Sunday, June 15, 2008

Coming Home

Saturday began with soft breezes and a warm, gentle sun. I thought about all those touched by natural disasters in the recent past and gave thanks for the peaceful weather we have been gifted with here in Kampala.

It was a special day in many ways. I have written before about the village in Mukono created by BeadforLife and the beautiful community that is growing there. Yesterday was devoted to house dedications - blessing the new houses of those beaders who have struggled so hard to save for and build their homes. I believe I will quickly run out of words to describe the day and the emotions that engulfed everyone in attendance so I am posting many new pictures with the hope that you may share in the depth and joy of this celebration.

When we arrived, all the women whose homes were being dedicated were waiting for us dressed in their most beautiful clothes. Brother Solomon arrived to give the blessings and the ceremony began. In all, fifteen homes were dedicated. Most of the villagers attended and almost all of the BeadforLife staff were present. As we walked from home to home, Brother Solomon conducted prayers and a Bible and a Mango tree were given to each woman to welcome her into the Village Family. For the two Muslim women, Korans were given and Islamic blessings were said. Then, each woman would tell her unique story of how she had come from poverty to a place where she now owned a home and belonged to a community. Many were stories of losing husbands to AIDS and being chased from their homes and villages. Some told of homelessness and abuse and the ravages of an endless war. One theme was universal however. Each woman spoke of her hope and faith that with very hard work and a little support and encouragement, she would be able to pull herself and her children out of the worst poverty on earth. And today, she was standing on the porch of her home in front of friends and family to say, "I am home." Tears flowed freely from all of us, most especially from those women who had been in the village for some time, but who still remember vividly the feeling that a miracle had happened.

Earlier this week, a staff member asked for the day off so she could help her sister whose three-year-old daughter had died during the night before. When I hugged her and told her how terribly sorry I was, she replied, "It happens, it happens." Although I understand that death is ever-present here and that emotional survival depends on acceptance, I felt myelf cringe at her words. How unaccustomed to death we have become in the west and how close it remains to those in the rest of the world... Almost every staff member here, and certainly all the beaders, have lost some or all of their family members to illness, war, accidents, street violence, domestic abuse. Death is an ever-present reality.

There is one other story to tell this week. Somehow it is related to the previous two in a way I'm not sure I can explain. I went into my office late Thursday afternoon to find a cardboard box on my desk. A picture of what I found inside is on this page. We have named the kitten Moses. He and his siblings were on the side of the road with their mother when a truck backed over them and killed all but Moses. He has now joined the BFL office menagerie which includes two labrador retreivers and a two-year-old boy named Hassan, all of whom are very interested in the new arrival. The Africans think my care of this kitten, particularly his bottle-feeding, is very amusing. They call him the "luckiest cat in Uganda." A love for animals is not very common here and is considered another Mzungu eccentricity or perhaps just another attachment they cannot afford to lose. But for me, the presence of Moses has come to represent something about the will to live against the odds and the need of all living things to find a place they can call home.