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Journeying with adoption in Uganda

I recently had the privilege of interviewing an inspirational mother of seven, Desire Barugahare. After a good number of re-schedules, I was glad her passion for children is only surpassed by her desire to walk in her God-given purpose.

About Desire 😊

My name is Desire Julia Kazoora Barugahare. I am 42 years old and have been married to George WB Barugahare for 18 years now. I am Christian, born again and I love Jesus with all my whole heart, soul and mind. When He says jump, I ask him “how high”. I am a counselor, I own businesses, I am a trainer but most important I am a mum. My highest honored job is being a mother to seven wonderful children.

I am passionate about what God wants to do and run His kingdom through helping people. I am kind and generous. I am also not your typical mother. I am very wild, loud and I love to party with my brothers and sisters.

Tell me about your children.

Okay. Here we go. Finally. I have seven children. Danielle, she is 16. She is the leader of the pack. She is strong-willed. She is very pretty. She is the leader of the pack. She is a go-getter. She is very similar to who I am. SHE LOVES Jesus, plays guitar and sings a lot. She is that child who God gave me and is learning to be the leader of the pack. She is learning to love unconditionally, be kind and to unite the team.

Then there’s Gabriel. Gabriel is the second born. He is 14 years old. He is very much a boy. He is a “guy guy”. He is also brilliant, a brilliant thinker, very logical, very together, he doesn’t like to be put in situations that he doesn’t understand. He is self-controlled. He loves to play games; mind-craft is his favorite. He also knows how to get his little brothers in one straight line, in order. He is such a helper. He loves his family and siblings. He is always laughing and cracking jokes that non-one gets but because we laugh at them, he also laughs. He does a lot.

Danielle and Gabriel are the biological ones.

The third is Makayla. Makayla came to us when she was four months old from Sanyu Babies' Home. Makayla is the diva of the house. She likes heels. She is very pretty. She like to wear short skirts because she is tall and beautiful. She likes to accessorize. She likes to be in charge of the whole house. She is good in the kitchen and with organizing things like laundry and having the house looking pretty. She is a happy child. Always laughing, always cheerful. I think because of her traumatic start, she is very careful who she lets in. She keeps quiet and pretends to be quiet when we are out in the open because she is not sure how she is going to be received. Once she knows and trusts her environment, she come out strong. She is quite dramatic! Of all the seven, she is the top dramatic child. She is very cool. I love her. My adoption story started with her. She is now twelve years old in grade seven, doing beauty pageants, just that child that is always putting us on the map. She loves her siblings and is very protective of her little sister, almost feeling like she is her mother. I am always like "ummm Kayla you’re not the mummy, I’m the mummy and I make the rules."

Joey is 9. He is a miracle child. He came to us when he was 10 weeks old. He was from Malaika Babies' Home. Two weeks with us, we found out he had a fatal heart condition. He was supposed to die. It was a dramatic start. God did His usual work. Miracle after miracle. He got open heart surgery in South Africa, healed and is now nine. Joey is athletic, very argumentative. He is very very kind. Of all my seven children, I feel like he has my heart. He will look out for who is lonely. He will look out for how he can make other people feel welcome and included. He is in grade 4. What he does best is be athletic and talk his way out of every situation. Sometimes we are like what the heck is he talking about. He always tries to dodge the way the rest of us see things but he is a brilliant gorgeous boy. Love him to bits.

James is the gangster of the family. He is always doing what he shouldn’t do. He is always being spider-man, banging his head, trying to jump out of the window, from his bedroom upstairs to the lower floor. He is that child who thinks he can do anything. He is full of character and such a joy. We are still discovering who he is. You can imagine having been abandoned as a child; that is trauma enough. Then you’ve been raised by a lady and she dies suddenly, that’s even more trauma. Then you have to move from Mbarara to Kampala; that’s like a whole change. Then you have to move from Kampala, get on a plane and move to Zambia and the start afresh in another school and you have to cope with all that change. We have been with him for just two years and are still discovering who he is but one thing for sure is that he is full of character. He is full of joy, he loves adventure, he loves Jesus, and he says very little.

