When I was young, I would devour books on children getting rescued during wars, secretly wishing I could do the same. While I have been doing it - somewhat - in the past years ~ with the help of many of you ~ (thanks heaps!) things have gone to a new level since Covid-19. And I now get to be involved in a 'real' rescue mission. Sadly Uganda's lock-down has imposed such drastic measures that there has been a tremendous spike in the suffering of the already vulnerable. Many have not only lost livelihoods, but lives - literally. And so many are suffering from hunger... The government has been trying its best to provide ambulances to get the sick to hospitals, after all public and private vehicles were forbidden on the roads (except for ones with special permission) and to feed the people, after all non-essential businesses had to close down and people were told to stay at home. Sadly, there are a LOT of cracks in the system and it isn't working, leaving many dying and starving. No surprises there, with 5 ambulances for a population of 2 million in the area where Praise and family live - and a complex housing situation around Kampala where many are left out of government feeding programmes. Enter Praise.
From when I first met her, I have been drawn to the radical love she exhibits to needy children (and other age groups). She reaches out when she has nothing. When it seems impossible. YET Where there is a will, there is a way. (A German saying I grew up with.) I suggest to edit this slightly: Love will find a way. And this is what's been happening in the past month. Praise doesn't easily take NO for an answer. While this has at times created some tension in our relationship over the past 8 years ~ just being honest here ~
😃 there is definitely a good side to her tenacity and stubbornness.
On one hand Praise, Moses and their children have actually been enjoying the confinement in their beautiful home. They have all the food they need (mainly the simple Ugandan staples of posho/rice and beans). They have more time with each other than ever. Relationships are being strengthened. Prayer is at an all-time high. There's no fighting, just enjoying each other and peacefully working together (according to Praise, and I believe it, since I find the atmosphere in their home always incredibly peaceful - especially considering they are over 30 people!) It's been a really beneficial time and everyone is enjoying it since they got over the initial shock. Some children are memorizing Scripture or learning new skills. Others are playing with the babies - the 6 under 4-year-olds. The big boys have taken initiative to build a chicken coup and want to breed the few chickens that run around the property. The motivating factor? So that the family can enjoy eating a chicken once every 2 weeks. At least that's the goal. The children who are in the village where the school is, are being well looked after as well, and are actually able to work in our fields on most days. HOWEVER Praise can't handle staying at home when she knows that so many of her people are suffering. So, what does she do? * She's taken the kids' bike (for a 10 km trip one way to some places) * She's walked (2 hours one way to other places) * She's taken some very sick people to the hospital (including one of her babies) with the car in spite of not being allowed to do this (thank God, the soldiers let her pass without confiscating the car!) * She's been picking up her pregnant friends - one at a time - and driving places she wanted to visit, as soon as the government gave permission for people to transport pregnant women - and only pregnant women- in private vehicles. (Most times, she's actually taking them for pregnancy related appointments, too.😀) * She's contacted trusted friends in slums and other impoverished areas to find out how things are going there. It is not good at all. 😱😰 And with a sneaky - yet legal, contactless and cashless - strategy of how to get food to the starving, (when it's against the law to distribute food 😬) - with the utmost integrity and efficiency - we are now feeding hundreds of needy individuals and families in 8 different areas of Uganda. Just this past Saturday alone, over 600 kgs of food were made available for the destitute.
to some of you, who have donated towards our Covid-19 Relief Fund! 100% of donations (minus processing and bank fees) go DIRECTLY to the most needy. What a SUPERB way to help! I feel privileged to be a part of this relief effort - this rescue-mission! It's deeply disturbing when you come across * a single mother of 8 - plus 2 grandchildren - who have been staying in their tiny one-roomed home since the lockdown, going hungry, kids crying of hunger. (She used to have a small business to sustain the family) * a grandmother caring for 7 grandchildren who hasn't cooked any food in 2 days... * another grandmother who perks up after finally getting some porridge in her body and whispers, "I was about to starve..." *a whole slum-area in a no-man's land that's completely hopeless and without food
OUCH! Praise is risking her health and safety - one time having to take back-roads as the trip had taken longer than anticipated (5+ hours of walking total) and she and Moses weren't home before the curfew. Yes, Moses is also a BIG part of the story. However, he stays home with the children on most days. But - can there be anything more satisfying than knowing that you've been able to bring some love, hope and relief - including much needed food - to most desperate people? No, we can't show you photos of food getting distributed, but trust me, it's happening. Shhhhhh...
The biggest beneficiaries are single mothers with children, but also others are receiving help, like this man who lives in this shed with 5 other men.
And many elderly. We can't show you photos or videos of the grateful people - with their tears - when they receive food. But that's okay. This is the advantage of working closely with people you can fully trust and who are giving sacrificially whatever they can from their own pockets - be this Praise, Moses, or any of their contacts on the ground. Bingo!
There's more to the story - which I want to write about some time. But 'nuff for today. Lord, have mercy on our planet and eradicate this nasty virus!
(originally written on April 27th, 2020, on my blog)