After two trips to Uganda in my lifetime (thus far), I only know a few Lugandan words. One of those is “ddembe” which means freedom. And the only reason I know that particular Lugandan word is because I have been to Ddembe House, an orphanage for abandoned children that was opened in 2015 by my friend, Moses.
Moses is a young man who took the time to share with me the story of Ddembe house as we sat in his office while a young girl around the age of 4 or 5 stood beside me. Moses told of the story behind this girl’s arrival at the orphanage, and I found myself putting my arm around her, holding her close. You see, she was rescued from being buried alive as an infant when neighbors noticed her mother throwing dirt into a small hole in the ground. After being passed around from here to there and ultimately ending up at Ddembe House to live with 14 (at that time) other children, it is unclear of her exact age. Today she is alive and happy, healthy, and loved. It is evident. And stories like this one are the very reason Ddembe House exists. After all, what do you do when you believe all life has value and someone brings you a child that has been rescued from being buried alive because she is not wanted or valued?
I met all 14 of the children currently at Ddembe as our team spent some time reading to them, playing soccer, and showing them how to use our gadgets.The older children helped as the team bagged up lbs of flour, maize, rice, and sugar to later distribute to the widows with AIDS (another ministry by Call to Africa).
The small strip of land beside the Ddembe house is used to grow a garden with bananas, sweet potatoes, and other crops. In addition, I saw chickens and even a turkey. Besides attending school, the children learn how to farm and raise animals so that they can be free – free from poverty and the enslavement therein.
One of the cows that the CTA team pitched in to procure during our work here over the past week and a half will be sent to Ddembe house once there is a space for it. I can see that they definitely need more land. Moses has a vision to one day own a house for the children rather than paying rent each month as they are doing now. His vision includes space for more farming to provide for the children’s dietary needs and also to further teach them each these essential survival skills. Ideally they will one day be able to procure 4 or 5 acres to make this all a reality.
These are the sweetest children. It was such a pleasure to meet them all and get to know Moses and his mission. Please keep them in your prayers as he and the house mom, Kate, continue to care for these children as well as another 15 kids that live elsewhere in the community since there is no more space for them at the Ddembe house.
I am a bit sad today as I wrap up this blog, pack my suitcase, and head south to Kampala for my early flight out of Entebbe tomorrow to Johannesburg. I will miss this great team of people from Alabama and Florida, and I will miss my Ugandan friends. I have to tell you I have been most impressed by the three teens on our team. Jared, Riley, and Ashton are so not like the whiney, self-centered, entitled stereotypical young people back home in America that we see all too often in the media. They have given of themselves so tirelessly throughout this trip. Their parents are to be commended.
They say in Uganda “be free.” No pressure, be free. I fly away from this exotic land where “it can’t be done” and “it doesn’t fit” are never spoken and where the handshakes are 3 steps long. I take with me the memories of strapping water jugs to a bicycle, cooking beans and porridge in a kitchen with open fires and mud walls, and watching the sun set over Africa from a paddle board on the Nile River.
Good-bye Uganda. Thank you for having me.
Be free, my friends, be free.
(click on the thumbnails below to see the full version of each photo.)