Beliefnet
O Me of Little Faith

Here’s Part 2 of Daniel’s story, which began yesterday in this post. Daniel is a teenage performer with Spirit of Uganda, a group of musicians and dancers (most of whom are orphans) who are touring the U.S. right now as the public face of Empower African Children.

Read Part 1 of Daniel’s story.

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When he turned five, Daniel began primary school, where he was taught math and English along with 100 other students in mud houses with dirt floors. The young children sat on mats called obulagos, because only grades 4 to 7 had benches for sitting. Everyone was poor, but some children wore a uniform of khaki shorts and blue shirts. Daniel went without because his family was unable to afford the clothing. All the students says barefoot. “There wasn’t a single pupil in the school who wore shoes,” Daniel recalls. “Even now, you would never find a child with shoes in that school, because all the children come from poor families.”

Before long, Daniel’s father became ill with a mysterious disease and spent a full year in the hospital in Mbarara. “I always asked my mother where my father was, but she never told me,” he says. “I was too young to understand what was going on. I thought that he had left to look for work in the city.” During that year, Daniel’s mother had to stop working in order to care for his father, relying on neighbors to provide food for her children.

Daniel’s father eventually returned home —Daniel remembers him looking “very thin” — but died soon after. Following the burial, Daniel learned from his mother that his father had been a victim of AIDS. “She did not explain what this disease was, so I did not understand it,” he says. “I never asked any questions.” Within the next year, Daniel’s little sister died, too. “My mother was very sad but she remained strong,” he says, but it didn’t last long. A year later, Daniel’s mother died of AIDS.

“I was so scared,” Daniel says. “I did not know what would happen to me.” Daniel was sent to live with his elderly grandparents. He had to leave school because they couldn’t afford the school fees, so Daniel was put to work tending to his grandfather’s four cows. Several years passed until his grandfather decided to sell one of the cows in 2003, and with that money Daniel was finally able to return to school.

His grandfather died in 2005 at the age of 97. A month later, Daniel’s 98-year-old grandmother passed away, and he found himself orphaned yet again. Eventually he went to live with an uncle in the capital city of Kampala, where he experienced a significant culture shock. “I had never seen electric lights and running water in a house,” he says. “I had never seen television.” He enrolled at the local primary school. Daniel’s uncle worked with Kitala Dramactors, a local troupe that performed traditional music and dance, and before long, Daniel became a member of the group. Soon he had attracted the attention of his uncle’s friend, David Kasata, the assistant artistic director of Spirit of Uganda. In June of 2007, Daniel joined Spirit of Uganda. “My life is so good now,” he says. “I feel that there is hope for me now.”

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Daniel’s story sounds extreme, but the truth is that so many Ugandan orphans have stories heartbreakingly similar to his. These are the kids Empower African Children is devoted to reaching through their work on behalf of the orphaned and vulnerable children of Uganda.

Learn more at the Empower African Children/Spirit of Uganda tour blog.

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