When Gabrielle Crump first approached me about helping out with the association at the Easter fund raiser, my cross interrogation to her started with "have you been there?" From that point on I was at virtually event and fundraiser they put on. I am usually one of the first people there (If I am not half an hour early I am running late) and I am that guy that you can't get rid of and sticks around to the very last minute. And from the beginning of my involvement I had told Gabrielle and Russel: "I am going next time".
Seeing is believing and believing is seeing. If I could have found a line that was more cliche I probably would have fit it in here too. But in all honestly we live in an image driven world, we understand the world through our perception and interpretation of the images we feed into our brain.
Photography is story telling... Ok, fine, let me rephrase a photograph SHOULD tell a story. In this day in age Shock tactics are far more effective in achieving popularity and success. One of the Most popular images of 2015 is that image of the small refugee boy's body washed up on the beach.
As a Westerner in Africa, it's easy to complain about things in Kampala. It's easy to point out things that should be fixed and changed... it's easy to be an arrogant closed minded Mzungu, and the locals have dealt with that since they were colonized. If we take a step back it's a story of Survival and battling the odds. The week before we came to Uganda we had massive rains on the French Riviera that killed 18 people. In Uganda, that rain is called 2ish in the after noon virtually everyday and people work around that. Somehow we think ourselves superior. When we saw how people lived and how much they made our western minds do the Math and it's just not worth it. The people that Live in Uganda they keep doing it faithfully and loyally where we would have given up long time ago... so who REALLY has the weaker mind? Who has the superior will power?
Chance's for Children's story however is a story of hope and second chances.
Our story is the story of children that were abandoned at birth, ran away from abusive step-parents, lost their parents to sickness, were sent away from their home villages (...) and yet!!! They have a Home! They have 3 meals a day! They have Clothes on their back! They have an education and have people that hold them and love them.
Martin Male is our man on the ground in Uganda. More than that he is the Founder of Chances for children... still more he knows the streets the kids come from because that's his past as well. From the beginning Martin Male wanted to go back to the streets... even though his biggest fear is to go back to the streets he has faced his fears and gone back so others can have the same opportunity he had. Martin turned his traumatic past into will power to change lives and change the world around him. Martin sees Uganda and the streets of Kampala as his "promised land".
It blows my mind the passion that boils from within this man's heart. If people were to stick to a corporate American style asset liability evaluation, there might not be much in the positive side of the balance sheet. The story of Martin is his genuine heart, the hope he has and passes on and the REAL difference he is making every day. I am proud to consider Martin as a brother. It's unlikely Martin will ever receive a Nobel prize or a Medal of Honor... But God knows he is more than deserving of either of those. Martin and his team repeatedly made us proud during the trip with several government officials and inspections that went very well (including the health and Sanitation inspector -see photo bellow- who specifically thanked us for what we were doing for the country).
Martin doesn't stop as getting kids out of the streets. The House Gabrielle and Russell visited when they came is February was far from the current situation. No running water, no electricity, pits for bathrooms. The event we did for Easter allowed us to move the kids to the current house.
During our short stay our team was able to get local medical teams to check the kids. Among other check the kids were checked for Malaria and HIV.
Other than the cases of HIV we already were aware of, none of the other kids were infected (statistics are currently 66% in orphans)
Our Kids were also 100% Malaria free. Which is huge considering Malaria kills more than AIDS in Uganda.
Our generous friends and partners sent us with probably over 300 KG of medicine, shoes, cloths, school supplies, toys, books and vitamins. Unpacking and organizing and assigning was a huge task the ladies handled almost single-handedly. but they also organized for and payed for a carpenter to come and build shelves... as simple as that sounds... it was no small task.
During our stay in Kampala we opened the door to a relationship with KISU (Kampala International School of Uganda) with teachers and students that have generously offered their time, and skills.
(music, dancing, reading, sports...)
Through the Kampala international community we met Rita from "médecin sans frontieres" who was able to give our kids towels and re-usable diapers to keep the Hygiene levels ever improving (some of the children are as young as 3 and still have accidents at night.
And of course we cannot forget our legendary dentist. Pierre came with his own supplies at his own coasts and not only examined the kids and filled cavities, He actually was able to give us the closest age with extreme accuracy through their teeth. How much more can you be involved in telling a storybut being a part of redeeming the past.
These might sound like small victories but when you are on the ground you see the size of the mountain you just moved as opposed to pointing on a map.