The Love of a Family

Have I sat down to write as special a journal entry as this one in a long while.. hmmm, right now I’m highly doubting it.

So then, let me begin this sharing about my time here in Uganda with The Wagner family by saying..

.. to me, it is one very unique and special family indeed who will leave the comforts of their beautiful home in Canada, forego their usual 5 star resort holiday in Mexico where they are accustomed to sitting oceanside enjoying sun and surf, exotic food and drink, exciting activites, beautiful sights and wonderful entertainment, and instead..

.. take a big breath of trust and a huge leap of faith, pack to the brim and transport several large, heavy suitcases full of school and medical supplies, soccer balls, sleeping bags and a tent, etc, etc, etc, fly for two long days, through 11 times zones..

.. and arrive in the middle of the night with ear to ear smiles, and hearts as open and wide, ready to share their individual and collective Love with a group of precious orphaned children with bright smiles and sparkling eyes, who are living in stark, terrifically impoverished conditions extremely close to the earth, surrounded by mud still waiting to dry from the rainy season, sporting dirty clothes, sores and coughs, on the other side of the world in Africa.

There may be many who think they might like to try something similar, I often hear from those who say so, but when it really comes to choosing, to committing, to organzing and preparing, to setting goals, sharing them with others and asking for their help of behalf of the children, I think there may be far fewer who will actually follow through and make the journey.. and with 3 children, 15, 13 and 11 in tow, too! Really, this story, this family I write of now, is pretty remarkable as I see it!

With everyone knowing that he’d be returning a few days later, along with Mama Cathareen and a muzungu family of 5 from Canada, Vincent said goodbye to his wife and chidren, and our 56 orphaned children in Mutufu, and traveled from Sironko to Mbale on the evening of Dec 11th where he slept in preparation to leave for Kampala early on the 12th! We had a date to meet at Red Chilli Hideaway, a backpackers place in Kampala that attracts travelers from all over the world, where we would organize our final plans to welcome the Wagner family from Canada to Entebbe, the site of the international airport in Uganda, at 2am on the 13th!

I had already reserved a 2 bdrm cottage that sleeps 5 for the family at Red Chilli, a good ease into Africa I thought, so, once he arrived, Vincent and I checked it out.. very, very cute and clean, and much to my personal liking.. I hoped the Wagner clan would feel comfortable! We picked flowers from the garden and put them in a vase on the table. We went to the Shop Rite and purchased some familiar food basics to have in their kitchen when they arrived – milk, cereal, apples, bananas, pineapple, bread, eggs, peanut butter, juice, tea, coffee, sugar – we finalized transport arrangements and prepared to leave for the airport, about an hour and a half away, at midnight.

We bounced our way in, out, and around potholes aplenty as we drove through a fairly quiet Kampala in the middle of the night, the air absolutely stinging with the thickness of toxic burning garbage smouldering in most compounds under cover of darkness. Once in Entebbe, we took to seats to wait, and some few hours later, after I had actually wondered if perhaps they had missed their connecting flight in Instanbul, I heard one of the Wagner boys call out my name as he led the family procession (complete with 12, yes 12, giant, stuffed suitcases on, was it, 3 push carts!?! ) through the final set of security doors. Both so excited, Vincent and I rushed to share hugs with our arriving family who looked wnderfully refreshed and full of smiles ~ Welcome to Entebbe, Welcome to Uganda, Welcome to Africa ~ You Are Most Welcome ~

We.. crammed all the goods and people into and on top of our special hire vehicle and set off for Kampala.. hauled all those suitcases to the cottage.. slept, well, a bit.. visited.. enjoyed sodas, water, burgers, beers, and pizza at the backpackers restaurant.. went on boda boda (motorcycle) rides through a traffic jam in downtown Kampala.. saw monkeys in the trees at Red Chilli.. took a swim in the “pool” there (more like the size of a hot tub).. surprised the Wagner’s oldest on the eve of her 15th with a candle lit cake and a Happy Birthday song from all of us and the staff at Chilli.. slept a bit more.. hauled all those suitcases back into another vehicle.. and, about a day and a half after arrival, we were on the road for the 4-5 hour drive from Kampala to my home in Senior Quarters in Mbale. Our plan was to sleep there one night, shift stuff in suitcases in a effort to organize, and then header to Sironko to see and experience village life, set up camp at the child care center, and spend a few days with our orphaned children there.

