We met at a busy corner of a town called 'Karuma' in northern Uganda where Morris had been waiting for us since early in the morning. It was now early afternoon. He was a tall striking guy with sunglasses, a sense of style, and short dreadlocks. He was to be our guide in Lira, a town bustling with activity but without the notoriety of Gulu. Morris had come to Lira from the Jinja area in southern Uganda because he knew that there was next to no help for dozens of children who live on the streets without adults of any kind in their lives. The only adults these children have are those who chase them away from their shops for fear that they might steal from them.
After dark one night Morris took us to the town center where there were two large dumpsters filled to overflowing with garbage. Here we met approximately 25 boys who lived in the garbage dump. After Morris introduced us to the boys they immediately got excited and we felt an energy amongst them. We took them to a nearby restaurant and agreed to clear a large section where the boys could come and eat. Each one got a large plate of food, a soda, and water. They laughed and joked and ate. They were well behaved, followed instructions, and were respectful as their meals came and they waited their turn. They were completely 'normal' boys ranging from 8-9 to 16-17. The only thing different about them was that after the meal we parted ways and we left them all on the street. We would go to our hotel room. Morris went to his home. But the boys returned to the dump.
I remember one young boy who was especially close with Morris. His name is 'Junior'. After the meal he sat on the dark road in the middle of town waiting for us to come out of the restaurant. We told him we would come back for him tomorrow and take him with us on our trip to see some villages in the area. We left Junior, who seemed especially quiet probably due to intense trauma and very gentle, on a dark road at 11:00pm with no parent, no adult to watch over him. Most of my working life here in Canada I have worked, mostly with men, who have very little in terms of possessions, family, or hope but I have never had to leave a young boy sitting alone in a pitch black night with no where to go, no shoes on his feet, and only a girls shirt on and ripped shorts.
The next morning we returned to the restaurant from the previous night, with a truck full of supplies, and sure enough Junior was waiting for us to go to the villages. He rarely spoke but he was sharp and caught on quickly. Soon enough he was the one taking pictures, handing out the supplies and measuring up the clothes to match the kids. His face held a generous expression and he smiled every time I looked at him. Every so often he'd tap my shoulder while we drove and he'd motion as if to ask if he could have one of the water bottles or candies that we were giving out. He also found himself a very tight fitting pink pair of pants that he wanted for himself. Where else could a truck of 5 guys pull up outside a restaurant pick up a young boy off the street put him in the back and leave without anyone caring?
After we left Morris would email me to say that Junior was asking him, 'where are the uncles with the big truck? I want to go for a ride again.' Morris could be working in Jinja where he knows a lot of people and where life would be considerably easier but he went to Lira because next to no one else has. Everyday he goes out to meet the street boys of Lira. He befriends them and lets them know that he sees them and knows they
need help. Morris has the big heart of a child but the will of a man determined to alleviate suffering children. With each new boy that he finds living in a back alley in Lira his commitment grows to create a safe place for them. There are basic human rights in this world but a safe home for a child has got to be one of the greatest. The things that I have worried about today compared with what Juniors' heart must feel when he walks the streets of Lira makes me want to cover myself. It's like shielding your eyes when bright lights come on in a pitch black room. I guess I'm still kind of shielding myself from imaging the life of the Lira street boys because it is too much reality to look at all at once. Morris is there and has aligned himself with their plight.
May God bless him in his work with the boys in Lira.