Meet Kamya. He's one of the precious orphans that I have fallen in love with here in Uganda. He lives at the St. Paul & Rose orphanage that I've been blessed to spend a lot of time at this summer. When I first went out there I spotted this kid that is seriously too cute for words. Problem was, the smile you will see below wasn't there for the first few visits. Kamya was quiet, withdrawn and there was an emptiness in his eyes that can only be the result of enduring horrors that no child should ever experience. In spite of his lack of social skills, Kamya is special, and I was instantly drawn to him. I wanted him to smile, play with us, show off for the cameras like the other kids. But he just sat and watched, taking it all in, but giving nothing to show that he was there.
A week ago we spent that night out at Rose & Paul's as we'd promised we'd do before summer's end. A lot of the girls were heading home in a few days and they wanted to say good bye too. One of our volunteers, Carrie Brock, had some special news to deliver as well: She raised enough money to allow us to build Rose and Paul a chicken coop...a chicken coop for an orphanage means being able to pay school fees and medical bills. It is a godsend to these people and we don't think there is anyone more deserving than the kids out there. We packed up our bags and headed out there after the AIDS festival one Saturday afternoon and were greeted with the usual chorus of squealing and hugs that we are always greeted with. It's the best feeling in the world. We hiked through the farm of sweet potatoes and matoke with kids on our backs and hanging from our arms, ate dinner, sang and danced, played volley ball and then shared a special treat we had brought: smores! We collected sticks and taught them how to roast marshmellows and then smooshed them between coconut biscuits called Nice cookies. It was so fun. Of course I had my little buddy Fahad, who I absolutely adore, by my side, or more accurately, on my side, the whole evening. This little guy’s father died and left his mother alone to raise him. She got sick (probably mentally and physically) and left him on the side of the road when he was not quite two years old. He was brought to Rose & Paul after this and has been with him for a year. He was really sick the night that we stayed there and it was so hard for me to leave him because I was so worried about him. As I held him, all I kept thinking was how his mother could have let him go, let alone on the side of the road. What kind of desperation or hopelessness must this woman have felt to abandon her child? I can’t imagine, and I feel as much sympathy for her as I do love for this little boy who has melted my heart…luckily he is ok now!
But before I go, back to Kamya. After spending the evening praying with the kids (a story in and of itself for another time) reading to them, and watching Aladdin on the laptop, we went outside with glowsticks and had ourselves an all out dance party. We popped our earbuds into the kids ears and they set off dancing. Ipod dance parties are a favorite around our house in Lugazi…everyone marching to the beat of his or her own drum…or Ipod in this instance. We tried to make sure everyone got a turn, and I was surprised to see little Kamya eagerly awaiting his, as he usually stands back. Carrie gave Kamya her Ipod and set it to Britney Spears and I think and the rest is pretty much history. His little face lit up like the sun and he started dancing like you wouldn’t believe. I had déjà vu of old video footage of Michael Jackson dancing as a kid. You know when he was a little boy and he busted moves that no one had ever seen before? Well Kamya has never seen Michael Jackson, and I’ve never seen anyone dance like that. It was incredible. And the best part about it was the smile that lit up his face and the light that was on in his eyes. Gone was the empty despondent little orphan, and in his place a little dancing machine. The rest of the orphans began to crowd around and holler. We’ve never seen him dance like this before! And then Paul echoed, we’ve never even seen him dance at all before! It was a first for everyone, including Kamya. And that night, I got it. What all of those weepy dancers are talking about. Maybe it was the music, maybe the dancing, maybe the love waves we’d been trying to send him since we met him, but whatever it was, the light went on and I think Kamya’s going to be just fine. (video to come when I get back in the US of A)