On Saturday 6th July, my team and I took time away from our fun world of computer screens and journeyed to the far lands of Kyajinja village in Nakaseke District do something even more exciting – hangout with children! We wanted to spend time with the wonderful children taken care of by Wells of Hope Ministries.
Wells of Hope is an initiative founded by Francis Suubi in 2002 to reach out to people affected by crime – inmates and their families, especially their children. Francis was imprisoned in 2002. Though he was released after 2 months and the charges were dropped, he had observed and learned (from prison) that one of the biggest worries of many inmates was the situation of their families that they left behind, especially their children. On release, together with some volunteers, they started a number of initiatives for the children of inmates such as Christmas parties and paying school fees for some. They kept doing more and more, eventually buying and building a school for the children of inmates, Wells of Hope Junior School, in December 2011.
Children leaving the primary school progressed to partner secondary schools for a number of years but 2 years ago, Wells of Hope High School was opened.
We got to the high school at about 11:30AM and we were welcomed by a procession of dancing students. I’ve only seen presidents get this kind of reception and I didn’t know what to do – join in the dance and break the choreography in the process? My mazina maganda looks more like a war dance so I knew I might scare off the students. My team and the teachers would probably stick around and observe at a safe distance, all the while looking around for places to duck if things got any more threatening. I didn’t dance along so no awkwardness for anyone – I think ?
The headteacher welcomed us and walked us through the school’s history. I kept tipping my invisible hat at how much him, his team and all their partners are doing for the 47 students in their care. It is one thing to teach and care for children in a remote area with limited resources. When you add the fact that these are children ostracized by society because of crimes their parents committed, puts an unimaginably huge extra load in the mix.
The headmaster gave us a tour of the school and this gave us a chance to appreciate the work of the team at the school. I couldn’t help notice the number of christian motivational quotes and scriptures pinned on various walls. We then were led into a classroom were all the students were waiting and there, we were entertained by more dance from the students and praise and worship. The students also shared a few testimonies. One of them thanked us for the computers we had donated to the school and reiterated that it used to be a struggle to practice computer theory with only one computer in the school – belonging to the headteachers! However, for me, Ben’s testimony stood out. He thanked God that his father had been recently released after a 12-year sentence. You could see the hope in his eyes and that also on the eyes of the other children. There is hope indeed. By this point, my teammates, amazing people, had several ideas on how else we can partner with the school beyond the little we had done. I look forward to implementing these.
We then went out for a group photo and some members of the team then went back for a dance-off with the students. What a scene! From the entertainment, I’d noticed that these students would floor anyone in dance so I sat out that session (shades on emoji). My ‘brave’ teammates returned a few minutes later with a few dislocations from trying to keep up. The rest of us, of course, told them that the students just got lucky. Next time, we would show them what’s up.
I led a brief session on websites then we headed to the primary school, Wells of Hope Junior school, 20 minutes away.
We were met by another dancing procession, this time doing the larakaraka. The headteacher, his deputy and the rest of the team welcomed us, told us more about the school; the current numbers, the challenges (including the urgent need to establish an ECD section), and the various successes. They also thanked us for an earlier donation of a 3-in-1 printer scanner and photocopier that has immensely helped internal communication, exams and administration. We then joined the rest of the pupils for an awesome praise & worship session led by the children, before we were led out for lunch.
We were asked to serve the children and while I stuck to helping the children wash their hands, the rest of the team served like a professional catering company. From how well they did it, I suspect that my teammates routinely meet and practice how to serve people (investigation glasses on). They denied this but I know what I saw – that had to have been rehearsed. Anyways, after serving all the children, we managed to keep some for ourselves and what a delight to refresh our memories on school food!
After lunch, the children took us on a journey in a praise & worship session and then poetry. That poem knocked me off my laurels! It deeply spoke about the stigma these children face from society and appealed to the need to stop this and give them a chance to a much better future because they are simply NOT THEIR PARENTS’ CRIMES! Is this, honestly so hard for us to do?
Later on, we toured the school which sits on a huge expanse of land. Because of this, the administration is finding ways to be self-reliant as an institution. We visited one of their efforts in this journey to self-reliance, their farm. There, we met their pigs and said hullo. One of them was a new mum, having given birth the previous evening.
We visited the dormitories and then crowned the day with a final, energetic performance from the children. Different members of the team joined in at various intervals, adding our version of dance to the mix.
I was asked to say something to the children but I felt I needed to first thank the headteacher and the entire team for the phenomenal, sacrificial work they do.
We signed out rather unwillingly – it was one of those amazing days you don’t want to end. A hush fell over the bus as we journeyed back – some processing deep thoughts on the meaning of life and what a joy it was to be able to give back, even in a small way – and others nursing their dislocations from the dance battle with the children.
It was a truly rewarding day. Thanks to the team at Wells of Hope Ministries for the great work they do. While at the primary school, I noticed the headteacher was wearing a T-Shirt with ‘Mathew 25:31-46’ and the words ‘Love Is Action’ at the back. Love is action indeed. What these people are doing for these children is everything about love! You can learn more about them and support their work here
Thanks to the fabulous team at Kanzu Code that I have the wonderful opportunity to do things like this with. Looking forward to our next trip! We’ll train for dance this time….