Trapped between Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania lies the pearl of Africa: Uganda. It's a country cultivated by adversity, yet radiating beauty.
Uganda boasts a population of 32 million where 38 percent children are chronically undernourished suffering from stunting.
The average income is less than $1.25 a day. And more than 50 percent of the population is under the age of 15, according to the U.S Government's Global Hunger & Food Security initiative.
"No medication, no education, no food," said Pastor Raphael, who founded (Un)Adopted's Busega Community School for Deaf in Uganda.
"They are starving. Anyone can get them going into anything, buy them into prostitution. Desperation is a terrible thing," he said.
But the fate of the deaf children is far worse than the rest.
"The moment you are born deaf you are called [dumb]," Pastor Raphael said. "They are considered a curse. Can you imagine [being] born into your family and [have] everyone [think] you are a punishment of God [for the family)?"
Named courageous by some, irresponsible by others, Pastor Raphael is deaf to the voices of his adversaries.
"I was advised by almost about everyone [not to associate with the deaf children]," Pastor Raphael said.
"[They told me,] 'Pastor, you are a good pastor, you have a good family, you have good children. Please don't bring a curse to your good family.' Everyone advised me, 'Pastor don't bring a curse to your church, it's a good church.'"
Four years ago, the Busega Community School for the Deaf started with just four children and now has grown to 13.
"I had begun to see a boy by the name of Mutebi," Pastor Raphael said. "An isolated boy just because he was deaf. We got two sign language interpreters and we weren't even trying to start a school. The story began to go around in the community and before I knew it Angella was on the door of my house."
In the words of Angella, "life wasn't all that good" before she joined the deaf school.
Pastor Raphael remembers the first time he saw Angella.
"What I remember was pain. Bad boys in the community, they would use her. They ended up impregnating her. She gave birth to Precious and Precious had no eyes. We had no choice but to bring Angela into the school."
Since her first day two years ago, Angella's life and her daughter Precious' life have both changed dramatically.
"This could only be God," Pastor Raphael said. "You see redemption. Not only will we give you education, but we would also love to take care of Precious. Look at how they are today. Wonderful, precious gifts not only to us, but to the church."
The school is not only providing children with education, but also a new identity.
"Anderson, we've given him a new name, Joy," Pastor Raphael said. "That was most gloomy looking boy. Mutebi we've given him the name, Wise-man. He was looked at as [dumb, but] his family thinks he's intelligent now. Angella is almost like a redeeming angel."
If you drive by the school you'll notice one thing that's different than every other school in the area: the gate is always open in the day.
"From Day One we said we would never close the gate on what we were doing. Everyone looks on [the street] kids as a burden. To keep these doors open such that a dear one like this one ... can walk in any day she want," Pastor Raphael said while a barefoot child stood beside him.
"If her mother and father, for example, have gone into town and left ... a child like this in a dangerous community like this one, they can easily be molested. Anything can be done, so we keep these doors open so that she, even without being in our school program, she can have a safe place."
The deaf school is changing the future generation in the Pearl of Africa.
"I wake up every day and see lives changed," Pastor Raphael said. "This can only be God."
(Un)Adopted's annual fundraiser for Pastor Raphael's deaf school and community work is Saturday, August 16 at Veterans Park. You can signup at Runforone5k.org.
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