The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, May 11, 2005  

A Sewing Machine is All

The Philadelphia Inquirer for the past several days has been running an excellent series of articles, mostly on the opinion pages, about the prevailing situation in Uganda, particularly as it affects the country’s children, all (I think all) of which have been collected here.

On today’s op-ed page Carolyn Davis of the Inquirer’s editorial board tells the story of Jennifer Anyango, Kitgum, Uganda, in “A Disfigured Ugandan Girl Copes,” of which the following is just one of numerous worthy potential excerpts:

Jennifer was alone in her family’s hut in a northern Ugandan village on the day the rebels came. Her mother has told her she was 9 years old then.

“They found me grinding millet,” Jennifer says. “They closed the door and told me not to go outside.”

The rebels, who were probably abducted children themselves, set the hut ablaze.

“I was afraid. The hut was burning, but I was inside. I didn’t try to get outside because I was fearing that the rebels were still outside.”

She had good reason to be afraid: Jennifer heard them making noise beyond the door.

Jennifer describes the long-ago scene while sitting in a small, dim hut in a displaced person’s camp where she now lives with her mother. Her father was killed during the attack that injured her.

She shifts back and forth in a homemade wooden chair. Then she crosses and uncrosses her feet at the ankles. The movements betray the agitation of memory.

“After setting the fire, the rebels stayed a bit. I was screaming from inside, and they were laughing from outside. So I could not do anything other than scream.”

The linked article, as published on the web, most unfortunately doesn’t include the print edition’s recent photograph of Miss Anyango. “Badly disfigured,” the words employed by Ms. Davis, barely begin to describe the condition in which the attackers left this girl, about which the editorialist writes:

Burns were so deep on her forehead that she lost pigment there. When her face healed, skin on her forehead and cheeks contracted, stretching the area around her eyes and exposing the sockets. Her chest and left arm have scars. Her left hand had to be amputated.

Surgery could help Jennifer, but her family is too poor and medical facilities are too scarce.

Jennifer’s family treats her with kindness. “But others are mean to me. Sometimes if my mom is not around, people say I’m ugly.”

Okay, just one more note about Miss Anyango, as relayed by Ms. Davis: “Even with her injuries, Jennifer sees a future for herself. She would like to learn to use a sewing machine. That would help the family income, and give her the semblance of a normal life. Maybe now and again as she sews, she could forget her screams, and just sing a soft, sweet song.”

Imagine that.

With all she’s been through, with all she faces in the future, the thing she wants most is a sewing machine.

We in this country have too much. And yet not enough.

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