"YOUR KIDS ARE SO RESPECTFUL AND POLITE. I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY'RE FROM THE SLUMS!"
The kiddos at a.k.a. HOPE weren't always the happy, confident bunch that you often see reflected in our photos and videos. ALL of them, at one point or another, were actually quite angry, shellshocked, quarrelsome, untrusting, shy, insecure, embarrassed, somber, stoic - and any number of other unhappy adjectives - living in a state of near hopelessness. They had no dreams. They had no concern for the future. To them, getting through this day was the priority.
Courtney and I witnessed this time and time again when Clare (our incredible friend and program manager who none of this would be possible without) would welcome a new child into our program. These kids, who were living in rags, were scoffed at and belittled in their community, considered a nuisance to most. Consequently, they were given an all-too-real set of expectations of how they should look and behave. The troublemaker. The street rat. The bottom-dweller. Leeches and thieves. And as one might imagine, they often lived down to those expectations.
However, we noticed something. When we placed a different sort of expectations upon them, they were all too eager to meet that expectation.
When a child becomes a part of the a.k.a. family, he or she is shown immediate love and respect. They are given an opportunity to learn and to thrive and to better themselves. And they DO it! In fact, because of their unfathomably challenging backgrounds, they are more hard-working and grateful than the average child and work that much harder to achieve and to succeed.
Just after a.k.a. HOPE was established in 2013, we moved into a new building, a large hall rented from a local community church adjacent to the slums. We were told that we could only use it Monday through Friday because on the weekends they hosted sponsor children from Compassion Intl. for events and programs. This was fine with us because at this time all we were offering was schooling, which took place during the work-week.
Because education was our primary focus then, we went all out for this school. Brand new uniforms, individual school rooms, notebooks and pens and books, qualified teachers. Thanks to many incredible donors and partners (like you!), we were able to lavish these kids with opportunity and legitimacy. Education. Recreation. Restoration.
And the kids took notice.
We overheard a few girls talking on the first day of school with their new, brightly colored uniforms on and spirits high, "We look better than the kids at the other schools!" "We're not the poor kids anymore!" In fact, only a few short months later, we were talking with some of the leaders of the church, and even THEY took notice. "Your kids are so respectful and polite. I can't believe they're from the slums. They're even better behaved than the Compassion kids!" And those kids are known for being some great kids! Our hearts soared, and it was right then and there that we knew there was a difference being made.
So what we want to say to you is... "Thank You".
Without you, a.k.a. wouldn't be where it is today. Our team couldn't have done what we have. Those kids would have never received their first uniforms and their first boost of confidence. More than an opportunity at an education, these kiddos have started the process of feeling accepted, experiencing respect, and living UP to expectations. And they're doing it marvelously.
Four years later, our kids are among the favorite at their proper primary school. Still considered the kindest and most respectful, we even have a handful who are among the top in their class! Not forgetting to mention a few who have gone on to Vocational/Technical classes and are excelling in a number of vocations, including carpentry and hairdressing.
You are the reason we get to do what we do. You are the reason that lives are being changed. So thank you. Or, as they say in Uganda, "webale".