I’m sitting here in Entebbe, Uganda listing to the sound of traffic and muffled conversations in Luganda. For the past two weeks, I’ve been traveling around both Kenya and Uganda meeting the children and families Childcare Worldwide serves. It’s been an eye-opening and humbling experience.
The families we serve are poor. And that’s clear when you see their mud houses with dirt floors, buzzing with flies. None of that surprised me – I knew their lives looked very different from my own. What did surprise me was the similarities I found between myself and these families.
In Kenya, I sat in Leah’s home with her mother and her brother. Leah is sponsored by Childcare Worldwide, and currently finishing a cosmetology program, which will allow her to make a living braiding hair. They recently moved. Now, they rent a single room in a long skinny mud structure that they share with other families. In their room, there is a bed at the back, and some dilapidated chairs at the front. But just like I do when I move into a new place, they had clearly taken great pains to make this small room a home. It was so clear they took pride in keeping their home as neat as possible. A curtain was carefully hung across the middle to separate the bed from the sitting area. Cheap chairs were carefully covered with bits of lace fabric. Much of the mud walls were hidden behind curtains as well. It was dark, and dusty inside, but love filled that home.
I also visited the home of another sponsored child, Nelson, and listened to his mother proudly explain that her son was currently away at school. Nelson is finishing up his degree: he will graduate in September with a certificate in agribusiness. Again, that house was dark and dusty. Flies were buzzing everywhere. They cook outside over a simple fire pit, and have to haul all their water from far away. I can’t imagine living in those conditions. But I recognized the look in that mom’s eyes as she talked about her son’s graduation. It’s the same look my own mom gets when she’s talking about me and my sister.
In Uganda, we visited Lukia’s home. This precious grandmother is caring for six grandchildren. Her house was quite crowded with all of us in it. The toddler squirmed among her siblings, hardly able to find a space of her own on the dirt floor. As we chatted, the older children decided to sing for us. Since it’s Uganda, they started dancing as well. They laughed, sang and danced their way around the room, just as I do in my kitchen (although, they have considerably more musical talent than I do!)
We visited many other homes as well, and in each one we took a moment to pray with the family. As we asked God for His protection and blessings on each home, I inevitably had to blink back tears. Despite all the outward differences, the things we were asking God to give each family are the same things I ask for my own family.
It’s easy to focus on the things that separate us. But it’s so humbling to recognize the things that make us the same.
Each family and child I’ve met on this journey reminds me why we do this work. Every one of us is a human being, created in God’s image. I happened to be born in America, with all the privileges that brings. But these kids didn’t. Instead, they were born into poverty. And if we can do something, even something small, to help them, to affirm their humanity, and to love them like Jesus loves them, it’s all worth it.