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  • Gretchen Rooney


A sponsorship story by Gretchen Rooney

Teddy lived with 3 younger children and grandmother. Some of them may have been related or not. They were subsisting.

Teddy was in Primary school, her third or fourth year, at about 9 years old. Her school instruction was offered in English while her dance language was exclusively native. She was a support to the grandmother along with the other 3 children.

We met at Tender Mercies home. She preferred the traditional genuflection upon being introduced to her new “mama” (a sign of love and respect from our children, they call us their moms and dads). She neither spoke nor could she look at me.

During the next 3 to 4 years, we spent time each year in short interviews. With the aid of the older girls interpreting, we achieved a small exchange of information. Did she like school? “Yes.” What subject did she like? “Religion.” What did she do after school for fun? “Nothing.” It was superficial and painful. I saw her at mealtime and at group activities.

Finally came the year she could speak for herself. Now, the barrier to understanding was my hearing and interpreting her speech. Slowly, we became acquainted.

School was always challenging for Teddy. After the National Test given the second year of Secondary school, Teddy was placed in a technical culinary school. She has completed a year and a half and has an equal time to finish.

This animated, confident, lovely young woman of 20 years old is thrilled with her current education. She has learned many fundamental cooking skills for daily living.But she is exhilarated about baking, especially about creating fancy cakes. She eagerly shares her book of hand-written recipes for stew, bread, and greens. But she glows as she describes cakes, croissants and doughnuts.

Teddy now hopes to finish culinary school and will seek employment in a bakery. She dreams eventually of owning her own bakery shop… perhaps even in America.

Who would have guessed that the shy waif I met 10 years ago would blossom into the caring, confident, motivated Ugandan beauty I see and love today!

“She remembers being very shy when she came to Tender Mercies.” And we all remember that too. Watching her grow into the young woman who exudes confidence and kindness is not only a joy for Gretchen, Teddy’s sponsor, but all of the team who have had the pleasure to work beside her and watch her burst out of her shy shell.


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