I’ll Always Remember

Vigilantes, this story is one especially for those of you who have been around awhile, for those of you who were with me before I ever dreamed of creating an organization, for those of you who sent money to me for shoes for little kids and medicine for students and pigs for hardworking boda drivers and mattresses for bigger kids. This story is all for you.

At Pawel School after church on Sunday and after enjoying a meal of beans, posho, and cabbage with about 15 others, I saw a young man named Denis who used to be a kid at the first school I taught at in Uganda. He was never one of my students, but I knew that I knew him somehow.

Alicia and Denis

“I know you!” I exclaimed. I explained how I thought I knew him from another school. “My Acoli name is Lanyero, but my American name is Alicia. You’re grown now, but I think I know you.”

Denis looked at me carefully and then his face broke into a wide smile. “Alicia!!! You look different! You’ve reduced yourself!!!”

“Yes, I’ve been working on getting healthier,” I said, always smiling at the Acoli version of, ‘You’ve lost weight.’

“You look all new.”

“Well thank you very much. I feel all new. I don’t remember how, but I really do think I know you, Denis. I know your face.” I looked closely at him.

“Yes, you do,” he grinned. “And I’ll always remember what you did for me, how you bought me a mattress when I didn’t have one in Senior 2. Thank you.”

That’s when it all flooded back to me. I remembered this kid! He was a sophomore in high school. He was shorter and a bit scrawny back then, but his sweet smile was the same.

I’d bought him and another student mattresses because they didn’t have them and the thought of these two boys having to sleep on hard bunk bed frames with no mattresses and then get up to work hard each day in school only to return to beds without mattresses and then do it all over again seemed terrible, and it sounded like something I could easily fix.

Vigilantes, Denis was one of the very students we ever helped. To see him at Pawel, which is some distance from that first school, where we were again buying some small things to help the students of New Hope was surreal.

Denis is grown now. He’s in college and is doing well in school.

He will always remember the mattress we bought him and I’ll always remember the delight of seeing one of our kids now fully grown and doing well.

You just never know how large the reach of even a small act of kindness. From mattresses and shoes to larger projects like paper beads and potteries, thank you for choosing to do this work with us.

We will always remember you for that.

Daughter of Pawel

New Hope Home in Pawel only had the money to feed, house, clothe and care for 21 Sudanese refugee kids from the IDP camp. It was a fact that broke the heart of Pastor Amos because there was one more kid in the camp in desperate need of rescue.

Her name was Skovia.

Skovia, after arriving at Pawel Home the evening before our last visit

The other pastors at the IDP camp begged Amos to take Skovia. They said she was the one out of all of the children in the camp who most needed to be taken to New Hope.

Skovia is without parents. She was being taken care of by a relative in the camp who forced her to be a slave and delivered a beating to her every night. The scars and bruises covering her little arms gave just a hint to the hell she was living through each day.

When the other orphan children, her only friends in the camp, were taken to New Hope and she was left behind, Skovia was bereft with tears, wondering why she alone was left there to suffer.

Her name is Skovia and Pastor Amos had to leave her behind.

I truly cannot fathom impossible choices like these. How do you choose between feeding the refugee kids you’ve already taken responsibility for and taking on another mouth that stretches the already scant beans and posho too thin? How do you commit to raising another child into adulthood when you already don’t have anywhere near enough money to raise the other 21? But how do you knowingly leave a child in the mouth of a shark?

Her name is Skovia and Pastor Amos went back and removed her from the IDP camp and from the hands of her abuser.

You go ahead and stand up and cheer a minute, I’ll wait right here. I’ll be cheering, too, because I can’t stop smiling and crying and clapping when I think of Skovia and Pastor Amos and his wife Sarah and of Mr. and Mrs. Ekanya and of all of the kids at New Hope.

Alicia, Laura, and Oceing Richard with some of the Sudanese refugee children living in Pawel Home

Her name is Skovia and last Saturday evening she was brought to New Hope to live permanently.

I got to meet Skovia last Sunday morning, when Laura and I attended church in Pawel. We saw the refugee kids sporting their new shoes and showing off their suitcases, already stacked neatly on their beds and packed with their special things inside.

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We got to hear the stories of how they gleefully threw away the plastic bags the second the suitcases were handed out. We got to see photos of the ceremony held to pass out the shoes and suitcases.

Her name is Skovia and she was the only kid without a suitcase.

The other little girls, many of whom were Skovia’s friends in the IDP camp, were downright emphatic when telling Laura that Skovia didn’t have a suitcase. Laura assured them that we wouldn’t leave her out, but that we just didn’t know she’d started living there.

We immediately gave Mr. Ekanya enough shillings for shoes and a suitcase for Skovia. New Hope has beds for up to 24 students so we also gave him enough shillings for two more refugee children because if we can provide more expensive items like shoes and suitcases, we know that will make the beans and posho stretch just a little bit further.

New Hope insisted on feeding us because hospitality is truly the heartbeat of Uganda. While we were eating beans, posho, and cabbage, Mr. Ekanya gave me one of the greatest compliments of my life.

He said, “The next time you visit church, you can’t just introduce yourself, ‘Nyinga Lanyero,’ (My name is Lanyero.)

I asked, “Really? How will I introduce myself then?”

Mr. Ekanya smiled and said, you’ll say, ‘Nyinga Lanyero. An latin anyera Pawel.’ (My name is Lanyero. I am a daughter of Pawel.)

Indeed that is how I will introduce myself when I return. What I love most about being proclaimed a daughter of Pawel is that because of the work of New Hope, I’m in the good company of 22 Sudanese refugee children who have also been claimed by the community of Pawel. They, too, can say they‘re the sons and daughters of Pawel.

Her name is Skovia. Welcome home, Skovia. In latin anyera Pawel. (You are a daughter of Pawel.)