Vulnerable Children in the Pearl of Africa.

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Written by Carla Jordan

“God’s deepest desire is not that we would help the poor. God’s deepest desire is that we would love the poor; for if we love them, we will surely help them.” — Rich Stearns

Uganda has long been known as the Pearl of Africa for the beauty of its landscape. Winston Churchill described the Ugandan landscape as an “exuberance of vegetation…scarcely describable…a fairy tale.” Uganda has an abundance of natural beauty: snow-capped mountains, volcanic hills rising up from a patchwork of emerald green, Lake Victoria, the source of the river Nile, the spectacular Kabalega Falls and a people as warm and open as the African sky.

While the beauty of its countryside is stunning, the statistics of poverty in Uganda are overwhelming. Most Ugandans work two or three jobs and still lack food and water—their most basic needs. A staggering 2.7 million children under the age of 18 are orphans; 1.2 million of them due to AIDS. While these figures are tragic on a scale that is hard to comprehend, they are still not the most difficult facts about Uganda. Widespread poverty combined with a huge population of orphaned children creates a staggering reality: more often than not, utterly vulnerable children are left to fight for survival or fall victim to abuse and exploitation.
For six days, a team of writers, photographers and filmmakers traveled to Uganda with Children’s HopeChest to capture the orphan story. The team heard stories that spanned generations, from young children to elderly grandparents. Each story, while unique, shared a common heartbeat—the tragedy of death and the vulnerability of orphaned children. Everyone has heard the labels—abandoned, infected, impoverished, needy, and weak. But the truth discovered by this team was this: labels lie.

This project is one large story of hope—a story that gives voice to the voiceless, a story that encourages the reader to find hope in every day, a story that becomes a beacon of light for those struggling to find their way in uncertain circumstances. The hope of this project is that the transformative power of story will influence individuals and communities all over the world to defy the labels, consider the faces and reach out a helping hand to another person in need.

Children’s HopeChest provides places of refuge where orphaned and vulnerable children can have their basic needs met and receive consistent practical, spiritual and emotional support. Henrik Ibsen wrote: “A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.” Both the sponsorship of individual orphans as well as the partnership of whole communities affect radical change in the lives of those involved. For more info about Children’s HopeChest go to here.

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This family’s life has been radically improved through sponsorship. The father received medication for Tuberculosis and three of the five children are now enrolled in school where they have access not only to education, but also to a hot meal six days a week.

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The children have received mattresses from Children’s HopeChest so they no longer have to sleep on the dirt floor of the hut.

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The village of Ogoloi is comprised of about 300 homes and 1,000 children, and the Children’s HopeChest leaders walk the three mile length of the village in order reach all the homes, at times, through neck-high brush.

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Here we met Peter and his mother Hellen who are both HIV positive. Peter told the team he hoped to become a doctor one day. Many of the children who shared their stories with the team have the same dream of one day becoming a doctor in order to give back to their communities. The main desire in each of these children is to prevent needless deaths. Peter is pictured in the front row center with a red t-shirt.

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The U.S. community partner has raised capital for a project that would build a sturdy shelter (above the ground and covered in order to offer protection from the elements) to serve as a multipurpose building, a kitchen and a pit latrine to reduce the threat of typhoid, cholera and diarrhea.

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An Ogoloi orphan pictured with her grandmother. It was a common occurrence to see orphans being raised by one or more grandparents. An entire generation in Uganda has been wiped out by the HIV/AIDS epidemic making the average age 16 years old.

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Two orphan boys outside the church at Ogoloi.

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Not far from the village of Ogoloi was a large mountain of rock where women work all day breaking stone into pebbles for road crews and cement companies to buy.

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Although Children’s HopeChest does not yet have a program for this area, they are exploring ways in which they could reach these rock quarry families with education, health care and hope.

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For the children who grow up in this community, they know no other existence. Women work in the quarry throughout pregnancy and afterward, nurse their babies at the side of the rock piles.

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Work in the rock quarry is backbreaking: it includes heating the rock to soften it, breaking it into large (40-50 lb.) boulders which children then haul to their mothers and aunties for it to be broken down into smaller rocks, and finally crushing the smaller rocks into pebbles using a pestle-type tool. The pay for all this grueling labor equals approximately $1/day for each woman.

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A child of the Rock Quarry.

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The village of Oditel was the most successful of the HopeChest CarePoints we visited. Oditel is shepherded by a pastor who has become not only an encouraging spiritual counselor, but also a businessman with a keen entrepreneurial spirit. In all of his roles, Joseph has done a great job, but the way he has encouraged and facilitated economic growth is immediately apparent.

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The fence seen in the background of these photographs protects the CarePoint shelter, latrines, kitchen and play yard. In Oditel, many microbusinesses are flourishing, including a goat breeding project which provides meat and income for villagers.

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A young orphan boy from the CarePoint at Oditel.

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The fence seen in the background of these photographs protects the CarePoint shelter, latrines, kitchen and play yard. In Oditel, many microbusinesses are flourishing, including a goat breeding project which provides meat and income for villagers.