I love James with all my heart. He cracks me up. Whenever we see a child that is difficult to handle, my husband and I are like that’s a James; the kid that jumps through things, all those funny kids videos with children jumping through things, we are like yup, that’s James. He is such joy in our home. James is 8, making 9 in October. He is in grade 1 because he is not as fast as other children. We know he is going to excel in other areas so academics is not exactly his strength. But we are behind him, we are cheering him on. He and Joey have turned the same age this year because they were both born in 2010.

Emmanuel is almost like a photocopy of Gabriel. He is very intelligent. He is very academic and bright and awkward like Gabriel. He and Gabriel keep telling each other we are the ones. Emmanuel is very objective and clever. He is seven in grade 2. Top of his class, everyone is singing praises of him. He makes us laugh. He is more to himself because I think he likes thinking through things. But as a crowd, he is full on, full of energy, team Barugahare, go conquer etc.

Then last is my precious little Khloe! Oh my goodness, I even cry when I see this child. She is so so magnificent. She is so beautiful but above all she is so different from all the kids I have met. She blows me away. She will wake up, organise her bed, tidy her shoes yet she is only three years and is in kindergarten. She is one of those kids where you think that "ok, you’re a baby, why are you helping with all these things?". She is helpful in the kitchen, always going for cuddles. Loves mummy and daddy so much but bullies all of us. Khloe makes Gabriel who is the oldest boy line up. The two of them are the control freaks in the home. She is very sweet, and strong-willed. When she comes home from school and she is very tired, she goes upstairs straight to her bed, takes a nap, wakes up, comes down stairs, she is that aligned. It’s so strange but I think in her DNA, that’s how she is built. She is lovely, she sings, she is inclusive, she is a leader in her class leading fellow three year-olds.

That’s them!

For the last three children James, Emmanuel and Khloe, they came to us at the same time. They were all abandoned at different times but had all been under my mums care.

My mum (Laura Ndahura) died suddenly. She had high blood pressure. No one was ready for her death.

When she died, we didn't know what to do with the kids. She had opened her home to the government. She was willing to take care of abandoned children. So, James had been with her since he was 3 months and she died when he was 7 years. Emmanuel since he was 2 week to 5 years and Khloe since she was 4 months to 1 year old.

With 4 children already, it was not an easy decision to take on 3 more children. It was a crazy insane season of our lives. The thing though, God never lets us walk easy but He blesses us when we walk in obedience.

Nothing made sense, the senseless quick death of my mother plus George and I having four kids. My sisters who live in Uganda, did everything to take them to different orphanages.

We signed papers for Watoto to take them but for some reason Watoto was not able to take them on. We tried different orphanages and the system could not take them back. I remember George and I thinking, "oh Jesus what do we do?" Sleepless nights' crying over the senseless death of my mother, very quick, very sudden and now these three precious children what do we do? My husband came home one evening from work and said let’s be responsible for these children. Let’s see. And before we knew it we had them from Mbarara to a friend’s - The Sseruwos house in Kampala. They started homeschooling, and in December 2017 the six of us got on a plane from Zambia, came to Uganda, had Christmas with family, picked the 3 up, God did a miracle through and through. We were able to meet a judge, we were able to be granted adoption care orders, and then we were able to process passports and January 2018, we flew back to Zambia with them.

What do you remember about the day you decided to adopt?

It was a process really. It wasn’t like a one-day thing. I mean I had always wanted to adopt. When I was 12, I wanted to be a mum. My mum used to bring children home and keep them for a while and then take them back to the village. She was very helpful with young children who were hungry or were abused. She would bring them home, feed them, make them sleep in our beds and then take them back to the villages so I wanted to do that as an adult. So it has been a journey for me.

What went through your head the first time you heard that you had been granted adoption clearance?

I remember when I was going to Sanyu Babies’ Home to pick Kayla. Before we brought her home, we used to go visit her, play with her and leave her there. By the time she came home, we had her pink bed ready, the whole house was very excited! We bought every fancy pink thing we could afford. We could not wait for her to come home. Danielle and Gabriel could not wait to meet their little sister. We were all like on cloud 9. My husband did all the same shopping he did for Danielle. It was amazing. We were so excited. She came home. We would just stare at her. She was four months old so she could understand some things. She knew it was a different environment but we were just like we are going to love you.

