As the team walked thru the neighborhood streets of Gulu tonight, to and from dinner, a conversation between a few of us really resonated in my core. "You know it's crazy to think that just 15 years ago we couldn't do this," I said to someone, referring to walking back to our hotel in the dark. "You couldn't even do this 5 years ago," someone responded. We were referring to the horrific violence that had taken place on these very streets in just our recent past. "In fact, if you didn't know the history of this place, you'd never know just walking through town and greeting people" someone responded.
Today was just an all-around incredible, emotional day, for all of us I think. We visited two primary schools in Gulu. We were greeted by music and dancing and skits and songs. Teachers and parents spoke with pride and excitement over their students. The kids were a bit more standoffish than what we experienced with the schools in Kampala, and understandable so. For years they lived in a nightmare. But today, the children of those that experienced the nightmare, showed us what hope looked like. And it was incredible.
After sessions of formalities and performances, we had the opportunity to pull aside the adolescent girls and put on the programs we had created for them. Abbie and Naomi did a wonderful skit about forgivness. They had the girls write down a a hurt or fear on a piece of paper and we all threw them into a burn bucket and lit a match of hope to burn away the hardships they carried with them. They taught the girls a song about forgiveness. Pat and Hollie spoke about Being Bravely You and passed out a beautiful card with song lyrics on it. And Alexis and I had a conversation with the girls about inner beauty and self esteem. We asked the group of girls two questions, not knowing what type of response we would get. "What is something you love the most about yourself?" and "What is the hardest thing about being a girl?" Their answers to what they loved most about themselves warmed my heart. Many of the girls answered with things that brought them joy, while some mentioned physical characteristics. The answers to the latter questions took my breath away at times. Many of the answers having to do with dealing with sexual violence. I found myself praying through the whole thing for the right and best way to respond to what these girls were sharing with us. Following our group presentations we moved into taking to the girls about why we were there...to pass out hygiene kits. They nurses of the group presented the kits and the instructions for using the contents. One of my favorite moments of the day was seeing the girls squeal with excitement that they were getting three brand new pairs of underware! You would have thought they were getting gold!
As we passed out all the kits, I kept wishing these girls could know how much this experience means to me. I have always had a heart for girls. My personal mission statement is: “I will live as though I have a thousand daughters, even though I have none, because every girl is my daughter and when she sees me, or engages with me, she's looking to me for how to live. So I will live, I will smile, I will laugh, I will speak, and I will love as though her heart and soul depend on it.” Today I truly got to live out my mission statement. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here with Fields of Dreams Uganda. I am grateful to the teachers and staff that keep these beautiful children safe and inspired. And I am so grateful to the amazing girls of Gulu, for being strong and brave and sharing a bit of their lives with us today.
Mine is forever changed.
The highlight of my day was four girls who put on a skit about getting their periods and having to miss school and then getting AfriPads and being able to keep a regular schedule. They performed in front of the whole school, boys and teachers and all. I was so moved and inspired by their courage and maturity. What an honor to be a part of this day!!!
Check out more about Field of Dreams Uganda on their website - www.fieldsofdreamsuganda.org!