While I am in Jinja, I am staying with the Mukisa Family. My host home consists of 4 members- my host mom Maria, host dad, David, and house maid, Sarah. The family I live with is pretty well of- but I stress that is by UGANDAN standards. The extreme poverty I’ve seen in the last few weeks- be it through street children, or in the slums and rural villages we’ve visited, is much more representative of Jinja.
My host mom, Maria (32 years old), is a social worker at a local agency. David (31 years old), my host dad, runs his own business distributing pharmaceutical products in and around Jinja, and he is studying at a nearby university to become a pharmacist. Sarah (25 years old), their house maid, has been with the family for two years. Sarah and Maria are both Born-Again Christians, while David is Catholic. Most Ugandans I’ve met are born-again, and religion in general is extremely important here.
Living with a house maid been a little difficult getting accustom to, since I’m so used to living on my own back in Evanston. I’ve attempted to wash dishes and help with the cooking, but I can tell it usually just frustrates Sarah more. She has allowed my to hand wash my own laundry though. I’ve just come to understand that the Mukisas still see me as a guest (which is taken vary seriously in an Ugandan household), and I really appreciate the overwhelming hospitality they have already shown me.
And then, of course, there’s my 3-year old host brother, Solomon. Words cannot express how much I already love this little nugget! He is so content and pleasant ALL the time, even though he only has a total of three toys- a play piano, a small bike, and the toy truck I brought him from home (which keeps him occupied all day). Every day when I return from the office, he’s the first to welcome me home with a big smile. And most nights, he cannot go to bed without me rocking him to sleep.
He does not understand much English, though, so I mostly communicate with the nursery rhymes he’s learned at school so far. Here’s us singing his favorite:
And then I showed him my touch light (never got that back).
Last Tuesday, over dinner, my host mom told me about Solomon’s condition.
Solomon was born without an anus and fully developed intestines. The family has traveled to Kenya multiple times for routine surgeries (since this type of medical care in not available in Uganda). He now has a small hole in his abdomen that he defecates out of. His diet is heavily restricted because of this, but one of the biggest issues is that his bladder falls out of the hole several times a day, and the family must continuously push it back in.
There is only one doctor who they have identified that can help Solomon past just managing his symptoms. The problem- he works at John Hopkins’s Medical Center, and the family has no where close to enough money for the surgery and for the flight to the United States.
The days before she told me, Maria would always ask me about how Americans treated individuals with disabilities. She waited to tell me about Solomon’s condition because she feared I would treat him differently after I knew. But after I told them several members of my family, including my father, have hydrocephalus, she was assured I wouldn’t be judgmental. Solomon’s body is dis proportioned because of the disorder- his legs and arms are extremely skinny, while his stomach is usually large and bloated. Because of this, Maria rarely takes Solomon out in public, as many locals have accused her of practicing witchcraft while she was pregnant.
All of this was very hard to hear, but I am happy Maria was comfortable enough to open up about it. When I return to the United States (which unfortunately will not be until December because of study abroad), I hope to connect the family with a few organizations and possible donors I know would be more that willing to help.
Until then, the family is more than grateful for every day they are given with Solomon. His 3rd birthday is on July 16th, and I know in my heart God will bless him with a 100 happy more.