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KFC in Uganda, and other memories

Our return trip to Arua and Solid Rock Christian School brought us one unexpected joy after another. These photos capture some of these highlights of the precious time that we spent with our special brothers and sisters in Christ from Arua:

On the first portion of the trip, we had the pleasur of taking a KFC lunch to the secondary school students. Yes, they do have KFC in Uganda.

The students at Maranatha Secondary School receiving their lunch. It was a treat.

Once in Arua, the days were varied and full. We interacted with the families through home visits, spent time in the classroom witnessing the great teaching, saw progress in the facilities (new kitchen and faculty housing), and reestablished relationships with the terrific staff.  

Visiting the family of Emmanuel, one of our sponsored students, for the second time.
It is most evident that the sponsorships and other donations through the Zozu Project are so gratefully received by these wonderful people.

As part of the seventeen member team, we were privileged to represent Saint John’s Lutheran Church in Arroyo Grande along with our retired pastor Randy Ouimette and his wife Patty. 

We made a special attempt to connect with all the students sponsored by members and committees affiliated with Saint John’s and our other dear friends and relatives.
The church had sponsored a book drive and thanks to the brawn of the seven teens on our team we were able to deliver over 250 new and donated books for the library that we had toted from home.
The teaching staff was most appreciative of the in service training offered by Sandy and Patty

We gave a lot, but that wasn’t what it felt like most of the time. Above all we received the gift of love and joy that came from the students in response to our being there. It was a fulfilling and most blessed visit.


Witnesses

Remembrances & Highlights of our Solid Rock Christian School Trip June, 2019 Pastor Randy and Patty Ouimette

We were so blessed to be a part of the 16 person team (8 adults & 8 youth) that experienced the ‘miracle’ of Solid Rock Christian School. As Principal David said, their goal is ‘the transformation of our nation” through educating these children’s heart, soul, body, and mind. The present enrollment is 419 students in Pre-School through P-7, all this in 6 years!

We witnessed children happy to be at school (7AM – 5PM or later; the Pre-School dismisses at 1:00 pm) five days a week, with many coming Saturdays and Sundays, as well.
Many children walk an hour or more just to get to school, and their first meal of the day is the 10 AM bowl of porridge. Their second meal of cassava, beans and silverfish is in the afternoon, filled with protein. The school even provides a medical clinic for the students and their families. Everyday the nurse, Rosemary, provides diagnoses, medicine and help for malaria and other ailments.

Group photo with the staff and our team.

We also witnessed teachers and staff who are dedicated, enthusiastic, and faith filled. They put in long hours daily and many are there seven days a week! On Saturday we viewed the P-7 class taking one of many practice exams for the big national testing in November. Sunday morning they were part of Arua Community Church, leading worship music and children’s Sunday School classes. Later in the day we watched the P-7 teacher giving his students extra help in preparation for this coming November’s national examination.

We then witnessed the excellent working relationship of Solid Rock in Uganda and Zozu Project in USA. We were invited to sit in on a meeting with Pastor John Paul (the School Director), Susan (the Bookkeeper), and Mick and Elaine. Sound procedures are in place so that all our donated funds are used in a deliberate, thoughtful, and budgeted way. Director John Paul and Mick were meeting to discuss the strategic plans for future expansion, and we came away very confident that our donations to Zozu Project are being maximized at Solid Rock.

We witnessed with great surprise the ‘tent’ site replaced by a larger red metal building that was constructed just weeks before our arrival. This was built to government education specifications so that the national examination may be given here. This is also the congregation’s worship space and the all-school gathering and worship space. Then we also got to witness the third section of teacher housing being built, complete with a water well. When completed, fifteen teachers can be housed just 5 minutes from the campus.

The four of us from Saint John’s were blessed to bring letters and gifts from many of our 30 sponsor families. We also selected and brought over 300 children’s books to start a beginning readers library and for teacher resource use. Patty and Sandy Lebens met with the Principal and conducted an inservice training for the teachers. All sixteen of us assisted the students in writing thank you letters to their sponsors, and through this exercise we saw the sacred relationship of our American sponsors and these very appreciative and needful students. Pastor JP asked me to give the Sunday and Wednesday sermon messages, which was at first unnerving, but in the end a real blessing and honor.

