What about today?

I have always told myself that there is no point in helping, if the help is not well planned and most important – sustainable.  Yes, it is good to something that is sustainable, but I think I have used this thought as an excuse for not doing anything at all.

Last week we found four young girls, around 10 years, outside our gate. They looked at us with their shy and beautiful brown eyes. They told us that they didn’t have parents, and nowhere to sleep. They were hungry, but most of all they needed attention and care. Our first thought was that we could not give them money, or let them sleep at our place. That would have been inappropriate!? We have rules about these things as volunteers in an organisation – for our own good. But what about the girls’ good? Shouldn’t giving them food and accommodation be the most natural thing to do, when we have more than enough food and an empty guestroom right inside the house? It is definitely not sustainable, but they needed it that very day. It would only give us more time to actually fine a sustainable solution.

I really believe it is important to give out a helping hand when we have the opportunity. Not just push it away because «there is too many who need the help, so maybe i’ll just not do anything in order for it to not get unfair», the timing is not the best or the plan is not sustainable enough. Maybe you are needed this very day, at this very moment, and it means the world to the one you help.

I have learned something important from the Ugandans. They live day by day. If they have a bag of rice, they share it with everyone there and use it all up, instead of  only giving to the closest family and save the rest for tomorrow, when the neighbour is still hungry. I do believe in sustainability and saving, but I have also learned that some people need your help today – so why wait?

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Love your neighbour as yourself

He is an ever smiling little man. His name is Abraham – only 5 years old, but takes care of his mentally disturbed mother. Since the day we found him on the streets, people say he is a blessing because of his smile and being. I agree. He and his mother is well known on the streets, so when I walk hand in hand with him – people starts talking about the poor little boy with the mental disturbed mother, and father, who was born and raised on a veranda outside of a supermarket. This little man showed us one day where the mother is sitting every day to beg for food, and where they are sleeping. They have their own corner at the main hospital – in a room with many sick patients. At least they are safe from the streets at night!

My little friend can never get enough attention. He loves being lifted up, hugged, tickled, be played with and he also love to sit on somebody’s lap. When he is given a toy (like a small, short plastic tube) he holds on to it with all his strength and is willing to fight anyone who tries to touch it. Survival-instincts.

Why hasn’t anyone helped him the 5 years he has been living on the streets? Why is there children who is born on the streets, literally, and what everyone is doing is just petting him on thehead and giving him a sweetie?

Despite the conditions he has been living under his whole life, he really looks healthy – physically. God knows how to take care of his children.

I have really learned a lot by living in this beautiful country, Uganda. Despite of the big contrasts between the less fortunate and the fortunate people, there is so much joy and love for one another. “A year of another world”. That is what i wrote and described it as last year. Yes, there are enough differences between Africa and other parts of the world, but there are also things we have in common. All of us want to be appreciated for who we are. The children wants to play, eat, learn and most of all – be loved. We are not living in different worlds – we all live in the same world!

I have recently read a book of Katie Davis – “kisses from Katie”. She is reminding us to love your neighbour as yourself. None of us want to starve or be alone and not loved – so why should we let others?

 

Mt Longonot – infield for the second time!

I am now at Infield in Kenya for the second time. We have had good conversations and a lot of fun. I have really enjoyed getting to know many of the new hald-students from this year, though it feels weird being here without those from last year.

Yesterday we had a social day climbing Mount Longonot – and here you can see some pictures i took 🙂

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Don’t look away!

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look and do nothing» – Albert Einstein

This quote is uncomfortably true. It is too easy to just look, and then turn away. We don’t look away with the intention of being crewel, but the reality is not always as comfortable to deal with – so it is easier to pretend to not know.

This year I spent my second Christmas in Uganda. The celebration here is very different from how it is in Norway, and for someone – there is no celebration, no food and no family, only the daily struggle of making it till the next day. Many of the children I work with are these “someone”. I read a facebook-status some days ago. It was about all the uncomfortable breaks between the nice Christmas movies and series on TV. The status mention how unfair it is, that “beautiful African children” on TV in the age of 7, 8, 9, has to provide for his/her siblings – children should be able to be children. I totally agree! Let children be children and help the adults to make that possible – but how? That reminded me of mother Theresa; we cannot do big things, only small things with great love. It’s not about how much you do, but how much love you put in the things you do!

Last year I met a doctor here in Uganda, and we started to talk. I mentioned that I was working in Mbale and that I really enjoyed it. He told me about his profession and told me that he often came to Mbale. When I then told him where I was working, and with what, he looked confused at me and asked; “are there really any street children in Mbale? I have never seen them there!?”. I believe it is important to look outside our comfort zone and open our eyes to the people who need to be seen.

