By visiting the programmes, the staff from various offices from around the globe got to see first hand the work Watoto is doing throughout Uganda.
Story and photos by Matt Eagar
We landed in Gulu, in the North - the heart of where the Joseph Kony’s Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) operated just over 10 years ago. I had been hoping they would invite me along to tour the facilities, and was very happy when they did! Watoto might sound familiar to you - as they have the children’s choirs who come through our home towns in the western world often, but the wider work they’re doing in Uganda is absolutely incredible!
Craft for the choir
Our first stop of the day was at the ladies’ vocational training and craft school. Here they train girls in sewing, craft making and other skills that help in day to day living and to be able to find gainful employment later on. Here, they make many of the crafts that the children’s Choir sell during their tours, and the funds then get put back into Watoto programmes. Through the craft school, they also run personal health and well-being workshops for the local women.
'Watoto might sound familiar as they have the children’s choirs - but the wider work they’re doing in Uganda is absolutely incredible!' Matt Eagar
Next we went to the baby orphanage or 'Baby Watoto'. Currently, there are 87 orphaned and abandoned babies and toddlers living here.
The ratio of caregivers to babies is 4 to 1, and when a new orphan arrives they are held for 48 hours straight by their assigned staff member in order to reassure them of the great love for them in this place. They are even set up to house 4 NICU babies, with incubators on the premises.
'When a new orphan arrives they are held for 48 hours straight by their assigned staff member to reassure them of the great love for them in this place.' Matt Eagar
At around 4 years of age, the children are then moved out to the Watoto Village, a large, safe compound, where they’re placed into family units - with a house mother and house siblings all living together and growing as a family. They attend school and church in the village, and there is a staffed clinic and playgrounds on site.
Through a program called 'Father’s Heart', men from the Watoto church commit themselves to becoming father figures and positive male role models to one specific Watoto home. They visit whenever they can to help the children with their homework, play with the younger ones and to disciple the older boys. These kids are able to have a brand new start to life, and live with a sense of community and family - a place where they all can call home.
Land of hope
The area where the village is located was once a strong hold of the LRA and a notorious torture ground. During the excavation for the building foundations in the village, dozens of human remains were unearthed. Even with such a dark past, this land was so full of hope, overcoming and love - I really felt God’s presence everywhere we went. It was an amazing testimony of how God can work all things together for good, and His Glory.