It was not long after I returned to Canada from Uganda last Feb, when I received an email from a woman who heard of Love Is The Answer because of our relationship with Vancouver College boys school, in Vancouver. Following my visit with her children in their primary classroom at VC, where I shared news about the children in Uganda, I think it goes that her boys came home talking about some of the stories we had told earlier in the day.
This prompted their very kind mother to write to me, wondering if we at LITA might be able to use some used soccer uniforms, still in pretty fine shape, for orphaned children in Uganda, as the league her boys play in were replacing theirs with new ones this year.
As many already know, it is one of LITA’s philosophies to do all we can to purchase the materials and supplies required for our projects for the children in trading centers, and from businesses, as close to the community where the kids stay. We know this can contribute positively to growth of the local economy, and build community cooperation and goodwill, as well. We’ve learned here over time how when, let’s say, a container of things that have been collected in a community in Canada arrives in a community here, while very well intentioned it can sometimes have an adverse affect on people and the success of local businesses in the community. Let’s say the container is full of used desks. It could be the local carpenter desk maker, and his business, may suffer as a result.. and the lumber supplier he buys his wood from, and the man who makes and supplies him with nails. Or maybe huge numbers of books have arrived.. then the local book seller.. or school supplies, then the local stationary store.. and on.
Because of this, we at LITA are mindful to collect very little from abroad or at least keep it to things not available here. So, hmmm, soccer uniforms, I thought, not at all common here for children.. let me have a look at these uniforms being so generously offered to us.. let us see what they have on hand, and if not for our little ones in Uganda, then perhaps we could help pass them on to local kids, say, living in a community in BC where there is no funding for sports uniforms..
Our thoughtful Mom and her sons helped to collect the uniforms from here and there around their league, and one Saturday, with a borrowed car, I stopped by to pick up several green garbage bags, full!
My sister in law helped me sort and wash.. there were red tops and pink, blue and white ones too, and many pairs of black shorts, several dozen pieces in total. Wow, they were so cute and in great shape, and I could just see the 32 children at ACIO Child Care Center running around in them!
So, we put aside 20 pairs of short and red matching jerseys for the boys at the center and 12 more of the red jerseys for the girls. We inventoried the rest and began to look for a home for them. We would need to come up with an alternative to shorts for the girls in Uganda as they do not wear them there, especially deep in the villages, like where the center is.
Fast forward to one week ago.. there we were in White Rock on the eve of my journey to Uganda, packing around 40 red jerseys, a couple dozen black shorts, 12 black skirts we made from an second hand duvet cover my sister in law also helped me to acquire.. (thank you always, Sharon) into one of the many suitcases I was to bring with me to Uganda.. with the balance of the uniforms, indeed having found a new home at an inner city school in Vancouver! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
Also inside that one huge bag of soccer outfits, were 4 dozen bags from a yoga studio, that I understand may be no more.. another dear friend saved them for me to give to the children to carry their books in, or something! An even larger bag, an old Canada ‘hockey gear bag’, was filled to the brim with 32 pairs of running shoes and socks that LITA Board Member, Angela, had collected over the past few weeks.. and these two bags joined a donated guitar, a suitcase with a photocopier and ink in it that we purchased for a youth group’s income generating activity here, more skirts and shorts I’d sewed for the children out of more recycled duvet covers, as well as a t-shirt for each child at ACIO, and a suitcase with some stuff for me while here.. ohhh, in all my ‘departure joy’ I was heavily laden, one might say.. I think it was 6 bags in all, plus carry on!
Through the kindness of another friend it was wonderfully and very surprisingly arranged that British Airways would help us transport allll those bags at no cost, due to their contents, and the little munchkins who were to receive them on the other end of the journey! Wow!
As life happens, the very day to pass all this care, compassion, generosity, kindness and Love on to the children was yesterday, Tuesday, October 2, 2012. It was an amazing day. The lives of 32 children, and even those around them, changed suddenly, and the transformations were beyond beautiful.. the rush to wash feet at the Director’s request before surprises began to be revealed, the struggle to put socks on, just exactly how do you tie laces.. the new bounce in sneakered steps, the eagerness and record time to change clothes, the extra swish of matching skirts, the arms around one another as they all proudly wore the exact same jerseys, the power in those little legs as they kicked new soccer balls around like pros in full uniform.. the smiles and laughter.. the gratitude and pride.. it was truly an awesome day for us all!
As I have shared with a few others already, when time came for me to board the public taxi back to Mbale before it got too dark, one of the girls, soon to be a teenager, stopped me, and looking in my eyes said, “Mummy Catherine, thank you. From the day I was born up to today I have never had a pair of shoes before.” We teared. We kissed. We hugged. Today, was the day! Amen.
There are many who have taken action and done much to make life for these 32 children be so very different as I write this now.
As I told the children.. in this happy moment there is a very important lesson for us all to remember. Do not make the mistake, I told them, to look at Mummy because I am standing here with you and think that I have done all of this for you, alone. I have not. It is not possible. None of us can really do much on our own.. none of us can do these kinds of things by ourselves.. none of us can change the world all alone. We all need one another, we all need to work together, to be generous and kind and to care for one another.. this is the way wonderful things can happen for the many.
Always remember, I told them, the Love that has been given to us one day, we shall have the chance to give to another, a different day. It’s all Love and it’s what we all are. The children clapped.
Blessings in Love, Catherine