Finally, we witnessed the reality of rural Uganda and the subsistence farming life. As we made home visits we realized that none of these children could be at Solid Rock without a sponsor or the support of Zozu Project. The families are very thankful, the children are very thankful, the teachers and leaders are very thankful, and we say, ‘To God be the glory’!


A Shout-out to our Sister Charity!

One of the most fascinating but sometimes disheartening things about fighting to end poverty is that there is no way to isolate the problem. At Zozu Project, we put resources towards educating children. Preschoolers and elementary schoolers are an incredibly vulnerable group. It is a privilege to provide education, meals, and healthcare to the youngest members of society who are the foundation of the next generation. But there are plenty of children who are already past elementary age. What about the other most vulnerable group– young women?

This is the battle of a girl in poverty. The weightiest weapon the culture wields against you is low expectations. You are expected to drop out of school after elementary. You are expected to lose your virginity before 15. You’re expected to capitulate before the men and to not speak up in your own defense. And as soon as you have children, school is out of the picture. Your family pressures you to marry so that they can get the bride price, feed the other children, and have one less person on their hands.

Girls are not taught that they can say no. They are not taught that they have an inherent value that is equal to a man’s. Yet in the community of Arua there are girls who are saying no and who want to fight for themselves.

In 2015 our friends started Taproot Charities to equip those fighters. They provide young women who have graduated elementary school but who cannot afford secondary school with the education and community they need to thrive.

Alone, we cannot solve all the problems of poverty, but perhaps working together we can. Through Taproot, people sponsor young girls on the cusp of womanhood so that they can attend secondary school. This is the crucial turning point where girls either keep going in their education and maintain their dignity and independence, or are pressured to marry to find security. With sponsorship, the girls are able to pursue their dreams.

Elizabeth grew up watching her older sister have children at 15. She decided that she was going to fight for something different. She was one of the first to be sponsored through Taproot, and now is fully employed making the uniforms for all of the Solid Rock students!

It has been so cool to see how God has woven Taproot and Zozu together. Girls who have been sponsored through Taproot now work for Zozu Project and Solid Rock Christian School! Our seamstress who sews the uniforms, one of our nurses, a primary school teacher, and a preschool teacher have all come through Taproot. They have finished their education and returned to serve the community they came from. It’s a beautiful thing.

At Zozu we don’t believe that there is a limited pool of resources that we need to fight for. We love what Taproot is doing, and we want them to help women succeed! Check out the work that Taproot does here, and look into sponsoring a girl today.


Happy Easter!

Hello, all Zozu supporters! On this day where we celebrate a Savior who is alive still today, we wanted to celebrate His active work that we have witnessed with you.  This year, we have had the privilege of not only seeing God move in Uganda but also in the lives of people here in the United States as well. So, without further ado, a selection of testimonies we have received in various emails from our friends and partners. Names have been removed to preserve anonymity:

“Being able to support our sweet student is such a bright spot in our lives! She instantly became a part of our family and we are so thankful for her, her family, and for all of you who make this sponsorship possible. There were many things that went into our decision to choose her, and I’d like to share them with you.

  1. You told me about her at a gathering at the home of one of the members of our church. At that moment, she was in our hearts.
  2. She has the same name as my husband’s mom, in whose name we already made a donation this year when she passed away.
  3. She was born the same year as our granddaughter, so she is like our second grandchild.
  4. It took a few weeks for us to decide we truly wanted to sponsor a child, and when she was still there on the list after all those weeks, we knew she was “ours.”

Blessings to all of you at Zozu… we have already been blessed through our precious student ❤️.”

– New sponsor, 2018

“Thank you for the video. I look into the children’s eyes, and in the eyes of the children at the school, I see hope. Our student wrote to us last Christmas and said what she prayed for was that we would never stop sponsoring her. We wrote back that we would not, but the impact of her words brought me to my knees spiritually. We thank God for leading you to Uganda, being instrumental in starting this amazing school thus allowing a darling little student that we now sponsor to have a better life. I know my husband feels the same way, and we are always excited when we get a letter from her and a picture. We see such a change in her demeanor over the last few years– how she sparkles makes my heart sing.”

