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Field Report – Kampala, Uganda – Part 5 – The Letters

This is by far the toughest Namasuba story for me to write.

On our last days, all 5 of us had kids approach to personally hand us letters, always with a plea to not forget them – and looks that would melt the heart. The 3 young people (20-somethings) in our delegation each got big stacks. As an old guy, I was much less popular, but I still got a few. Most of them ran along the same themes. Below are transcripts of some of the letters I was given. I have removed the child’s name to protect their privacy. I retained the spelling and grammar exactly as the children printed.

Dear Sir/Madam
RE: Application for Help

My name is {female name withheld} aged 13 years in Primary Six. Am an orphan who does not have a mum and dad. My mummy died when I was 6 years old and I did not see my dad, I only had that he died when I was 5 months.

By now I do stay with my aunt, she works but she has got 4 children whom she pays school fees plus my sisters and brother we all stay with her. She gets hard time to pay for my two sisters, brother plus taking care of the other 4 children of her own.

I like very much to study in order to complete my studies so that I become a doctor because I really want to treat people when they are sick. An in order to accomplish my future plan, plz. Sir/Madam I need your support and help plz. Sir/Madam.
In conclusion therefore I am kindly, politely ask for your help, care and support plz. Sir/Madam.
I will be greatfull if my application is put into consideration.

Your Faithfully,
{name withheld}

May Allah reward you for what you have done for our school. That’s all bye bye dear. {name withheld} P.7

Hi Martin Malley.
How are you! I think you are fine.
I please you to be your freind. If you go to USA you remeber me please you tell your family about us and what you saw in Uganda.
I will come and visit you at Omaha Nebraska in USA.
I wish you a happy live.
I wish you were my dad my mother and father died.
Keep these please and like the way you do were these.
See you my dear freind.

From {girls name withheld}

Dear sir/madam
Am by names of {boy’s name withheld} in Primary Five. Sir/madam I kindly request for your help in taking care of me plus paying my school fees because am ready to study untill I get a degree or diploma. If support is available I want to be a doctor or a nurse in future.

The reason why I am asking help is that am an orphan. I lost my dad when I was 8 months and now am and 13 years, my mother has got 8 children and she is not working. She does not even have where to stay I stays with her sister who is married at Mubende.

By now I stay at Zzana with my aunt, she is not working, I only survive at Namasuba and her name is {name and phone number withheld}. In deed I get hard time in my studies cauz my aunt who would care and pay my school fees doe not have a job and the husband’s aunt has got his own children to care for.

Therefore Sir/Madam I carclude by saying that I ask for your support and help in away. I will be greatful if my application is put into consideration.

Yours faithfully,
{name withheld}

How are you these days. I hope tha you are all okay and alright. I written this letter to thank you all for coming to our school. I want to thank all of you for visiting our school. An for us any day we will visit your country.
I want to thank all of you for visiting our school.

Good luck
Good day
Good journey
Good time

I remain as your loving friend {name withheld}


You get the gist. In our small delegation we probably got 70 or 80 of these. It isn’t practical to respond directly to requests like this. I can’t convey how difficult it is to look into their eyes when they hand over the neatly printed and often beautifully decorated pieces of paper of all sizes and shapes, whatever the child could spare.

We observed a school assembly. In his remarks the headmaster emphasized that if school fees were not paid, students would not be allowed to take their government exams (coming up in two weeks). Fees cover uniforms and food.

The last day we were at Namasuba there was great excitement because the upper grades were going on field trips to Entebbe airport and a museum. They were anxious for us to go. After the buses left, we found more than half of the students still in the classrooms. They couldn’t pay for the field trip – so remained in school the rest of the day.

I am conflicted about my own response to the situation we experienced.

  • Part of me wants to be angry with kids in the US who have so much by comparison and often appreciate so little. But they are just operating in the world they understand. It is up to the adults around them to help them understand the WORLD as it really is.
  • Another part of me wanted to just pull out money and “solve the problem”. There might be some guilt relief from doing that, but it wouldn’t even begin to “solve the problem”. It would actually create more problems because there can never be enough to go around.

What I know is that I saw a tremendous amount of potential, far more joy than I have ever seen in a school in the US, incredibly polite and many very hard working kids. Most of them will not go to secondary school due to lack of money. Given their numbers and the needs in their country, it is an incredible missed opportunity for our planet to not to find ways to harness and nurture their capabilities.

If you are still reading this, you are a person who cares. There are a lot of charities globally that work on this problem. Please support one that you like. My personal favorites are ChildFund International, Lutheran World Relief and World Vision. If you are a person who believes that the US provides too much foreign aid, please study the issue and learn how small a part of our budget it really is. The leverage of well-managed aid is huge in places like this. I see it here in the USAID campaign against HIV. It made me proud to see the USAID logo on so much of the educational material and advertising on this topic.

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