Keeping Smarties in the heat of Lockdown

If I could eat a tube of Smarties a day, I would!

Sadly, Smarties for me are just a reminder of eight daily disciplines I should maintain to stay healthy:

My ‘Lockdown’ is on a hillside not far from Kampala, Uganda. The drifting sounds from the village club and Entebbe-bound aircraft coming overhead have ceased. When the only noise is from the birds, I ought to manage to preserve my Smarties. Yet I feel like I am juggling a fistful of the little chocolates, trying to keep them from spilling their colour onto my hands! When I first worked from home 20 years ago, tasks arrived on the doormat once a day, and news came in small doses. Today, demands tumble in relentlessly through multitudes of invisible channels.

Which request demands my first response? My colleague who wonders how to access the funds? The donor who wants a batch of advice read? Another who wants 34 preliminary questions answered? Rather quickly, my daily diet of Smarties seems to turn into a chocolate teapot! “Mim, if you don’t do this now, tomorrow can’t happen.” Children are in trouble. They are hungry. They are getting battered. Their medication has run out. Some have died.

Thanks to our partner network, CRANE, 185 boys from the streets are now hunkering down in a school. They are getting fed. They have a mattress to sleep on. They have a change of clothes. They are preparing to go back home. Mothers are getting taken to hospital. Lost children are getting taken home. Kids are being checked on. Emergency food parcels are being delivered.

A small group of brave colleagues dart around the country every day, masks and overalls on, responding to one emergency after another. Sometimes protocols lapse: how else would you remove a child from the step mother who is punishing the hungry child by pouring boiling water on her?

So every now and again, I decide that it’s better to let my Smarties melt a bit as I whiz off emails, recreate budgets, throw together a plan for the next phase of the unknown, and write another report.

And here’s the thing: this Smarties’ analogy would be lost on almost every child in Uganda. It’s not just that they’ve never eaten Smarties. Some have never slept in their own bed, or had a balanced diet, or access to litres of clean drinking water, or had a book to read, or been given time to rest, or seen the internet, or had to plan to take exercise, or had a computer to shut down and leave alone!

This weekend I asked my family to think about how they feel about these children and help me illustrate this blog. The children reminded me that we must look up! They know that Jesus taught us: ‘Our Father in heaven, give us today our daily bread…’ They remembered that in the midst of our social stillness and chaotic minds, we place our trust in the Father, who came to us in Jesus. In that simple trust, through the hands of each one of us, every child, every mother, all of us can find hope and peace.

Allow me to finish with reflections from my sister-in-law:

“Today if I think about each of my children facing no safe place to sleep or no dinner tonight, I feel awkward and really sad. It moves me to think I can pray for others for whom this is a reality, and do what I can to help people in any way I can.

I can help share what I have with charities here to make a difference. When we sit down to eat our dinner, we can thank God for what He has provided us with, so we stay grateful and recognise all our blessings are from Him. When I tuck my children into bed each night we pray – now we can remember others who do not have a bed, or safe home. Pray for people like those working in Viva who are working to help children around the world in these difficult times. Pray for safety and His protection – for simple things we can take for granted: soap, clean water, tissues, and a safe place to stay.”