The day I met Anisha, I was walking through the courtyard of Marah Christian Primary School observing all the students hootin’ and hollering, running around, and burning up their pent up energy from sitting in classes all day. It was my first day being in Uganda so as you can imagine, I was filled with amazement and awe at my surroundings. I was thousands of miles away from my comfortable home, family and friends. Nervous excitement pumped through my body. I walked around exploring the school, occasionally ducking in between playing children, who stared at me wondering who I was and what was I doing there.
As I watched the kids entertain themselves I came across a young girl, about 9 or 10 years old, who was sitting all by herself. She had a broken leg which was in a cast, forcing her to stay put while everyone else played. I immediately empathized with her. It’s not hard to realize how sucky of a situation that would be for a kid. Smiling I said, “Hello.” I sat with her and we chatted. I found out her name was Anisha. She was a bit shy but curious and she had the most beautiful big brown eyes I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure how long we sat there giggling, but we definitely became friends in that short period of time. Over the next few days of visiting the school I’d always make it a point to find her and invite her to sit with me. We were like two peas in a pod!
I began asking the case managers about her home life and how well her leg was healing. How long would she have to wear the cast before she could go out and be a kid with the others? They told me that they weren’t even sure if her leg was set properly to begin with and that she already had it reset once. They also told me that Anisha’s mother has been raising Anisha, along with her 3 younger siblings, all by herself for several months now. Apparently, the father left to go be with another wife and does not help the family in any way. The mother is barely scraping by to support them by cooking and selling cassava root. I became very concerned so I relayed all this back to the rest of Team Africa. First thing was first, we decided to take her to the Nile hospital to get her leg checked out. From what I gathered it was the only decent hospital around. Unfortunately though, they were not able to do an x-ray on her then. The hospital had just opened and wasn’t completely staffed or equipped for what we needed. We took Anisha back home. We realized that our time in Africa was probably going to run out before we’d be able to follow through with her leg situation. We’d need to have the case managers follow through for us and keep us posted on her progress.
For the remaining time I was there, I continued to spend time with Anisha and her family. I met her mother, Hajara, and her two little brothers and sister: Mutebi, Nakato, and Babirye. Nakato and Babirye are twins. Hajara is very beautiful as I expected, just like Anisha. She is just 27 years old and when I ask her about her husband she tells me that he just left one day. He gave no word as to where he was going, doesn’t visit, and doesn’t contribute anything to help with the kids. I remember thinking to myself, Well that’s kinda crummy. How could someone just abandon their wife and kids like that? But the truth is, I’ve heard this story is very common for women living in the slum. I also know all too well, because my own father abandoned my mom shortly after I was born. All that I could do in that moment was give Hajara some encouragement. Pray for her and pray for those kids.
After getting back from Uganda, I was absolutely engulfed in a whirlwind of emotions. I remained in contact with the case managers in Uganda and followed up with how Anisha was doing. They were finally able to get her to a hospital where they x-rayed her leg. It turned out that her leg was set incorrectly for the second time! I saw the x-ray. It was horrible. The doctors reset her leg AGAIN and this time the right way. I’m sure it was painful for Anisha but looking back on it, she narrowly avoided some serious long term problems. She might not have ever been able to walk again without crutches or without pain. It was such a simple thing that we did for her, but the impact was so great. Had I not sat with her, gotten to know her and asked some simple questions, she may not have ever had the chance of getting proper medical attention. I don’t know if I’d ever become aware of the challenges her and her mother face. I’m so glad I did because now I can advocate for them.
Becoming an advocate is a long-term commitment for me. I know that it doesn’t just end there for Anisha. She and her mom and younger siblings are going to continue to need encouragement and support. I can’t be there physically in Uganda all the time but I can continue to pour myself into their lives through the Wando letter writing program. It’s been an awesome tool to make a real impact in Anisha’s life. She knows that I am there for her emotionally, spiritually, and physically if she needs. This relationship I’m developing with her is impacting me as well. I feel like a big a sister now! I’d encourage anyone to become a child advocate. It’s absolutely free and tremendously rewarding!
This story was written by Liz, our Child Advocacy Program Director.