There are many reasons why we are drawn to do service work in Uganda. The need is very pressing, the people are friendly, and English is an official language which is useful for our ability to serve. Among our reasons for working in Uganda, Caleb Rukundo is a key factor. To me, he is the modern-day George Mueller. Imagine if you had lived during George Mueller’s time, wouldn’t you have wanted to work with him? Every year we ask Caleb, “What can we do for you?” And every year it is something for the kids: a dinning hall, a dormitory, a kitchen and now a beautiful new school. This year Caleb said, “come see my home village”.
Caleb didn’t mean to become separated from his parents. He was 7 years old and strong and independent, but hungry. He was one of 12 children and sometimes his family didn’t have enough, so one day he went off to find food. He got lost and ended up wandered as a 7-year-old nearly 200 miles to Kampala. He was “rescued” and put to work in a boy’s home. He was given an education but had to work hours a day in hard physical labor. He became the top student and earned scholarships which made it possible for him to attend one of the best secondary schools and ultimately Makerere University.
He decided he wanted to dedicate his life to help other children that have become separated from their families, as well as orphans and other vulnerable chidlren. He has started 3 children’s homes for orphans and vulnerable children, including children that have been separated from their families. The homes aim to, “Rescue, Rehabilitate and Resettle” children. As an adult, he returned to his village and they were, and still are curious “why he does so much for others? He should be doing something for his own birth community.”
Caleb’s village is a considerable distance away from the Amahoro projects in central Uganda. It is only about 75 kilometers from the border with Rwanda. However, we decided to make the trip out so southwestern Uganda to experience Caleb’s village, meet his family, and serve in some small way in his village. We got to meet, sing and dance with the villagers. We also got to meet his mother and several of his brothers and sisters and sit with them in her house. After meeting Caleb’s family, we hiked to the top of a nearby mountain. At the village, we also attended two schools, including a school Caleb attended as a little kid.
There aren’t many day trips worth driving 4 hours there and back for. This was special and certainly worth it. Our first stop was with Paul Natuhumuriza at a school he is running. He is attempting to establish a high quality modern school in a very rural area. He looked and acted so similar to Caleb that when he asked his 100+ students, they thought Caleb was his brother. Educated in UK and somehow with a kindred spirit and farming excellence Paul was doing everything right. His school thrived, he had chickens, pigs, turkeys, bee hives and goats all doing well. Probably the best setup we have seen. The kids help take care of the animals for the school. In turn this raises money for the school to pay for the teachers, buildings and supplies.
Our next stop was to visit with Caleb’s family. On a beautiful grassy knoll his mother, sisters and brothers all have separate clean cute and airy homes. His mother was obviously proud her lost boy has returned and done well.
When Caleb was a small boy he used to play on the mountain behind his house. He wanted us to hike to the mountain top to see the views. Caleb said that, “It would be an easy hike, and would take maybe 45 minutes”. It was exceptionally beautiful, but most of our group might differ on the easy and the duration. We hiked down the mountain to the center of his village. For many it was there first time seeing Muzungus (white people).
We met the school children at a nursery school near Caleb’s family home. We distributed exercise books and pencils to the students and handed out 150 mosquito nets for the community and the students. We also gave medicines out for any obvious ailments. Caleb wanted to wait a year before overwhelming them with a full medical team. The community spontaneously broke out in song and dance. Caleb eyes were watery, apparently it was an old song about a boy returning home to do good for his people.