As I sit here trying to put together just a couple of paragraphs about my last three weeks in Jinja, all I can think is how I have mad respect (and envy) for all those writer savvy people who can bust out short and sweet blog posts within minutes. I am not one of those people, making it next to impossible for me to stuff three weeks into two paragraphs. However, I'll do my best. Just try and bear with me. First, let me just say I fall more in love with Uganda and its people every day that I am here, and I also gain more respect for what HEAL Ministries does for those people. 84% of the women in Jinja have been abandoned. There are 2.7 million orphans in Uganda alone, many of whom do have families who are just unable to provide for them. HEAL's main focus is supporting these abandoned women and children by providing vocational classes for the women in the community and childcare for those who are already working. Giving these women a way to sustain themselves allows them to provide for their children and thus keep their families together. It is truly a blessing to be a part of this work.
Being an intern for HEAL (as opposed to being a team member last summer) means more time at the James Place, more work, more responsibility, and more involvement with the ministry in general. Monday-Saturday I feel like I never stop going. One of the main things the James place provides is childcare for women in the community who have NO ONE else available to take care of their children while they work or go to school. There are currently 50 kids in the program and about 17 of them are between the ages of 3 and 5. Those 17 kids have pre-school every morning from about 8:30-10, and because I help out with that every day, it's when and where my day begins. Listening to 17 sweet voices sing praises and recite the alphabet is honestly the best way to kick start my mornings. After pre-school, I typically help out in childcare until lunchtime, which is at noon. Once the kiddos finish eating, they have bath time and then nap until 3. While they are napping, the interns and staff have lunch and then do chores (it's safe to say I'll never take a dishwasher for granted again). The afternoons are my favorite part of the day because the sun is not as hot and the kids are not as wired. Finally, the working part of my day ends around 6 when the last of the kids and staff go home.
To say each day is exhausting is an understatement. The kids take absolutely everything out of me, and there are many moments when I find myself struggling to push frustration aside and just love them. But for every single moment of frustration there are ten moments of joy, and when I fall into my bed every night, my body aches and my heart is full. As stretched as it may sound, I believe that's the basis of what God has called us to as his followers; to do...to love and love and love some more until it (literally) hurts. I cannot save these people from sin or even from their suffering. Only Jesus has the power to do that. All I can do is open my heart and love them where they are. And the funny thing is that they have done the same for me. These people have embraced me in all my brokenness, and through their unbelievable joy, despite devastating circumstances, they have reminded me each and every day that we all worship the same amazing Christ Jesus whose grace covers all. It's His grace and His love that we need. Nothing more.
Caroline White, HEAL Intern