It’s potentially pretty extreme, you know, if one really considers the very huge degrees of possible shifting reality we’re talking about here.. and everyone of course, is going to have their own take on things. The vibe of the community, the locals, the language.. the look, feel, and energy of the children in care.. their smiles, their joy, their songs, their stares, the jagged edges showing in their dark eyes of traumas past, hiding not so deep.. the extreme poverty, the context and conditions and vulnerabilities they live in.. the setup, the food, the sleeping conditions, latrines.. the weather, the environment, the atmosphere.. it’s all going to be experienced, interpreted and integrated in such different and very individual ways.

First, there’s observation right, and then, what.. often reaction, feelings, then perhaps participation, or fear, or a jump to action, or maybe projection, or peaceful acceptance, or at other times, overwhelm, estrangement, recoiling, frustration, even anger. It’s all very subjective and really plays out according to one’s own attitude and awareness, one’s physical, psychological, emotional, energetic state, belief system, filters, perspectives, even judgements.. like all of our individual takes on life.. it can be very personal to arrive in and negotiate this environment.

For me at this point, shifting realities and bouncing around from one to the next is all good. Ever since my last journey, which for those reading this who don’t know was 9 months on the ground here in Africa, I’ve constantly felt one foot still walking here during all of my time back in Canada, and the contexts here feel common to me. It often seems like I’ve been living life here for a long while and that always makes me smile! For the Wagner family, how could I then, or even now, say how it would be, or was, for them?

What I can share is that I know it took great courage, strength and Love on the part of all members of the family to come here, to spend days with the children in their world, to open wide their hearts and arms, and to embrace our little ones and their current circumstances with the tremendous warmth and care that they all showed. The depth and degree of kindness and generosity that each family member shared in their own special ways at their own special times was outstanding. The reaching down deep inside themselves and finding the strength, or tenacity, or understanding, or patience, or humour, or whatever it was that was needed in, at times, difficult, challenging and differing conditions and circumstances speaks volumes and leaves very little for me to say other than thank you, thank you, thank you.

By sharing your time, energy, resources, and knowledge, by giving your hearts, Rick, Trish and children, you have enriched, informed and inspired the lives of each and every one of our children at the center, and beyond. As individuals, and as a family collective, you have touched the children and numerous others with your smiles and laughter, your caring and attention, your ideas and example, your tenderness and concern, your playfulness and generosity, your strength and Lovingkindness.

In addition, you and several of your friends back home have empowered over 130 caregivers of over 300 orphaned children with the life altering gift of solar power lanterns.. have provided a solar power charging station that will provide income for the center by charging 9 cell phones per day.. have assisted with the purchase of 2 sewing machines and start up fabric that will help bring to life the Pads Project for our teen girls.. have provided medical supplies and attention, and scribblers, pencils, colored felts and crayons for school to dozens and dozens.. and on, and on, and on..

.. and, you have encouraged me to remain focused and steadfast, to continue carrying, and holding high and strong, the intention to build the new home for our little ones that they so need, the home that will replace the former center we were well into the process of developing for them when it flooded and had to be evacuated last year. Right now, I dream of having all 56 children presently in care, up and off the cold, wet, dirt floor before next rainy season begins which means we’ve got somewhere around 60 to 80 days or so from now to build 2 dorms and fill them each with 16 bunk beds.. I shall continue.

Your ripples shall continue.. we shall all continue.

~ Wanyalay, sweet friends, Wanyalay.

I am deeply and forever grateful to you all ~

Safe journey home. We shall meet.

Blessings in Love, Cath xox

Ps… Caught up on my writiing now and it’s coming to Christmas eve tomorrow! I’m preparing to head back to Sironko tomorrow morning to set up camp at the center for the next few days.. Imagine.. I’ll be waking up on Christmas Day with 56 children! (I’m sorta thinking it’s probably a good thing none of them have any concept of Santa..) .. but, I do have a balloon, and a scarf with ” Canada ♡ ” on it that my niece and I made, and a packet of milk cookies, for each and every one of our little Beloveds!

Christmas Blessings One and All ~  Peace, Joy, Love ~ I am so grateful ~

About Catherine Koch

Founder and President of Love Is The Answer, a Canadian registered charity serving orphaned children in Africa.
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