Mzungu Photographer in Uganda part IV: Children
Before going into anything else, I again just want to take the time to express I am in no way an expert in Uganda, I am not an anthropologist... I am not even a travel photographer. The views in these articles are in no way meant to express a social study of the state of Uganda, they are a personal experience of a westerner. I was there enough to start seeing things from a different perspective than most Westerners, but not enough to have the perspective of a local.
Having been in the slums where the kids came from... they are currently SPOILED. As a westerner and a father myself... homeless people in our countries have more than these kids. My experience falls in the limbo of a 3rd culture somewhere in between the third world and western world views.
When I went over with the team the main focus of my photography was to try and tell a story of Hope, Life and Joy through the images. I am aware that sad children would probably be a better marketing tool, but that would be hijacking what Martin Male and the Chances for Children www.c4c.mc has accomplished.
In Western Cultures success is measured on a purely materialistic level. How much money we make, what kind of car we drive, the logo on our shoes and handbags... yet we spend fortunes on medication, and therapy because we are incapable of dealing with our 1st world psychological trauma.
The Kids I met in Uganda came from true traumatic experiences. We visited the slums most of them came from. Before having the NGO status and the Orphanage structure, Martin Male served the kids by going down to the slums to bring them food.
Before even being in the streets these children experienced loss. As we documented each child's story it was hard for me as westerner to imagine how social, polite, calm, respectful and mentally stable these children were.
From their features Martin explained how some of them came from the North of the country, where there are still warlords, and the parents send their children down to the city thinking they will be better off.
Four of the children joined the community as we were there, having lost their last living relative the week before.
One child fled his stepmother when his father passed away because she was abusing him.
Each story as heart wrenching as the next, any of which would have made headlines in our sheltered little western world.
From the beginning Martin's mission is not to dwell on the children's past but to give them a future, give them hope, give them love.
As westerns we were blown away by the concept of discipline and respect these children have.
After they are done eating they bring their plate back to the mother and bow their head in sign of gratitude, appreciation and respect.
When we arrived a couple of the kids had infected cuts and scratches. As westerners we would have taken them to the doctor's office immediately for these types of injury, infections and fevers. We took time to show the adults on site how to disinfect and treat such wounds.
although the kids were clearly in pain from the wounds and the process of cleaning them, they sat still and quiet during the entire process. A father of 2 children myself... I know my own kids would be screaming at the top of their lungs for far less. Most adults in our world would also scream and cringe if someone were to drain the puss out of a cut. These children had a respect and trusted in the care they were being given. They probably didn't understand the reason as most of the adults didn't understand the need to clean the wounds either.
Their ability to trust despite their past is another testimony of the work of Martin and his team on the ground there.
The kids are extremely proud of their school work. They look forward to school and learning. in fact one of their games is to re-intact the lessons.
We have all heard the stories of how children in the third world are proud to go to school and consider it a privilege. But when you are on site and see the reverence with which they treat their pencil and paper and books. Having a child of my own around the age of some of the kids there I can tell you hand him a pencil and a sheet of paper withing minutes you will have tooth pics and a rag.
Children as young as 4 reciting numbers from 1 to 20 in English (which is their second language at that age).
But is it wrong that we don't want to settle? That we don't want to stop there?