It happens every time we take teams to Uganda.
Two days are spent in an unusual neighborhood of heaven called Kivulu (pronounced chee-voo-loo). Here in this ramshackle community a group of young men- Uncles, who once lived on these streets now sacrifice all they have to rescue boys that now live the life the Uncles managed to overcome
When our Ugandan Water Project teams come to this place they are overwhelmed by the experience. The joy and reckless abandon they see on the boys faces when they are being loved on and mentored is authentic…and the anger and pain that flashes and lashes out at unexpected provocation is also authentic. The Uncles themselves are an inspiration – they have no regular income and often no consistent home and nearly no earthly possessions – they work each day to mentor these boys.
Our teams are trained to look for “sparklers” – key people that shine with their ability to bring freedom and transformation where they are. Our teams hunt sparklers and then look for the opportunities to strengthen, stabilize and amplify those key people. Bringing our teams to Kivulu is like bringing them to the Sparkler Convention. The real challenge is often figuring out how best to help.
I just got off the phone with one of our team leaders who is walking his team through this exercise right now. There is a house in the city that the Uncles have managed to secure and raise some funds to pay the rent for one year. They have a number of boys living in that home and many are enrolled in school. There is a clean, secure garage at the house that has space for more beds and there are some more boys who have shown evidence that they may be ready to let go of the life on the streets.
There is talk of Bunk Beds among the team.
But is that what is needed?
My observation of this group of Rescuers in Kivulu over the last few years has shown me that they will always help as many boys as they have capacity to help…often far ore than you and I would expect. Three boys can share a mattress….so can four. One latrine is enough for a home with 18 boys . . . I have seen them make it work with 28. They will help as many as they can with what they have.
WIth this in mind, it seems to me that focusing on growing their capacity is the key piece. SO what grows their capacity? Is it beds or would an income stream from small micro-business be better? Our team has dealt with questions like this during the weeks of preparation, reading and discussion. Working through materials like “When Helping Hurts” has laid some foundation but this is real, this is live and the decisions they make will impact the people in front of them.
Is my faith weak – is that why I always look to start some small enterprise? Perhaps it would be best to buy beds and trust that more provision will come to feed and clothe the boys that will fill those beds. Or perhaps we really should focus on buying a candle mold, wax and wicks and help the Uncles teach the boys to make and sell candles – it is a useful skill in Uganda and a viable business and would provide them with their own candles at a much lower cost.
Real life dilemmas.
I am suspicious of low-hanging fruit. I have made mistakes in the past by meeting the obvious need in the obvious way. For that reason I typically assume that what is obvious is usually not the healthiest place to focus our efforts. Our experience has shown us that real development requires patience and time and the strength to say no to something loud and say yes to something stronger. But not always. Sometimes we need to keep it simple.
Bunk Beds or Business – that is the real adventure and challenge of our work.