“It’s easy to fall in love with these kids” I thought to myself. I was just remembering how I’d spent my Saturday afternoon and smiling.
Every other Saturday, a couple of friends and I spend the afternoon at Naguru Remand Home. I don’t know about you but from the outside looking in,I always thought these were just deliquents, bad people, just not old enough for Prison. It is true, they are not yet old enough for prison. But that is not all there is to their stories.
At Worship Harvest we believe Church Begins on Monday and Sunday is Garage time. What that means is , we are reminded that we are the church of Jesus Christ and we are commissioned into the world. In our places of abode, work, learning et al to share the love of God with people. On Sunday, just like a car that needs servicing, we gather to check our oil, encourage each other, rejoice together and also plan. One of the ways we are able to be Church is through Missional Communities. A Missional Community is basically a family on mission together, My family is called Upendo, which means love. Our Missional frontier is the Naguru Remand Home.
As of last Saturday afternoon when we visited, there were 104 children at the remand home. 100 boys and 4 girls. That is a small number. There have been times when they were twice that. We rejoice when we go to visit and they have reduced in number. It means they were released. I was stunned into silence the first time I went to the remand home. I saw boys as young as nine in there too. Boys who were the same height as my little nephew and my heart broke.
“What did you do sweetheart?” I wondered silently to myself
And they are still kids, the same way we were at 9 or 13 or 16. Kids. Maybe ,just been dealt a not so good hand. Some are in there and their parents have never come to visit them. Some are about to turn 18 and their cases are yet to be heard, they are scared. They might be sent to Luzira Prison. Most of them just hang out with the wrong person. All of them are just children needing love and guidance. Children needing someone to believe in them.
Every other Saturday, we spend time with them from 2-5pm and teach. Our aim is to impart some life skills so that they know they have options when they are released. They don’t have to go back to a life of crime. The kids in there have different levels of education. Some had gone up to s.3 before they were arrested. Others had barely finished Primary school. Many had given up on school way before they got in trouble. Currently we have five vibrant classes. We have Basic Computing, Literacy, Agriculture, Carpentry and Arts and Crafts. We are working on reviving the tailoring class. The remand home lobbied from the government and they provided some sewing machines.
You should see the eagerness with which they attend these classes. A few weeks ago, some kids in the Computer class were graduating. So we designed some certificates and printed them out. It was hard fighting back the tears. The look of pride on those boys’ faces as they received their certificates! That same day, the literacy class was also giving out certificates for a creative writing exercise they had done. The best compositions received certificates. I have received a number of certificates in my life and I guess after some point I started taking them for granted. A certificate is physical evidence of achievement. It is also a reminder that there is so much potential in you.
Like I said, it is easy to fall in love with these children. They laugh, they crack jokes, sometimes they don’t pay attention in class, sometimes you see them attempting to do homework as you ask for it, they are pretty much just like any other children. Except they are in a remand home. A prison for children. If you visited them once, you would want to give them so much.
Last week we went to visit them with someone else. His name is Ibra. He used to be one of them. His story is both inspiring and heartbreaking. Ibra had been at the remand home for 1 year and 3 months before the High Court judge sent him to Luzira Prison for a year. We were hoping for release. But he had just turned 18, he couldn’t be at the remand home anymore. Ibra was released recently and one of the first things he did was get in touch with one of our leaders, Joanna (such a beautiful soul) and inform her that he had been released. Oh the joy!
He came with us to the remand home on Saturday. Some people knew him. Many did not. He shared his story. He encouraged the children not to give up hope. He reminded them not to give up on God, He spoke of His faithfulness. But most of all , he told them, it is only their bodies that were imprisoned, not their minds. He exhorted them to desire to learn, to engage in all the classes and the activities as much as they can. To realize that the power is in their hands to make the future that they want; It was amazing.
Ibra wants to study beauty and hairdressing. Ibra has signed up to study beauty and hairdressing. He is passionate about it. His plan is to build a salon to reckon with. I can’t wait for the day I will actually go to his salon.
The remand home partners with an organization called COWA, an organization that helps get released inmates mostly into vocational school. Through COWA, Ibra got a bursary to study the thing he wants to study at Centenary Vocational Training School, the Vocational school attached to COWA. Not everyone gets this bursary. Not everyone has parents waiting to encourage them and send them back to school. Some of them have the same circumstances waiting for them on the outside.
As UPENDO, we realize it isn’t enough to skill them while they were on the inside only to have them come back. What we do is merely laying a foundation. We need to help them, build the whole house. Our plan is to set up a fund that can aid those who don’t have the required support on the outside. Ibra just got out of prison and has no money. Yes, he has a bursary but he’s going to need scholastic materials, housing and bedding. Some others will soon be released and they won’t get the bursary but will want to get into vocational school. The plan is to be able to give them a start, a good start. Let’s give them a chance to dream.
So mark the date 30th June, 2017. It is a Friday. In fact, it is the last day of this month. On that day, we shall be holding the Upendo Silent Disco at the Uganda Museum starting at 6pm. Tickets are going for only 25,000 ugx ONLY! Five DJs , three channels. We are doing this to raise money for this fund. Come one, come all. Buy for your entire clan if you have to. There will be lots of great food and drinks for sale, awesome djs and of course giving to a wonderful cause. Spread the word, and buy a ticket. Let’s love on these kids. Let’s give them a chance to dream.
For more information , call or whatsapp on 0777 154 166 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.