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?
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.
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.
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?