Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Uganda - The Greenhouse Orphanage

Children; If anyone were to ask me (and I expect to be asked quite a bit) what the greatest thing I saw or experienced during my entire three month stay in Africa was…I would tell them that. I would tell them about my trip to the Greenhouse orphanage this past weekend in Uganda.

Kevin Kalibbala is one of my close friends from my time at Liberty. Anyone who knows anything about Kevin, knows he is passionate about one thing…his kids. Yes, despite his age of only 21 he is the ‘father’ of 64 kids. He started and runs his own orphanage in Kampala, Uganda. The Greenhouse orphanage is Kevin’s dream to help orphans have a good life despite not having parents to support, love, and raise them. Being an orphan himself, he started this orphanage to give orphans the chance he never had. His success as a track star in Uganda has helped him get much of the money needed to start the orphanage and support them and his three other siblings. He came to Liberty on a track scholarship and is trying to get the best education he can to go back to help his orphanage and kids. The past year, as I have gotten to know Kevin better, I have come to admire and respect him…as well as fall in love with the children he has taken in. So, when I was planning this trip I always had a desire to go see his kids and the orphanage that is always close to Kevin’s heart. Leading up to my trip to Uganda I did not know if it was going to work…but in the end (despite Kevin not being able to be there, having to buy another Kenyan visa, and the travel logistics) I got on the short flight from Nairobi to Entebbe, Uganda.

Kevin’s sister, who is the only one running the orphanage full time with Kevin’s absence, was there at the airport with two of the kids to pick me up. We traveled by taxi the hour trip into Kampala (Kampala doesn’t have an airport) to the orphanage.

Upon my arrival, all the kids had gathered in the dining/play/recreation room to welcome me. They all started clapping and began singing me all the songs they knew to welcome and greet me! How precious it was to see all the kids so excited and happy to have this ‘mzungu’ (white person) there with them. After my warm welcome I gave them the gifts I brought them from America. Some small glow-in-the-dark bracelets was about all I could find to give to each of the 64 kids and carry in my bags. Yet I found out only 39 were at the orphanage. The others were still in their boarding school which didn’t let out until Aug. 15th. Yet I was so blessed to be here with these children.

The next 4 days (Friday-Monday) were filled with me teaching them all the games and songs I knew. They really wanted me to teach them anything. I tried to transport myself back to elementary school and my Awana years to remember any game or song that I could recall. We filled hours with duck-duck-goose, shipwreck (which they called ‘rock, tree, brush, fence’), relays with the crab crawl, sack races, three-legged races, and just plain foot races. They enjoyed most of the games I think…and even taught me some of their own. I could kind of catch on to the rules through their Lugandan tongue. They also taught me some of their own songs, how to dance (luckily none of that got on film!), and a little Lugandan so I could say a few words to them in their own language (English is the national language so many of the older children could speak it well…which they helped me translate to the other kids).

My songs they didn’t catch onto well…except one…which I was more than happy to help them learn. I have some great video of the children singing a rousing rendition of “Country Roads”! Many of you I hope to show it to you upon my return (I gotta leave something for my return J). Cathy, Kevin’s sister, and the hired cook were more than gracious hosts. They, despite the meager finances, had cold water for me every meal and meals that were fit for a Ugandan king.

The pictures that I have uploaded on my pictures page do not do my time there justice. I hope you can see the love and precious joy that is in these kids. I felt like I did not do much during my time there except play with them…yet Kevin (who I did get to talk to some while being there) said all he wanted me to do was so the kids love. I pray I did that and am amazed how much I can do just by playing and singing with children. I can see more now why Jesus had such a high regard for kids. They are so innocent and precious, yet each with their own personalities, gifts, talents, hopes, and dreams. It was sad as well to walk the streets of Kampala (which Ben, Kevin’s younger bother who is in high school took me around to see) and see all the beggar children sitting with their hands out. These kids were just like the ones in the orphanage…I wanted to help every kid I came across…and I’m sure Kevin does too…yet he and I can only do what we can.

I know I am changed after seeing and spending so much time with the kids. I will always have their faces and smiles in my memory. I was sad to leave…as were they. Several of the kids were crying (the older ones hiding their faces to prevent me from seeing) as I pulled away in my taxi. It was then that I knew that I had done a lot to show what love I could to these kids who literally had nothing. I will continue to pray for them and ask that you do the same. Please visit www.greenhouseorphanage.com and learn more about it and how you can help Kevin and his kids.

I thank God for this amazing time and experience…it tops all that I’ve been able to do yet (which is a lot when I stop and think about it) and for his gift of precious children!!!


Blogger Merrill said...

Brandon - I checked out Kevin's web site and saw that he was training for the olympics. I checked the members on the Ugandan Olympic team and did not see him listed. We will keep Kevin and his orphans in our prayers.

August 13, 2008 11:42 AM  
Blogger QH said...

I enjoyed reading your blog about the Uganda orphans. I'm attempting to do some research about starting an orphanage in Uganda. We took a team of 15 people to Uganda, from Church of the Heartland, Indiana, in the summer of 08 to visit schools and churches. The people are amazing! We've been connected to Uganda since 1995. Our friends, who pastor Word of Life Church in the Entebbee area have a goal to start an orphanage, due to the great need and we want to help them!

May the Lord provide every need Kevin's orphanage requires! Michele Howard

October 20, 2008 11:57 AM  
Blogger lillian said...

hi i just read about your experience with the green house and its touching am glad someone had the nerve to help an show love to these kids i would love to be part of the green house though i may not offer finances i would be glad to identify with them may God bless all who participate in changing the lives of these kids at green house orphanage! Lillian Atukwase

August 19, 2009 3:31 AM  

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