The following is from an e-mail sent by Newport photographer Katelin Dutton.
“Towards the end of the week, I had the opportunity to go to an orphanage for street kids with the group from America. As we approached the large metal gate, we saw colorful hand written signs that said, 'Welcome our visitors from the USA.' 'Welcome our visitors today.' 'We are so happy. BeadforLife.' 'Your most welcome Devin and friends from USA.' Two little faces peered through the hole in the gate with curiosity and wonder. As the gates slowly opened, the children poured out – running up to each one of us and swallowing us in hugs! A moment of being incredibly overwhelmed by happy children. I was surprised to discover that the children hugging me were girls! (every child had a shaved head) The tallest ones Beatrice and Patience, shared their names. They were almost as tall as me.
"M-Lisada houses eighty children and is in the heart of one of Kampala’s largest slum areas, Kiseka. Their motto is 'Music to the rescue.' Twenty girls share one room and sixty boys share another, (and yes, the boys room was much more odorous) Many of the children share beds. They’re fed one meal a day, and our group participated in feeding them a lunch of rice, beans, cabbage stir-fry, pineapple and watermelon. One of the ladies from the group happily gave each child a few tic-tacs, although they seemed a bit confused by them!
"Afterwards, we were introduced to the friendly staff members and were given a tour by the director, Bosco, who had been a street child himself. Both of his parents died when he was very young and as a child made a living by fetching water for people in his community. He started to save money, which he spent on music lessons. Bosco and seven other boys from his community founded M-Lisada and were lucky enough to find a sponsor from Europe to get the program started.
"Bosco said that prostitution is very common with girls between 12 and 18 years old in their community. He says, 'because girls don’t have as many opportunities to go to school.' Bosco said several times how important it is to him to help girls in the community, M-Lisada also supports the Mommy Program at a separate location, where sixty girls go to school and also learn how to sing and dance. The program is run by Bosco’s girlfriend.
"The children of M-Lisada, were both happy and proud to share their talent with us. The small jazz band, after practicing for only six months had mastered several songs. The children performed traditional dances in costumes of newspaper. The acrobats stacked together as the brass band loudly played. The band even performed the star-spangled banner, which each student had memorized. I felt so honored to witness the grace and talent of these children.
"M-Lisada taught me many things: That every child deserves a good life. That every child deserves food and shelter. That every child deserves to be safe. That every child deserves community. That every child deserves a loving family. That every child deserves to express themself. That every child deserves access to health facilities. That every child deserves laughter. That every child deserves the opportunity to excel. That every child deserves the ability to read and write. That every child is a shining star.
"Until next time….Katelin”