etc.
All in all, the visit to St. Mary Kevin Orphanage was a positive experience. Although the plight of the orphaned children there was sad, it was encouraging to feel the love and concern that the staff obviously had for the children. I felt like they were being given a leg up in a really tough world, and I left feeling uplifted after a downer morning.
Next stop, Reach Out Mbuya – a co-op of HIV+ women in Kampala from whom we bought our shipment of beaded jewelry in the fall.