The boy never said a word. For three hours we sat and played and enjoyed the company of 60 children at the Home of Love in Gulu, Uganda. And still after three hours, not a word. The expression on his face was one of defeat, a look that says, “I don’t know how to be a kid.” Gasper is five years old and lives at the Home of Love. His story is not a unique one. Many of the children there have experienced some type of abuse and abandonment. But there is hope.
My friend Missy from Mocha Club asked me to paint a picture for you of what my time in Africa was like. I thought of only two words: Desperation and Hope. For the first time in my life I was face-to-face, hand-in-hand with real people who are truly desperate for hope. My friends in Gulu, Uganda have walked through desolation and destruction, and they have been living in a country ravaged by war for more than thirty years. The consequences of this war for many of these people have been loss of loved ones, displacement and poverty. Most of all, many of our brothers and sisters in Africa have lost their hope.
Twenty minutes outside of the town of Gulu there is a village. In this village, more than 500 women, former sex slaves of the L.R.A. (Lord’s Resistance Army) Officers, have come to live in peace. They arrive with their children in arms, broken and devastated from years in captivity, seeking refuge from a life they did not choose. Here, they find shelter and security. They are educated, counseled and equipped to eventually begin a new life for themselves and for their children. Their lives have been restored thanks to you and your support of the Village of Hope.
My friend Gasper never spoke. He only stared. Slowly and quietly he explored my face and my hands. I imagine he was wondering why this big white dude was hanging out at his home in Gulu. At that moment, I was thankful for my hands that held him and offered him the reassurance that someone cares. I was thankful for the chance to offer hope.
Editor’s Note: Mark Wagner is one of our MC Artist Sponsors who traveled to Gulu, Uganda in June 2008 to visit Village of Hope, a safe community that Mocha Club helped build where nearly 500 “child mothers” can live with shelter, a job training center, a medical facility, and a school for their children. These young women are called “child mothers” because they were only children themselves when they were abducted, trained as fighters, and given as sex slaves to rebel soldiers in the LRA, a rebel paramilitary group in Northern Uganda. “Homes of Love” are the homes for the orphans in the area. Each home consists of a number of children with a house mother.