– Sponsor since 2015, 2018

“I had a most wonderful experience yesterday.  A friend from another one of the churches I attend asked me if I would pick out a boy’s picture because she and her husband would like to sponsor one.  I told her rather than picking out one for her, I would take her up to our church [where there are printed pictures of un-sponsored students], and she could select her own.  What an experience.  When she made her decision she wiped away tears in her eyes.  It was such a moving thing to be a part of.  She thanked me for bringing her there and her whole experience of the day.  We stayed as it was the day of the sewing club meeting.  She went home to bring the experience the women at her church.  I guess we never know where our seeds are planted.”

– Supporter, 2019

“…On a side note, my mother came out to visit me this weekend and I was telling her about Zozu Project in the car. I stopped to get the mail and my packet from Zozu with my photo of our sponsored boy was in there. I was moved to tears because I had never seen a picture of him smiling, and he looked much healthier than his sponsorship picture. My family and I went to target and picked out a beautiful frame and his picture is within our family pictures proudly displayed.  
My mother was so touched that she immediately called my father and went online and sponsored a student of her own. She would like to send a gift immediately to him and his family.”

– New Sponsor, 2019

We serve a God who is alive and at work to put His world aright! We are deeply blessed to come alongside Him, and our hope is that you are as well. He is risen indeed!


5 Things We Will Never Forget About the First Solid Rock Graduation

By all accounts, the first graduation ceremony at Solid Rock Christian School surpassed expectations. The crowd that gathered was immense and dressed in their finest frocks.

Upon returning, two eyewitnesses of the ceremony– Mick Lebens, one of Zozu’s founding team, and Katy Griffin, a missions pastor from a church in California–recalled the aspects that were the most memorable to them.

Mick’s list first:

“There was so much to it, but if I had to name five things, here’s what stood out to me the most.

1. Pride– the graduates had immense pride. Not that pride that we’re taught to guard against, but that healthy pride where hard work was put into an opportunity and success was the result. Make no mistake, each and everyone of the 32 children gave credit where credit was due (to our Father above) but they all knew that they had succeeded in the opportunity that had been given to them.

2. Joy– I’m not sure if I have ever seen so much smiling in my life. The children were elated in a way that I think only comes after spending 10 hours a day in school 5 days a week and then at least half days on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays for the past two years. 

3. Contentment– there was Kampala peaceful contentment on the faces of the teachers that have worked tirelessly over that same time period to prepare these kids. They seemed to be content in a way that comes when you prepare not yourself but someone else to meet a challenge.

4. Hope– this was most prevalent on the faces of the many parents that joined the children when receiving their certificates and even more when they were saying their farewell as the children boarded the bus for the ride to Kampala. They seemed to be experiencing the hope that comes from an opportunity that likely had felt unattainable previously.

5. Giddiness– I don’t know how to say this other than when the kids were lining up to board the 36 person van to Kamapala they were utterly giddy. There were giggles, playful pushing, and wide-eyed wonder as they got on a bus like that many had never boarded, special chicken meal in hand, trunks packed to the brim as they ventured to the “big” city. It made the class photo a bit of a challenge but was a complete honor to witness”

Katy’s recollections were similar…

Oh it was such a blessing to be at this ceremony. Let’s see, 5 things I will never forget…

1. The look of joy and humility on the faces of each student as they received their diploma and backpack. It was profound that after all the work they had done to get to this point.

2. Watching the faces of the younger students as the P7 students walked up individually to receive a diploma. For the first time, they could look forward at what they themselves could achieve some day. I’ll never forget the hope and excitement they had in their eyes for their own future.

3. I’ll also never forget the parents. They were dressed in their best, which is a very important way of displaying their pride for their children and honoring what they had accomplished. Also, most of the children are raised by single mothers and don’t have a father figure in their life. I was amazed at the number of fathers who did show up and proudly celebrated with their student.

