When we came to Nikibasika this year, we found a new girl playing volleyball with the others. “This is the street girl.”
Last year, we set up the kids in community project teams, asking them to go into the local communities to be helpful. We gave them basic project planning training, and each team appointed a leader. They came up with ideas themselves, and in the breaks between school terms when they came back to the house, they went out into the community.
One team found three girls on the street. They were 13, and they were sex workers. “They put on the attire to attract men and stand and wait for them.”
The Niki team talked to the street girls, and asked for guidance from Tina and Gabriel. The Niki kids talked to them about different options from being on the street. “We try to talk about having hope,” said one of our girls. “It’s good peer pressure for them,” said Tina. ”
Now this girl is part of the Niki community. She stays with her mother — she was running away before — who pays something small to her school fees. All of the Niki kids pay the rest of her school fees from their pocket money. It was their idea. She’s 13 and in the equivalent of grade three, but now she’s going to school steadily. And playing volleyball.
The other groups have had the same kind of impact. Phionah’s group supports a poor family of three small kids to go to school, giving them clothes, soap, shoes and notebooks. Again, from their pocket money.
Britah’s Community Project Team, the “Save Lives Group,” decided that their project would be to help out in the local hospital. Rural Ugandan hospitals are a place to receive medical care, but nothing else — you bring your own bedsheets, food, soap, wash your own bedding. People in hospital are described as being “admitted” and need a person with them at all times.
“We went to the hospital four times. The first time was to seek permission from the doctor to do our project. He became our friend. We were eventually no longer strangers, we are now part of them.”
Britah’s team went to the local hospital to wash clothes and bedding for people, to “slash the compound” (cut the grass) and do washing up for the nurses. They imagined and planned the project themselves, and went by themselves to the hospital to arrange it.
“It was a bit weird at first,” said Britah. “We talked to the patients and they thought we were doing a punishment. Then they found we were very kind and they appreciated.”
After their first time, they thought they it would be more interesting if they switched roles, and the second time the girls slashed the compound and the boys did the washing. They also had the younger, shy team members do the talking with the nurses and doctor.”This small experience is helping us get big ideas.”
The third time, they noticed that the hospital wasn’t very clean. There was dried blood on the floor, and there were not gloves to scrub with. “We didn’t want to, but we had to hustle hard and just do it.” They pooled their pocket money and bought liquid soap, detergent and gloves and scrubbed the hospital floors and equipment.
We asked them how it felt to give up their pocket money, pointing out that this is what all of our donors have to do to support them. “It made me feel you’re a big girl now, it’s a responsibility.”
“It’s a bit of a challenge, giving our pocket money,” said Phionah. “It squeezes us.” “We know,” we said. “Us too!”
Next term, everyone agreed, they will support the projects not just from their own pocket money, but from doing fundraisers themselves.
“We are the Canadian community team,” we said. “You’re now doing what we do.” They will keep doing this kind of work after they’re done with Niki, they agreed. “When you have any money, you have to help others.”
Six of the Niki youth finished secondary school in December and did the three month Kibo leadership program early this year. “It taught me so much,” said Brenda. “What I thought was far, is near.”
Our vision for this work was to develop community leaders. That vision isn’t the future anymore. Yesterday, I had wave after wave of realizing that for us, what was far, is here.