Following the interviews, the village put on a presentation for us. This presentation was festive, full of life, and everyone in the audience was laughing and having a great time.
The politician then organized a few of us into a group to present the villagers with a suitcase of donations we had put together for the visit. The villagers quickly moved in, surrounding us completely. The women handed children their babies, making them seem like better candidates for the goods, and the children crowded the front of the table for at least 30 feet, “lining up” to receive their share.
We distributed the first stuffed dog, then all hell broke loose. The desperation on these people’s faces will forever be burned into my mind. They were tugging at our arms, pleading for just one sheet, just one towel; babies screamed as they were being crushed among bigger children, a woman ran into the mob to grab her crying child that was being trampled under the other children’s feet. All of this for a suitcase of forgotten t-shirts and 8 packs of crayons. The politician shoved his way through and grabbed the suitcase before even a third of the donations were given out.
These were smiling faces not moments before. I have never been so terrified, helpless, stunned, and deeply saddened. As I worked my way through people to the bus in a daze, my eyes filled with tears while a woman with two fingers begged me for money, and another woman grabbed my shirt and said, “I just need one of these.” Never have I wanted to stay and help, yet get the hell out of somewhere as badly.
This is the Africa that no one sees until you are there. This is real need.
Finally inside the armor of the bus, the floodgates broke loose and we turned to go back to Lira. Out my window, I tried to avoid the broken faces of people we had let down. Looking up once, I found the faces of the sisters in the blue and purple. Our eyes met, and above all other noise they started chanting my name, “Sah-ruh.”