Have you ever had an experience where…
There are no easy answers, simple platitudes, or assuaging words. In the crux of the moment, there is only ‘being with it,’ being with the truth, dignifying the truth, dignifying the human being. Being together.
The mystery of life is a faith journey for me…
And the Niteo story began in one of those moments…
In a tiny corner of Uganda, a little country of sub-Saharan Africa, tucked right between Rwanda and the Congo, I am visiting a little village of Rwebisengo.
The trip into the village as we wind down onto the Savannah, was hot and dusty. The heat suffocating.
Arriving at Uncle’s house I found a group of orphans in a Sound-of-Music line up…to greet ME?! I had little to offer but I proceeded slowly down the line, introducing myself through a translator.
When I arrive before the last child, about age 6, I kneel down, taking the child’s hand and cheerfully announce, “Hello, my name is Karine! I wait though, holding the little girl’s hand and gaze as my hostess is translating for her. The girl shrugs. The question is repeated with a hint of frustration as the girl shrugs her shoulders again. In this moment, there are some nervous giggles from the adults and a couple of the children present.
They have my attention.
They look at me, as I am quickly looking around and trying to sense what is going on. Nervously, my host grips my shoulder and whispers, “She doesn’t know her name. She doesn’t know the name of her family. She is an orphan and she doesn’t know.”
I rage inside. Who has called this girl over to them? How does she know where she belongs? How can I fix this?! The futility of the pencils and the candy! This child who is about 6 has no identity, name, or place. She isn’t just wearing a stained and torn pink party dress; she doesn’t even have her name!
I look into her eyes.
With a rush of conviction and inspiration I declare, as if I can change something, “You are Precious! From now on, and forever, you will be known as Precious.”
What happened in that moment? Was something profound or simple? Did anything change or move?
What gives me comfort is that we were together. Just together. Present. Connected. Sharing a moment. We dignified each other’s humanity and existence just by being together. There was nothing to fix; only two little girls affirming each other.
Over the last 6 years, Niteo Africa teams have hosted over 50 Canadians in Uganda, Africa. Each Canadian who has traveled is moved to compassion, many return, moved to action.
It seems like it is a developmental progression. First, one wants to solve the most immediate needs. Orphanages are the most emotionally stirring places. Connecting with the vulnerable children profoundly changes perspectives.
However, the compassion is really only the first step in relationship. Authentic relationship sees the challenges and the promise. Connecting with friendship demands reciprocity and one sees how Africa will offer more than it will ever ask. It is captivating.
Niteo Africa Society, established officially as a charitable non-government organization with CRA in 2010, seeks to offer two major investments in partnership with Ugandans:
- Investment into the reading culture through the establishment of literacy centres
- Investment into cross-cultural relationships that seek to understand and dignify our culture.