Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shot@Life Uganda Trip Blog: Getting to Know You

"Getting to know you
Getting to know all about you
Getting to like you
Getting to hope you like me" - Anna, in "The King and I"

Like Miss Anna in the Broadway musical, I've found myself surrounded by dozens of children - who speak varying levels of English - and wanting to get to know them all as much as they want to get to know me. I thought I'd introduce you to a few of them tonight as they put faces on the people that we talk about helping through Shot@Life. I hope when you look into their eyes, you'll know that they are precious and special as they grow and achieve milestones free of the preventable diseases they have been immunized against.

I met Natugonza a number of times during my visit to her church where she received immunizations, but she only talked to me once. Her sweet, shy smile showed how curious she was, but at first she only ducked her head and smiled when I complimented her on her necklace. She warmed eventually, but still I had to lean in very close to hear her tiny voice as she spelled out her name for me. She is 7 years old in grade level P3. Her favorite subject is "maths" and she dreams of being a nurse.

This proud girl is Kyokasima. Like my daughters, she is a football (soccer) player. At age 10, she tells me that she wants to "wash plates" when she grows up and leaves school. I don't know if this is because someone she knows does this for a living or because she doesn't know many other professions, but I feel if she keeps going to school and keeps her confident attitude, she can be much more.

 Kabahiinda speaks English very well and was even very willing to help me talk to all the other children. At 9 years old, she is in grade level P4 and enjoys doing math in school. She likes to play football and is very good at caring for the younger children around her in a gentle, soft-spoken way. She is one of 6 children and her mother, Mary, is 40 yrs old, like me. She lives in an area of Uganda within sight of the border of the Congo, which is just over the mountains within sight of her church.

Meet Natasha, Eve, and Modesta. (left to right)
They are athletic girls in grade P7 who play volleyball and netball, which is like basketball with no dribbling. They are cool and confident. Natasha wants to be a lawyer someday. Eve wants to be a nurse. Modesta wants to be an engineer. I hope they beat the odds and stay in school, so they can live these dreams. They already have since up to 60% of all kids in their area drop out of school in P7. Statistic are even worse for girls, but these 3 seem to know what's at stake.

Hey, let's not forget the boys! Here are my buddies Paul (right) and Sef (left) who are in grade level P7. Paul is a VERY well-spoken young man in debate club. He told us it helps his English skills to debate topics like "Have Europeans done more good than harm to Africa?", "Monogamy Vs. Polygamy," and "Ancient life Vs. Modern Life." He wants to be Chief Justice when he grows up and I really wouldn't bet against him!

Last, but not least, here is little Mariam. I don't know her story as she didn't speak to us with words, but as she launched herself into LaShaun Martin's arm and then so willingly climbed into mine, we knew that she is loving and beautiful soul. I know she's off to a good start because she is in school and  received her vaccinations at St. Zoe's School where we met her. I hope she gets the other support and things she needs to reach her future hopes and dreams!

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