Bendigo’s AMY DRECHSLER has begun a three-month trip to a remote Ugandan orphanage as an International Volunteer IQ worker.
Today, we continue a diary of her journey...
AS EACH week comes along, life here seems to be getting more difficult.
I don’t know if the novelty is wearing off or if I’m just dealing with the wrong people.
The past couple of weeks there have been rumours circulating among the staff at Peace for Children
Africa, with speculation that five of us volunteers are working with another organisation.
The director of Peace for Children, Uncle Paul, is convinced we are trying to sabotage his facility and that we are attempting to brainwash the children.
He took it so far that he had a staff member, Silver, follow us around during the week to monitor our movement.
It was going to be sooner rather than later that these whispers exploded into a pinnacle of events.
Every Sunday I go to PCA and take some of the street kids to church.
I pick them up at 9am sharp, hurry them along to change into their clean clothes that are washed especially, and we slowly make our way to Calvary Chapel in Old Kampala.
This most recent Sunday was different.
When we arrived at PCA that morning, something didn’t feel quite right.
When all five of us volunteers entered the centre, the children did not seem excited to see us, but had worried looks on their faces.
When speaking to the kids about what was wrong, they seemed to be hesitant about telling us.
We eventually found that Uncle Paul had told them if they left the grounds with us they were not welcome back.
We spoke to the staff member who was there, Silver, and asked what was going on.
He was very aggressive towards us and gave no direct answer, and within seconds began walking around to all three doors and started padlocking them.
We asked what he was doing and demanded he let us out.
He said Paul was coming and we were not going anywhere.
Something that you must understand is that Silver is a very aggressive and frightening man.
The children at the centre have told us that he beats them when they do not follow his orders.
He comes from a very harsh and poverty-stricken background, which had me believe he was
capable of anything.
The situation worsened when one of the volunteers received a text message (from their organisation’s CEO) telling us to jump the walls as Paul had called the police.
We were informed that Paul had told the police we were trying to abduct his children and that we must be arrested.
At that moment, there was no foreseeable future.
I feared for my life.
We again told Silver we must leave and he could not keep us against our will.
After he refused we contacted our organisation’s CEO, Jim Nadiope, and explained the situation.
Within 15 minutes of that phone call the gate was opened.
We were all so relieved, but also worried what these children faced, having revealed they were ordered not to leave.
The next day we did not attend PCA.
Our director, Jim, instructed that we stay away from the facility until this situation was addressed.
It was later that day Jim came to our house to discuss Sunday’s incident.
He told us that after hours of talking with Paul, the conclusion was that we were not welcome to return to PCA for the remainder of our stay in Uganda.
Jim explained that Paul did not want us to say goodbye to the children nor did he want us within so many feet of the facility.
Paul claimed many unreasonable and false accusations.
Such as the time we spent there we disrespected him, we were aggressive towards the children, and tried to manipulate them into joining another organisation.
Obviously, none of this is true and I believe he pushed us out of the facility because we weren’t naive.
We questioned what was really happening within the facility and Paul couldn’t handle us disputing his corruption.
Having been told this news, the most heartbreaking thought was that I would never see those children again.
My time was cut short with them and there was nothing I could do; it was out of my control.
I have to come away from this hoping that I did everything I could to bring those kids happiness and that I gave them some form of hope.