Wednesday, May 25, 2011

***Africa*** Part 3 -- Visiting "M"

The Remand Center.
A children's prison.
One of 6 in this country.
A place where street children are rounded up and shipped off to.
It is mandatory to stay put once you are placed here until your "sentence" is fulfilled.
Actually it's a "Rehabilitation Center" so named by the government office here which established it 
and it's home to 160 plus children of Kampala.

It is a straightened name for a crippled place.

When planning our trip we were excited to be invited by the ministry in consistent contact with "M" 
to attend ongoing programs there one day.
Andrew was invited to run a clinic with the nurse who single-handedly already does so weekly.

We had no idea what to expect.

I had seen a quite raw documentary of this place by Sixty Feet 
at the Conference in February.
It was not glossy and scented. 
It captured all the grime, pain and need of this place.
But still somehow I expected wholeness.
 I anticipated a prettier reality than what we found.

I did not expect to see a broken place.
I was not prepared to see shattered children.

Realistically, it's been only ONE year since Sixty Feet has been involved with "M" 
so in retrospect I should have been prepared to see a similar image in front of my eyes to what I had watched in the air-conditioned, dim documentary screening this winter.

I was not.

I had baked cupcakes to raise money for "M".
I had been emotionally moved.
I had cried watching the documentary.
I had prayed.
I had shared with others about Sixty Feet and the children's prison they are helping rebuild.

But I had no idea what I was about to behold.

I have never
in my life
seen a place like "M".


Upon ariving we were offered a tour of the rambling grounds.
This was the first stop at around 9AM, before breakfast.

The half-missing and half-broken window glass panes led me to doubt anyone could live in this place.
I was wrong.

This, I was told was the Girls' House: 
home to all 13 of the girls aged mostly around 7 who lived here.

this is their laundry facility

The Caretaker, "B" handed out DumDum lollipops we brought. 
I was struck with:  THIS IS A PITIFUL OFFERING. 
I was absolutely ashamed.

This was the first "food" to hit these girls' stomachs this day.

Pigs living behind the Girl's House.

Doing laundry.

Following "B" into the main grounds.
"M" is a compound of mostly-empty, large, aging buildings.

There had been no water for 2 days when we arrived. 
So breakfast was smoking in these outdoor cauldrons.
Porridge is on the permanent menu.

This is the indoor kitchen for use when electricity and water cooperate.

This is wonderful Godfrey. He is explaining there is a kid behind this padlocked prison door.
The kid is new here.
He is raging.

The kids found us as we toured their bunkhouse.

What they REALLY wanted was to see their own captured faces on the camera screen.

This is my dear friend, Cindy showing the kids their grins on her camera.


I found some teenaged girls who wanted nothing more than to ignore their breakfast, play with Rissa 
and use the motherly instinct undoubtedly used in the past with some other baby.

rainwater collection system

this is the playground equipment

worship time is commencing

Andrew and Betty, (Nurse Extraordinaire)  preparing for clinic

the kids waiting and watching

I walked around and began snapping photos. 
I stopped when I realized Rissa and I were alone. 
In an empty building. 
I was suddenly aware that perhaps I wasn't being wise.
I stopped being so brave dumb.

a wasp nest inside a building

kids just wandering

peering in, watching Andrew conduct clinic

in chairs, waiting extremely patiently, well-mannered and quiet.

Andrew saw kids.
"B" translated.
Betty assisted.

They did this for almost 4 hours.

And this is my Mercy, holding her charge for the day.

We watched a soccer game.

laundry drying.

beautiful soft-spoken, precious Mercy
age almost-17
she will be "released" in December
Her future is completely opaque.
She has NO ONE.
NO plans.
NO path.
Little education.
Her response to my question: "Mercy, what will you do when you turn 17 and they let you leave?"

"Only God knows."

The hardest part:

That night.

When I went home and showered.

And I was thoroughly scoured before I got into bed that night.

It struck me: none of these kids were clean as they crawled into their beds.

I had LEFT "M".

They had not.

*Now. You must know that there is life at "M". 
It is not hopeless!
Jesus' love is being shared with every child, 
every precious and previously-ignored kid.

Lights work sometimes.

Food is predictable.

Beds and mosquito nets are mostly acceptable.

And there are AMAZING, SACRIFICIAL people doing an EXTRARDINARY and VAILD 
work there EVERY DAY.

It is getting better.

But it must get better still.

Are you in tears?
Are you moved?
Are you shaken up?
Are you troubled?

If you are not, check your pulse and then check your heart to see if Jesus resides there.
These picture and this story should break your heart.

If you do nothing now
If you click your tongue
Click off of this blog
Walk away
Stop thinking purposely to recover your ignorance of this matter
Refuse to investigate
Save your money for your own summer vacations and luxury items and jewlery and more of what you don't need and won't even ultimately take with you

be aware.

bad news:

You are now accountable.
"...once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act."
Proverbs 24:12

To find myriad ways to help: