Two years ago, I saw an ad in our local paper, the Southern Star, which said that a Ugandan Choir was coming to the Christian Fellowship Church in Bantry to give a concert. I immediately telephoned to see if it would be ok to bring children along and was assured that they would be welcomed. We went along on the night and the kids were mesmerised – the song, dance , drumming and traditional costumes opened a different world to them – they sat, as good as gold, in front row seats, spellbound to the end.
The Choir, which is known as the “Voice of Life” choir, consisted of mere children themselves with ages ranging from twelve to seventeen and they travelled thousands of miles to visit Ireland to sing songs of thanks to their sponsors here. Their sponsors all help by donating either money or time and support to a charity known as the Fields of Life, who in turn, helps those in dire need in East Africa. Fields of Life was established in 1995 on a 110acre farm near Kampala, Uganda by Trevor and Ruth Stevenson – who had a dream to “help others to help themselves”. Since then, the organisation has expanded into the Congo, Burundi, Kenya and Rwanda and have their headquarters in Dublin.
After the concert, while tea and cakes were being served, people were invited to chat to the choir. Near the entrance, was a table containing some flyers of ways to become involved and some items for sale such as CDs, Ugandan arts and crafts etc. I picked up a flyer and suggested to the kids that we should sponsor a pencil case. It looked a worthy cause – for €4.50 a child in Uganda gets a pencil case stuffed with scarcities that we often take for granted – such as rubbers, pencils, sticky tape, etc.
But my kids had seen a better idea – on a table nearby, was a display of photographs showing children of various ages, all beaming at the camera. Sponsor a child! My kids had already chosen which one they liked best – a small boy, about 7 years old wearing a yellow shirt, khaki shorts and barefoot staring honestly at the camera.
The children in the photos were all desperate for an education – desperate for an opportunity (as young as they are) to work themselves out of the cycle of hardship and poverty that they face on a daily basis. In a moment of weakness, I almost chose two! It was so hard to decide, but my children were adamant – they had settled on the little boy in the yellow shirt. So, I signed the dotted line and agreed to sponsor little Joshephati from Uganda – whose favourite food is cassava and beef and who wants to be a school teacher when he is grown up.
It is more than sobering to think that for less than a Sky digital entertainment package per month, someone’s entire life, future, outlook can be changed. It has been almost two years now since we started sponsoring Joshephati and in that time we have received two beautiful hand drawn Christmas Cards and the most wonderful letters.
This letter, with that one sentence, “Thank you for loving me” had me in floods of tears. As I stood reading it, tears streamed down my face (much to the astonishment of my eldest daughter). I find it so odd that I have never heard that phrase spoken in life before. I have never ever heard someone say, simply, gratefully, “thank you for loving me.” What a beautiful line – I think we should all use it more often, the world would be a better place I believe, if everyone just thanked someone – a husband, a parent, God or a child for loving them.
Josephati has given us so much in return – especially when my little scholars are reluctant to do homework or pout about school, I use him as a gentle reminder that somewhere in the world, a little boy their age has only ONE dream and that is to be able to go to school at all!