4. I was blessed to see that Elaine and Mick, the American founders of Zozu Project, have truly built deep relationships with these students. At one time they looked at these students and saw an overwhelming challenge, and now they have together come full circle to success.

5. Finally, I was struck by the enthusiasm and attentiveness of the Ugandan staff. Principal David and Social Worker Richard were energetically running around to make sure every detail was done with care and love. It was humbling to watch. “

Thank you to all of the support and prayers that so many of you gave to make this day happen! We hope you can get a taste of the joy that this day was full of 🙂


Days for Girls

Did you ever think about the fact that half of the world’s population is kept out of school for a few days each month? That’s the reality for many girls in developing countries on their period if they do not have access to supplies for managing it in a sanitary way. But that is not a problem for girls at Solid Rock anymore!

Rosemary and Katy giving the training with distributing the kits.

The Los Osos chapter of Days for Girls sewed 49 feminine hygiene kits which were taken on our last trip. Days for Girls chapters sew kits with menstrual supplies and partner with organizations that are connected to communities of women. Not only are supplies provided, there’s also educational material that comes along with it, broaching a topic often stigmatized. Katy and Rosemary had the privilege of distributing the kits and doing the education, and hearing Katy talk about it was hilarious:   

“It was just like in America! The girls were so giggly at first, but once the ice was broken and they realized they could ask questions, the questions just kept coming. It was like this was the first time they had been “allowed” to talk about this, and they really took advantage of it. I’ve been a part of very similar educational things here in the states, and the girls in Uganda asked the exact same questions. Also, there was a moment when a boy came to the door and just like here they all giggled, shushed whoever was talking, and told him emphatically to go away. No matter where you go, girls are just girls. It was a very bonding experience that even the female teachers got to be a part of.”

Everyone had a good time (even the teachers in the back– they asked questions too!)

Thank you Days for Girls, Los Osos chapter! This was such a blessing for the Zozu girls. Not only are they empowered to keep going to school, they are empowered to be confident as the young women they are!


Off to the Big City!

The complete National Exam scores are out, and we are SO thrilled to announce that ALL of the students at Solid Rock have passed! 

Perhaps from where we sit in America, the weight of this doesn’t hit us as it should.

This is a region where, according to the most recent census data,

  • 89% of the adult population has never finished high school
  • 90% of the population is dependant on subsistence farming.
  • 25% of girls 18 or younger have had at least one child.
  • 17% of school-age children are not attending school.
  • 10% of those who manage to take the national exams don’t pass at all.

But for the children of Zozu Project, 100% are in school, 100% have passed, and they are 100% loved and valued for who they are.

Just last week, the 32 students loaded up on a bus for Kampala. For many of them, this will be their first time there. For many of them, they are the first in their family to even go to secondary school. It’s hard to overstate the excitement. After preparing for years, they now have the chance to take a bigger step than they ever have before. 

THANK YOU for fighting this uphill battle alongside these children! We can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for them.

2 years ago, the beginning of 6th grade. Just starting to prepare for exams!
And now getting ready to go. Mom is so proud!
Backpacks that were a gift from many friends in the US.
Packing the trunk for the first semester. This is the first time that these students have ever packed to move, and almost everything they’re taking had to be purchased new. Thanks to their proud parents, friends, and donors, every trunk was filled.
Loading the bus!

More than We Ask or Imagine

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church…”

Ephesians 3:20-21

It was only a month ago that the Zozu staff in both the US and in Uganda were daily praying for the future of Solid Rock’s first graduating class. The question on everyone’s mind was– what will these students take as their next step after finishing at Solid Rock? While we were thoroughly researching secondary schools, preparing them for final exams, and networking with like-minded organizations, we all were asking for clarity and wisdom from the only One who knows the future. And we are thrilled to announce that an answer has been given that is beyond what we could have asked for or imagined.

