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When the World Comes to You

Why do we travel? For my family, it’s about the process of discovery. It’s about meeting new people, learning about different cultures and bringing them home, then sharing experiences that helps us to understand the vast diversity of the world. Whether it’s down the road or halfway across the globe, curiosity about the human condition compels me to see, smell, taste and experience every corner of it.

About a year ago, the world came knocking at my door when my sister-in-law emailed me with urgency from her trip to Uganda. She had met a boy whose mother had died of AIDS and whose father was in his final months, also dying of the disease. He had nowhere to go and without help would soon become victim of the streets, searching for water, food, shelter and safety. (More than 30,000 children — most of them boys — have been forced to become child soldiers over the past two decades in Uganda.) The only way to help him was to sponsor him at the Hands of Love orphanage where my sister-in-law was volunteering, and could we help?

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That’s the day my husband and I became parents to a 12-year-old Ugandan boy named Sayifi. Today, a year later, he has become a member of our family, but the only remaining member of his own. When Sayifi’s father died, his sister, fearing the worst for her three younger siblings, poisoned them in a mercy killing. She and the two eldest siblings then committed suicide to avoid a lifetime of scouring for food and the constant threat of rape or abduction. Sayifi only survived because he was taken in, fed, protected and educated at Hands of Love.

Sometimes travel is about so much more than feeding your own desires, it’s also about being uncomfortable in the face of reality.

Since 2004, Elijah Sebuchu, pastor and president of two Hands of Love orphanages, has been working to help transform a desperate nation, its people reeling from abject poverty, human trafficking and HIV/AIDS. Those most affected are the 17 million children Ugandan under the age of 15. They account for 50 percent of the population, the youngest population in the world. If you can, imagine the streets of Kampala filled with children going “from nowhere to nowhere,” as Sebuchu describes.

The real life stories of these children are so difficult to comprehend, one almost questions the plausibility. How — in a world where we have so much — can such suffering still exist?

I have never been to Uganda, but Uganda has come to me.

Sometimes travel is about so much more than feeding your own desires, it’s also about being uncomfortable in the face of reality. Travel sometimes should impact you as a person so much that it changes you forever.

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Since we first agreed to sponsor Sayifi, we have witnessed a transformation. He has gained weight, he smiles, he writes us and asks about his brothers in the United States. We’ve promised that one day, we will make a trip to Uganda to see him — his only family left on earth. It won’t be an easy trip when I finally make it to Uganda and get to wrap my arms around him, and I can’t say I’m not a little apprehensive of what I might see there.

But when there is someone on the other side of the world that calls you “Mommy,” who begs you to come to him, one who has no one in the world but you, how can you not be compelled to go?

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