How far would you go to go to school?

It was an incredible day. Stressing, inspiring and heart wrenching. At 6pm the gate to Atin Afrika opened and 11 excited faces ran to see who it was. It was Walter.

You may remember Walter, he was one of the original boys that Morris took off the street. He is a pioneer of Atin Afrika. He is the eternal underdog, he did the worst in our home schooling program out of all of the kids. In fact to say that he had the poorest performance is an understatement…at 15 years old he got 50% of what 7 year old Joel scored. We kept waiting for Walter to run back to the streets. He never did.

Walter’s village in Barr is one of the poorest to be seen. He did not run away from abuse, he ran away from despair. His mother remarried and there was no place for him. Nobody could pay for him to go to school and he just didn’t see a point in sticking around, for what? Walter ran to Lira. He ran to the streets.

In January we resettled Walter with his family. He was welcomed back with open arms. We sent him home with everything he had at Atin Afrika, his toiletries, clothes, mattress, bedding. We also paid for Walter to go back to school. He took the placement test and was put in P2 (grade 2). We got him his books and uniforms and just like everything else that he has, he keeps them meticulously clean.

So, you may wonder why did Walter show up at Atin Afrika? Why did he walk through the gate with his head down? Why did he go straight through the house to the outside tap, take his shoes off and wash his feet?

His feet were aching. He had walked from his village to Atin. He was chased away from school in the morning because he did not have the money to pay for his end of term exam. The cost of the exam was 3,000 Ugandan shillings, less than $1.50. Instead of giving up or returning to the streets Walter walked all the way to Lira to find us at Atin, he walked for more than 7 hours. He came to ask for help.

Walter is the future of his family. Instead of taking the 10,000 shillings we gave him for his exam and transport home he chose to walk. With the money he saved he bought a chicken which he is now caring for. Walter is thinking of his future and that of his little brother. At 15 with a 2nd grade education Walter understanding the need for financial independence. The next step in the resettlement process for Atin Afrika is to support micro-enterprise in these children’s villages. To give them and their families a hand (be it livestock or a fishing rod) to take care of themselves.

Walter is an inspiration to us all. He is a reminder that we are doing the right thing. Resettlement is the answer, children can go home. They just need a bit of help. People say that it takes a village to raise a child. It’s true, but sometimes it also takes a child to raise a village.

Go to www.atinafrika.org and consider making a donation to help Walter help himself. It’s a hand up, not simply a hand out.

Peace & love,

Morris & Chelsea.

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