During Liz’s trip in February, she (I) met a really bright 12 year old girl up in Northern Uganda, named Flavia. We met after a church service and Flavia invited me back to her house to meet her mother. Flavia is from a village about 10 miles from Kitgum, where we were, and they moved into a hut on her uncle’s land when they were displaced because of the war (LRA.) Her father was killed by the LRA in 2004. Flavia has 5 siblings, the older brothers (Kenneth 18 and Martin 16) and three sisters (Janet 14, Prossy 10 and Mille Grace 8.) Flavia is very bright and last Nov finished primary 7. She asked me to help with her secondary school fees because she had been accepted into the top high school in the region. I spoke to her pastor because my heart is to help people where I can, but I am not interested in just giving hand outs. Her pastor was surprised at her Primary school scores because she hadn’t mentioned anything and was very humble about it.
With the extra funding I received from the community in Rochester, we were able to help pay for the school fees. When I arrived in Kitgum this time, I found out that the school here has 3 terms and each are billed separately. I didn’t know it, but we had only paid for term 1 and left her mother (Paska) to pay for term 2 and 3 (which is more difficult because the school is a boarding school and more expensive than the day school.
I was a little apprehensive about seeing them because there had been this miscommunication, even though it wasn’t my fault. We had also brought some gifts for Paska and the children, a nice blouse, some toys, necklaces, and balls. When we arrived, we saw Flavia on the side of the street and we sent her ahead to let her mom know we were coming. I was nervous, but it was a delight to be with them again. They invited all of us into the hut and we shared greetings. Mel, Ben, and Collins went out and played with the kids (and teenagers 🙂 and Collins taught them some dances. I will try to upload the short video of them dancing if I get a chance. Pastor David and I stayed in and talked with Paska. I shared that we had some funds to help her get a small business going, if she wanted. She said yes. Overall, the cultures are different and we were up North in a place that had been war torn for over 20 years. So it made sense to me that their reactions weren’t overt and overwhelming. In fact, their reactions were practically nothing. Close to deadpan. Yet, I could see in her eyes that this was meaningful.
I learned that she worked in the stone quarry to get money for school fees, food, etc. The stone quarries here are just a ditch with big stones that they go to with tools to break up the stones. Each person has a pile of broken stones (for big gravel pieces) that they can help fill a truck, which total will bring in about $75,000 shillings (which is worth about $28) for about 3 weeks of work. If you can’t fill the truck and have to split it, the income decreases again. Paska broke her left arm by her elbow and by her wrist and never got the medical treatment she needed so her left arm isn’t fully functional. Can you imagine trying to break up stones all day every day for 3 weeks (just for $28) with only one good arm? (And that’s not counting the emotional stress of what is riding on it, not to mention being a single parent, etc.) Yeah, I can’t. Not at all. Not a bit.
After speaking with Pastor David and James Harrington, we decided to get everything rolling for the business and I got to see them all again on Tuesday morning to finalize business plans (in other words, decide what business she would start and she and Pastor David set up some accountability check-in times.) After speaking with her sons, Paska decided to start a small store, the one-stall kind you might see somewhere in NYC, however it won’t be connected to other business stalls; it is a stand alone building/stall. Her oldest son has experience working at a place like this. I am so excited for her and the family! I conveyed to her that I (we) are not coming in to help her because I pity her. Rather, I got a chance to meet her daughter in February and I see this amazingly strong woman, who has suffered so much. I have access to a small pool of resources (given by this community here in Rochester back Feb and by some people again in Aug) to assist her in continuing what she is doing: loving her children, working hard for them so they can have the best life and opportunities possible. When we left on Sunday and I was saying goodbye to Flavia, she said to me “we are suffering” with the honesty that a 12-year old has. And it’s absolutely true. Without assistance the likelihood of Paska getting enough money to get the medical treatment (surgery and PT) for her left arm is just about zero. I can’t fix that, but I can help build a bridge from this community to hers to walk alongside her and her family in doing this. What a privelge!