Christmas Appeal - Uganda
‘’You are my refuge and my shield…" – Psalm 119:114
The rain is coming down fast and heavy, flooding parts of the dirt road and making it slippery for the small group of young children walking in the darkness. Hushed chatter can be heard, interrupted by the sound of the engine from a motorbike in the distance. Having walked for several kilometres already, mostly on an empty stomach, they are starting to fatigue. But the children know the dangers of walking these paths and do not dare to stop.
Just weeks earlier, on the exact same road, a group of three young girls were violently snatched as they were walking to school. While one girl managed to escape, her two friends have not been seen since.
Sadly, although it is rare, abduction and child trafficking is a terrifying reality in rural areas in Uganda. Local missionary and head teacher, Sister Cecilia Namudira, together with her fellow Cistercian Sisters of Charity, runs the Mother Claudia Nursery and Primary School, a place that not only provides education for children, but also a safe home to board during the term, instead of travelling long and dangerous routes.
“I fear for the safety of the children every day. We ask them to walk together in groups as very few parents can afford to send the children to school on boda bodas (motorbikes). For the girl child, walking these distances increases their vulnerability to possible situations of sexual abuse and exploitation.” – Sister Cecilia
The Christmas story tells of Mary and Joseph being turned away before a kind heart offered them much-needed safety and shelter in the stable. In a similar way, Sister Cecilia and the Cistercian Sisters have begun to offer shelter for some of the children at Mother Claudia. The boarding arrangement initially started with children sleeping in classrooms and staff rooms as there was no boarding house. With the need so great and urgent, the Sisters simply could not wait until they had the funds to build a boarding house.
As the school continues to grow and attract the interest of more parents and children—mainly because of the quality of education the Sisters offer and the Christian values they instil—there is an urgent need to complete two dormitories, including the water and toilet facilities needed for the boarding students, and also to build more dormitories and new classrooms.