You don’t have to travel far away or do really big things for something to matter – start with the people around you and help where help is needed. No one can help everybody, but everybody can help one.

Let us enter the new year with eager to explore the magic outside our comfort zone and to be willing to look and actually do something. To mention one of the many things I have learned from my colleagues at CRO; if you bless others, you will get blessed yourself.

Happy New Year!

Photo: Hanna Charlotte Hananger

Life is an adventure!

The study-day that never happened… We have every Wednesday off for doing schoolwork (I actually don’t have any schoolwork this time because I forgot to apply for the exam), but today I passed by work to follow up a case about a boy from last year, Asuman. 

I went on a streetwalk last year and found him on the streets. Very kind boy, whom I promised to help to get back home. To make that story short – we went on a resettlement (after a month (!)) with him to tree different villages (one were the aunt did not want him, second where the grandfather had just passed away and third was his uncle’s place), but never found the mother so we had to leave him with his uncle because of the late hour.

When I came back to Uganda we found him again during nightsurvey when we had some mzungu-visitors. He took my hand, looked at me and asked me to help him, again. No children should have to ask people they barely know, to help them find someone to feed them, love them and care for them. I had a feeling that some of the teachers didn’t believe that he was serious, but after some convincing, I got a date on when to take him home.

Like I said – today I passed by work, dropped my bag at the office and went on a streetwalk by my self to find Asuman. They always hang out/working near the taxipark. There were too many there today, who were high on fuel-gases, but some of them were able to walk and find Asuman for me. He was high too. It is painful to watch children in an age of around 10 years in this state. I brought him (and some more children) to CRO so we could get someone to join us to take him home.

We began with waiting in the matato for about 2 hours and after that we drove over an hour on really (!) african roads – red sand, BIG potholes, mud and crowds of people. I am also very fascinated by how fascinated the African people can get by only looking at white people! I first felt like a celebrity, but it went over to a feeling that I was a thing – not a person.

After a long time being squeezed in the matato with over 20 people (on 14 seats) we got out and jumped on a boda (motorcycletaxi) and drove off-road and into the bush (literally!). At one point it was too narrow to drive, so we had to walk. When we finally reached, the mother saw her lost son after a long long time. What I mind-picture! Beautiful. For the first time on a resettlement the boy turned to me, smiled his beautiful smile and thanked me. After talking to the mother we understood how he came back on the streets; after the father passed away, the father’s family feels like they own the property and children – so Asuman was used as a worker in the home. He is only a child. His cousins played around and ate a lot of food, but Asuman really had to work to get food. The mother was told that he was killed, so I guess she was more then surprised to see him.

Asuman promised me that I would find him there, and even at school, when we are to visit them again in January/February. Oh, how easy it is to leave your heart with these children!

When we reached the main-road again, we had to wait for a matato – again. After one hour looking at young, half-naked and curious children with big bellies we found out that the transport was rare to find in this village, so we had to take the boda back home. Interesting drive with all together approximately hundreds of people screaming and going crazy by the sight of 2 completely white and blond girls on a boda! At one point we also had to find shelter from the extreme African rain. While waiting, one of the bodadrivers entertained us with showing off with his disco-lights attached on the back of his bike and he also made us listen to all his different tunes (instead of the regular horn). The last part of the road, we jumped of the boda and into a wreck of a car. The doors hang loose, the front glass was broken, non of the dashboard-instrument worked, the seats were loose, smoke came from the engine and we sat 8 people in a SMALL car with 5 seats.

A day with many impressions! After all this, the evening ended with a German volunteer who almost burned down our kitchen while backing Christmas-cookies…

Life is an adventure! 

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Doreen & Bosco got married!

First of all; I am so happy to be back! My friends have taken so good care of us, and their welcoming has been beyond any expectations. I am really grateful and blessed! Oh my!

This weekend we (miles2smiles/chrisc-team and CRO-team) went to Kabale to attend the wedding to Doreen and Bosco. The bustrip takes (for me and Birgitte) 15 hours and already after the first 4 hours (from Mbale to Kampala)it became a rather interesting bus-ride. Only to enter the bus, I ripped my dress in the crazy fight to get the best seats (actually we already got a seatnumber, but that doesn’t matter for people here). After a little while the rain became too much, so the bus had to stop. The windows were also not good enough, so the water started to come in to the bus and my dress got wet from the waist and down. Since we had to stop for a while we had too little time to stop for a snack-break. Maybe that was for the best for the women in front of me! She got sick, and started vomiting out her window. It would have been a good move from her side, if she only had warned me to close my widow behind her first. My ripped dress had started to dry, but was now full of puke. At least now Birgitte and I had something to laugh at the rest of the way.

