What We’re Doing
In response to what we learned about “M” and the other facilities, we formed a team to begin to address many of the needs – both short and long-term. We focus on many areas but they all fall into one of three categories: relief, rehabilitation or development.
Relief is what brought us to “M”. We wanted to relieve the suffering by providing immediate aid. Initially, the relief was going to be in the form of water and thus the name “Sixty Feet.” However, it expanded to include food, medical care, clothing, and bedding. Need we mention the copious amounts of love.
Rehabilitation also grew out of what we saw when we arrived at “M”. We had a desire to empower Ugandans to assist in the mission and to help the children beyond immediate relief. We wanted to make a more lasting impact. Education is a key component of this, but we also felt that Ugandans had to be a critical part of the team. We don’t have all the answers and we certainly don’t want to pretend like we do. Our local team provides an invaluable contribution and we hope to encourage and build them up in this work as well. We would much rather work with them to bring restoration than do this on our own.
Development came from a desire to remove the most vulnerable children. We want to work towards a comprehensive restoration that includes spiritual, emotional and physical healing. As we develop the first SixtyFeet home, we ultimately hope to train the children up in the way they should go and create a family-like community that is sustainable. We are confident that future leaders of Uganda will rise up out of these facilities.
Ultimately, our overall objective is summarized in our mission statement: “Bringing hope and restoration to the imprisoned children of Africa, in Jesus’ name.” Jesus is paramount to the mission and to everything we do. No matter how we are serving, the gospel is front and center. Following are some areas where we are specifically working to bring hope and restoration.
Our medical team consists of 3 full-time nurses. They travel with the team to each facility on their daily visits and conduct clinics where they are able to treat any children with medical issues or illness. Additionally, we an have agreement with the Palmetto Clinic to help us serve the medical needs in some of the more remote facilities which we are not able to attend to as regularly, and we are seeking similar arrangements so that all the facilities can receive adequate medical treatment on a regular basis. When necessary we take children to the hospital for surgeries and remain with them until they recover.
The painful reality is that we know children will always be at “M” and the other facilities. Uganda has the 2nd highest population growth rate in the world right now. It is estimated that their population could quadruple from about 33 million to an eye popping 130 million in less than four decades! So these facilities are likely to be much more crowded rather than less. The number of children subjected to neglect and abuse is likely rise rather than decline, and the need should grow at unprecedented rates.
So we want to be sure the facilities meet the basic needs of the children (especially as the population continues to grow). Since the facilities themselves are quite old, they need a bit of work. We have done a few sanitation projects but there is much more to do. Power, water, and clean sanitation are recurring issues. Some of the remand homes need to be rebuilt altogether while others just need some work. Where work shops and vocational training are possible on site, we want to help to restore that function so the intended purpose of the facilities is actually being carried out. There is much to do in this area. We don’t want to do what the government should be doing. But we don’t want the children to suffer either. It’s a delicate balance that we wrestle with daily.
Our counseling staff, led by Fred Kakungulu, have a wide range of experience from which to draw when dealing with the issues brought to them by the children in the facilities. Their first step is to meet with the children one-on-one and begin to build a rapport with them and earn their trust. Once they are willing to open up, it is possible to begin learning their story and working through the tough issues each one of them faces. We have also begun to develop partnerships with organizations like eXile International which specializes in the care and treatment of children who have experienced the trauma of war and displacement.
It is always an honor for us to share the Word of God. Whether through preaching in the prisons, Bible studies in our homes, or providing Bibles to the children, we never miss an opportunity to share the love of Jesus and the riches of His Word.
This area for SixtyFeet has a lot of potential for bringing both hope and restoration for the imprisoned children. Many of the children that we encounter in the facilities are lacking a voice that can speak on their behalf and as a result, they languish for much longer than should ever be necessary. In fact, some estimates indicate that nearly 85% of the children should never have been exposed the juvenile penal system at all. Yet they are incarcerated.
We have begun doing what we can to lobby on behalf of the children and try to make sure each one’s case is being addressed, but it is not enough. Recently we hired a part-time juvenile advocate whose sole responsibility is to work with the government officials to ensure each child’s case is heard timely and that they are treated fairly. We want to get them out of the system as promptly and efficiently as possible. Additionally we are seeking partnerships with organizations whose sole purpose is the advocacy of children’s rights in the remand homes.
This aspect of the ministry permeates practically every other area and every interaction with the children. As much as anything it is how we model the character of Christ before the children. Specifically and more practically, mentoring of the children involves being there for them. Showing up when we say we will show up. Being reliable and accountable for our actions. Treating each other with respect and honor. Handling every situation with grace and patience. And then, since we are human, asking forgiveness when we fail.
When we remove children, mentoring requires a deepening relationship. We want the children to know that they are part of a family and deeply cared for. By and large, these children do not have role models – especially adult males – to whom they can go for guidance, wisdom, counsel or a trusted person to confide in.
Please check out our “How You Can Help” page for ways to give and also to find out what that money will be used for.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11.