By Fr. Peter Vecellio, O.C.D.

Modern-day foster care and adoption has made orphanages virtually non-existent in the U.S. for decades. This is not the case in Uganda. There are still many orphanages and “boys’ homes” throughout Uganda. The reasons for this are many and complex. I mentioned in an earlier post about the absent-father epidemic here in Uganda. I’m finding out that there are also many absent mothers! Or, as with many of these orphaned boys, both parents are deceased.

In Jinja, where I live, many of these boys end up living on the streets until a Good Samaritan picks them up and brings them to one of these homes. I had the privilege of recently accompanying a religious sister in the area who picked up two boys who were living on the streets--both around the age of 10. One had said that he had lived on the streets for a year and the other, for a month. Sister knew of a home where we could take them so I offered to drive them.

Once arriving at the small home filled with 16 boys and a girl, the woman in charge asked the two boys some questions. One of the topics that came up during this informal screening was the prevalent use of inhalants among street boys. What we call "huffing" in the U.S. is a big problem among many of these boys living on the streets. Some become so addicted that they even end up choosing inhalants over food. Thanks be to God that we were able to admit these two boys to this modest little home. After chatting with some of the other boys who lived there, we noticed our two boys already had a big smile on their faces by the time we were leaving.

When I thought about the hard life they had been living at such a young age, it made me wonder why I had been blessed with such a good family and upbringing and they hadn’t. These are mysteries that can only be answered by our charity and compassion toward those who are less fortunate.