It has almost been exactly a year to the day that I first went to Uganda. I had recently turned 18 and I was about to begin 7 months in Uganda as part of my Gap Year before beginning University. I don’t remember how I thought or felt as I prepared to leave, apart from excited. Little did I know that this trip would completely change my life.
I was part of a gap year team and Corrie was one of the other gap year students. We spent our time working in schools, churches and communities but felt a bit frustrated that the children we were working with were already going to school, we wanted an opportunity to support children who had no opportunities.
I will never forget the first time I went into the slums in Kampala. Our friend Sam, now the Uganda Director of Kids Club Kampala, invited us to visit Kampala’s slums in order to reach those kids who couldn't afford to go to school or who didn't attend a church. These kids, dare we say it were our favourite little ones to love and laugh with, always so energetic and passionate and thankful for any balloon, tennis ball or pack of bubbles that were given out. Over the next few months we fell in love, with the country, the people and most of all the children. It broke our hearts seeing the shocking conditions of the slums and the social stigma attached to slum children in Uganda. People walk the long way the slums in order to avoid the dirt, the people and the open sewers. Friends, church members and people we would meet would warn us against going there "Those children are dirty, they will steal your stuff, don't walk there your feet will get dirty and you will catch a disease!" We struggled to understand these comments when looking into the eyes of these smiling kids who just wanted to play and have fun and be kids, who just wanted someone to hold a skipping rope for them while they jumped, who just needed someone to say I believe you are special, gifted and worth a huge amount in this world.
We decided that more needed to be done for these children who were living in desperate poverty. We tried to find other people and organisations to help. Frustratingly, there wasn’t much help available as many charities were reluctant to work in the slums because of the difficult and dangerous conditions. It slowly dawned on us that the slum children would never have the same opportunities that other children in the world had, there was no one willing to stand up for them or fight on their behalf. We were determined to help the children in this community in any way possible, and it seemed that our only option was to do something ourselves. After a lot of tears, a lot of heartache, a lot of prayer and a lot of discussion, we decided that our only option was to start something ourselves.
A lot has happened in 10 years. I certainly never imagined or dared to dream when I first got on that plane to Uganda 10 years ago that Kids Club Kampala would even be a reality. At the beginning, our vision was so small and we had no idea where this dream would take us. I remember one of our goals for the next five years was to have enough paper and pencils for children who wanted to draw pictures at our Saturday Kids Club – we now have free education projects running every day in 3 slum communities, providing over 500 children with education and a chance to read, write and draw every day! What started as a small project in one slum now feeds, educates, provides health education and counselling for over 4000 children every day, in 18 different communities across Uganda. But the vision still remains the same – to bring hope and love to vulnerable children and to transform the broken communities in Uganda’s slums.
The journey has not been easy at all, and it is still so stressful and challenging trying to raise enough money every month to run all of our projects. 10 years on and I have made countless trips to Uganda, yet I never stop having my heartbroken seeing all the suffering and poverty in Kampala’s slums. Who knows where the next 10 years will take us? Please do pray for us as we journey in this, and if you would like to join us and be part of our journey and our vision, then please do get in touch.