I (Sarah) would like to introduce you to… ‘Man’. When I first heard his name, I had a little giggle! It is a quirk of living in Uganda that sometimes the nicknames given to people are quite funny, but they always come with a story – and Man’s story is no exception.
His mother is a widow, which is unfortunately not an uncommon phenomenon here in Uganda. Many people have died due to war, but also health care is very limited and deadly diseases are common; so ultimately the death rate is high, leaving a country populated by mostly widows and orphans. Man’s mother was unable to feed or care for him, and the only semblance of support he had was an aunty.
So at the young age of 10, he gained his name – because he was compelled by circumstance to become a man!
Man’s story with Tamarind began 2 years ago at our Operation Centre at Bardege, in Gulu (Northern Uganda). His duties involved pushing a wheel barrow most of the time, as well as any other odd jobs that needed to be done on a construction site. Over this period of time, we noticed he was a hard-working, enthusiastic young man who was always willing to help and do
what was required of him.
Man currently is 14, and trying to complete primary school – which by normal standards, he should have finished 2 years ago. He has fallen behind in his education due to his living situation and lack of finances. In Uganda there are public schools but they are not free - all education costs! So, without enough money for school and without anyone looking after him, Man is struggling to learn, and cannot do basic maths or reading.
Our challenge is: how do we help? We do not want to become parents again; we do not want to just give finances to a 14-year-old who has no way to manage them wisely; but we do want to help Man. With so many needs and challenges in front of us, the question is how do we help Man complete his schooling as well as remain self-sufficient? This is our plan…
The place we are renting has a gate house which needs to be "manned". 😉 It has its own self-contained room and electricity. During the day, Man can go to school and when he’s not at school, he can stay at the gate house to operate it, and do some extra jobs for us around the compound. In return, we will pay his school fees, and financially cover his basic needs of food, books and clothes. Chris will also do some extra educational coaching with him.
Currently, Man has been in this plan with us since January 2018, and it’s working really well so far! We are excited to have sent him to his first teenage holiday camp with Watoto, and are eagerly looking forward to seeing how that may impact his life. We were able to buy him his first Bible, and we are praying that he has a life changing experience and meets Jesus – who is the ultimate MAN!
This is Life in Africa – where 10-year-old children become ‘men’ and have to rise to the challenges of daily living, and without social security, or a Department of Community Services, or any kind of government assistance. Man’s story, and our journey so far with him, does seem like a drop in the ocean, but I am reminded of the parable of the lost sheep – in which the Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to find the one. While sometimes it feels like we are living in an ocean of problems and daily life crises, we need to remember the one. And we need to remember to stop, breathe, and focus on what we can do, and just do it!