the falling out from standing up.

I’m at an internet cafe on limited time and money, so bear with typos…there won’t be much editing to this post.

I feel like my posts are continually getting more and more negative, I’m sorry.  This is my journey.  All of it, the good and the bad.  I want to tell this story as objectively as possible, but it is only one side.

About a week or so ago, Peter was caned for hitting Auntie as she tried to stop him from hitting Moses.  Peter was in the wrong, agreed.  However, the volunteers who witnessed the event (myself included) were appauled at the barbaric means used to punish the children.  I am by no means against physical punishment, I was spanked for doing bad things and slapped for backtalking.  However, I was never, ever hit with a stick.  And there’s something about the force a small piece of wood can yield that makes it disgusting to me that it can be used on children.  The aftermath of that evening had a lot of the volunteers up in arms about the methods of discipline here.  Often the children are threatened with “jakookooba” meaning “I’ll beat you” when they are doing something wrong.  Not often are explanations given.  Regardless, up until last night that was the only time a cane had been used.

Begin last night.

I was just finishing my bucket bath as I saw Ruth leave the volunteers room with a cane.  Ruth has been really stressed out from being overworked and preparing a proposal for her studies.  And a prime time for me to go home would have probably been a week and a half ago as I’m finding myself exhausted in every aspect of my life and my tolerance lessening.  I follow Ruth outside because I have to pee.  I see her threatening the children with the cane and talking about biscuits (Kate’s biscuits, bread and chocolate had gone missing during the day).  All the children are gathered around and she’s specifically yelling at Moses and Ronald.  I assume she’s just giving all of them a nasty talking to and using the cane to emphasize her point.  I continue to the latrine.

As I’m squatting I hear it.  Thack number one is followed by a little boy whimpering.  I hurry out of the latrine and see Ruth scolding Ronald and telling him to get back on the ground in the position to get caned again.  I will not stand for seeing this again.  It’s gross and while it may be acceptable in the Ugandan culture (though it’s outlawed by the government), it is not acceptable to me.  I’m not trying to ethnocentric, I’m trying to be humane.  I came here to love on these children and not watch them get hit.  So I speak up. 

“Ruth…RUTH, I really don’t think this is the appropriate way to punish them.  Really, this isn’t good.”

She looks at me and talks making three points while raising her voice.  1) The method of punishment “we” (volunteers) suggest isn’t working.  (It’s not working because it’s not enforced.)  2) If I don’t want them to get punished then I shouldn’t complain about things being stolen.  (It’s not that I don’t want them to punished, it’s that I don’t want them to get caned.)  And 3) If I don’t want to see them get caned than I should go inside.  (Turning a blind eye to the action I disagree with doesn’t mean it stops.) 

I got emotional as I often do in confrontational situations and Big Brother takes me inside to hear my point and attempt to calm me down.  Up until now, Chani was the only other volunteer witnessing the cane situation.  The hot mess that I was in the kitchen attracted the attention of the rest of the volunteers who went outside to try to stop whatever was going on.

After talking to Big Brother I went into my bedroom to be a bit more emotional.  After the crowd cleared, I heard Ruth talking in Luganda outside.  I heard my name and “disrespect.”  Admittedly, the timing of my speaking up wasn’t the best.  It was disrespectful to Ruth because it undermined her authority, which wasn’t my intention.  I just didn’t want the kids getting hit with a stick anymore.  Eventually Marta came to talk to me.  I started crying more.  The other volunteers came in and reassured me that what I did was ok.  Ruth and I didn’t say a word to each other.

I go to sleep.

This morning, Ruth and Bernah enter the bedroom early to clean it.  I mention something nicely to Ruth about my old cut water bottles not being rubbish.  Her response: silence.  Eventually I work up the nerve to ask Bernah and Chani to leave so I can have a moment alone with Ruth.  Ruth objects and meets me with resistence.  Both girls leave, but Bernah comes back.  I proceed to apologize to Ruth about the timing and that I didn’t do with the intent to disrespect her, but moreso to stop the action I was against.  Her response: silence.

I don’t know about the situation.  She’ll be gone for most of my remaining time here, but I have relationships with dischord.  It’s frustrating and heartbreaking.  This morning she sent a text to all the volunteers saying she is going to stop Another Hope?  Again, frustrating and heartbreaking.

2 Chronicles 20:12b –  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.

I love you and I miss you, but please pray for some sort of reconcilation.

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4 responses to “the falling out from standing up.

  1. Aww man…my heart breaks reading this. I will definitely be praying for you girl!! Hope things get better before you come home! So I counted…22 days and you will be home. I’m really looking forward to seeing your face!! and looking at all your pictures…and hearing about all your adventures. Love you!!!!

  2. oh my, colleen… i dont know what to really say to make you feel better about any of this. i think it goes without me saying that i would have most certainly done the same! i dont agreed with too harsh of punishment. and WHO could beat those darling kids, let alone any kid, with a cane? thats a bit much.

    anyways- i’m thrilled that my comment might post, b/c i’ve had no luck with pirated internet lately. and i havent gone to visit anyone with internet, b/c i’ve had lots of family sutff going on. i’m going to TRY to email you ASAP though! i feel so terrible.

    i’m thinking of you all the time…even have a countdown on my phone for when you arrive home! the sleepover plans are coming along nicely. we just need to work out the actual dates.

    LOVE YOU and MISS YOU

  3. Colleen. One thing you are awesome at is always speaking your feelings. I on the other hand bottle everything up to a boiling point and still keep it hidden. Honestly I don’t know what I would have done. And the fact that you tried to talk to Ruth is heroic. I would have let the silence endure until I left and let that be that. You stood up for a child and that shows amazing character and love.

    I too have had my fair share spankings, and mouth washings, and yes…my parents used yardsticks and flyswatters. But there is something in our culture that cringes at the thought of a cane and our gut reaction is to stop it.

    I pray that communication between you and Ruth will open up again. I pray that Ruth won’t be disheartened and will continue to fight for these children. And I pray that one day I will win the biggest lottery jackpot known to man so I can buy Uganda.

    I love you. Stay strong.

  4. Wow! I could not imagine witnessing what you did!!! I’m glad you spoke up as I agree w/you about that sort of punishment being too cruel. You are definitely in my prayers & I have all the admiration in the world for ya lady!

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