When a Boy Becomes a Man

In the last newsletter we told you about Ronnie, the teenaged boy from Lake Victoria Children” Home. Ronnie came to work as a plumbers helper at Nkumba during his spring break to earn money for his soon to be orphaned cousins. When we were in Uganda in June we had a chance to see his work first hand. In the middle of the courtyard area where the children play was a brand new septic tank waiting for the
new bathrooms.

Now, you have to understand what a Ugandan septic tank looks like. First a hole 15’ X 15’ X 15’ is dug into the red clay/sand soil using only picks, ads, and buckets, (I had never seen a real shovel there until the container arrived). After the hole is complete a concrete floor is poured, by hand. Later walls are poured behind 1X12 boards in 6’ or 7’ high sections, again, by hand. Just before we had arrived a top had been poured to cap the tank that is so deep that the fellows removing the supports from below had to be pulled out of the hole by others after climbing to the top of their 10’ ladder.

Ronnie had worked for 3 weeks and earned about 30,000 shillings, that was enough for 1 child to attend school for a term. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it wasn’t enough money for the children’s living costs and certainly not school fees. The children are now enrolled in the plan B foster care program we have developed and have started at the local school in the village they are from, it is not a very good school.

These are not the kinds of decisions I thought I would ever have to make in my world. We want these children to stay in the home of a relative that truly cares for them as long as possible, knowing that it means limited access to healthcare, poor sanitation, poor diet, and a crummy school. We tolerate all of these negatives because it is a better situation than they were in before, it is the most cost-effective way to care for these kids while we are somewhat strapped for cash and we know it is only short-term because the Auntie is terminal with an Aids-related illness. This is a strange world, but I digress.

Ronnie, convinced he has resolved his cousin’s problems, has a new plan. The children from Lake Victoria Children’s Home attending Bethel Covenant High School, Ronnie is a junior there, always have more needs than we can afford to take care of. They need a little extra money for “frivolous” things like transportation to and from school at holiday time, fruit to supplement their diet and textbooks. The crazy thing is these are “extras” for many Ugandan children.

Ronnie has a plan to help his friends, he wants to start a business selling used clothing purchased wholesale in Kampala to college students at Nkumba University from a street stall. His sponsor in the US has agreed to front him the seed money to get started. I don’t think it is a great business plan, he will probably break even after a lot of work, but what great lessons he will learn as a young man. How many of us have started a business with the sole purpose to give all the income away, to spend every minute of our spare time working for someone else’s benefit? This young man is an inspiration to us all.