[For those of you who are new followers, you can catch up on the James stories under the menu “James.”]

The “James” followers among you may be wondering about James and his progress at the deaf school. We picked him up from the Kavule School for the Deaf about 3 weeks ago. The children were released two weeks early for their usual holiday which would normally be through the month of May. However, the drought-induced famine in Uganda has caused many food shortages, and one of these was at the school – they simply couldn’t feed the children, so they sent them home in April, two weeks earlier than the normal end of term.

As the Lord would have it, we happened to be in the area and could pick him up and transfer him to his holiday home, the family who have virtually adopted him since his arrival in this region 18 months ago. He stays with Catherine, a teacher whom he bonded with when he first arrived, and it is obvious that he considers her and her 3 sons to be his family. He is always overjoyed to see them.

My evaluation of James after about 18 months of schooling? We were presented with his grade report and had an opportunity to see some of his work. Remember, this boy had no formal language at age ten, having been deaf since birth, abandoned by his mother at five and his father at seven, misunderstood and barely cared for by his clan on Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria. He had never sat in a classroom when we found him. Now he is beginning to write sentences, his sign language has advanced to approximately 2nd grade level, and his grades in most subjects are strong and improving. He sits willingly through all his classes now and participates in class. He is liked and respected by his classmates.

This boy, now about twelve (of course, we have no way to tell his real age), is a different boy from the one we “rescued.” He runs to greet us with warm hugs. He smiles and laughs, and he even is beginning to warm up to Gail who is a bit behind the curve with him since she was not yet with me full-time when Alfred and I met James. His teacher tells us that he is learning so rapidly that he will be transformed (her word) by next Christmas. The headmaster continues to tell us that he will be a leader among the students in time.

One new ripple in the James saga: Due to the generosity of a new sponsor, we have rescued another deaf child. Her name is Faith (not her real name). She is seven and is a special friend of James. He watches out for her in a big brotherly way, and they are close friends. We have been aware of her for several visits now, but had learned late last year that her family was unable to continue paying her school fees, so she had been returned to her family in a town about 1.5 hours away without plans at that time to continue to send her to school.

Alfred with James and Faith.

However, her family returned Faith to the school because they know it is not good for her to stay home without any education among family members who can’t communicate with her except with gestures, even though they love her. Her mother died of AIDS two years ago, and so she is cared for by her disabled grandparents and her grandaunt. Though she returned to the school, the family could not pay the fees, so the school has been “absorbing” her costs as they do with many of the deaf children they take in.

Even as we arrived to pick up James and found Faith there at the school, the headmaster told us that the family requested that they please try to find some alternative to sending her home since they could not feed her because of the famine – they already have many other children to feed. At our request Catherine agreed to keep Faith also for this holiday, and we agreed to transport her, but we could not do so without “official authorization” from the family in writing, signed by a government official. As it turned out, our next week of scheduled teaching was in the same town where the family lived. We were able to meet her grandparents and the other children at their homestead outside the town and collect the signed document we needed. So now they know us and we know them, and all that is very good.

After our week of teaching, we returned to the school for Faith. She was very glad to see us – she was the last deaf child remaining at the school, the other students all having left for holiday, and I’m sure she was feeling alone and abandoned. We moved her to Catherine’s where she reunited with James. At first she was timid around the new “family,” and sad to have to say good-bye to us – we knew all of this swirl of activity, being picked up by musungus, driven in a car, dropped at some stranger’s home instead of at her own family, etc., had to be overwhelming to her, especially since we were unable to explain it to her – what confusion would go through the mind of a small deaf girl who has been bounced around quite a bit in the last two years? However, we have also learned to trust Catherine and her family.

Our trust was borne out when we had a brief opportunity the next morning to stop by to check on her and drop off some replacement shoes for both James and Faith. She was happily playing when we arrived, and she smiled and greeted us, and was perfectly adjusted, it seemed to us, to her new surroundings. Instead of being sad and sullen when we departed this time, as she had the day before, she hugged us and waved good-bye happily when it was time to leave.

So Faith is now part of the Meade International family through the gifts of her sponsor, and she will have an opportunity to flourish in the light instead of wilt in the shadows of Ugandan society, which is the fate of so many African deaf children.

(Please pray for Kavule Deaf School. The headmaster has shared with me that they are facing repeated food shortages for the foreseeable future. They need sponsors for unpaid students and help with their food budget. Hopefully, the food prices will come back down as the rains return, but this will take time. If you desire to help in some way, please contact us through the Comments section, or directly at bob@meadeinternational.org).

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