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During my most recent trip to Uganda I have spent more than three wonderful, but also very impressive weeks at the location of HWMCO-Uganda; I was part of the daily activities organized for the children, that way continuously interacting with them and learning more and more about them and their world. Usually, the children come to take part in activities on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, when they are free from school, but during the period I spent with them they were having a school holiday of several weeks; always during school holidays they come to the location both on weekdays and during the weekends.
Every day, the children would show up in the morning, first of all officially greeting everyone of the team with a humble, “good morning”. The day would then start with the children contributing their part in maintaining the location; some were assisting in cleaning the room where many activities take place, others started watering plants and trees, sweeping the location, or weeding the garden. Whenever they noticed me around while they were carrying out their tasks, a proud smile would appear on their faces.
After the children had then washed their hands and feet with fresh water taken from the rainwater tank, they would be divided into several groups for activities to get started. A group of children would collect their brass band instruments, for them to exercise notes and melodies; another group, all of them girls, started exercising juggling; some of the older girls took part in knitting and crochet activities; others enjoyed themselves with activities such as jumping rope or playing soccer. Throughout the day the groups would change and also small groups of children would be taken apart for educational purposes. Whenever they got thirsty they could go into the activity room where boiled water from the rainwater tank was available for them to drink.
For myself, I would be found playing educational games with groups of children, puzzling with them or teaching them in counting. Also, I was involved with the knitting and crochet activities. Knitting is hardly known in Uganda, it had shortly been introduced to the girls a few months earlier, but they had not been able to do it on themselves. Crochet is much better known, there I could only add to their skills. I also introduced French knitting to them.
Being very aware of the importance of it for just every child, I made sure to give them some personal attention in everything I did. On some Sundays I surprised the children with pancakes.
It was just wonderful to see every time again how the children enjoyed playing the educational games I had brought with me. Some of the games needed using a dice, which had until then been a completely unknown object for them. Being prepared for that, I had also brought a very big dice, which I playfully introduced to them first of all. My this time self-prepared memory game consisted of cards showing numbers, colors, shapes and more, therewith also serving an educational purpose.
Puzzling is known to be a wonderful relaxing activity for children and besides that it also contributes in amazing ways to their skills in perceiving, organizing and sorting. To be encouraged to fix the pieces together and finding the solutions all by themselves is essential for the mental development of children. Being aware of all that I decided to put an assortment of puzzles in my suitcase for the children to enjoy making them.
During times spent with the children in 2016, I had noticed that their understanding of counting is mainly limited to an automatic cancellation of numbers. Solving sums is a skill that many of them sadly don’t master sufficiently. That’s why I wanted to help them developing their counting skills more by visualizing sums. Of course I could only make the first start with that during my weeks spent at the location, but with Happy and his having promised me to continue with the method I introduced, I trust that the counting skills of the children will definitely improve in the future.
Usually, on Sundays the children are offered a movie to watch. They will be seated on wooden benches in the recently constructed room and enjoy a movie, suitable for all ages, from a laptop, all together. To add to their joy, I decided to surprise them with pancakes during my stay. With Happy and team member Okello assisting me for them to be able to prepare the pancakes also by themselves after I would have returned to the Netherlands, about 60 pieces would be prepared ahead of the children’s arrival at the location! It was quite a job to prepare so many pancakes on just a simple stove, located on the floor, but the grateful smiles of the children made it absolutely worth the effort!
As mentioned in the first lines of this article, my weeks spent at HWMCO’s location have besides wonderful also been very impressive. They have been impressive because of what I have, by being so close to the children for quite a while, learned about their lives, which are everything but easy… In their home situations, due to the poverty of their parents or caretakers, they lack sufficient food, clothes, health care, and much more…..Also, they are given tasks which are often just too heavy for them considering their young ages; tasks such as fetching water, collecting wood, washing clothes, taking care of their younger siblings, etc.
On many days, we would find a child arriving at the location, having walked for at least an hour, and not feeling well. Sometimes it would complain about a headache because of not having eaten anything in the morning; providing a peace of bread and some tea solved that problem. But more often a child would be found complaining about pain and having a fever; it was then allowed to lay down and sleep for a while, in some cases providing it a painkiller. Also, some children would come showing a wound that was not taken care of, for the team to disinfect and cover it. Every time again it hit me very hard to realize how these children’s needs were unseen in their home situations, as a result of the poor living conditions.
During the days I would often make time to just inhale the atmosphere while activities were in full swing. I encouraged them in what they were doing and I made pictures of them, of which they just never got enough. They so much loved posing for a picture and then being shown that picture for them so see themselves back in it! My biggest rewards were in the moments when I saw a smile appear on their innocent faces.
Please view the photo slider below to see more….
An upcoming article will tell about visits we made to the children’s homes, meeting their families; also there will be an article paying special attention to the brass band and what it means for the children and the organization.
“We Fight Poverty by Bringing Development.”
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