All of the 32 students who have graduated from Solid Rock Christian School this year will have the opportunity to attend a single boarding school in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. The school whose administration has decided to accept them is Maranatha High School, located on the shores of Lake Victoria just south of the hub of Kampala. With an incoming class size of only 65, for Maranatha to set aside half of their seats is extremely generous! This partnership came about through old connections between Pastor John Paul, Zozu’s founder in Uganda, and the leadership of Maranatha. As Elaine told us with tears in her eyes when she read the news in her inbox, we all realized that this chance for the students is a miracle.

Entry gate at Maranatha High School

When the question of what will happen to the students after they graduate Solid Rock has been raised over the years, there have been many subsequent potential complications. Would the cost of sponsorship raise significantly? How would the Zozu Project staff be able to keep in touch with the students if they were spread across the country? Most importantly, how could the spiritual foundation and the love that is so central to being a student at Solid Rock be continued? The staff on both sides of the ocean never wanted to hand the students off to a good-enough school and call our work finished. After years of investing in them not just as students but as budding leaders, assurance that they would continue to be not just taught but loved was paramount. All of these questions needed answers.

Back in early 2018 we got to work researching options on the ground. Staff from both the US and Uganda visited secondary schools across the country, from secular public schools to private Christain schools, and from internationally supported schools to locally established schools. We looked at test scores, student life, costs of admission. We talked to current students, teachers, and administrators. And after all of that, here’s what Elsie, our communications director, had to say about Maranatha, the last school visited:

“Out of all the campuses we have visited, the students here are among the happiest and most energetic. Perhaps there’s something to the beautiful location right on the waterfront or the thrill of being in the city, but I think it’s the strong community of active faith here. We attended a chapel with the student body, and it seemed to me that the staff and student leaders were pursuing a family-like community. They don’t have the latest science lab technology or the most robust computer program, but the liveliness here is almost palpable. A family that encourages and supports each other– that’s what I saw.”

Shores of Lake Victoria, where Maranatha High School is located.

As a partner, Maranatha provides many practical blessings. The school is connected to a health clinic supported by the same umbrella NGO (Africa Renewal Ministries), so medical care is covered in the cost of tuition. Because of his connections, Pastor JP and the other Zozu staff can easily visit to keep up-to-date on how the children are doing. Perhaps one of the most significant perks is that the whole class of 32 will be together. Moving out of the village will be no small transition for them, but they will have each other. They are beyond excited. When we asked them two years ago if they would rather go to school in Arua and live at home, or go to a boarding school in Kampala, the answer was nearly unanimous– boarding school was what they wanted. They mentioned that they wanted time after school to do homework instead of the many home chores that come with living in poverty. They want to experience fully-stocked libraries, after-hours access to their teachers, and well-lit bedrooms with running water nearby. Having grown up in a mud-hut community where there is no two-story building for miles around and where many students who attend the local schools don’t graduate, they have over the last three years begun to hope for more. Leaving the rural slums that they have grown up in is an opportunity that these 32 children would only have been able to dream about three years ago.

However, the ultimate goal has always been to encourage the students not to abandon their home community, but to serve it. To that end, Zozu staff are already organizing parent visitation days where moms and dads from Arua can see their children in school. There will be term breaks where they will return to their families multiple times a year. And the Solid Rock staff whom the students already know and love are planning to visit “all the time.” We know that there are many additional questions in the months to come that need still to be answered, but the biggest question has been answered beyond our expectations. You have made amazing things possible in these students lives, and the fruit of your generosity and commitment to them is beginning to show. Stay tuned.

Aaannnddd… they’re off!

An Open Letter from Principal David

Receive warm greetings from the management, staff, parents and pupils of Solid Rock Christian School! Ever since you decided to be part of this ministry, we have seen tremendous changes in the lives of our children. We are so grateful because your generous support has not only helped keep the children at school, but also restored their hope for the future through education, health care, and meals among others.

