Over the last 30 years of relative peace and stability, Uganda has grown into a hub for a surprising mix of missionaries, tourists, and humanitarian aid workers. It’s a lush country full of fresh fruits and vegetables, red dirt, and lots of people.
I traveled to Uganda in January with the assistant director of Nightlight adoption agency to get a first-hand look at the work she has been doing there. The story is a sweet one. Her agency has helped a small “baby home”—that is, an orphanage for babies and young children—get on its feet and grow over the last several years. While a few babies ultimately end up adopted by parents in the US, most of the children there are re-homed within Uganda or moved into a regular orphanage as they age out of the facility, which is only permitted to handle children up to age six.
Many of these children, sadly, are brought into the home after being abandoned. Some are ill or malnourished when they arrive. But the children find a loving environment there and are assigned to a nanny who becomes a personal stand in for a parent. Nightlight, being a Christian organization, coordinates funding through churches in the US to help support the baby home. But despite this tight financial relationship between adoption agency and home, adoption is not a given, even for a child that seems “adoptable.” There is a legal process that includes a thorough examination of the child’s family ties, and no baby can be adopted who has someone in Uganda who claims her. In order to be sustainable for the future, the baby home is working to find ways to become financially independent because donations are not always enough to make ends meet.
When I visited, the directors of the home proudly showed off a newly finished facility that they plan to use as a medical clinic that would serve the community around them. The hope is that it would raise enough money to keep a doctor on staff that could tend to any of the children they have in their care. The facility was built on funds donated and raised by a family who lost a baby to illness before they had a chance to adopt her. Some of the photos I took there will also go to this cause in an annual fundraiser held in memory of that little girl, Vivien.
Because of my former role as a family photographer, I was also asked to photograph each of the nannies with her group of children for the home. Wherever those children end up, the nannies have created bonds with them that they cherish and want to remember. Many of the photographs from this baby home and another will also be used as gifts to large donors in the form of a book. You can see the full project by following this link: Nightlight Uganda Program
The book is a collaborative project that I am working on with the assistant director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions in Kentucky, so it will take some time to complete. I’ll post it when we have it ready.