This article was written by Pam Dolan
(Published in Belgrade News)
Ah February, the month Americans associate with Valentines Day and Love. Like other holidays, businesses monopolize on another financial commercialized opportunity. Yet Valentines Day is a positive excuse to show, tell, or think of others we love, to send them a small card or gift wrapped in pink or red. But Love is really much more than that.
In our American culture Love has been exploited, drastically distorted, turned inside out. The media has created a perspective very different from what Love truly is. Even our own individual disappointments or painful losses contribute to disillusionment of Love. Both a noun and a verb, Love is a scientifically proven element vital for human life and health. It is, in essence, what we were created by and for. After spending a month in Uganda Africa, I had the amazing opportunity to witness and experience love from a different perspective.
Immersed in the lives of 120 orphans who were rescued more than a decade ago and established in a life of community made up of themselves, three “Mamas,” a school headmaster, various teachers, an administrative coordinator, Papa Duncan and volunteers from beyond Africa who come to serve, love, and learn in this place known as Kasozi Village.
Kasozi began in 2002 as a vision in a man’s heart, a deep stirring to help children in the war-torn landscape of Uganda , devastated by disease and fragmented families. Kasozi means Hill in Lugandan. Kasozi is Duncan Hill, Papa Duncan, a Bozeman resident who founded Uganda Orphans Fund (2002) and Kasozi Village/Orphage in 2006. Somehow, Love overcame his heart to do something extraordinary, seemingly impossible.
Some of the children’s stories before Kasozi are tragic, unbearable. All of them have experienced abandonment and great loss. It is extremely difficult to overcome such painful experiences as a child, to heal from the inner most being, to be free from haunting memories and wounds to the soul. But I witnessed such overcoming in these children. They came to Kasozi as orphans but are orphans no longer.
In Africa, education is not free, it has a significant price. Kasozi hosts a primary school on the premises. All Kasozi children are educated. The oldest children, now entering high school, ride their bikes or board at distant secondary schools. A few go on to trade schools. They have become the leaders of the village. They help oversee the younger ones in daily tasks; hauling water (from the hand-pump well), working in the garden or food preparation, washing clothes (by hand), bathing (from a bucket), brushing teeth. They are mentors in character development and encouragement in education.
They are similar to children around the world, they are not perfect, but they are incredibly resilient. They are tall in stature and respect, walking out the miracle of discovering who they are and what they are meant for. They are the leaders in the church, meeting nightly to pray and thank God for all He has done for them. They are full of appreciation and joy for being alive, safe, cared for, loved.
On my last days at Kasozi, I found myself looking across the faces and landscape where the miracle of restoration has occurred. I thought of Jeremiah 29:11-13,
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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
These children of Kasozi exemplify these words, they are living miracles of a vision put on a man’s heart to do something extraordinary, to love beyond impossible and to welcome others to do the same.