David Portrait

I was born in the southern part of Uganda in a polygamous family. My father was uneducated, had 14 children from four different wives, and had no permanent job. Because of this, he could not raise enough money to take us to school. At the age of five my parents divorced, and I started living with my jobless mother. I started fetching water and washing clothes for the neighbors to support my mother and raise money for my school fees throughout primary, secondary, and university. Eventually, both my parents died of AIDS. I stand as the hope for the family, and I know this is because I managed to acquire an education. Because of this, I always feel a lot of untold pain whenever I see children failing to acquire at least basic education due to different obstacles. This pain and my own experience compelled me to leave my home area and join Solid Rock and Zozu Project, a team willing to use meager resources to restore hope among the less privileged children. 

Emmanuel James Opokrwoth, for example, is a 12 year old boy in primary five [5th grade] at Solid Rock Christian School. He lost his father when he was six years old. He is now living with his mother, who is jobless, and four younger siblings in a grass thatched house. They don’t have land to grow crops for food, so his mother sells goods in a local market where she can occasionally earn 2000 shillings (less than a dollar) per day. 

Emmanuel James

Emmanuel goes by his last name, Opokrwoth, which means “Praise God” and he is a lucky boy in the family. Because of sponsorship, he is sure of education, a school uniform, shoes, medication, books and daily meals at school. He is always sure of buying new clothes at the end of the year when his sponsor sends him a Christmas gift. Emmanuel’s future is becoming brighter every time he receives support from his sponsor. He has two years to complete primary education. He is speaking English well and he is a member of the Debating Club of the school. He is among the best football [soccer] players and last year he, with his team, managed to earn the school their first trophy. He is also a prefect in charge of pupils’ security. Who would have discovered all these special gifts and talents from this boy if he was not sponsored? 

Yes, the mother and the siblings are living in a poor state right now, at times sleeping with empty stomachs, but they don’t feel the pains they used to, and always have smiling faces because of Emmanuel. He is always promising them a better house and meals as soon as he finishes his studies. His self esteem is growing every day! His life is gradually changing and the hope of the whole family is now in this bright boy who is dreaming of becoming a pilot. He is proudly moving towards his goal. I am very sure nothing can stop this young boy from achieving his dream if supported.

Let me also share this with you. Last month I visited a game park, not very far from Solid Rock. It’s called Murchison Falls National Game Park and I had some lessons of my own there. Elephants are one of the animals in the park, and they always walk and live in groups of five or more. They were created to be social animals. However, there are some elephants that live alone in isolation. The game rangers told us to be very careful if we found one of the elephants moving alone. He said that isolated elephants are wounded ones, and they are very dangerous to people, fellow elephants, and other animals. They have no physical wounds, but their hearts are wounded. They get isolated by others from their groups because of old age, diseases, and after defeat in their fights. Therefore, they feel less important. The ranger explained that such elephants want to prove their worth by being destructive and dangerous whenever they get an opportunity. 

Elephant

When we asked what can be done for such elephants to restore them to their groups, he informed us that it’s impossible at that stage. There is nothing they need in life but to wait for their death.

This was my lesson: Most of the children in our communities are wounded children. Their wounds are a result of extreme poverty, ignorance, family neglect, or diseases. When these children grow up, like wounded elephants, it becomes hard for them to change. From my observation, if not helped, such people become dangerous, not only to their families but also to the world. They at times become unruly, heartless, and corrupt, and even when such people are caught and tried, it is always hard to change them. But now, there is hope. We can come to their rescue when they are still young and when their hearts can easily be healed and changed .

I really commend your generosity in supporting this ministry. We are seeing wounded hearts healing. The would-be isolated kids feel the warmth of love from you. Ignorance, poverty, disease, and hunger are no longer the major determinants of these children’s future, but love is! Your involvement in this ministry has gradually restored children and community members back to their social human nature. Any gift sent to support the sponsored children is embraced with love and goes directly to their aid in form of school fees, feeding, treatment, scholastic materials, furniture, text books, and many other necessities.

I request your continuous support. Every year many children come crying for help at the school.  Every day many children fall sick, and every hour they seek something to eat at school. We can take care of them if you decide to offer more of what you can for this noble cause. If we come together with all the resources we are called to give, this will be possible. The future of many of these children is in our hands. 

