This week, our team organized and facilitated Camp Skillz in Uganda. The camp provided the children at St. John’s Primary School the opportunity to learn practical and fun skills each day of the holiday break. Students were able to participate in preventative health care lessons, the performing arts (dance and drama), crafts, and recreational games and sports. We also introduced character traits that gave them practical ways to love one another despite their difficult circumstances.
Out of all the things we did this week, providing lunch for the students seemed the most important. St. John’s Primary is not the typical Ugandan school in that they don’t have a school cook for provide lunch for the children everyday. Normally parents can purchase a meal plan one term at a time. However, the economic conditions of the rural area surrounding St. John’s is despairing. Most families cannot afford to purchase a meal plan that would provide lunch every day (a cost of around $15 per term). Therefore, there is no school cook, and no school lunch.
This week, that was not the case. Our team of camp counselors and teachers from St. John’s were able to provide lunch for 250 students every day this week! I'm not sure I've ever seen eyes light up the way they did this week, when we announced we were serving food.
We didn't just serve the ‘typical school lunch’ of African schools: posho (a thick cornbread-like substance) and beans. Instead, the kids ate rice, beans, potatoes, fruit and greens. This may have been the most balanced meal these children have seen in months. I asked many of them personally how many meals they ate each day. For a few, the answer was two. For most: one.
My eyes welled up with tears as I closed the first day’s session by asking everyone what their favorite part of the day was. Out of the seven children I called on, more than half of them replied, "eating food." How can you go on after that?
On Wednesday, a boy named Kizza Lawrence stood up as I was walking by him. He grabbed my hand, shook it, and told me, “Thank you for cooking us food.” I don’t know if I’ve ever felt such joy and pain in the same moment. The smallest of children ate the largest portions and then went back for seconds, only to inhale it right then and there.
I have never known hunger. I struggle more to not eat too much in a day. I have never known hunger. And suddenly I’m surrounded by children that know hunger all too well. They are just kids. They are so hungry. Our world is so backwards. I refuse to sit back and say it’s their own fault, or their parents' fault or God’s fault--it’s not. I don’t care if you think it’s not our responsibility as Americans to feed people in ‘these other countries.’ It is. It’s my responsibility. It’s our responsibility as an organization because it’s a cause God cares about. Did Jesus not feed the 5,000, and then also educate them on how to be better human beings? Did Jesus not let the little children come when his entire society casted them off? I want to be like Jesus.
I have never known hunger. But I know God and I know his Word. I know that this week, these children experienced joy and fulfillment in both their stomachs and their souls. I am both happy and humbled. I will never forget it.
You can help! We are creating a school garden at St. Johns that will teach students food production methods that can help not only their school lunch program, but their families and communities. We are also providing uniforms, notebooks, book bags, and educational supplies for both students and teachers. Visit here to find out how you can help.