In October 2016 Steve Jones, and Sarah Walker accompanied Optician Ruth Easton to conduct and Eye Clinic at House of Joy. Below you can read about Steve’s impressions of his time there.
It is not difficult to find a smile at House of Joy. Bright teeth on dark skin makes every smile radiant and they are everywhere in abundance. Teachers, children, cooks, farmers, wherever you turn a fresh smile appears. Real smiles. A stark contrast to the places we live where we have more but smile less, where we’re too busy to smile, where we think we can buy smiles.
A few months ago I was blessed with two weeks at House of Joy, testing the eyes of those at the school and in the community and giving glasses to people who needed them. It feels good now, on a cold wet February in Wales, to reflect on my time there, remembering the warmth of the sun outmatched by the warmth of the people and the welcome we received there.
Our time went like this:
In the morning we arrive at House of Joy, order our clinic in the spare room we’ve been given, rehearse the little Lugandan we have learnt and open the door to our first patients of the day. The children crowd to the door, excited and curious, happy to be relieved of class for the next hour or so, laughing at our terrible attempts to speak Lugandan, laughing as their classmates have go through the test, laughing as we blow up balloons and hand out stickers.
Not all the children are happy straight away to see us. Shy and unsure what exactly these mzungus are doing with these strange tests and uncomfortable contraptions, they hang to the back of queue until their name is called and then come slowly forward, dragging their feet. A few moments later and they are released with a balloon and a sticker, their joy restored as they go laughing, running and skipping back into the sunshine. We break for lunch and I go down to the kitchen where it’s more laughter as the cooks tut and shake their heads at me, gently concerned by how little posho I’m eating, heaping more onto my plate. I sit with the farmers as they rest out of the midday sun and they tell me about the work they do as I eat the food they’ve grown. In the afternoon we see locals from the community and now it’s our turn to laugh as old Joseph cracks us up with practical jokes and his wild, exaggerated character. We give him some reading glasses and his eyes light up as the words on the page come into clear focus for the first time in years. In the evening the sun sets, casting long shadows and giving a golden glow to the dust in the air. We sit and listen to the stories of the teachers as they show us how to eat jackfruit, picked fresh from the trees. The atmosphere is one of deep and abiding peace and joy.
Of course it’s not perfect. Many of the children have been through experiences no human should have to deal with, let alone a child. There are deeply ingrained cultural patterns which make it strange for some people to associate together because of their social status or tribal roots. These hidden darknesses can sometimes be seen bubbling to the surface in playground scuffles, tears, arguments. They can be seen in the reluctance of some to sit with others at lunchtime. But I sat in a room full of people from every walk of life where something like 17 languages were spoken and all were laughing and singing together. On the last day we attended a graduation ceremony and students offered different tokens of appreciation to the outgoing class. Some sang, some read poems, some handed out cards. A young girl danced. I had heard her story a few days before and to see someone dancing after being through total brutality takes my words away. What can I say? It’s not perfect but it is incredible. At House of Joy, the strongest current in the river of life is that of joy. The place wears its name well. Worship there is powerful.
It is not difficult to find a smile at House of Joy, but it’s not from happiness. Happiness does not change people’s lives. Joy is transformation power and walks hand in hand with resurrection.
Steve Jones (Visitor to House of Joy October 2016)