We traveled through the busy roads of Kampala until we came upon the sign and a single Muzungu (besides myself, of course) standing in the road waiting for us. He guided us down bumpy, hidden back roads to where the orphanage was situated. The gates at M-Lisada were covered in a painted mural. Outside the gates painted with the smiles of children playing instruments, were children playing together. They stopped to see the new muzungu pass. Curiosity disturbed them.
I grabbed my camera and climbed out of the car to finally introduce myself to Chris. The story of how we came to meet in Uganda is an unlikely one. His mother Pam, sent me a handwritten letter at my day job to see if we knew of any resources that she could use to mail supplies to M-Lisada. You can read about that here.
I wanted to see what other organizations were doing to help serve the AIDS Orphans of Uganda.
M-Lisada has a different plan than ours. They are an orphanage. We are a school. When you hear the stories of both founders, you can kind of understand why their routes were different in attempting to solve the same problem.
Jackson Kaguri grew up in Nyakagyezi, Uganda. His family strained to pay for an education that was believed to be the one way ticket out of poverty for all of their children. Jackson studied hard, excelled and returned to find devastating poverty hanging heavy over his hometown community. His answer was the answer given to him in his own childhood; an education is key to combating poverty. The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project set about building schools and creating a holistic system to keep the children in classes/
Segawa Bosco was a street kid in Kampala. He and a band of young men like himself longed for the opportunity to learn how to play musical instruments. That passion united them to combine their resources to gain an education, pool their resources and start an orphanage. This is the statement on their facebook page…
We are a home for street kids of Kampala, Uganda. We use the power of music, dance, and acrobatics to discover the family within each of us.
M-Lisada is now home to 80 street children between the ages of 3 and 18. They all participate in some form of liberal arts and raise operation funds through their performances.
I wandered around their home heartbroken. It wasn’t a sense that they weren’t being cared for. Just that day, a group of volunteers had arrived with school supplies for the children. I was excited to watch this exchange.
Children celebrating and cheerful givers recording the moment for those unable to make the journey.
I wasn’t heartbroken because of the facilities. A home with eighty children will have its challenges but this place was clean, cheerful and full of laughter. You could see how connected the children were with the staff as they came home, changed out of their school uniforms and came to greet us all.
That was how I met Beatrice. She came to me proudly with school books filled with perfect handwriting. I encouraged her by saying that I knew many adults who could not write as well as her. She was smart as a whip. A little conversation was all it took to see the light firing in her mind.
After a little while, the children gathered around and started asking me about my tattoos. We chatted about school and then it was time for the jazz band to practice!
Beatrice then asked to use my camera. She started snapping away. This photo was my favorite.
The heartbreak didn’t come from the talent of the children playing their hearts out. They played jazz standards led by Chris. Counting, snapping and scatting along with their enthusiastic renditions. I smiled and posed for another of Beatrice’s photo.
The heartbreak choked me a couple of times and I swallowed it back. I stood in a tiny room with these two children and counted the beds triple stacked. I watched them go in and out of the bathroom changing their clothes and putting away their school things. I saw children standing outside the gate, milling around.
The heartbreak made no real sense. These children were being given a safe place to lay their heads. Most of them were in school and many children in the community use M-Lisada like an after school program. They are doing good work.
At the end of the day, I shoved money in the Directors hand and stumbled out the door. I could not fathom him thanking me. I quickly escaped his gratitude.
The heartbreak is the limits. The limits of my income. The limits of the world’s generosity. The limits of the funding. The limits of the children that they can serve.
The sky is not the limit.
Today, eighty is the limit and standing in their home, that is heartbreaking to me. I think of the backpacks I help my children clean out. I think of tickling each of them and barely making my arms touch each of them equally. I think of the times they fight over sitting next to me on the blanket, at the table or in the theater.
My arms, my love always stretching to the ends.
I wish I could turn you over and shake you out. I wish our limits measured how little poverty we will allow as a global community. We can do better and we don’t. That is my heartbreak.
An equally limited.