By Srijan Banerjee
Today was a special day for all of us here at The Peace Centre. The local culture encourages the community to attend church on every Sunday and so, wanting to integrate ourselves with the community, that is what we also did. Although I went through this experience last year, it felt like it was completely new. One by one the Reverends clambered up to the stage, and recited an exert from the Bible or shared a prayer. As many of the speeches were in Rukiga, we could understand little, but it was a good opportunity for personal reflection. I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful hymns sung by the choir, all backed up with resonating beats booming from the African drums, and the sweet tunes helped us to better understand the local beliefs. We had learnt beforehand that today's service would be longer than most, due to our visit, but we didn't really know what this meant until Golden came up to us with his iconic smile and said, "When you hear the word, thanksgiving, you must go out of the church and help carry the pews we are donating". We gave him a confused look, but before any of us could ask him what he meant, the service had already begun. And so we kept our ears open for the magic word, and when we did, our odd group exited the church and within a few minutes entered again with four large benches, to a gleeful crowd. We lumbered to the front of the church with our heavy benches as the crowd sang happily. These were a gift to the church from The Peace Centre to thank them for supporting us and the children we care for.
Among the many messages shared in church, I understood one fundamental idea which appealed to all the locals: religion was an essential part of their culture, it provided them with hope, and for the most part helped them lead happy lives. I saw the exceptional role that Christianity plays to lift up the spirits of all the people, whether they were rich or poor, young or old. The local church has played an important role in supporting Peace and Golden to integrate our kids into the local community.
As I mentioned before, today was a special day. Important guests were invited to Peace and Golden's humble abode, and a "short programme" was held. Our guests included the Bishop from the Diocese (a very important local man), Mayor of the township, numerous Reverends, the local police, Headmasters from neighbouring schools, the Board of TPC, the staff of the Peace Centre and numerous others who are fundamental to our projects. The program started with a song from the children, followed by Ms. Barnard's nonsensical yet amazingly catchy "family anthem" that she's taught us all to sing. After our introduction, we had speeches from Golden, Peace, the Reverends, our teachers from Dulwich and many others. Perhaps the most memorable speech I heard today was by one of the Reverends. Although I can't recall his exact words, I remember his distinct use of a "futurescope" to explain to us the importance of The Peace Centre and the impact it has on the lives of the children living in it. From what I gathered, if you look carefull you can see your future through this amazing instrument, and because of The Peace Centre, the children now have a bright future, one which gives them the chance to become "lawyers and doctors and engineers and teachers" as put by the Reverend. The afternoon was drawn to a close by the soothing, grateful words of Peace and Mr. Reich who both talked of the large family that TPC has created, and not just for local orphans, but for all of us Dulwuch students too. What a special family to be a part of. I count myself fortunate to be a member. Although many things were lost in translation today, one idea was clear: the local community will be forever grateful to us, just as we will be forever grateful to them.
After our program, we all went to the field to play with the children, and upon our return to the house, the children had discovered their newest source of fun: the swing that we installed on Friday was now stable enough in its foundations to be played on! The children had never even seen a swing before our trip to the lake on Saturday, so they were overcome by excitement! We soon saw that the children were ecstatic around the swing. Their joy brought a surge of energy, which I soon learnt was actually quite hard to control. Miss Yu and Mao had established a rule for the children, ten swings each and then they were to go to the back of the line. I think it is safe to say that this rule worked fine, but it seemed the children had turned into a crowd hyperactive toddlers, overflowing with eagerness to try the swing! I'm not sure I have ever had such a crazy experience before, the whole time my feelings jumped from happiness to dread as the swings came within an inch of each other... all amidst cries of laughter and ecstasy. It is great to see the children so happy.
Today was a long and important day. We continued to integrate ourselves into this community as Peace and Golden showed what great hosts they are, and as I reflected on how different the future can be for some of these children now. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the 'futurescope' will be right, and that we will see these children grow into people who can make a difference in this community, and who will be equipped to pass the message of 'love, care and a home' onto the next generation of orphans who deserve a future filled with hope too.
Who are we?
A team working alongside Golden Magezi in Bukinda, Uganda, running an orphanage that provides kids with love, family and an education.