In June 2012, Kim Merry received a phone call concerning a volunteer enquiry for her local homeless charity Hope4Havering. The only difference between this enquiry and her regular was that these two men were coming straight from Uganda. Kim was about to recruit William Lwanyaga; without knowing that both their lives would change dramatically from that moment onward.
As William volunteered with Hope4Havering for four years, Kim came to know him well and understand truly where he came from; a small village in Kampala, which is the capital city of Uganda, where William was the pastor of the Miracle Faith Ministries Church. Having come from extreme poverty, William’s heart was for those in adversity. Along with his wife Juliet, he had built in his village the Miracle school and Orphanage, for children needing both an education and a home. This incredible man was across the world from his home and commitments yet stood volunteering his evenings to spread his love to the members of Kim’s local community.
An inspiration to all
Touched and inspired by William’s commitment to her community. Kim put together a team aged 16 to 60; each with different backgrounds and distinct values, but all united with one main mission: to choose love above all else. The founder of Sheru.org is part of this team. In 2016, after a year spent fundraising, the team travelled overseas to support this small community in Uganda.
Largely, time was spent construction building, painting, teaching, and of course playing and engaging with the children, most of whom hadn’t a family to go home to. Reaching out to this village was the first step to a world of possibilities for them and us; everyone was touched. Since then, different teams have emerged, and each has devised their own strategies to fundraise to help this small community in Uganda.
A story of the trip
From the first expedition, it was clear that this community, though strong in faith and love, lacked supplies necessary to care for its people. This urged the Choose Love project to fundraise for a wide range of medical supplies, from medicine(s) to mosquito nets, as well as providing professionals whom could complete medical and dental examinations.
The team structured days focusing solely on providing medical care and resources for the community. Making it clear that this was an open invitation; we expected around 200 people to come… with an unprecedented 500+ being seen! Clothes were distributed, and games, such as a very competitive football tournaments for the young, took place. Although exhausting, the compassion emanated throughout the entire day. Blessed through their kindness in words and delicious food, we were not alienated as outsiders, but welcomed as family.
We were taught that happiness is their choice
Yet, never had a greeting been filled with so much joy, hugging and exhilaration as one that can only be made through the welcoming of delighted children. As we entered the gates of the Miracle School and Orphanage, jubilance came flooding through. Hugging from left, right and centre; we were overwhelmed. These children whilst small had hearts that were bursting with love. Circumstances for most were dire, but all that mattered to them was that they could be received.
We circulated through the classes teaching Biblical stories, acting out ridiculous performances, singing, playing and of course teaching. From this, they shared about their family struggles; many struck by sickness, lack of food, homelessness; some having no-where at all but the school to call home. When a child, whom was just a minute earlier swinging from your arm and laughing hysterically, tells you that they haven’t any parents; you know that happiness is something to be chosen. Holding sports days, creative classes, teaching, and donations could not give the children all that they needed, but to them it was enough to bring cheer. They chose to smile through their struggle.
That is real strength.
Healing is part of the mission
Our mission is to aid people out of poverty, ill health, and poor circumstances; but further to heal hearts. We encountered a culture which beautifully honours and respects, yet additionally holds a heavy weight on shame. This can lead to isolation from the community, and refusal to ask for help when needed. Shame can come from anything whether it be around hardship, family affairs, or addiction.
William fully acknowledged this and set up a place where people with drug and alcohol addictions could find employment and receive support for their mental health. We met with brick-makers and car washers, each with their own story and centre of infamy. Through support, talking, praying and singing; our mission is to help break down those walls and let compassion do its healing.
Prisons, prostitutes and opportunities
Reaping with shame are buildings not more apparent than prisons. Both men and women, living in exile from the world; labelled criminal as their identity. Throughout the years we have visited five prisons in Uganda, both male and female; both high and low security. Some have committed crimes, some have been falsely accused, and others are still waiting 10 years for a trial that has been forgotten.
Even still, they were excited to have us there, many had formed musical groups and presented us with songs and thanksgiving. These people asked for prayer about the circumstances of their situation, but further about their anxieties over their families, their health, and how they will ever be forgiven. Our purpose is to show these people that they do deserve love.
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Brené Brown.
In order to tackle certain difficulties within cultures, we have begun a community outreach project, whereby we go out into the streets, with members of the Miracle Church, and teach them to openly express their love for their community. Armed with optimism and ‘Free Hug’ T-shirts, we stood in public with our arms wide and hearts open. It wasn’t long before members of the public wanted to hear from us and found that we indeed wanted to hear from them.
Our community project has since expanded from street work to meeting and talking with groups of prostitutes; where each woman entered the church with their heads down, yet left literally dancing across a red carpet.
Things that we very much take for granted become a blessing to people without easy access to education, medicine, clothes, daily meals, and homes. We believe that it is our responsibility to help those in privation and assist in the building of lives rather than ignore their toiling. It can seem to be a completely different world, which makes it rather effortless to overlook. Yet we were all born on this earth for a purpose, and so each one of us deserves at least the opportunity to live a fulfilled life.
Kim and William have a vision for Uganda and will keep moving forward with the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
Give today, feel it now, change forever.
Whether your heart is for children or for those living with shame, we can all help shape lives. Sheru.org is a platform for child sponsorship, whereby you can ensure that a child will receive an education and be provided a chance to thrive – founded off the back of these experiences by Michael Charalambous.
You can sponsor one of the children here: https://www.sheru.org/sponsor/africa/uganda/
Or give to the whole school here: https://www.sheru.org/help/miracle-primary-school/
Furthermore, clothes of all ages and medical supplies can be donated through Kim Merry at [email protected]. We will be fundraising all year round, and if you would like to donate use our JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/chooseloveuganda.