(Today’s #10outof10 post is from Emily Ryan, one of our staff serving the children in Uganda.)

There are approximately 17.1 million children below the age of 18 in Uganda. Of those children, 96% are considered vulnerable and 8.1% are critically vulnerable*. These are the children we work with – the marginalized, the orphaned, the abused, the disabled, and the homeless. As one child stated, they “are not cared for by anyone…” But Sixty Feet is working, day-by-day, to change that. We are working to show them we care, we are working to show them their life has value and purpose.

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One category of critically vulnerable children whom we interact with daily is children who experience various forms of abuse. The abuse manifests itself in different ways, whether it’s emotional, physical, sexual or verbal, but it affects almost all children we encounter. Their stories are staggering, heartbreaking at best.

A dad says he will kill his son if his son returns home. A step-mom refuses to welcome her child home and rejects him. A father threatens to burn a house down with all 6 of his children inside. A mom says she is taking her child to school, only to take him to M1. A guard mercilessly beats a child, only to comment later that he beat the wrong child. A three year-old baby girl sits in court because a 16 year-old boy raped her.

This brokenness, this rift in families between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers is foreign and unnatural to me. I grew up knowing at a deep level that my parents loved me, and from that love, grew trust. I had faith that my parents would protect me, lead me, and love me despite anything I did. This love produced confidence and independence based in freedom.

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The children we see, live in fear. They do not know what the next day holds; they do not know where they belong or where to call home. We begin the resettlement process and they are terrified; their parents reject them, their communities refuse them. They have been abandoned, rejected, bruised, and beaten. They tell me their stories through tear-filled eyes; they have not experienced the freedom of love.

So we sit in that gap. We work and pray that they will come to know and trust our counselors, social workers, teachers, and friends. We pray their hearts will heal and learn to trust. Out of this trust grows relationship, hope, and ultimately freedom.

(*Uganda National Household Survey 2009/2010)

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