The Children – Wells of Hope Academy
by Rebecca Ginsburg, EJP Director
September 25, 2013
Yesterday was a sober day, though not without its joys. Today was all joy.
We visited the school that Wells of Hope runs for children of incarcerated parents. These children are among the most marginalized and neglected populations in Uganda. Children with mothers or fathers in prison are likely to be ostracized by family members and neighbors. They face a heavy social stigma and offer experience abandonment. To add to this burden, most come from poor families who would be stretched to provide education for them, even if they were so inclined. Against this background, Wells of Hope takes recommendations from committees of incarcerated men and women (in their respective prions) regarding whose children should be admitted into the school. Then the organizations’s personnel travel to the district where the child resides, typically in the rural areas. Once they’ve tracked the child down–it’s not so easy to find someone who may have been handed to a neighbor as a domestic worker or sold into slavery–they make an offer to the guardian: “We’ll pay the school fees of this child. Will you permit us to take him or her and enroll them in our boarding school outside Kampala?”
This is neither uncomplicated nor uncontroversial. What about the family of the victim? How does such intervention affect neighborhood interactions in a small, parochial rural community? For now, please put those good concerns aside (believe me, we’ve raised them), and just take a look at some of the photos I took today during the activities and performances that the students put on for us today. It’s clear that their teachers treat them with affection and respect. Some have emotional problems that are addressed through counseling, but it’s clear that these children are generally happy, healthy, and full of optimism. Ponder that these are the children whose fathers we met yesterday on death row and at the women’s maximum security prison. In some cases we recognized them as the offspring of the men and women we talked to and hugged yesterday, the ones who expressed such hope for their children’s future and gratitude for this intervention.
Running the school, including teacher salaries, supplies, food, and uniforms–costs $2,100/month.
Many of these children were found in rags, underfed and abused. Look at them now. It does not necessarily take a lot to turn a child’s life around, but at Wells of Hope they realize this is only the beginning. The larger aim is to create agents of change among the incarcerated men and women who will return to their home communities to work among the people there. This is very similar to EJP’s vision! I hope that we and Wells of Hope can work together in the future.