By Anthony Reich
I'll be honest, I'm writing this blog in floods of tears. They've started flowing and they just won't stop. I'm sitting on a hill on an island in Lake Bunyonyi, South-West Uganda, watching The Peace Centre children play, and I'm crying, and I'm not even sure I can verbalise why.
I guess I'm crying at the injustice of some children being cursed at birth by being born to parents who have AIDS; I'm crying that some of these children were simply abandoned, their parents walked out of the door and went away never to return; I'm crying at lost childhoods and innocence robbed; I'm crying at years of poverty and starvation; and I'm crying that these children have never played in a playground before. Playgrounds that are in every park and garden and street corner in England and America and China (Shanghai at least) and so many other places in the world and seem like such a commonplace thing... But here I am watching children, some as old as eighteen and not even children any more, playing on a simple swing and slide for the very first time in their lives. Is it fair? It can't be.
But I guess mixed up in these tears of anger, sadness, pain and confusion are also tears of joy. Joy that for just these few children, these twenty-three kids, that life of poverty and abandonment is now over. The trajectory of their lives has been forever altered and they now know of love and tenderness; they now do not have to worry about where their next meal will come from, or even if it will come at all; they now have a future filled with education; and they have a home, a new family and a sense of belonging. I'm crying as I can hear cries of laughter and happiness, and as our Dulwich students who have been blessed with a different start to life, are playing with these Ugandan kids, and for just a brief moment, backgrounds, nationalities, past lives and even wealth do not matter at all. They are all just children and young people playing, laughing and having fun as one.
So I think I am also crying tears of gratitude to everyone who has helped make this dream come true. This vision of a home for orphans in Bukinda was a seed planted way back in 2001, the dreams of idealistic young adults who made a pledge in the middle of the night with their adopted African parents, Peace and Golden, that one day it would happen. It took a great deal longer than we anticipated through false starts and disappointments, but as of 2nd Feb 2015, The Peace Centre opened its doors to its first 19 children, which has now grown to 23, and this would never have become possible without the help of countless people who have helped turn a dream into a reality. Some of these people have given by coming on our school trip to Uganda this year and last, others have volunteered to sponsor orphans in TPC, others have given anonymously, some have given their time or advice, others - such as the workers in the orphanage - have given their vocations and their lives to caring for these children, and others still have given prayers and emotional support. To you all, thank you. Those two simple words just are not enough, but they are all I can give to you. That, and the picture and sounds of smiles and laughter and youth reborn on a hill, besides a lake in South-West Uganda.
The tears are subsiding now.
Who are we?
A team working alongside Golden Magezi in Bukinda, Uganda, running an orphanage that provides kids with love, family and an education.