Like many others in the U.S., I’ve become a bit obsessed with the musical, "Hamilton," specifically its soundtrack. The songs have been a consistent companion on my travels throughout the summer, and I find I constantly have Hamilton lyrics running through my head. I have a Hamilton earworm!
The closing number of the show is, “Who Lives, Who Dies. Who Tells Your Story”. This refrain, more than any other, echoes in my mind as I walk the red dirt paths of Uganda. Here in Uganda there are so many stories. Stories of loss. Stories of tragedy. Stories of perseverance. Stories of rebirth. Each day a child or teacher or staff member tells me a story that leaves me awestruck at the strength of the Ugandan people.
Today we had the special, sacred privilege of hearing the personal testimony of five students at Gulu PTC. Richard, Sunday, Byron, Faridah, and Flavia sat quietly in front of us, and one by one the children shared the challenges of their lives. And together we wept as they spoke of circumstances that most of us would be unable to overcome.
Stories of orphans living with their disabled grandparents and struggling to find ways to raise the funds to attend school. Without a wage-earning parent, these children are laying bricks and digging gardens to raise funds for their own school fees. 10, 12, 14 year old students fighting to find a way to stay in school, because they know it’s their only hope.
Stories of children abandoned by their parents. Parents choosing alcohol over the responsibilities of child-rearing. Parents rejecting a child and telling them to go away, because they simply have too many mouths to feed. Stories of abuse and neglect that tore at my heart.Stories of children walking 6 kilometers (one way) to attend school on a daily basis. Adding to the challenge is the fact that one of these children only eats one meal a day, if he is lucky. If he is fortunate enough to get dinner, he will not eat breakfast or lunch the next day because there is simply not enough.
It was a heart-wrenching reminder of why the work of Fields of Dreams Uganda is so important. After these children shared their stories, we were able to affirm their courage and tenacity. Two of our employees, with very similar childhood stories, looked each child in the eye and encouraged them to not give up hope for their future or their dreams. Thankfully, we were able to cover their school fees and uniform needs for the remainder of the school year…one less burden on their plate.
“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”. Today, I tell you their stories. The stories of Richard, Byron, Sunday, Faridah, and Flavia. Stories that I will tell over and over again. Because their hardships and challenges are stories worth telling. These children’s hope and dreams are worth supporting. One dreams of being a doctor. Another aspires to be the Vice President of Uganda. With your help, Fields of Dreams Uganda can provide these children with the hope and encouragement to pursue their dreams. In a world full of stories, their stories matter.