When we came to Kabale we greated the Druscilla-team and I got to meet some old friends again. After some time Doreen came to me and told me that Evans and Justin (two of the boys I was with at Hald last year) were on their way in the bus, but after I talked with them on the phone we realized that they were on the wrong bus. We laughed for a long time, but since it was so late we had to drive and pick them up. Gerald, Thembo and me. We drove on a road that was really bad. At one point we had to go out and plan where to drive next because of the broken road. Just some minutes after that we managed to get stuck. In the middle of the bush, in the middle of the night, we saw a man walking and we asked for help to push. Suddently Thembo notised that he was barefooted and then he said he had been to prison all day long. We couldn’t help it – we broke out in laughter and Thembo asked “are we safe?” and then the man also laughed. After one and a half hour we finally found Evans and Justin inside a hospital (Justin had just gotten malaria..again..) and we reached back and went to bed around 3 in the night.

The next day we woke up early and watched Doreen while she got herself ready for the wedding. She was STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL! Us, mzungus, got ready in suits and Gomez and went to church were we witnessed that Bosco and Doreen became husband and wife. Very beautiful ceremony!

After the ceremony we went to take picture (only close people, and the muzungus..) and than to the party were we first ate. While the party was going on it stared to rain. Heavy! Everything was on pause, and the decorations started to fall and were taken by the wind. We couldn’t do anything else then laugh and be social with the people around us.  It took a long time before it stopped and it slowly started to get dark before they could start with the wedding-cake and listen to the last speeches from the family and guests. Even with the rain and the not-understandable language, it was a really nice wedding 🙂

Congratulations dear Bosco and Doreen!!! Wish you all the best 🙂

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Blessed with a second round!

I had started my studies, signed the contract of the apartment, I was a mentor for a great girl from Uganda, I was a volunteer norwegian-teacher with Benedicte Vegge and had tried to settle down in the capital city, Oslo.  Benedicte and me lived together in the same room, and we did not manage to get through one single day without talking about our second home, Uganda.

One day I was talking with my dad about going back to Mbale, the town I had my exchange internship in. I said I wanted to go back just for some weeks because I knew that one girl was now alone. (Birgitte explains it here). 10 minutes later I got a message from my teacher from last year, Harald; ”would you like to go back to Mbale”.

I don’t think I’ll write about my major shock, feelings and all that, but with few words; I was somehow overwhelmed, but in two-three days I had made up my mind, dropped everything I had in my hands of responsibilities, talked with the school and the girls I was living with and took the train to my hometown, Lyngdal, to meet Harald. I met him on a Wednesday, and I got my ticked witch said I was moving back to Uganda on the first coming Friday.

So, I am now a HALD-student again and I am staying here in Uganda until the end of April 2013! I am the new teammate to Birgitte, and will be working at CRO, for the second time.

With all this said, I will try to write on the blog again 🙂

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Prayer for the children

From the book «Alltid elsket»

We pray for the children
who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who never «counted potatoes,»
who are born in places where we wouldn’t be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for the children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.

And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can’t find bread to steal,
who don’t have rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
whose monsters are real.

We Pray for the Children
who spend their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
who never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and
whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those
Whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything
Who have never seen dentist,
Who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move, but have no being

We pray for the children
Who want to be carried and for those who must,
Who we never give up on and for those who don’t get a second chance.

We pray for those we smother and for those who will grab the hand of
anybody kind enough to offer it.

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Norsk versjon:

Vi ber for de barna
Som setter fra seg klissete sjokoladefingrer overalt,
Som liker å bli kilt, som hopper
I vanndammer og ødelegger buksene sine,
som rapper kaker før maten,
som visker så hardt at det blir hull i matteboken,
som aldri finner skoene sine.

Og vi ber for dem som
ser på fotografene bak piggtråd,
som ikke kan løpe nedover veien
i nye joggesko,
som aldri har talt potetene på tallerken,
som ble født på steder vi aldri ville besøkt,
aldri går på sirkus,
som lever i en verden forbudt for barn.

Vi ber for de barna som gir oss klissete kyss
og enn neve full av løvetann,
som sover med hunden i sengen
og begraver de døde gullfiskene sine,
som nesten ikke har tid til en klem
og som glemmer matpakken,
som har hele kroppen dekket av plaster
og som synger falskt,
som trykker hele tannpastatuben
i vasken.