May God Bless You, 

David Ssemuvubi

Principal, Solid Rock Christian School 


The Year 2065

Oftentimes when we are moved to help people who are victims of struggling and suffering, it’s because of an eye-opening experience. A photo or video strikes out, or we read an article, and the abhorrent conditions ignite a previously dormant spark of compassion. But those abhorrent conditions, so shocking to the new eye, are the day-to-day experience of those who live in them. Long after the picture fades from our memories, that child is still living in that hut. That mom is still working that farm. That baby still has those flies swarming around its lashes.

Poverty is more than just lacking food for today. It’s your family lacking food for two generations. Your father has never known the dignity of stable work. Your mother has never had the security of a loving husband. You’ve never been expected to finish school. What does it feel like to live like this? How can we possibly develop the empathy necessary to love from so far away?

Immersing in their culture is a powerful gateway to experience a bit of what the poor experience every day. Yes, the students we serve are up against material poverty. But the hardest obstacle is not a poverty of things, but a poverty of hope.  This is a poem by Ugandan poet Peter Kagayi, and in it he unpacks what the poverty of hope feels like in an erudite, eloquent, and challenging way. He, a native of poor Uganda, imagines what life will be like in 2065, roughly 50 years from now. It’s not an easy read, but then again, neither is the life of the poor easy.

In 2065

Nothing will have changed that much,

Except I will be over 70 years

The roads will be the same

The politics will be the same

Kampala [the capital city] will be the same

In 2065 nothing will have changed that much,

Except I will be over 70 years

 

And I will go to Mulago [hospital] to cure my rheumatism

And the doctors will say there is no cure

And the boda- boda [motorcycle taxi] man at the stage

Will recommend to me a West-Nile witch doctor

And I will go to my grandson’s school like my grand-father did

And I will be turned away, for old age will be something forbidden.

 

The president will be the president we have today,

And in a wheel chair he will give the Nation Address

Only his son, then a field Marshall, will read it on his behalf

And he will talk on his behalf

And he will rule on his behalf

In 2065, nothing will have changed that much,

Except I will be over 70 years.

 

And Makerere [the university] will be on strike and Major- General ‘Something’

Will order open-fire on the students

Because their demand for fried beans

Will be a threat to the security of the State.

And U.R.A [political party] will be taxing the air we breathe,

The many times couples kiss,

The fart we excrete,

The words we speak

And the way we die

And will determine those who go to heaven

And those to hell

And tax their corpses differently

 

In 2065 nothing will have changed that much,

Except I will be over 70 years,

 

And teachers will be begging on the streets to feed their families

Their wives will sleep with tourists to make a decent living

The syllabus will be the same shadow of what colonialists left behind

With systems too archaic and too alien to offer anything essential

And the students will remain cabbages and potatoes

And the ratio of the jobless to the job-hopeful

Will remain nine to one

And like that life will move on,

And like that nothing will change.

 

In 2065 children of eight will be using contraceptives

Children of eight will be going to night clubs

In 2065 children will not be children

They will be eating fellow children for breakfast and for break at school

And they will not wash their hands and will offer you a hand-shake.

 

And we will be the people in that future

Built from a present that promises not much

Except ageing

We will be there hoping to die soon.

 

It breaks our hearts that this is the mindset that many of these students grow up in. Poverty is hopelessness, but thriving is hope. This is what we stand against with every child that is welcomed into Solid Rock and every dollar that is raised. We stand against hopelessness. Yes, the children and families we serve can use a new bed or a bag of beans, but more than that they need hope. Stumbling, imperfect though we are, we want to be a participant in ending hopelessness.

“…if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” Isaiah 85:10.

Our sacrifice of money or time or prayers can, and does, create hope. The encouragement of a teacher builds hope in each student that they really can graduate. Education for children builds hope in each mother, that one day their child will be able to provide for their own family. Our dream is that in 2065 the students who graduate from Solid Rock will be 55 and still be able to say “I have a full life ahead of me.” Most of all, it will be them who will look around and say “how can I bring hope where there is none?” If poverty is believing that in 2065 nothing will have changed, thriving is believing that the best is always yet to come.

 

 

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