Passover in Kampala

Chag Sameach.  It means “joyous festival” and is a popular greeting during Passover.  With the Jewish celebration of freedom here again I recall our very special Passover seder in Kampala, Uganda.  I posted this as the very first story on my blog back in May 2008.  My story also ran in the Denver Post in spring 2007. http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_5534210 Cinematographer Paul Hillman and I are heading back to Kampala, Uganda again in June to do … Continue reading Passover in Kampala

The Faith Club Part 3

Three years ago I was on the road in Buenos Aires, Argentina during Rosh Hashanah.  As is my custom when I am traveling I find myself a service wherever I am.  One year I celebrated Rosh Hashanah in Wilmington, North Carolina while covering a hurricane.  Another time I spent Passover in Kampala, Uganda where we substituted Indian naan for matzah.  There was Yom Kippur in Savannah, Georgia and a seder at a … Continue reading The Faith Club Part 3

30 Minute Seder

I love Passover.  The Jewish holiday is meaningful, joyous and delicious.  I look forward all year long to the celebration around the table with friends and family.  What’s not to love about a dinner that lasts all evening and ends with the poignant words “next year in Jerusalem.”  It is always a memorable night.  So imagine my surprise when I saw the advertisement in the … Continue reading 30 Minute Seder

Passover in Kampala

“Next year in Jerusalem.” The words at the end of the Passover seder always give me chills. How many Jews over how many generations have longed to celebrate in the Holy Land. This past year, though, I was faced with a dilemma. I wouldn’t be celebrating Passover in Jerusalem or even, as usual, at the festive table of Nancy and Charlie Behrend in suburban Denver. I would be adrift, working half a world away in Kampala, Uganda. The possibility of Passover without family, friends and a seder loomed large.

Three colleagues and I were heading to Kampala to work on a series of videos about a Boulder, Colorado based non-government organization called BeadforLife www.beadforlife.org that is making a big difference in the lives of Ugandans suffering from poverty so extreme that it kills. It is a collaboration of cultures and compassion. Women in Uganda, whose lives have been crushed by the modern day plagues of civil war, HIV/AIDS, hunger and homelessness, make colorful bead jewelry out of recycled magazine pages. Women in North America sell them and the money goes back to Uganda for education, health care and housing. Until two years ago, the only way these women and their families survived was by working in a rock quarry, crushing stones for $1 a day. Each day was spent in the never-ending pursuit of just enough to get families to the next day. Babies were lost to disease or sometimes tossed out, children went to sleep hungry, parents succumbed to AIDS and left children orphaned and alone. Like the night of Passover in biblical times, death was at everyone’s doorstep.

Women working in rock quarry of Acholi quarter of Kampala, Uganda

We spent the trip in the slums of Kampala. Witnessing the way more than half of the world lives was life altering. Thousands crowd into the Acholi Quarter which is teeming with refugees from a senseless and brutal 19 year civil war up north. People live in a red dirt world without electricity, running water, sewage systems and in many cases, hope. Children have distended bellies and tattered clothes. Homes are made of sticks and mud that fall apart in the rain. Yet over the course of our stay we witnessed an incredible welling of spirit and generosity. What little there was, was shared. Smiles were warm and abundant. Everyone had light in their eyes. They sang and danced through their suffering. Women like Naiga Mary, Rose Namukasa, Achan Grace, Millie Grace and Jajja Josephine, who refused to be defeated by their poverty, were earning income by making beads and their hard work was blessing entire families and communities.

Children in the Acholi Quarter of Kampala, Uganda

 

Continue reading “Passover in Kampala”