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The village of Bukedea has been radically transformed by sponsorship and community partnership. The U.S. Community Partner (actually the same one that partners with the village of Ogoloi) has built a CarePoint Shelter, a latrine, and a cooking and serving kitchen as well as a small office for the local community director. A large, beautiful garden flourishes in Bukedea in addition to a well-developed leadership training program.

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The Ugandan director of the CarePoint in Bukedea is also teaching the children skills such as sewing and pattern-making.

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The girl on the right in this photo offered a powerful “welcome prayer” for the team during the opening reception. The spiritual maturity and development is due to the fact that Children’s HopeChest not only builds the mind through education, and the body through hot and nutritious meal programs, but they also build the spirit through an excellent mentoring/discipleship program.

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In Bukedea, the team interviewed six women and their children who were HIV positive. The stories heard were stunning in their similarity: the men contracted HIV and passed it on to the women who in turn passed it on to the children they birthed; the women were most often rejected  and discarded like yesterday’s trash by the man’s family as the cause for the HIV. In these situations, the women and their children are left to fend for themselves. Children’s HopeChest offers hope and help through sponsorship to families like these.

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Nakisunga, the village seen in these photos, is where the ministry of ROTOM (Reach One Touch One Ministries) has a sponsorship program for the elderly. The team met about 400-500 children here and the approximately 200 elderly who care for them. In Nakisunga, ROTOM seeks to partner with Children’s HopeChest and a U.S. community in order to begin a sponsorship program for children there. Nakisunga would then become a CarePoint with sponsorship for the children as well as the elderly caring for them.

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A young student in the one of the four small classrooms that house grades one through seven in the village of Nakisunga.

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In Uganda, a country the size of the state of Oregon, there are more than 2.5 million vulnerable children–the whole U.S. has only 468,000. The statistics are startling when shown this way, and the need is great. When it seems that God has deserted those precious lives, an organization like Children’s HopeChest comes along and offers opportunities to make a difference in the world.

For me, traveling to Uganda and seeing firsthand the work of Children’s HopeChest was both a privilege and honor, and it was life changing in an unexpected way. Being a seasoned traveler, I didn’t expect to fall in love with a people and a country like I did in Uganda. The plight of the children is great, the need for help seems overwhelming, but the joy on the faces of those children as they spoke with love and gratitude for their sponsors was priceless.

The challenge for us is not to create or invent a work of God, but rather to open our eyes to what God is already using–to where he is already at work in our world–and simply to get on board. In her wisdom from many years serving in India, Mother Theresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” The amazing bonus? In doing something small like sponsoring a child, the love in my own heart expanded exponentially.

Thank you to our sponsors:
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Comments: 17
  1. Alex Shik Aug 12th 23:15

    Wow… This is simply amazing post! Love Carla’s story. Photographs are superb! Feel blessed to be a part of this project!!!

  2. Greg Aug 12th 23:50

    This is Great !! I Love it :)

  3. Ross Aug 13th 03:20

    AMAZING work Sasha…..really touch my soul….can’t stop watching again and again, one of the most beautiful thinks I ever see….

  4. Carla Jordan Aug 13th 03:38

    Absolutely stunning–both the photography and the film! Being part of this project is one of the highlights of my life.

  5. Roman Aug 13th 07:11

    Perfect ! Photo and great idea! Respect

  6. Cathy Cucinella Aug 14th 14:44

    Wow, Thank god for organizations like this that give so much of them self’s for these children. You are very special people.

  7. Garrison Aug 14th 21:11

    Incredible! Beautiful. profound

    What a difference we can make for $34 a month!

  8. Vulnerable Children In The Pearl Of Africa • LensProToGo Labs Aug 15th 16:48

    […] Visit Sasha’s blog for much more on this story! […]

  9. elijah artman Aug 15th 19:43

    Wonderful

  10. Julia Nesterenko Aug 15th 19:51

    Beautifully captured. What an amazing project!

  11. Julia Manchik Aug 15th 19:56

    Incredible work, Sasha. I can tell you put a lot of effort into this. Everything is perfectly lit! I cannot believe these women break rocks by hand with their children nearby… breaks my heart.

  12. Luis Chandomi. Aug 15th 23:17

    “Algun dia el ser humano abrira por completo los ojos” y sentira en su corazon la palabra de Dios por completo” Felicito enormemente a todo el equipo que fue capaz y logro hacer cosas maravillosas en este mundo de los niños, felicidades Carla por tan bonita redaccion y tan pader documental!! Felicidades a todos, y no olviden que Dios es grande!!

  13. josafat de la toba Aug 16th 01:39

    nice pictures, good project! thanks!

  14. Sergey Aug 18th 02:25

    All of these images are so touching! You did an amazing job capturing the people there, be blessed for what you do!

  15. Ivan Postivka Aug 27th 02:42

    Thank you, Sasha..

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    placing the other person’s blog link on your page at appropriate place and other person will also do same for you.

  17. mdm warunki Jun 06th 10:42

    Hi there, all the time i used to check website
    posts here in the early hours in the dawn, as i
    love to gain knowledge of more and more.

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