A serious highlight of our trip was the day we went to the Little Angels Orphanage in Lake Bunyoni. Duncan, a 25 year old local, had started the orphanage after growing up in an orphanage himself. The interesting thing about this school/center is that many of the kids are not orphans in the technical sense, but they often have parents who just simply cannot afford to feed or clothe or take care of them. They are fed at Little Angels, and they are schooled by young teachers. A group of us hiked over from our Lake Bunyoni campsite so we could observe and assist with the kids. As a visitor, I was called upon to teach the class something. Of course we were all embarrassed (though there were a few teachers in our group who melded in a bit more naturally) but what could we do? I dragged Hunya up with me so we could play “Simon Says” (which is kind of tricky when the kids don't speak English very well) and the “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. At the end of our “lesson”, all of the kids in unison recited, “Teacher, Teacher, you are so good and precious.” I cannot tell you enough how touching this was, and they even said it to each student who got a correct answer. Come on!!
For lunch all of the classrooms piled out onto the grass next to the lake and ate together. Lunch consisted of a plastic cup of watery porridge, a slice of bread, a banana, and a bag of orange “drink”. I would estimate that there were about 60 kids present. After lunch, the teachers would yell out questions (What is the definition of a domesticated animal? What are some examples of wild animals? How do you spell “eleven”?) and a student would stand up and answer out loud and as a reward would receive an extra slice of bread or a banana. This one kid, Jared, stood up more than once when he clearly did not know the answer!! Either he was overly confident in himself, or he just wanted the half slice of bread he would get for at least attempting an answer. Too cute.
At the end of our time there, Duncan asked if anyone would want to sponsor a child. Three children were sponsored from our group! Vanessa and I decided to sponsor a kid together, and we left it up to Duncan to choose who he thought was the neediest at the school. (Who the heck would be able to pick a kid on their own accord? Way too gnarly.) When he brought in 6 year old Tracey, it was all Vanessa could do not to lose it. She started crying, but luckily her glasses provided camouflage and I kept elbowing her because I was trying to hold it together and she was not helping. Tracey came over and gave us a big hug and a big toothy grin. We gave her the Lion King coloring book we had brought and she was obviously very excited, which made us happy. Then she got to pick out a “Little Angels” t-shirt (she picked orange, which I thought was a great choice!) and we took a few pics. Duncan told her that we were sisters and we gave her our names and hugged her a bunch. As cheesy as it sounds, it was so dang special.
We paddled our way back to the site in a canoe (which was not that easy, by the way) and we kept smiling, thinking about little Tracey and how she was bound to be the smartest in her class and how we couldn't wait until she spoke more English so we could communicate better. I knew ahead of time that we would be visiting an orphanage, but I had no idea that we would have ended up sponsoring a kid and creating a unique relationship with a 6 year old girl from Uganda.
The Little Angels accepts volunteers, monetary donations, sponsorships, and various other donations and their information can be found online at: http://www.littleangelsuganda.org/