I want to introduce you to one of my heros: Sharon, 27 years old, Ugandan, grew up in an orphanage. I think after you hear her story she might be one of your heros too.
Poverty is often the story of children becoming orphaned. Even though both parents are still alive, they know they cannot care for their child adequately and thus turn them over to the care of an orphanage. Sharon grew up in a family that echoed this story and therefore became an orphan herself.
At the age of 12, Sharon became friends with a Canadian missionary who quickly realized that Sharon was not in school like the other children. After some research, this sweet soul offered to sponsor Sharon’s education. Sharon went on to finish all of her schooling and even graduate from university. (!!!!!!) While Sharon was receiving her education she realized that she wanted to share this precious gift to help other children like herself. She knew she wanted to pour back into the abandoned children of Uganda. After graduating from university, she began arranging a small guest house business where she would rent out rooms to visitors traveling through Jinja. As time passed she gained enough earnings to open a small orphanage on the edge of town. But Sharon didn’t stop there. Although she loved being able to take care of these precious children, she saw the value and power of educating their parents. This would not only keep children from becoming orphans but enable parents to bring home the children they were once forced to give up. Sharon started small businesses, health classes, and parenting classes in the villages where all the babies were from. And thus Arise and Shine Uganda began.
That was three years ago. Three years of hard, get your hands, clothes, and everything else dirty kind of work, but Sharon didn’t do it alone. The ladies who take care of the children are called Aunties. There could not be a more fitting word. These women genuinely love and care for each child. They pick them up when they’re crying, they hand feed them, and they wipe up poop and urine without even a grimace on their face. Some of the aunties have been with Arise and Shine since the doors opened in 2011. They worked and took care of the children without getting paid. They worked and loved these kids because no one else would.
Now, when donations are steady, they each take home a low monthly paycheck. Most of them have children of their own and most of their paycheck goes towards education fees. However, when donations are low, sometimes the caregivers and other workers around the home go unpaid. Their work does not suffer, they continue to give their best for these kids and never complain. While at the babies home it surfaced that 2 of the Aunties had malaria. They were still at work. Without complaining. They each had over an hour walk to work, spent 12 hours serving 30+ needy children and then an hour+ walk home. Never once complaining.
These women blow my mind. They love well and they serve well. They have some of the hardest jobs both physically and emotionally, and yet they still find joy and strength and (again, sorry to keep repeating myself) never complain.
While we spent time picking up children we often times sat with the aunties and heard their stories. Some of our team members became quite attached to a few of the aunties and have dreamed of a way to bless them. In a few weeks, we will begin sponsorship programs for not only the children but also the Aunties of Arise and Shine. Again, yes they are paid employees, but they often times go without receiving a paycheck because funding is low. We will provide a steady income for these aunties who are working their butts off to serve the fatherless. These are the real heros. The ones that stay day in and day out (even when they have malaria!). We know that consistency is a huge factor in child development, and it is beautifully obvious that these aunties are one of the most constant things these kids have right now. What better way to get involved in orphan care than to provide support to these strong and powerful women to better love these kids.
Stay tuned, we’ll be announcing soon how you can donate to these wonderful women!
(A huge thanks to our Media Mission team for helping make this post happen. The pictures and text are a collaborative effort and we’re so thankful for their loving hearts!)