Yesterday we had the honour of attending the 4th Annual Julius Achon Cross Country run in Okwang. I am lying under my mosquito net watching the sunrise while Eloise is out running for an hour and 45 minutes with Quinto, one of the students we have supported through our sponsorship program. I don’t even feel bad.
I will let her tell you more about the race and the days events, but there is one story that I can’t wait to share. The thing I love about being here is the way that certain people can stand out in a crowd of thousands. I think it must be spiritual; that God gives you eyes for only one person in the ocean of bodies. For me yesterday it was a little girl who would have been 7 or 8 years old. She was in the opening race of the day. The P1 and P2 girls would run 2km, and those who finished in the top 32 were awarded a t-shirt.
Most of the girls were in their school uniforms even though it was a Saturday, likely because that is the only item of clothing that they own. This one little girl stood out to me because she was the only one who didn’t have a shirt on. She appeared to be malnourished and was a whole head shorter than all of the other girls. My heart instantly broke. Normally scenes like that don’t really impact me, as harsh as that sounds. I tend to think of the bigger picture, and I am quite practical in that I would normally think, “well at least she is here, in her school shorts, having fun and enjoying herself.” This time something clicked inside of me. It might be because I’m a mother now and so I pictured her as my own daughter, standing there on the start line, disadvantaged amongst a group of the poorest of the poor.
We started to plan how we could get her a t-shirt before the race, but quickly realised that wouldn’t go down well in a crowd of almost 10,000 people who are all needy in some way. We just had to pray that she finished in the top 32.
I immediately underestimated her. She was tiny and she didn’t look healthy. The other girls looked like they had a much better chance than she did, and given that she had likely not eaten anything that day, I doubted she would even finish the 2km course let alone beat 100 other girls.
As I held my breath and watched her run, she blew me away. Boy, did she run! Julius said, “the poor ones are the ones who are motivated. She knew that she needed that shirt, so she ran.” Now not only does she have a shirt but she earned it for herself rather than have it handed to her out of sympathy.
This is a timely reminder for me as we plan the next 5 years of our programming in northern Uganda. These people are hardworking, strong, and committed; they have unlimited potential. They don’t need a white girl to hand them a t-shirt, they need the opportunity to come and work for themselves, for someone to meet the gap in their lives, for them to achieve their best future. That’s exactly what we hope we can do.
|The shirt wore more like a dress!|