A JaJa's Heart

JaJa (grandmother) ran up to us clapping and smiling as we approached her humble hut in the village of Wairrasa with her grandson. Richard is 2 years old. His mother died of aids and his father abandoned him. His JaJa was not able to care for him properly. Richard has to take medication daily and must eat 3 good meals a day. In the village with JaJa, he would have been lucky to receive one good meal a day. Wairrasa is just outside Kikira about 20 minutes from Jinja.

The village life is hard where JaJa lives. I talked with the LC and he said that the number one problem is poverty. Because of poverty, the kids are not in school. Because the kids are not in school, they are bored. Because they are bored, they get into the local home-made alcohol and the teen pregnancy rate is very high. Because the teen pregnancy rate is high, there are many children everywhere. Because there are many children, there's young girls with two kids (one on each hip). Because the young teens cannot care for the children, they are often abandoned and left with grandmothers. And the cycle continues.

We were able to talk to the ladies of the village. JaJa seems to be the leader and she is very wise. She talked about how the parents need to be more responsible and keep the children in school. She said that Saturdays should be reserved for chores and Sunday for church. She said that they need help, education, training. She had to dismiss herself every 5 minutes or so because of her bad cough.

As we were talking about Richard's family, she got a little emotional. JaJa is a mother of 11. She has buried 5 children. We saw where Richard's mother was buried just behind her home. It is very surreal to be holding a 2 year old child and looking at the grave of his mom. JaJa is very thankful for a place like Amani that can protect Richard, care for him and make sure that he receives 3 meals a day and daily medicines.
As I watched this sweet little grandmother try to communicate with her 2 year old grandson, I really began to understand the horrible cycle that has been going on for generations here. Teenage girls getting pregnant constantly, the father abandons the girl when the baby arrives. The village (if they are lucky) lets the girl stay and the JaJa, if she is lucky - is not left with the grandkid. Often, the girls desert the babies. In some villages, the girl is kicked out once pregnant. In this particular instance sitting with the village ladies in Wairrasa, the baby is now 2 years old visiting the only family that he has. Everyone was excited to see Richard. They all laughed and talked about how much he looked like his mother. And JaJa got emotional again.

I don't know what is going to happen to Richard. Where he will end up or if the grandmother will be able to continue to see him from time to time. But I do know that he is getting the care that he needs right now. Richard is yet another example of a child that needs continued intervention.
We were able to sit and talk and laugh with the ladies and the children. We were also able to talk to them about the importance of breaking the cycle and being responsible. They were very thankful for our time with them. I was thankful to be able to witness the attempt of reuniting family and keeping relationships strong with the grandmother. And just as I think I'm beginning (barely) to understand the Luganda language, I show up to this village where they only speak swahili. Just as every village has different tribes and different beliefs, they also have different languages.
JaJa was so excited to invite us (me and Danyne) into her own special, private hut. She is a very clean lady and is known in the village as one of the cleanest house keepers according to Mike, our translator. Her love in her heart for her grandson is evident. Sometimes, it is hardest to understand not keeping a child. And, sometimes, I get a glimpse into the eyes of an elderly, sick grandmother and begin to understand that because she loved him, she had to let him go.
"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."
Mother Teresa