Often, when I look at what’s going on in our country and the world, I get depressed, scared, and extremely concerned about where we’re headed. At other times, however, I see things that fill me with hope and optimism for the future.

Last week was one of those.

I spent several days last week in a small town in Michigan, talking – and listening – to hundreds of students in dozens of classes, mostly kindergarten through middle school. I was with Tabitha, my friend from Uganda with whom I am working to end a cycle of poverty and prostitution for young women and children in a Ugandan slum known as Ki-Mombasa. Tabitha and I have been to Ki-Mombasa a number of times since we first learned of its existence six years ago, and we are working at implementing various projects that will allow the women to escape the life they’re trapped in now.

Through various contacts and connections, the school district in Michigan learned of our work, and decided they wanted to help. The students set about raising money to implement a vegetable garden and fish farm that will supplement the poultry farm that is our first main project.

While they were bringing in their contributions, the students were also learning about Uganda, and they made Uganda the focus of the “Spring Sing” concert presented by the kindergarteners and first graders while we were there.

Although this was not a wealthy community, the students were generous and enthusiastic, and they exceeded the original donation goal they had set for themselves. They also want to continue collecting money and supplies for our work in Uganda.

Our classroom visits were to thank the students and teachers, to share additional information about Uganda and our work there, and to answer any questions they had. Their curiosity and compassion were heartwarming, as they asked about the children in Uganda, about pets and wild animals, and about why we didn’t bring the children here to America so they could have a better life – even if we had to do it one child at a time.

The kids were amazed to learn that many children in Uganda are unable to go to school, that many of them don’t even own a pair of shoes, and that Tabitha herself was a teenager before she wore her first shoes.

They were proud of the fact that they reached and exceeded their fundraising goals, and that they knew – through one of the songs they learned – the Swahili names for “lion,” “elephant,” and other animals found in Africa.

Tabitha and I were touched and impressed by their knowledge, their interest, and their thoughtfulness, and we were pleased to be able to point out that the money they raised now would help the women and children in Uganda for many years to come.

My time in Michigan last week was rewarding and fulfilling in many ways. One, of course, is because of the money the schoolchildren raised, and knowing how it will help to change lives for women and children in Uganda. Another is because of the connection that has been formed, and is now being strengthened, between people – both children and adults – who live 8,000 miles away from each other, and who knew little, if anything, about each other before now. Another comes from seeing, up close and personal, the care, compassion, appreciation, and support that is alive and well in our neighborhoods and communities, and that is already growing and thriving in the next generation.

I will think often of the students, teachers, and parents I met last week. And whenever I do, I’m sure I will enjoy a warm glow, an optimistic new outlook, and the knowledge that from where I stand now, the future looks bright, promising, and filled with hope.

May 19, 2017
©Betty Liedtke, 2017

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