Guards here in Uganda are kind of essential for people who live in actual homes, especially if you are a foreigner. I’ve had lots of them pass through my compound over the past year. From what I know it is due to the small amount that they are paid by the land lord. I can’t imagine what our guard gets paid. People quitting over a small amount being paid is a pretty big deal here. They are grateful for any job, and even the lowest of the normal amount that guards are paid is pretty dirt dirt cheap. The guard that we have now has been here for several months. I don’t know much about him, besides the fact that he is from the DRC and speaks Kiswahili and French. Neither of which language I am any good at…so hence the lack of knowledge. Along with him is his wife and what seems to be a 3 year old boy living with him. The set up for him is actually not that bad in terms of how housing goes for guards- he’s got a bedroom with a big bed in it (that’s all that’s in there I think), a room on the other side of the house-like structure where a refrigerator is held and there are some stools, then around the back of our apartments is an outhouse with a drop toilet and a bathing room. It may not seem like home to you or I, but it’s not all that bad. However, the wife does not have a job either. I’m guessing that they are refugees here- at least that was the story of my last Congolese guard.
I feel bad for them and wonder how much they are actually eating. The only time I ever see them eat is late at night sitting outside of their house on the ground with a little coal stove things and a pot. It’s really not that uncommon for people to only be able to afford one meal a day here. But that doesn’t make it any easier. Especially when I feel like I can do something about it. The hard part about that is what happens when I leave. I mean, while I’m here I can go out once a week and bring them back some bread, blue band (like butter), sugar and some soap, but once I’m gone, they are stuck again. And then…that is what they will come to expect, and won’t be able to find it. I know one woman in a village who worked for a mzungu that paid much higher than the normal house worker (and more than a normal person could afford here), then the mzungu left and since then she has not found a job because her standards have been raised and won’t accept less. I don’t want that to become true for my guard and his family. So, when I do bring back food it is sparatic and a surprise. Tonight I came back from a dinner with a team that is here to build for a school out on the island we work on, and I had some extra cornbread. So, when I came into the apartment I went to the kitchen, pulled out a napkin and placed the 3 remaining pieces on the red paper. As I walked outside to give it to them my mind scrambled to think of the words in either French or Swahili to convey the message of what this odd thing was that I was handing over. All I could come up with (as usual) was a mix of the two languages-“Bonjour, pour tu, maize…karibu sana, la la salama” A rough translation is “Hello, for you, corn…you are very welcome, peace sleep well”. Yeah…not the best, I know. When I steped out my door and closed it behind me so the mosquitoes wouldn’t seep in, I noticed that they were not eating. Now, I’m not sure if they have already eaten their meal, or are going to eat it later (people generally eat dinner here around 9:30ish at night). As I walked over the man sat up from his prostrate position on the gravel with child and reached out his hands while his wife got up from her stool to kneel and extend her own arms, as is the traditional way to receive. To give you some what of a better idea of these people…I’m guessing that the parents are younger than me. One of the pieces of corn bread slipped out onto the rocks below as I handed it over to the gentleman. Instantly the little boy picked it up and started saying repeatedly “asante, asante sana (thank you, thank you very much)” over and over and over and over again and stuffed the crumbling morsels into his mouth.
Sometimes life here becomes normal. Then there are moments like this that makes you beg and sit here dialoging with God about the best thing to do. Sometimes I wonder if there is an answer.
I know that people are hungry here right now. Especially in the northern part of Uganda, spread all across where there is drought which has lead to famine. Arua has not had a good rain fall since September of last year! It’s one thing if people are going hungry because they are too lazy to plant (which is the case sometimes), but quite another when there is not enough rain to plant, so the cycle continues. Then if you factor in the fact that the World Food Program has deserted the people they have been helping in Soroti & Gulu to move to the Karamajong area boardering Kenya, it gets complicated. I was told just yesterday that some people who have $300/month jobs are quitting because they see they can get free food. Please pray for rain. Pray with me that as God is seeking out the hearts of his children in Uganda that he would fill their stomachs as well. May God give us wisdom in sharing our blessings!