Alex Davies let out a small cough – a remnant of malaria - as he opened his laptop to show photos of his work at Love Uganda Orphanage.
Although he and the children no longer have any signs of malaria in their blood, the outbreak only reinforced his commitment to the orphanage.
Davies has been living and working in Uganda since 2013. He was working as a teacher in Kampala when he moved to the small orphanage for abused children in Nakanyonyi Village in January.
“I had the opportunity to work as a caregiver. I took on the challenge and it’s the best decision I ever made,” said Davies, who is home on P.E.I. for a visit.
The Love Uganda Orphanage houses 19 orphans aged four to 14 years. It’s about an hour from the country’s capital, Kampala.
There is no furniture, no kitchen and no running water. All the cooking is done over an open fire and toilets are simple latrines. Water is hauled from the well about two kilometres away, twice per day.
A broken window that wasn’t repaired led to the malaria outbreak and some pricey medical treatments.
But, as rustic as the orphanage is, it’s better than how they used to live.
“They need stability because they don’t have any,” said Davies. “Nothing has worked out for them. They need security.”
Support from home
Support for the orphanage used to come from a local safari company owned by the orphanage’s founder, known to Alex simply as Emmanuel.
The safari company took a hit when Uganda’s tourism industry declined sharply in February and soon the orphanage was facing trouble financially.
“We couldn’t just say, ‘okay, come home, let’s move on’,” said Rev. Arthur Davies, Alex’s dad. “They’d already touched his heart by then.”
The house in Uganda is owned by one of the town councillors and rent is around C$95 per month. Food for everyone is about C$200 per week and tuition for all 19 children totals C$1,300 per term.
Rather than close the doors, the Davies family stepped up to help - with Arthur taking charge of fundraising.
The family has been keeping things running by using their own resources. For instance, Alex’s sister, Caitlin, has been paying the rent on the Ugandan house.
“It’s sort of giving back, isn’t it?” said Arthur.
But the family is ready for help. Arthur has teamed up with Devxchange International Programs to help handle the bookkeeping and promotion of the project.
The first phase of their plan is to keep the orphanage running, followed closely by phase two – building a new location.
The planned development will have five houses for up to 50 children plus a volunteer and staff house.
Love Uganda Orphanage already has land and plans for lodgings for up to 50 children, as well as staff and volunteers – complete with plumbing and a kitchen.
Phase three will be a school and clinic for the community
The entire plan totals $230,000 but every donation will help the children.
“Once we have enough money for one house, we’ll build it,” said Arthur.
The Davies don’t want to get ahead of their means. The new orphanage must be a permanent fixture, one that won’t be taken away from those who need it.
“These are the lives of these kids that are involved here,” said Arthur.
Staples in Summerside has donated the cost of the Davies’ printing and has contributed school supplies for the children.
Alex will be taking them and other supplies back to Uganda when he returns on Dec. 22.
He wants to be there for Christmas.
Anyone wishing to donate can visit the Davies at the Summerside Farmers’ Market or go online to https://devxchange.org/campaigns/loveuganda/
The website accepts one-time donations or it’s possible to sponsor a child for $50 per month.
Alex’s smile overtakes his face whenever he speaks of his kids.
“I love them all. They’re all my children. I have 19 children aged 4 to 14.”
The avid chess player has taught them all to play, and the orphanage has two bicycles.
After supper during the week, Alex holds lessons. Once they’re finished studying “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, he plans to introduce them to “Harry Potter”.
On weekends, he shows a movie on his laptop. All 19 children settle down onto the floor (no furniture, remember) to watch.
Since Alex has been working at the orphanage, he’s noticed a change in the children. When he arrived, they “behaved” happy and their smiles were for show.
With his work and leadership, the children are all doing well in school for the first time.
“They’re happy,” he said. “They’re content. As long as I can keep them that way, I’m happy and I’m content.”
The Davies look forward to the day the children are housed in their new home.
“That’s not for a while. The kids are not there yet. The children exist now,” said Alex. “The children need care now. And what the children need more than anything else, something they don’t have - that they’ve never had – they need love. Now.”