“This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made,” she belts out. A group of children gathers around her. There’s a 5- or 6-year-old girl carrying her infant brother on her back, a boy with oozing sores on his skin, and a dozen other kids, some wearing tattered clothing because it’s all their parents can afford. A few children stand out from the others. Their clothes are in good condition, they’re wearing shoes, and they’re smiling. A couple of them start to sing along — they learned this one at their Compassion child development center.
Sponsored children’s distinctly hopeful spirits illuminate this crime-ridden neighborhood, where Mariam, her three siblings, and their mother, Goretti Namata, live in a rented clay home with a leaky roof. Floral curtains divide the living area from the family’s bed. Just outside the door is a cooking area and a heap of charcoal that Goretti sells. But she doesn’t sell enough to meet all her family’s needs. After all, her customer base lives in the same impoverished neighborhood and can’t afford to buy much charcoal. Her husband, who helps with the charcoal business, recently moved in with another woman down the street. Adding further stress for Goretti, she worries that her home will be bulldozed.
“We’ve already received notices from the government that they want to destroy this whole place, remove all these ramshackle houses,” Goretti says. “They could get rid of us at any time.”
Despite these ongoing hardships, the family’s situation has improved immensely over the past eight years.
When Compassion’s local church partners in Kampala first visited the slum to offer help to families there, they found Goretti feeding tea to newborn Mariam. They asked why she wasn’t breast-feeding the baby, and Goretti said she couldn’t afford formula and was afraid she would give her daughter HIV, which Goretti had been diagnosed with in 2005.