Dayle Carter left Port Alberni on Oct. 28 for Mbarara, Uganda, where she will spend three months working with missionary Pat Kokura at the Jericho Children’s Project.
Carter’s association with Kokura began when Carter was in Grade 7 and Kokura came to her class to speak about her Ugandan travels. Carter began raising money to purchase goats and pigs for the boys’ school Kokura started as well as for the children’s relatives.
Her fundraising projects have ranged from collecting bottles to holding a garage and bake sale, and selling African crafts. Last year she and a friend from the ADSS Social Justice class made $350 selling paper beads through Be(ad) the Change, which will go towards a new building for the Jericho Children’s Project.
Kokura has encouraged Carter for the past five years, and is happy the teen decided to go to Uganda to see in person what effect her fundraising has had.
“It’s going to open her world,” Kokura said before Carter left Canada.
“She’s going to see how the rest of the world lives.”
Read further as Carter tells the story of her first days in Mbarara, Uganda.
I stood in front of the infamous green gate that read ‘Jericho Children’s Project’ in white.
The bus ride from Kampala, the Ugandan capital, to Mbarara had taken four hours.
A couple of boys rushed around me carrying my luggage, despite my protests that I was capable. I was whisked inside the door and greeted by many new faces. I was speechless. I had waited for that moment for so long.
Over the next two hours boys climbed through the gate—coming home from school at various times. Their faces lit up when they saw that Patricia Kokura, their momma, had returned from Canada.
One week later I have tasted the juiciest pineapple in the world, eaten beans and potatoes for every meal, taken a million pictures and felt more joy than comprehensible.
Even though half the boys only speak Runyankole, the language of Southwest Uganda, I have gotten to know them well. Boy John, for instance, is a little monkey. However, he’s always polite and told me that he wants to become an engineer. He also has a contagious laugh that you can hear from across the room.
Then there’s Lev. He’s a sweet little boy with curious eyes. He was quite shy at first, but now he runs around giggling and posing for pictures. He’s so small that you’d never know that he eats two heaping plates of food at every meal.
Another boy named Simon knows more languages than anyone I know. He can speak Runyankole, English, French and Spanish and he’s only 16. I’m sure he’ll be an interpreter or an ambassador one day. On top of this he also is part of his church’s choir—in which he has memorized all the songs and dances.
Inside the gate of the Jericho Children’s Project I found many happy boys with promising futures.
Mark is one of the people who greeted me when I first arrived. He had a smile on his face and a scarf around his neck.
I got to know Mark over several meals. I quickly learned his love of music. He enjoys singing and dancing, particularly to Chris Brown. He also told me that he was in Senior 4, which is the equivalent to Grade 10, and is the last mandatory grade in high school in Uganda.
Mark’s favourite subjects are mathematics and science, which he plans to utilize when he attends Mbarara University of Technology and Science. He plans to become a computer technician.
Mark has a bright future, but not as bright of a past. His mother died when he was four and his father won’t acknowledge him. Mark, as a result, lived on the streets of Mbarara.
Although Uganda is located at the equator, Mbarara gets cold and it rains a lot; so it’s a great struggle to survive on the streets. Especially as a child.
That’s why Mark is so happy that he found Jericho Children’s Project, Kokura’s home for kids from the street. Here, he has a dry bed, clothes, food and an education. Not to mention a family—with 25 brothers—that loves him.
Life in Uganda is very different for me. I expected things to be different. I knew that I was walking into a different world, but I didn’t know that I would love it so much.
However, because of the people I’ve met, like Mark, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
I don’t get to watch television, use my phone or have hot water for a shower every morning, but I’m learning to speak Runyankole, reading more and making friends that I will always have in my heart.
Dayle Carter/Special to The News