Visiting the Slums - Providing Medical assistance to residents/Tour of the slums.
As I write this I hear the sound of traffic and a lot of people speaking Luganda, one of the native tongues of Uganda, it still hasn’t sunk in that I am actually in Uganda.
Today we visited the slums of Kampala – one of the places that AH look to rescue boys. We had purchased provisions of First Aid supplies yesterday and today we were to serve the community by providing a small nursing station to administer aid. Grace and another volunteer nurse from the AH community were to head the operation along with a student named Ibrahim who was also part of AH. African Hearts is widely respected in the slums by the children and I imagine also the adults. Abi, who heads AH, made the statement, that in the slums he is ‘President’. He meant, that because of the respect the people have for him (because he was there and on the streets for a short time growing up) and the fact that he loves them and helps them so much, they have given him that position out of respect. And that was evident by the way so many young and older boys would come up to him and he would hug them, hold their hand and show them great affection. And the love was reciprocated. It was really special. He explained, that because of this love and respect for him, if the phone had been stolen from her in the slums, he would have been able to get it back for her no problems at all. That shows the level of respect they have for him.
We were welcomed into a dimly light ‘hall’ where the children were to be feed. To kick off proceedings we introduced ourselves, said a little about our families and stated our favourite soccer team. There were 3 to choose from - Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. Most people had chosen MU or Liverpool so I chose Arsenal as my team. So the boys and girls listened patiently as we introduced ourselves and our favourite team via translator. The hall erupted into load cheers of approval and people came forward to give us fist pumps as we announced the soccer team we supported. In my case, I even got some extra cheers when I said I had 6 kids including a pair of twins. Apparently a large family and twins is something to be celebrated in Uganda. some worship songs were sung in Luganda and then the kids quickly organised themselves and put on a display of native dances and tricks to welcome us to there community. It was so lovely to see their appreciation to us for us being there. Having seen native dancing on Sunday and again today, I also noted how sensual the dances are. At one point, to load cheers from the other kids, a young boy and girl, probably early teens at most, came together initially front to back and then front to front and were grinding together in dance. The tragedy of this place I found out is that the girls almost always go into prostitution and from an early age as this is the only way for them to earn money to feed themselves. As I watched, I wondered how many of these you girls were already providing these services. And they don’t get a choice either. People come into the slums to visit these girls and the girls cannot say no, to anyone.
After the dance and talent show, we set up the nursing station. Grace, Olivia (the other nurse) and Ibrahim started attending to the wounds or ailments. David, Ainsley’s son, and I started setting things up to ‘serve’ the nurses. We made sure there were always supplies of cotton wool swabs in disinfectant, dry ones for drying, gauze and tapes to put over the wounds, panadol for headaches and a small supply of antibiotics. Some of the wounds required hospital treatment, others weren’t that bad, but were terrible wounds all the same. A couple of guys had deep wounds in their legs from being hit by Boda Bodas. One case that Grace recommended hospital treatment for, the would was so deep and open and had been like this for quite some time that she could see open and dead veins in the wound. This man couldn’t afford hospital and so he just continued living this way. He would eventually lose his leg if left untreated.
Photo 30-11-16, 1 33 39 pm
After we had finished attending to all the medical needs, we were given a guided tour of the slums. During this walk some of the kids we had just attended to wanted to sell us the medication we had just given them for money so they could buy food. They had just been fed by AH and some were still hungry. Most likely they would not get another meal until lunch tomorrow, again provided by AH.
During our walk I noticed a puppy, so week on its legs that it could hardly walk. I felt so sorry for it, it obviously wasn’t being fed well, and I felt that I really wanted to give it some food. Then it occurred to me that there were 1000’s of human beings in this place that were in exactly the same condition and they were so much more important than this poor puppy. Wow, the scale of the problem hit me hard. Where do you start, what resources of money and people power would you need? And yet, so many people were happy to see us, smiling, laughing, young boys and older boys, even young men, wanting to hold my hand in a sign of affection as they do in Uganda. They showed us the 40 foot containers stacked 3 high, walls to separate between ‘rooms’ which were probably 2.5m x 2.5m with large openings cut into the side of them and open to the elements on that one side. These were ‘homes’ and also in some cases the work stations of the young girls in the slums. The girls lived together, I think if my memory serves me correctly, about 12 girls to a ‘room’ and if one was ‘working’ the others had to get out – rain, hail or shine. They showed us the animal figures they had made from newspapers, others were blacksmiths or mechanics, or sawmills, or carpenters. All from the slums. Rubbish lay everywhere, broken bottles and the majority walked on bare feet because they had no shoes. I saw too how much the men from AH were loved and appreciated here for what they were doing with so little. One of the men working with AH and living full time in the slums, is a man called Bull. Another who works in the slums but doesn’t live there is a guy call Bucka. He has been badly beaten many times by gangs that come into the slums because he was trying to help some of the young boys. And yet he remains there helping, feeding, dressing wounds and blessing the young children.