When we adopted 12 years ago, the process wasn’t very clear for Ugandans. When I went to Sanyu Babies’ Home, I didn’t quite look like a mum. I didn’t look the part, and I remember them being very hesitant. Then my husband came and we brought our other children and that’s when they were like OK, fine. So it was a bit of a weird journey. We did all the paperwork, we run all the ads, everything we were required to do. When they cleared it, it was like phewx, finally she can come home! We had been waiting for her. It was a really tiring process with lots of back and forth from Mengo back to Bugolobi. When she came home, I was so relieved that we didn’t have to make those journeys anymore. She can come home, sleep in her bed, drink her milk, be in a place where there is enough because there were very many babies which makes me sad but for me it was like finally she gets to come home and she gets to now start being a Barugahare like Gabriel and Danielle.

What was it like the first night home with your first adopted child?

The first night with Kayla at home was like having a new born baby. We didn’t sleep since I kept checking on her. She came to our room. Danielle and Gabriel had their own bedroom but Kayla was in our room because we needed to bond. I kept waking up, you know, checking to see is she breathing, is she OK, is she hungry, you know, what do I need to do? But she had been trained from Sanyu Babies’ Home to sleep throughout the night so she never disturbed us. She had her dinner at 7pm with her siblings, we cuddled her, she went to bed, and she slept until morning. So she really didn’t disturb us because she had been through a routine at Sanyu Babies’ Home. It was an easy night. For me it was just like "oh my goodness I have my baby girl home, I need to make sure she is fine". We were up very early. Her cereal was ready. It was just like a new born baby but obviously a grown baby and for her it was a different environment and different people and I was very mindful of that. I needed her to know that this was a safe place for her so I kept telling her "I love you Makayla, I love you, I'm going to be your mummy". She would just stare at us but she came in and became one of us just like that.

What don’t they tell you as a Ugandan mum adopting?

I haven’t met any Ugandan mom that has adopted. Well I did not meet one before I adopted so no one told me nothing. I honestly wasn’t looking for anyone to tell me anything. I wasn’t looking for inspiration, I wasn’t looking for affirmation. I was just looking to love the child as I loved Danielle and Gabriel. I was looking to be God’s hand and feet. I wasn’t looking for people’s opinion and approval or what’s the process like; no. In my heart, I said if I have loved Danielle and Gabriel, I can love a child who doesn’t have a mum. I can be their mum. I can raise them up, and love them enough. It doesn’t matter how painful it was at the beginning for them, as long as they are in my care they are sorted. I wasn’t looking to be told anything; I was just doing my own journey which is really pretty much who I am. I don’t look for people’s opinions or look to be told or not be told. If I decide I’m doing something, I do it.

Between you and your husband, what is the thing you talk about most regarding about your children?

Its different things. It’s pretty much what they do and how they do it and how can we help them become better citizens of the world and how can we help them love God more than anything else. We pretty much talk about everything all the time; their behavior, their academics, their relationships with other children, the relationship between the adopted and not adopted, and actually it’s no longer a thick conversations but at some point we had to have blending conversations between biological and adopted. We talk about everything all the time because they change. Today she is seven, before you know it she is sixteen and she has a boyfriend. So it’s just every stage of their life, every child is unique so we talk about their uniqueness all the time. How do we manage this, learning lessons, God help us, those conversations really.

Are there times when you feel overwhelmed or clueless?

I have a firm firm faith in God. So I never really get overwhelmed, I honestly do not because I know that the path I’m walking, I’m not walking alone. I know that it is not my journey, I know that it’s God journey. I know that the Holy Spirit is with me, so I never ever get to that point where I feel like its overwhelming, no; unless I’m not in God. Every day I pray, every day I commit my children to the Lord. Every day I talk to them, every day I affirm them, every day I am with them and I see the fruit of what I’m doing. So they are not overwhelming at all. They are normal children, except that they are seven! The only time I think I its overwhelming is when we go to someone's house and they are like, "I’m sorry, you have how many kids? Seven?" Like it’s wild. But no, I think more than anything I feel blessed, I feel honored that I get to be a mother of seven. There are times when I just sit and cry out of thankfulness. Just being thankful for what God is doing and continues to do through my life. The day you meet me, I am so far from perfect, I am so far from like a normal mum, I'm just like wild. For God to choose me, to be his hands and feet and raise all those seven kids, but also to trust me with His five special children blows me away every day so I’m not overwhelmed. It excites me daily that I get to be their mum, and guide them, and help them stand the mountains that God has prepared for all seven of them.