Og vi ber for alle dem
som aldri får noen dessert,
som ikke har noe koseteppe å slepe etter seg,
som ikke finner noe brød å stjele,
som ikke har noe rom de må rydde,
som ikke er på bilde på noens nattbord,
som har monstre som er virkelige.

Vi ber for de barna som bruker opp
ukepengene før tirsdag,
som kaster seg på gulvet i matbutikken
og hyler etter godtri,
som pirker i maten, elsker spøkelseshistorier,
som gjemmer skitne klær under sengen
og som får besøk av tannfeen,
som ikke liker å bli susset
når hele skolen ser det,
som skaper seg i kirken og skriker i telefonen,
som får oss både til å le og gråte.

Og vi ber for de barna som opplever
dagene som et mareritt,
som gjerne spiser hva som helst,
som ikke blir bortskjemt av et eneste
menneske,
som går og legger seg sultne
og gråter seg i søvn,
som lever og puster uten
egentlig å være til.

Vi ber for barn som vil bli båret
og for dem som må bæres,
for dem som aldri gir opp
og for dem som aldri har fått noen sjanse,
for dem vi kuer og for dem som griper
alle hender som strekkes mot dem.

De er Guds barn, hver og en av dem.

End of the beginning

Now it’s only few days until i leave this part of my life – or is this just the end of the beginning? I have been living in Mbale, Uganda for a little over 6 months and I can say with certainty that this has been the best year of my life.

I have been able to make friends and to learn from amazing people. I think I entered this continent with a whole other mindset then I have now. It is easy to think that since I’m the one going to a poor country, that it’s me who can be the one helping them, but that thought left my mind the day I came to this town, which I now can call my second home. People reminded me how brave and amazing it was that I wanted to use seven months of my life to help others, but it is me who have been lucky enough to have tons of people who have used their time on me and have been teaching me and have showed me new sides of life. I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am. These months have been exiting, difficult, and memorable,   there have been many sad stories, challenges and pain, but also many times of happiness and love. It’s hard to sum everything up, but it has been amazing and beyond all expectations. I have learned a lot!

Next Monday our transport is leaving from Mbale for this time. The plane is leaving on Wednesday, 25. April. There are so many things i will miss about this place. First of all – my good friends, the staff and the children I left my heart with. I’ll miss Namatala, bodaboda (motorcycle taxi), the culture, walking around in the markets, and all the amazing local food like posho, beans, matoke, chapatti, samosa, mandazi and cabbage. I’ll miss all the happy people in the streets, the greetings, dancing and singing, the sunshine and the feeling of not stressing.

Like my ‘sister’, Janet, says – “talking about it feels like piercing my heart”. I can’t describe how much it hurts thinking about leaving this country and my friends.

I talked with one of my brothers a week back, and he talked some wise words. This year has been incredible, but it’s important to not only get new friends, but also take care about the ones you already have – and your family. I am really blessed to have a family, and after this year I have really learned that having a loving family (or having a family at all) is not a given. I’m grateful.

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A ten year old boy

A ten year old provides food for the family from a dumpster-container. When the darkness approaches he sits in the container in the newly bought school uniform from

Child Restoration Outreach (CRO). He’s looking for food for himself, his mother and his five younger siblings. He has never met his father. His mother is sick. The doctors have given up, and the local witch-doctors say that she is possessed by evil spirits. The scars down her throat witness to countless attempts to make her recovery. She cannot work, and must send the ten-year-old son on the street for food.

CRO found him on the street, and it is at CRO he gets the chance to be a child again – at least a couple of hours a day. When he is within the safe walls of CRO, he can learn, play, eat and be visible. In CRO the pupils in rehabilitation class, get lessons in English, science, math, Swahili, art, hygiene and life skills. This helps them to get back to school, whether they have dropped out or have not yet had the opportunity to start.

There are several reasons why many of the street children have never attended school or have dropped out. One of the main reasons is the lack of school fees in an economic puzzle that is often missing one or several pieces. CRO is, for many families, the puzzle piece that is missing. CRO Mbale today helps around 700 children from about 6 to 25 years of age. The everyday life of street children involves violence, sexual abuse, diseases, inhalation of fuel gases, fear, hunger and cold nights. CRO provides protection and help.

The great ten-year-old boy has now got a new opportunity thanks to CRO. An opportunity to live a life without depending on the garbage-container.

By: Hanna Charlotte Hananger and Benedicte E. Bjerknes