Wednesday, 5 August 2015

An update from the girls!

Mulembe to all those worriers out there, WE ARE ALIVE!

It has been an indescribable 24 hours, but we will try our best to express it from the girls’ point of view.

After our beautiful, hole filling Italian dinner, we all congregated in our private meeting room to discuss our highs and lows of the day along with what we thought would be a normal, fairly short prayer time. Oh boy, how wrong we were…

As we entered prayer groups, we split into boys and girls to further discuss issues that we found moving in the ACET talk(the guys on the other hand had a talk about menstruation due to the lack of knowledge they humorously showed over lunch). In the ACET talk, we were all deeply affected by finding out about the lack of women's rights and their difficult circumstances, so we wanted to pray into this further. During our discussion, we were privileged enough to hear Odiirahshare part of her testimony and this really hit home, especially as we have all got to know her over the past few days making her feel (hopefully)  like one of us. It was a really powerful time of prayer, as everything we had heard today and experienced so far had sunk in and reappeared at the surface of our emotions.
As Josh neglected to mention most of the ACET talk, we will briefly reveal all. We were told about:
• The abuse, physically and sexually, that women endure
• How young girls usually drop out of education due to having no education about how to deal with menstruationand little/no resources
• Men spending the majority of their days and nights indrinking clubs and believing that women should doeverything for them, creating an extreme hostile environment 
• Girls as young as thirteen being sold off by their family to marry men that could easily be her fathers age
• The large rape culture and that if a girl gets pregnant, her family will often come to an agreement with the family of the father of the unborn childs about what price they will sell pregnant daughter.
The things ACET are doing to help people in these situationsinvolve many programs, one of which being the Pig Initiative. This is where they give two piglets to a family in the community to look after and raise. Once more piglets are born, the family will pass two onto another member of the community, and the process repeats over and over againAfurther project that they have initiated, is the teaching of girlsto make sanitary towels, to enable them to stay in education and take care of their hygiene. They also train influential male members of the community to enter the drinking clubs and try to change the attitudes of the men, to enlighten them as to how they should be treating females. 
So back to the prayer time… we were all moved in the girls group by how long, flowing and meaningful this time was to us. Despite the distractions from the boys laughter at the other end of the room, we remained encouraged in prayer for the women’s stories that we had heard about. In particular we were heartbroken by hearing about 13 year old girls being raped and forced to marry - we empathised and compared our lives at that age with these girls, and there wasn’t one girl that had a dry eye in the house. 
After that emotional and unforgettable prayer time, we ascended to room 328, where the stairs seemed a bit too much for Hollie, to the amusement of some Japanese tourists. God did not stop talking to us throughout our extended time together, giving us bible verses, visions and words confirming our prayers. A late night all around for us, but it was definitely worth every second.
Day 4,
Waking up to a well needed hearty breakfast (including an abundance of sausages, watermelon, eggs and potatoes), we were rearing to go and excited for the day ahead.  
When we arrived at Manyenya primary school, which houses more than 800 children ranging in age from 5 up to 18, we all jumped out the van and, without any hesitation, spontaneously split off and interacted with different groups of children. Within minutes, the boys were engaged in a very competitive football match which lasted a long 50 minutes in the scorching heat. Alex of course scored the ‘winning goal’ which he happily told everyone… not like we were bribed to put this in or anything. Unfortunately, as we discovered, Luke will definitely not be the next Wayne Rooney, that is all we will say! Us girls however introduced a ‘plethora’ (Yes Luke. We can use intellectual words too you know!) of games and enjoyed our time getting stuck in with all the many hundreds of children. We got out our parachute, and after starting with a mere 50 young children, we were astounded when we turned around and saw a sea of 200 smiling faces running towards us to play. Their smiles are infectious, which unfortunately led to a collective jaw ache.
After a long time of interacting through play with the children, we were taken into a classroom where we were to meet the 50 members of the Orphan Affair’s Council. It was a simple room with little inside, but the walls were covered with handmade posters, and we could tell instantly that it was treasured so highly by all the children. This is where we had the lengthy process of greeting the deputy head-teacher, all of the teachers, and all of the members of the group. We were all taught about what the Orphan Affair’s Council (sort of like a mock parliament, with positions for a president and many ministers that were voted in on their campaigns) had been doing, and their hopes for the future. We also learnt about how to make re-useable sanitary towels with just a piece of material, some thread and a button, we thought this was amazing and so intuitive. Thank goodness the boys had their chat the day before to prepare them
We were then privileged enough to be taken by some of the members of the council to view their houses, one of which belonged to CharlesHe is 17, like many of us, but at 15, he built his own house made of mud and cow dung, and hecurrently has plans for an extension. The pride he took in his house touched many of the members of the teams hearts and inspired us because of the amount of overwhelming joy he had. 
We then were taken to lunch, which was rice, beans, cabbage and some form of meat. All but one getting involved with the Ugandan way of getting stuck in and eating with our fingers. Harold on the other hand, decided that this would be the time to christen his sporkmuch to the disappointment of the rest of the team! Lunch gave us the opportunity to mingle with the children and teachers, and find out more about their lives.
After lunch we all spontaneously started singing and teaching the children our songs, including an impressive conga line. They reciprocated with their favourite Ugandan song and dance, in which we all got involved. 
We were all so sad to leave, and to have to say goodbye to all the inspirational individuals we had met, but after a continuous flow of hand-shakes, we jumped in our mini vans to go - joined by one little guest. 
Winnie is the Minister for Economic Welfare in the orphan affairs council. She is just 14 years old, and has done far more than any of us had done by that age. She also has dwarfism. I (Hollie) found it such an inspiration spending time with her during the day, and really connected with her. I even let her keep my sunglasses, as she rocked them far better than I did! After we left the school, we went to visit her home to see where she lives with her three siblings and grandmother. It was great to walk through her home, and they were so welcoming, although it was sad to discover that her grandmother had recently been hospitalised. I found saying goodbye to her difficult, as I spent a lot of time with her and her friends during the day, but left with the knowledge that I will write to her when I come back home.
You’ll be glad to know these are the final words of the day!After all that excitement, we returned to our accommodation, all shattered but in good spirit. It has been one of the most unforgettable days, with many amazing highs and heart-breaking lows but it has definitely encouraged us all. Over and out for now (we are sure you are relieved about this)!
Jambo! Ellie, Alice and the Girls x