From the Pastor's Desk
September 14, 2019
I'm back! This past summer I was on sabbatical and it was life-changing. I visited Uganda, as I had five years ago. My church and I have been helping support two non-profit organizations in Uganda for more than five years: Aid Africa (www.aidafrica.net) and Pearls Children's Fund (www.pearlschildrensfund.org). I will write more about Aid Africa in a future column, but you can check it out online. This organization has helped improve many lives with clean water, better stoves, health support and planting trees.
I am in awe of the tenacity and perseverance that Aid Africa employees demonstrate to keep improving lives, no matter the many obstacles, and they are winning.
I want to write about the other organization this time. Pearls Children's Fund was started by a Ugandan woman, Rosette Kirangi, who had a big heart for helping children whose parents had died, often from AIDS or violence. She knew the biggest gift God gave her was the passion to nurture children and to be their advocate. Pearls is a home for about 30 plus children now. Older children go on to gain certificates and advanced degrees, but Pearls is always their home base, even after they go on to have homes of their own. "Pearls" become family, and I am amazed at how new-comers are taken in and made to feel at home. I've worked with group homes in the states and sadly many children are not as happily adjusted. The love and joy at Pearls is infectious. I got to play with the kids for three days and it was one of the most fun experiences of my lifetime, and I have a fun life.
When I first visited Pearls five years ago, the children, Rosette, her biological daughter, and one adult helper all lived in a house that was adequate, but barely. There were about 25 children and there was only one indoor bathroom, with no tub or shower. There was no refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, clothes washer or dryer. There was no television and very little furniture. There was one big room with a lot of bunk beds and bed nets for the girls and another similar room for the boys. I couldn't imagine how Rosette managed day in and day out with so few resources and so many little ones to tend to.
I was able to learn whatever I wanted about Pearls' financial operations and I knew that supporting this organization would be money well spent. Education in Uganda is not free. Children can not attend school without someone sponsoring and paying for it. Pearls is a place that makes sure each child is given an opportunity to succeed and launch lovingly into adulthood.
About one year ago, Rosette let supporters know that their house was literally falling in. The ceiling was being propped up and it was dangerous for them to remain. They needed something better, and I am so proud to say that my little church did a lot to generously help them buy a house! The place is beautiful and safe, with three indoor bathrooms. It has lovely tile and windows and a second house is on the property, so there is more room for everyone. Rosette's room is with the boys and her helper's room is in the main house with the girls.
The children were so thankful. One of the older boys spoke on their behalf and told us, "It feels like we're in heaven now." There was joy and laughter and tears and great appreciation for the miracles of happy healthy children in this new lovely home. We played catch, jump rope, soccer, frisbee, sang and twirled hula hoops.
My husband, my daughter, her friend and I took the younger children shopping to a thrift store for their first time ever to choose their own clothes and each got a "new" outfit. It was chaotic as heck, with multiple sales people pushing their wares at us, but it was wonderful being with the kids. They wore their new outfits Sunday morning to church with us, where we all danced together.
Pearls is a blessing, yet each of these children only has one school uniform, which is a challenge. Rosette also dreams of having a refrigerator some day and a window in one of the rooms that is very dark, the converted garage. I know that the money I have given to Pearls is the best money I have spent in my life. Small amounts can do so much over there and children with education can become doctors and teachers and move out of poverty. It's a place where you can really make a difference in someone's life.
I've heard many people question why we should help children so far away when there is so much need closer to home. Of course, people are welcome to do both. Frankly, I get more bang for my buck supporting Pearls, in a nation that has no support network, unlike ours. There is nothing biblical that says we should only care about local people, in fact, there are many scriptures encouraging hospitality toward strangers and care of orphans. These kids will continue to thrive with adequate sponsorship. Supporting them is good for the soul.