Meet Joseph. He was spotlighted in my last newsletter as I shared about how the school helps him with his special needs. Debbie Houchens is one of the current heads of Sixty Feet/CJI, an organization that rescues kids from prison. Debbie fell in love with Joseph and wrote about his story with details that we just found out on my most recent visit to the school! Debbie is like a mom to him. The HIS school partners with Debbie and CJI Ministry along with His Love & Sonshine as the school takes in children rescued from prison. The school not only educates the children but provides a home and hope. See details about Joseph's story in the text shared by Debbie below.
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A Success Story - by Debbie Houchens
I met a man, working in a book store as a clerk. He was a Ugandan. Like so many they know we are here but are wondering why. I told him about the mission of Sixty Feet and its purpose. His question was a contemplative one. “Are there many success stories?” I answered, “so many I don’t have time to share. But, I do have a favorite that I will share.” I began, “his name is Joseph, he was about 12 years old when I met him in the National Rehabilitation Center. Joseph is special needs but is high functioning in most things. Joseph ran to the streets after being mistreated by his step mother. While on the streets he was “swept up” by the local authorities and taken to the rehab prison. I knew he had been mistreated not only at home but probably by society in general, for he would not look at anyone in the eye. He spoke only the local Lugandan language. Joseph wore the same grey and red striped shirt that was too large every day, no shoes and the same trousers that were girded with a piece of string.
The staff at Sixty Feet after many attempts to trace for his parents, realized that Joseph was not going to tell where he was from for he did not want to go back. So what do you do with a 12 year old special needs child that cannot read or write? What possible future does this child have?
Two days a week we worked with Joseph on writing his name and speaking English. He could only get as far as the J and the O in his name. But because of the love from the staff, he started looking at people in the eye and opened up to other boys his age. They understood that he was special, even though they laughed at him they accepted him into their group. He even learned how to hug.
It took about 6 months for us to find placement for this child. He was allowed to be released (since he had no crime except living on the street) and he was placed in a foster home with a house mother who already had 5 other children. So Joseph had a mother and an instant family.
There were trials, many of them, but Ruth, the “mother” and the community all worked together to help Joseph.
Joseph now attends school (he is 13 and is in Kindergarten but he is proud to be in school with a uniform and shoes!
This Christmas I invited Ruth and her “family” to my house for dinner. Joseph said to me, “Jaja, (grandmother) look what I can do! I can write my name and a circle and a triangle.” All of a sudden he started saying, “chicken, dog, cat” in English. He was so proud to show how much he has learned. Ruth and the school in the village have done a great job with Joseph, he has a community, school, church and a family.” Success stories? I’d say! If you want to know more stories we would love to share them with you. We couldn’t have helped Joseph if it was’t for people coming alongside us at Sixty Feet. God asked us to help the widows and orphans and for the most part, Joseph WAS one of those.
When Rachel Guy was in elementary school, she was fascinated by children in African countries; her heart was particularly drawn to children who had been orphaned. At the age of twelve, the country of Uganda became the focus of Rachel’s interest and concern when a close family friend, Nancy Wellham, invited her to join her on a mission’s trip there. It was on this trip that Rachel visited Gateway Nursery and Primary school and fell in love with the people there. Four years ago, Rachel was shocked when she was invited to start a ministry for the school. With humility and gratitude, she said, “Yes” to this unlikely adventure with God.