Children of Peace – Entry 13
The roads to terror transform into clouds of dust-love as the white, government issued 4 x 4 dyed red, transports jerry cans, art supplies, mattresses and three strangers towards the final month of the Mami Wata Art Therapy Project with a common intention of serving as many children of war as physically possible. One last visit to the compound of Friends of Orphans was written within the blood washed Earth; with open ears our vehicle slowed to a halt in front of the gates of education and hope. “Yeah, Yeah!” echo out from nearly three-hundred blue jumpsuits as the former abducted youth came running for an extra, surprise goodbye hug and photos. Jobs, our student who lost his ability to hear in the war, jumps in front of the rolling camera and shared his love with a smile to die for and rapid hand movements of breath taking emotion! “YEAH,YEAH!” I holler one last time into the setting sun and with a tear in my eye, off we drive towards a cozy home, a proper toilet, and a shower spigot that actually sprays water.
On the other end of the country Steven, Jacquie and their taxi driver face the rush hour of Kampala, where traffic laws have sunk into forgotten myths that may or may not have ever existed. The driver watches their bus depart from the Gaga station 5 blocks ahead. A fast pursuit through polluted traffic ensues and within their first hour in Central Africa, Steven is sprinting down the center lane. After a few hundred meters the wild, purple Canadian vaulted into the moving bus and found fifty surprised Ugandan faces staring back at a sweaty “Muzungo.” “Yo, this is our bus and I have two seats pre-paid for Jacquie and Steven, #30 & 31.” The deep chord of curiosity struck within the locals were a mirror images on the faces of the security guards at the Dubai International Airport only hours before. Tinctures, tins of herbs, a hockey puck, tuning forks, a leather wrapped flute, a female body of tattoos, plus 100 pounds of art supplies transferred from plane, to plane, to plane, to taxi, to bus, to my motorcycle; their dream has come true!
It has been an adventure to say the least for each member of the Mami Wata Art Therapy Project to arrive. Last month “Emma-Tall” was even driven 5 hours out of the way to a completely different city; however, this “unfortunate” event led her through the Northern Ugandan country side full of Hippopotamus and elephants along the side of the road. Everything happens for a reason. Three days before the departure of Steven and Jacquie it was unclear if they were even coming, and yet, we all divinely awoke Friday morning together in the beautiful home of Jane and David, the founding members of Children of Peace Uganda. Red roofs, green vegetation and a condemned four-story apartment building converted into a school, can all be tasted from a glance out the bedroom window.
Endless stories of current politics and past terrors opened our minds and hearts as we sort through piles and piles of art supplies. Thumping and bellowing of gospel music marinate the sound waves as we practice chi gong, aerial yoga and knock around the football. 200 neighboring students gaze through the broken brick fence at these odd looking creatures straight out of a far away movie. It is hardly believable after the suffering of Northern Uganda that the people can embody such soft accents and a depth in their eyes that have grown over several lifetimes.
The first visit to the Integrated School of Lira, one of the 3 schools we will be working with, fell upon the day of family visitation, one of four during the year. The children in our art therapy class are those who do not have loved ones who can come to visit, as the majority lay buried in the mass grave of the Balonyo memorial site. Within a blink of an eye and a smile we have become their family they look forward to seeing. There are so few words that can explain the emotions that arise when a school yard of hundreds of little people come sprinting, smiling and shouting your names in adorable Ugandan english accents. The stage has been set and our group is excited to begin class and fly together with as many kids as possible. Fourty children have magically multiplied into over four-hundred…Let’s do this!
With Love & Respect,
Benjamin & The Mami Wata Crew!