What kind of support do you appreciate most when it comes to your children?

I can't think of any, I honestly can’t. Somehow God has been gracious enough to provide for their needs, He has been gracious enough to give us good jobs, He has been gracious enough to give us a lifestyle that we can afford. What I really appreciate is if people never spoke to my adopted children to give them some weird stories and tell them stuff because some people like to say "oh you know you are adopted", sort of to place them in a space. My kids know that they are adopted but more than adopted, they know that they are loved and that they are part of the Barugahares. So it doesn’t matter, biological, adopted. Honestly, it’s just wanting them to have everything God has prepared for them and to love God with all their hearts. If someone can come along and help us on that journey of equipping them and loving them, if I had more people who have adopted, sharing their experiences, yes that would be awesome. Except that the people that we know that have adopted, their kids are very small so they are learning from us, we are not learning from them, it’s the other way round. So we keep pouring into their families, keep loving on them and encouraging them.

What do you worry about most regarding them and yourself as a mother?

I think I worry ... will I ever fail them as their mummy. I worry that I will not be able to see their every emotional need, like am I good enough to cover their emotional needs? Am I strong enough to guide them? Am I saying the right things to them? Am I listening enough? Am I impacting them as God would want me to? That is my worry; am I doing enough? My husband is a brilliant dad; I think he is the best in the world. And he is always there with them, talking, loving, encouraging, that journey. Am I doing enough for them, am I being strong enough for them, am I being enough for them? But Also I know the bible tells me instead of worrying, I should instead pray and commit everything to God. When worry comes, I pray and leave it with God.

As a fairly liberal person, what have you noticed is the biggest difference between "conventional" and "non-conventional" families in Uganda?

I haven’t met many unconventional families but the conventional families are stuck in "what do my parents want from me? What is the family saying?" I know that as families we are one unit, I know that with my sisters, my brothers, my dad, I know that’s one unit. But my decisions should not be based on what my brothers think or what my mum, dad, uncles and aunts think. As long as those decisions are wise and Godly. The conventional families here in Uganda rely very much on what they are told, like you find a grown man and grown woman not able to make a decision because their mother says it’s not a good decision and you see they are convinced it’s a good decision but because their mother who is obviously from a different generation, different circumstances says "oh no, you can’t do that". You find people are not able to be the best or to achieve more for their families because they are sticking to what their extended family says. I haven’t met many unconventional families here in Uganda. I think George and I are one in a million. The ones I’m friends with on social media, I wouldn’t make a judgement because I don’t know them personally, I just see what they post but I don’t "know them" know them.

If there were three things you could tell mothers in Uganda planning or thinking about adopting, what would they be?

One; it’s the best thing you will ever do for yourself and even for the kingdom of God. Your value extends beyond what is yours and goes to what is God’s. Secondly, go ahead and do it; don’t ask for opinions, don’t check your bank account, just do it. Go, sign up and do it, because immediately you do it, you step into God’s plan and it ceases to be your journey and I can’t even explain when God steps in your journey how awesome it is. Three, when Moses (in the Bible) in the basket was being put in a basket and sent down the river and sent to pharaoh’s house and grew up in that house, God had a plan for Moses. We all read about him. Every child out there that has been abandoned; God has a plan for that child. If you step in the blessing of walking with this child to fulfill God’s plan, how amazing is that. History will have you and this child as part of a journey that God has prepared. But make no mistake, once you step in it, it’s a heart issue because God sees that heart and sees where no one sees: when your child is eating, when they are bathing, when they are crying. Is it a real relationship or is it to put up in the public to show I adopted? Your story is not what people see, your story is what God sees. Most importantly, go and adopt!

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