Fatimah gave me a tour of Kampala today. We saw the city’s hospital, bank, a supermarket, some craft stalls. She also took me by the Nsambya slums.
Kids crowded around, grabbing my hands and hollering to each other about the muzungu—white person. I felt like their pet as five or six latched on to me and drug me around while moms and grandmas looked up from shelling beans or peeling matooke plantains. Some of them smiled, but most looked exhausted, discouraged. Burnt out. Kids ran around in various states of undress.
Later Farimah explained the difference between poor—like Dan’s family, who don’t have plumbing or electricity, survive on food they grow themselves and walk 15 minutes to get water—and poverty like we saw today.
Poverty means the kids don’t eat enough. Poverty means they may not have anywhere to sleep. Poverty means maybe they have a parent or grandparent to look out for them—or maybe not. Poverty poverty means a boy’s face crusted in dark snot that no one wipes away.
Poverty means a school was built nearby to educate these kids, but they don’t have the nominal fee for supplies, and have no family history of going to school, so they don’t go. Poverty means a grandma with watery eyes raising eight children because as soon as they’re able, girls become prostitutes and produce more babies.
Poor people have something to eat, even if it’s less than they would like or a not a wide variety of diet. Poor people have somewhere to sleep. Poor people have more of a chance to go to school.
“Too long in the slums and it crushes you,” Fatimah said, referring to the brevity of our visit but speaking the truth for anyone there. She works with kids in situations like that but her division is getting reorganized.
“Is it possible for someone born here to end up like you?” I asked. Fatimah’s Muslim family gave her the boot when she became a Christian. She rents one room in a nicer part of town. She hasn’t seen her father in three years, and her mother asks for money whenever they meet.
She thought about my question, then answered, “No. I went to school. I have a certificate. But even if they start school, they quit after a few years. It’s hard for them to get a job.”