By Amy Robertson
Four years ago, an exploratory trip to Africa unexpectedly became the job of a lifetime for Terra Marie Moore of Edmonton, Alta.
She became the director of an orphanage and primary school that houses nearly 80 destitute or orphaned children between the ages of four and 14 in Iganga District, Uganda.
She was 20 years old.
Moore was exploring educational options through the university of life shortly after high school—that is, she wanted to travel. In the Spring of 2006, she began writing letters to mission organizations in East Africa. Whom did they serve? How? Why? What were their needs?
That fall, she set off to meet those organizations. She went with an open-ended plane ticket, not knowing where or for how long she might need to stay. One day, while volunteering with an organization in Uganda, Moore met Andria Young, a young Canadian woman who was teaching at an orphanage in Iganga District. Young told Moore about a seemingly hopeless situation she’d found there.
Young had come to teach, but there were no school supplies, the children were constantly running out of food, their clothing was threadbare, and they had no access to medical care. Their director was a faithful but sick woman named Elizabeth who used what little money she had for food for the children instead of medication for herself. The situation looked desperate—and Young was heading home soon.
Moore asked what she might do to help, and Young asked her to stay with the children at the orphanage for Christmas.
“You could say that a door had been opened that couldn’t be shut that day,” Moore said.
She had some money that friends and family had raised for her trip, and with it, she was able to buy food and gifts for the children for Christmas before heading to Rwanda for two weeks.
She thought she was done. But in January, Moore went back to visit, only to find a situation just as hopeless as before.
Elizabeth was sick, the children were about to run out of food, and school was about to start, but they had no books.
Moore felt helpless. What could she do?
She kept thinking, Run! Now! This is too big—it’s too much. There’s nothing I can do.
But God compelled her to try.
The orphanage had a small piece of land they could use for farming. Moore asked Elizabeth to create a budget for her: how much would it cost to clear, till, plant, and harvest their land? Then Moore said she’d be back the next day with food and school supplies.
When she returned, nothing had changed—the project was still far too large for her.
But, she would soon learn, it wasn’t too big for God.
She didn’t know it, but friends and family at home were fundraising on her behalf—which meant the garden she’d asked Elizabeth to budget for was just the beginning.
God provided the crops, then a small shop, chickens and goats, a cow, books for school, and money for medicine, blankets, mats, and teachers.
God also provided a 23-year-old Ugandan man named Paul Makula—he loved the children in the orphanage so much that he came to care for and teach them even though a salary wasn’t guaranteed.
Neither was his comfort—Makula slept on a church pew instead of a bed each night.
He would tell new teachers as they came, “You are most welcome to Grace of God. This is an orphanage home and primary school, and you must know that this project is about love. Today you are not just becoming a teacher—you are becoming like a parent to these children.”
Seven months after she came, Moore decided to leave the orphanage in Elizabeth and Makula’s capable hands and head home to Canada. She thought it would be years before she returned—but she couldn’t get the children at the orphanage out of her head.
She heard that Elizabeth was very sick, and not able to carry out her responsibilities. There wasn’t enough money to cover her medical bills, teachers’ salaries, food, and hygiene products for the children. Moore decided she’d go back earlier than planned.
In July of 2008, she returned to what “appeared to be a broken project.” Elizabeth had succumbed to her illness in May of that year. Paul was working hard to fill the gaping hole Elizabeth had left, but the programs had failed, the shop had closed, the chickens had died of a flu, and someone had stolen their crops.
Moore was left with a difficult decision: Was God closing the doors to the orphanage? Or was He asking her to breathe life into it again?
After two months of steady prayer, the answer became obvious to her.
“What had appeared to be broken was the foundation of something new,” she said.
They had a staff that stayed even without salaries, a project that was still alive because of love and faith, and children who had been given new beginnings. They had to leave their villages because of destitution and AIDS, but had found hope and a home in a new village.
Moore knew she couldn’t give up on them.
So they began fresh, forming Ekyaro Kyaife, which means “Our Village” in Lusoga.
They subsist on prayer. Every Wednesday, the staff and older children fast, worship, and pray together throughout the day, and then celebrate in the evening by eating together.
The children see prayers answered constantly—and they get to be a part of it.
One evening, when they were about to run out of food, Moore got an email from a friend in Canada. She hadn’t known, but this friend had been fundraising on behalf of the orphanage. Twelve hundred dollars was on its way—and the day they ran out of food was the day the money came. Moore and the staff rejoiced in God’s faithfulness. They were able to buy not only food, but also beds for everyone—previously, they had slept on torn, dirty mats on the floor.
Moore says she isn’t “an international aid genius,” and yet God always provides. Someone she knows will talk to someone else, who will talk to someone else, who will call and offer a gift of blankets—just when they need blankets.
“It’s aligned in this amazing way,” she said. “Clearly God is networking!”
Ekyaro Kyaife is still working toward charitable organization status, which limits the help they can receive from other aid organizations. And yet Moore knows that in this in-between time, the project is clearly God’s. Recently, the orphanage was able to partner with a secondary school run by a different aid organization, which will allow the orphanage’s students to attend secondary school at a discount. For the students at Ekyaro Kayife, which offers only primary school, this is absolutely “huge.”
The primary school is becoming a means of sustenance—it’s gaining a good reputation throughout the nearby villages, and children from better-off families are asking to attend school there. Moore hopes the funds will help them support the other children.
When Moore is in Uganda, her role varies by day—sometimes she teaches life and agricultural skills, sometimes she’s managing the budget (they have 12 staff members, all of whom are paid a small salary), and sometimes she’s doing laundry.
Moore came back to Canada in July 2009 to spend a year studying in Briercrest College and Seminary’s Global Studies program (she had started the year before in Uganda via distance learning). Makula sent budgets and reports to her (Moore’s mother helped), and she continued to network and raise funds. The project thrived in her absence as staff members learned operations and accountability.
Moore returned to Uganda in September 2010, and she’s not sure how long she’ll stay. As the only non-Ugandan staff member, she hopes to gradually work herself out of a job as the orphanage becomes self-supporting. But until then, she says, she’s committed to going back.
Her vision is profound:
“Ekyaro Kaife is dedicated to taking the good from the past programs and raising the bar for an even better future,” she said. “We are not about handouts. We are about people, we are about relationships, we are about partnership, we are about community, and most importantly, as Paul will tell you, we are about love.”