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Help Us Help Girls

Happy International Women's Day!

"Aunt Lisa" . . . that's what they call me. Let's be honest, "Mommy" is my favorite title. But "Aunt Lisa" is a close second. Especially because I love these girls like they are my own children. Let me introduce you to them (going from left to right):

  • Eve--she is 15 years, quiet, very thoughtful and inquisitive, and almost always smiling.

  • Joanne--she is almost 18 years, shy until she knows you well, has a flare for the dramatic, and happy to be around others.

  • Suuya--she is 7 years, loud and energetic, loves to play, and always wants to be with friends.

  • Sanyu--she is 20 years, easily embarrassed, has big dreams, and always has an encouraging word.

  • Joy--she is 15 years, loves dancing, doesn't talk a lot, but will freely give you a smile.

One thing that the 4 older girls all have in common is that they are hard workers (like any small child, Suuya is still learning to work hard). Eve, Joanne, Sanyu, and Joy have all been part of a common custom in Uganda where girls go to work as maids in other homes, often at quite young ages. This custom isn't meant as a punishment for the girls--in fact, it's meant as the opposite, a way to help.

Parents who can't care for all of their children will send 1 or more of their daughters to stay with a family that they know and trust. The girl helps with the cooking, cleaning, and caring for children in that home. In return, the girl has a place to sleep and food to eat. The parents have a bit of their financial burden lifted, and they have the peace of mind, knowing that their daughter is being fed. Sometimes, in the best situations, the girl even gets paid some money or the family will help with her school fees. But it does mean this girl is away from her own family, and it is hard work.

Ten years ago, Sanyu was a maid in my sister-in-law's home (even though she was only 10 years old). Sanyu learned a lot of skills during those years--skills that will help her when she someday has her own home. But thankfully, Sanyu was also able to attend school. She didn't get to attend as much school as she wanted, but she has the equivalent of a high school diploma in America.

Recently, Eve was staying at my sister-in-law's home, taking over Sanyu's position as the maid. Again, Eve has learned useful skills. But she was so excited in January to be able to return to school. Due to the pandemic, schools in Uganda have been closed for nearly 2 years! Schools just re-opened in January, and Eve was blessed to be able to return to her family home and continue her schooling. (Same story for Joanne.)

But then there is Joy. Unlike Sanyu, Joanne, and Eve, Joy is from the village. Joy's family lives in Namutumba County--the same county where my husband's family is from. Joy has never had the opportunity to attend school. She doesn't speak English. She doesn't read or write. She works for my sister-in-law as a maid, and earns some money for her family that way. She would love to attend school, but that has just never been an option. And now, her family wants her to get married. Joy is only 15 years old! Most likely, she would be married to an old farmer. Her life would be cooking for her husband, cleaning for her husband, working his land for him, and taking care of any children he might have from previous marriages. And that is ALL her life would be if she were to be married right now.

And it breaks my heart.

Every day, more that 30,000 girls become child brides. Around the world, over 130 MILLION girls are not attending school. And there is definitely a correlation between these 2 statistics. The more education a girl receives, the less likely she is to becoming victim of: being a child bride, suffering sexual assault or domestic violence, or becoming pregnant as a teenager.

But the fact is: girls are not receiving education, and girls are becoming wives and mothers before they have even been allowed to become women!

Ok, so education may not be able to solve EVERY problem in the world, but it can definitely solve THIS problem!

It hurts my heart that Ivuukula International School is not yet built. Because girls like Joy would have a place to go to school if IIS was already a functioning school. I keep thinking that if we could quickly raise the money and build IIS before Joy turns 18, then she could work as a dorm monitor for our school, and she could finally get an education through our adult education program. Can I build IIS in time to help Joy before she gets married off? I don't know. . . I know I can't do it without a lot of help.

So if you are reading this, even if it is not International Women's Day when you are reading this post, please think about the girls in your life. Would you want them to be like Joy--wondering every day if you are going to be allowed to grow up before you get married? If you would want something better for the girls in your life, then please help me give something better to these girls in Uganda! Truly, no amount is too small.

Help us help girls.

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