Uganda Touched My Heart

A note from Monika Koczi – Founder of  “Stream of Life”

In the summer of 2017 I had a very special encouter, I met my sponsored child in person. Owen, a shy and clever boy. His way of approaching me was cautious and at the same time curious, since children in Uganda are not used to being treated with love. Most of them are on their own and have to live their lives in the shadows. They either are very jumpy or they are not seen. No wonder that children in Uganda all have the same pattern of behavior – they are embarrassed, shy and humble.

Owen’s 7th birthday was coming up. So I asked him, “Owen, what’s your biggest wish,” and after thinking about it for a long time, he said, “Biscuits!” It’s incredible, these kids have nothing, they do not know toys or birthday parties! That does not exist here, because there is nothing that their parents could give them.Now and then they get from the “Vistas”, which we are called here, sweets and that’s exactly what he wished. A feeling of anger at the powerlessness that confronted me rose up and I swore that this birthday should be a nice one. One that makes him shine. But what do you give to a child who has nothing without doing any harm? I decided to spend a few days thinking about getting to know him better, understanding life here, so that’s I can do the right thing.

I accompanied Owen home – I wanted to know how he lives and who his parents are! It was an arduous journey of nearly an hour that Owen has to go twice each day. This route is dangerous, because the Boda Bodas (in Uganda, the motorcycles that serve as taxis) drive fast on these rough roads and pay little attention to the events. Especially when it rains, the earthy roads are slippery and accidents with pedestrians are commonplace.We first visited Owens Mum, a young woman who earned her meager income as a seamstress. She greeted me by kneeling before me, a gesture of gratitude that touched me, but made me feel sad.Together we went to the house that Owen’s family is currently allowed to live in.Yes, you have read that correctly – they are allowed to live there, because these houses are currently being renovated by the owner and, as long as they are renovated, are empty. There is nothing in this house. The furniture consists of two plastic chairs, three mattresses and mosquito nets.

Owen’s father, whom we met at home, told me that they are soon on the street, because the renovation is finished and now the houses are rented. Then they do not know how it goes! Too little money and no job make it impossible to find a new home. I asked about Owen’s siblings and Owens Mum told me that his little brother lives with his grandmother! He is small, about two years old, and they can not care for him well enough in this environment. They cannot even warm milk, let alone provide the hygienic environment a baby needs. Owens Mum had tears in her eyes, she felt ashamed and silently withdrew.

It is the moment when I realize that I have taken responsibility for his life by sponsoring Owen. This child, without my support, has no chance to survive or live a better life. Owen thawed a little, gained confidence and showed me how he sleeps. A thin mattress with a mosquito net in the next room, shielded by a blanket from the parents’ mattress! I could not take it! I had to go! A glimpse of emotions – we have so much, they have nothing.

Owen’s family accompanied us on the way back and then the unbelievable happened. Owen took my hand, very gently, very trusting, and the love I felt at that moment is comparable to that of one’s own child. My heart was wide open and I, at that moment, was only made up of feelings.Owen’s father surprised me with a present. You have to imagine, this man can not even feed his children, but he bought me two sugar plants. What hope do I have to be for this family? He told me about his life that he is very worried about Owen because of the dangerous journey to school and that he very much wishes to accommodate his child in the ‘boarding program’ (a kind of boarding school).

And then I know: I will give Owen a future. I will allow him to board. All it takes is a bed and a 10 Euro monthly fee to cover the little things of daily use.

He does not know yet and I’m looking forward to his birthday. Everything is prepared and I already know that these children’s are shy and embarrassed. But he is a very special boy and he has earned a loving and safe home. I will not miss these 10 euros, for him it means life!

Today Owen lives in the boarding section of the Full of Joy Junior Academy and is a happy boy who has found a safe home. I visit him every year when I travel to Uganda and we keep in touch via Whats App – he’s part of my life and I’m a bit of his.