Love from B-Town to Uganda – a Dispatch from Resident Davy Desmond

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: We first met Burien resident Davy Desmond in 2010 when she worked for a local orphan relief organization. Here is a special dispatch from her from Uganda, where she travels frequently to work with children:]

Story & Photos by Davy Desmond

For the past few years, I have been traveling to Uganda. The moments passed rapidly on the long plane ride, because my heart was in my stomach rolling with excitement.

Now, years later, I’m still twitter-pated.

My heart and head are wrapped around a people group who yell daily ‘Muzungu!’ (“white lady!” in Luganda).  Over the years, my fondness has grown for them, as they have also taught me a steadfast love for others I have never possessed.

I started working here with the intention of helping people. Yet, like all good lessons, I ended up owning up to my own shortcomings. Where I lacked in patience, Africa slapped me in the face with it. Where I lacked the ability to say no, Africa taught me, that “NO,” is often the best weapon. When I lacked perseverance, she taught me never to give up. Life could get harder. When I began to complain, I would look over and see a really hungry kid. These lessons taught me to shut up, and pick up the own broken pieces of my story, and share it with others.

It is true, Uganda is an impoverished country, and you may think “Davy…of course that would change anyone.”  Well, don’t get me wrong, it has.  It’s not necessarily been a smooth roller coaster ride.  More like a choppy canoe ride about to tip any moment. Being surrounded at every moment with poverty can become overwhelming … (if you let it). It’s also easy to get comfortable here. I mean, come on, everyone thinks you’re a rock-star. Everyone loves you. They think you’re the best thing since my your mothers homemade rhubarb pie! Yet, the fact is, once someone is fed, clothed and taken care of, you leave. You go back home. So is the job really done?

Essentially, no. In the end what are we accomplishing here?

This is the reason I come back. Year after year, I have chosen to work with the same group of children. In life we choose our battles; this was mine.  I chose to help certain children.  I can’t save everyone; no one can.  So, I chose two specific orphan homes and the Kisenyi slum. Same people, same conversations. Same faces. Same lessons.  Many days, they need only to be hugged. Deciphering love. Everyone needs it differently. Other days, much more attention, whether medical or a long mental talk. They need to know someone sees past their dirty clothes, broken legs, orphaned state and bare-feet.  That someone is thinking of them and believing they can pursue their dreams.  Life on the streets here is a group of children who have lost their dreams.  I came a few years ago to help them regain theirs and in turn found my own.  There was a time in my life I thought I had lost all of mine.

So, year after year, I travel back and forth from Burien, WA to Uganda. In my community, I see at least 3-4 people I know every day. It’s a good community. And yet, we have our own set of problems, from homeless people to street kids. It’s only more subtle.  We have our own problems in our schools and households.  A lot of the time, we glaze over them because we fail to see the internal battles our friends and neighbors fight.  We can see them more vividly in Africa because it’s pure survival mode.  In America we at least we keep a face. We can’t bear to let our true struggles be shown.

This leaves us in a bind. What can we be doing for our local food banks, communities, schools and neighbors? If Africa has taught me anything, it has taught me to “take time” for those people I care about around me. The relationship you build with someone in Africa is a strong bond. The simple understanding that taking time for someone is the most important part of your day, is their priority.  The ‘talks over coffee’ taken here are crucial to having a good day in an African’s eyes.

I want this to encourage you this Christmas season, to truly take time for your loved ones. In the States we value life so greatly we can forget that at any moment the person we love could be gone. We expect death on a daily basis in Africa, so we take time for people.  Don’t give up on those we love. No matter how hard it is.

I want you to be encouraged to see your community as a place where people’s lives CAN BE transformed and changed, and taking time to seek out someone you know is suffering is especially important.

Maybe join the local food bank, take your family to the Salvation Army to serve Christmas dinner, tell a kid that he is loved, give someone a hug if they are hurting, even if you ‘don’t hug.’

Loving Burien is a day-to-day love, and what I have learned from Africa is that love without consistency is worthless.  So, keep going back to those people you know need your love in our community.  Open your door.  Try to show others that they are valued, even if they don’t say thank you.  Be consistent.  Keep coming back. It can change someone’s life, forever.

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