A favorite time of day for many of the 300 girls and boys we serve in Uganda is story hour just before lights out at bedtime. When I am among them, they beg me to tell them stories, especially stories about you, their American friends. They are highly inquisitive about your life, how you raise your kids and grandkids, what you like to do just for fun.
In preparing for this Christmas message to our St. Kizito supporters, I thought it would be marvelous to hear their description of how our students and staff in East Africa celebrate Christmas. I asked both our students and staff to describe for us their way of embracing this holy feast.
Donald Sempa was one of our first St. Kizito students beginning in 2001. Now, he is a dedicated staff member of St. Kizito in charge of the southern zone around Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. In response to this question, he writes:
Christmas is not about giving and receiving gifts only but it is a season of drawing much closer to God, reinvigorating our faith in the Lord, sharing Christ’s love, celebrating a feast in union with those around us near and far. In my home area Christmas plans start in the month of October when each family starts pointing out which chicken or animals would be slaughtered on Christmas Day. Those chickens and animals are coddled to ensure they are nice and fat for this day. Chickens especially play a central role in the feasting. Families that cannot afford rearing birds (chickens) always find a way to purchase them from poultry farmers. The news that somebody cannot afford a chicken on Christmas is met with great sympathy. Everybody eats and drinks with joy since this day is about celebrating a feast as family, sharing and commemorating the glory of the birth of the Christ Child. After the major feast is celebrated, time is set aside for storytelling, games, dancing and singing. The day’s celebration goes on until dawn.
The St. Kizito Foundation sponsors Victoria, a delightful, spirited girl in the 4th grade, age 10. She describes for us the Christmas party she attended at her school last Christmas:
The children were singing and dancing. We ate good food like rice, meat and bananas. The children were happy and playing all day. There was a Christmas tree with some candies hanging on it for us. As gifts, we received balls, plates, forks and dolls. We welcomed visitors who came to sing for us, danced with us and shared a large cake with us.
Yes, children in Uganda are thrilled to get plates, knives, forks, and spoons as Christmas gifts! These are treasures they need every day and too often lack.
Your generous outreach has helped change the lives of countless young people who will face the future with greater confidence and optimism because they now know they are valuable to us, cherished by us, loved by us.