What started as a one-year trip to Uganda eventually led Katie Davis to single motherhood, taking 13 foster daughters into her home. The 22-year-old has begun the adoption process, but official approval might not come for a few years since Ugandan law requires adoptive parents to be at least 25 years old. Davis is the founder of Amazima Ministries, an organization based in Jinja that sponsors Ugandan school children, provides vocational opportunities for poor Ugandans, and distributes food and health care services to the families of more than 1,600 children in Masese, a nearby slum.
Davis recently completed a tour in the U.S. for her new book, Kisses From Katie (Howard Books), in which she writes about her life and journey in Uganda. Morgan Feddes, editorial resident at Christianity Today, spoke with her about the book, her ministry in Uganda, and her growing family.
What are you hoping will come out of this book?
The goal of the book was for other people to be encouraged that, in small steps of obedience to God, he can create something more extraordinary than you could have imagined. When people come into my story from this side of things, they might say, "Oh, this young girl has this organization and all these children—either she's totally crazy or she's gotta be incredible." I'm neither, but the story started with one open door of going to this third-world country. I said yes, and then God placed needs in front of me, and I tried to meet them in the best way I could.
What has Amazima been doing in Uganda?
Amazima started originally as a sponsorship program. I saw so many children who were unable to come to school and parents were trying to drop them off at the orphanage—not because they were orphans, but because they would get to eat three times a day. I thought, We have to be able to keep these children in their biological families and still get their basic needs met. That grew from about 10 children initially to 450 children today.
Now we do a feeding and nutrition program in this other slum community [Masese]. Because we have put food back in the school, the children are able to come to class. With the help of several merchants, we also do some free medical care in that community. We also do some vocational training. We have a group of women who make necklaces and bracelets, and we sell them here in the United States. Any extra [profit] goes back into the feeding program that's done in that same community.
We built a playground last year, which I wanted to be more sustainable than a building. Instead of having several teams come over and build it, we found eight 15- to 18-year-old boys who would have qualified for sponsorship but didn't want to go back to school. After two or three months of training, we hired the boys to build the playground, and now they have built other projects. Several of them have gone on to get other carpentry jobs in the community or have used the money they made to go into some kind of vocational training program.
There was quite a bit of attention drawn to issues surrounding adoption after the Haitian earthquake, where children who were not orphans were being sent to the U.S. Have you seen any issues similar to that in your attempts to adopt in Uganda?
The process is a little different for me because I live in the country and I don't intend to emigrate with my children. I can do the three years of foster care, and then I'll finalize the adoption, but only with the intention of being completely under the law and not with the intention of applying for any kind of immigrant visa. But because I live there, we can be flexible, and if we can't receive a court date immediately, that's okay. We wait until we can.