We visited an orphanage today called Good Shepherd, run by Missionaries of the Poor, which houses 220 children, 56 of whom suffer from physical and/or mental disabilities. The minute we stepped out of the van we were enthusiastically greeted by a young girl named Fifi who accompanied us while we waited for our meeting to begin. As we sat she wandered between us taking one of our hands every so often and examining it closely before comparing it to her own. She was delighted to have met us but the real excitement began when I took out my camera. At that time our visit quickly turned into a photo shoot. I would take her picture then show her the screen and she would squeal excitedly, pointing to herself and then to the image in pure fascination.
We received a tour before Erika, Corey and Ellen went to their meeting and I went to go see if there was anything I could help with. Our timing was good because it was the beginning of the lunch hour for those of the children who do not attend school due to mental disabilities. After wandering around awkwardly for a few minutes, not really sure of how I could help, I was handed a bowl of rice and beans and told to start feeding the girls in the row of wheelchairs. This was a completely new experience for me and it turned out to be an amazing one. Although the girls and I could not communicate verbally they would smile warmly at me and giggle excitedly whenever I sat down next to them. Overall it was a very real and intense experience but I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to interact with these girls and catch a glimpse in to what their lives are like.
Later on, the team and I were sung a welcome song before we helped to distribute more food to masses of children who come for their one meal a day before returning to school. There was a terrifying, gut-twisting, heart-wrenching moment when we thought that there would not be enough food for everyone, but fortunately we were able to breathe a sigh of relief as the kitchen quickly produced more.
We left with a deep respect and admiration for the Brothers who run this program. In Uganda there is still a deep stigma attached to those who suffer from any kind of disability; children are often abandoned by their parents who view them as cursed. Missionaries of the Poor provide a home, a family, support and care for these kids who desperately need and deserve it.