By Helen Burningham, who works with Children at Risk Action Network in Uganda
I have now worked overseas for three years. It has been a rich experience, from taking that first step onto a plane on 18 January 2013, to where I am now. I thank God for being with me every step of the way. If someone had told me the places I would visit, the joy I would feel, the unexpected turns that would be endured, I would have hesitated, but I am glad that I did it.
Last year it was a privilege to meet Mary and Josephine (names changed). Mary had joined the Creative Learning Centre (CLC) in early 2015 and was pregnant.
She had a challenging start to life, with her father dying when she was young and her stepfather being unkind and making her do domestic work rather than allowing her to go to school. She sought affection elsewhere and at 16 became pregnant. Then she learned that her boyfriend was married and already had a child.
Mary came to the CLC feeling vulnerable. CRANE (Children at Risk Action Network) initially supported Mary by taking her to a crisis pregnancy centre, where she learned about being a mother and was in a caring environment up to her delivery date.
She gave birth on 17 December 2015, and CRANE staff have now taken her back to her mother and brother (away from her stepfather) to care for her new child in a safe environment. She is living near the CLC and when she feels stronger, the teachers will give her lessons on using the sewing machine so she can learn a skill.
Last year I also met Josephine, who was 10 years old when she was raped. She had not shared this with anyone but finally, in extreme pain, she went to the doctor. She was told her that her uterus was now dysfunctional and had to be removed.
Mentors from CRANE heard her story and enrolled her at the CLC. Counsellors there have worked closely with Josephine. At first she felt that her life was over. However, slowly she began to rediscover hope and after some months she decided to go back to school.
Unfortunately, her living conditions were not adequate; she was staying with her grandmother who was working at a local bar. But amazingly a well wisher has now committed to sponsoring her to go to a boarding school where she can receive a good education in a safe environment.
Some stories emotionally stir me to the point where I feel motivated and inspired to work harder so that we can support even more girls to have a better future. There is real hope. One day at a time we are taking further steps forward and “so let us continue to fix our eyes forwards and press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” – Philippians 3:12.
May you sense God walking with you with each step you take, too.