During our weeks spent in Kampala, besides our impressive visits to the slums, we had meetings with the coaches from the ‘Miracle Youth Soccer Academy’ (MYSA), as well as with the children. Also, we attended some soccer trainings and a tournament, we brought the children sweets and handed them from the Netherlands donated soccer materials, about which more can be read here.
After having spent several weeks in Kampala, the day had arrived for us to leave the capital and to travel to the village of Mbaba, where Happy is currently organizing most of his activities.
That day, because we had been staying in the northern part of Kampala, and the village of Mbaba is located about 300 kilometers to the southwest of it, we had to cross the city from north to south. While doing so, a melancholy feeling took hold of me. I thought back of the many times that we had been crossing the city over the last weeks, viewing the streets while sometimes seated in a minibus, sometimes on a boda boda (125 cc motorcycle), sometimes also walking them. Every time again, there had been the confrontation with the fact that, on the one hand the capital appears to be developing well, having very modern shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants, etcetera, while on the other hand there is such a level of street poverty that it is in stark contrast with that development.
In every street, on every corner you witness poorly dressed men and women, several of them missing a limb or having deformed limbs, sitting on the sidewalks, hoping that passersby will give them a coin. Even worse, the streets are filled with children, many children, doing the same. It will need no explanation that the sight of very small children, often almost as small as baby’s, the few clothes they are wearing dirty and damaged, sitting on the sidewalks, holding up their hands to everyone who passes by, is nothing but heartbreaking. Unfortunately, that sight is commonplace in Kampala.
As much as you would want to help these children, it seems simply impossible. First, there are so many of them that you wouldn’t even know where to start or, worse, where to stop. Second, we were told that any money you may give them would be at risk of ending up in the hands of others. We learned that often older children, even adults, will take away the money from the younger ones, or a parent may use it for buying alcohol instead of food. We felt simply hopeless, realizing that we had no other option than to accept that we could not help these poor children.
(The photos above are taken from internet, as uncomfortable as I felt about photographing children in such a horrible situation; yet, they most clearly represent what we witnessed)
With the car we had rented for the trip to Mbaba and our stay there, we crossed the very busy city, struggling our way through the always present traffic jams, while witnessing the street views one more time. The further we moved out of the capital, the more we could start enjoying the amazing sights of Uganda’s beautiful nature. Everywhere along the road we kept seeing stands from where people were selling fresh fruits and vegetables. (More about our impressions from the country can be read in the recently posted article, Visiting Uganda ).
We were following Masaka Road that would first of all lead us to the point where the equator crosses the road and where we were planning to have a break. Concrete white hoops, one at each side of the road, attested to the fact that we had reached the actual point of the equator crossing the road. We took some photos and walked along several souvenirs offering shops. We decided to enter the most attractive looking place, which also served as a small restaurant, and where we found a variety of high-quality local crafts displayed.
After our break we continued our trip. We soon reached the city of Masaka, from where we started following the road leading to the city of Mbabara. The landscape we witnessed was nothing but breathtakingly beautiful! At some point it also became hilly, which only added to the beauty. We were somewhat puzzled about also driving along many wetlands. The presence of so much water in this beautiful country makes the fact that the majority of the people living in the rural areas have no access to clean water hard to take.
Just before sunset, after a trip that took almost 7 hours altogether, we reached the destination from where we would visit the children from the village of Mbaba many times during the weeks that followed. We were incredibly looking forward to our first meeting with them, which was planned for the next day!