Seeking to find a relationship within which one can be free.
I first heard about Meeting Point International when I was desperate for a friendship, a relationship due to the condition that I was in; three younger ones not being at school, to having no meal in a day, having three children dropouts at home, at that moment I needed none of my problems to be solved. What I needed was a friend, somewhere to belong and when a woman called Joyce who is a client of Mpi spoke to me about it. I felt that it was like any other Organization where by you feel alone even when your children are under sponsorship.
Hanifah together with her three children and husband lives in a place called Acholi quarters. It was a camp in Uganda, which was initially considered a place of the internally displaced persons. It is located outside the capital Kampala, in what might seem to be an inhospitable environment. The family lives in one room house made out of bricks with low light since it doesn’t have windows but one door with rays of light coming in, the only furniture is the small bench for both the family and visitors to sit.
The floor is cemented since the mattress is laid on the floor during the night. Hanifah with tears in her eyes narrates “At one point of my life, I lived with my children on the floor outside on the veranda since I didn’t have money to pay for the house. My child was sick, I couldn’t take him to the hospital because I lac ked money and when I attempted to do so, the doctors asked me for money for checkup and I could return home with him and since the people of the community that I lived in knew my condition, they gave me money for checkup and my child was treated. One woman who was a member of Meeting Point International, Joyce invited me to stay with them and this is where I joined with the women in kireka, At first it was difficult since I stayed with them and felt alone but with time I started dancing and singing and this took away most of my weights because I felt that sense of belonging and a friendship was born with the women since her business was to make papers bags for a living, I was moved and since it was simple I asked her to teach me so that I could do the same since I had nothing to do.
While sitting learning to do the paper bags. Rose Director MPI asked me to bring my children to be registered for sponsorship and all of them were registered and enrolled in school. One of my child in the primary and the other two in Luigi Giussani High school. I remember talking to myself that I should start doing these papers in order to buy the school requirements since Meeting Point international is paying for my children’s school fees. when I started doing paper bags, I started getting some money for food, requirements for my children, which is my business up to now and I do it for a living and it feels like my life was given back to me . I was always alone but not anymore because now I have discovered a companion beyond”.AS Hanifah recounts all that happened to her, There was a gentleness in her face and eyes.
By AYO VANESSA (Companionship of Works Association (COWA VTC )
I have discovered something beautiful that is now a wonder in my life. A dream I have never desired to a part of my life or even wished to be involved in. A voice you hear how has fallen passionately in love Agriculture starting from production to commercialization.
I am going to be frank with you, the previous years I looked at life at different perspective as far as careers are concerned, I dreamt of having a white collar job or highly paid professions like law, mass communication and IT management. I despised manual jobs such as agriculture and others looked at it as dirty, a fact that one has to touch soil, I wanted clean work where I do not have to break myself with bulky stuff but just getting simple and clean money. At least that is what was running through my mind those days.
After completing my high school in form six last year 2016. I was very excited about enrolling to the university during the vacation, I remember very well that I even drew down plans for the university around 22, January, 2017 which included getting a job during the vacation, then buy for myself a laptop, lots of clothes, shoes and a smart phone so as life at the university is really good and fun where I do not have to worry about anything else but books. l wanted to do IT management (Information Technology) at the university basically a degree course at any university in Uganda.
I shared this with aunt Rose but she disagreed with me and advised me to choose a course that is more lively, touchable and look at the job availability in Uganda whether I will be able to get a job. Deep inside my heart, I was not convinced so I went back hoe that day to think about it. But all I could think of was to do IT management at the university.
A simple invite to do a short course under agribusiness in COWA (Companionship of Works Association) an institute located in kamuli –kireka, Wakiso district, Uganda, changed everything in my life.
Aunt Rose invited me and my friends to do a course in order to keep ourselves busy during vacation as we wait for the university. She addressed this offer to us during a meeting she hosted. During the meeting, she wanted to know how her girls were doing, the challenges we were facing she can us accordingly. This is so because we were protected and spent all our lives at high school but now we were wide open into the world. So there could be high chances of messing up so she wanted to guide us and also make us feel secured that all in, there is someone we can to for counseling when challenges and problems come our way.
I was expected to start work in two weeks’ time I had got a job in Turkish supermarket around Ntinda, Kampala, Uganda. They were going to pay me some good money around 300,000/=.It was a lot of money for me as a starter. With this kind of money, l would have paid all my debts in the movement [communion and liberation] and a few friends who demanded me and also I would have bought all the requirements I needed at the university.
I know this sounds like regrets, actually sometimes l wonder whether l made the right decision. l say this because when l decided to do a short course in agribusiness along the way, l gained interest in this field so l gave up the job but this broke war at home , my Aunts were not happy about the decision l my made , they said that l have killed an opportunity of changing my life financially and independently.lt was tough for me in making this decision, my Aunts even made it worse for me l almost gave up the course also but my mom stood up for me as she said that whatever decision l make as long as it comes from my heart , the decision will always be right .This motivated me and uplifted my courage and confidence because l realized l was not a lone but rather with someone who loved me.
Our trainer Mr. Michael in COWA really motivated me and made me fall in love with agriculture , l remember he shared with us experience about some of his friends who did urban farming basically dealing in tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and Sukuma wiki respectively . And how they were profitable for instance, the one of tomatoes who could get 200,000/=daily. And this enabled him to take care of family, take his children to school and finish constructing his house. These persons were using the available space at home not so big but the produce could be high. This really caught my interest.
At around march most of the form six leavers where to apply to the universities of their choices and the courses they would like to do including myself. At this point, l was in dilemma because in August COWA was taking the Agriculture students to agro max limited Uganda- a farm in order for the students to acquire more skills basically we were going for green house management and also other things we would find there. This very month the students at the university would be starting their studies especially as the first years.
I tell you what, l lost weight in two weeks as l was thinking of what to do, on the other hand, my girlfriends were reminding me to apply because most of them were going to apply and others had already applied. They were asking me the course l will be doing and which university l will going to. This was really too much, so l went for help to my mom and the director of COWA know as Miss Chrispine who told me that their options would be as good as useless to me now and the only thing was make up my mind and make a decision because this was a critical moment in my life which l had to make on my own. I felt as if this was a matter of life and death.
Soon or rather, l had to make a decision where l chose agribusiness over IT Management .This time my relatives especially my Aunts quarried, the y almost wanted to swallow me a life. They complained that l was wasting time and resources. They said that l should not have studied A’LEVEL it I knew, l would have branched off immediately after O’LEVEL and then they confessed how disappointed they were in me. But a fact is that studying never ends and may be this is what God had prepared for me all along. So that l can discover my talents and interests.
During my trainings in agro max limited Uganda Gayaza-Luteete-Kampala which lasted about three months have really been of great importance to me . l have gained a lot of skills, competence, determination, motivation and courage to go further, research , study and venture more in agriculture. Discovering more technologies and is innovations in agriculture so as to advance and commercialize the produce and the products.
Green house management
Coffee nursery and mother garden management
Open field management
Tissue culture propagation
Passion fruit management
Site selection for open field and green house
Agro-forestry nursery kinds of propagation
Propagation of plants using cloning method
Vegetative method of propagation
Crop nutrition practices
Pest and disease identification and control
Record keeping in both open field and green house
Sales and marketing
I plan to start up a project so as to practice the skills l have attained, and l also look forward to share my skills with the youth like me especially those who are wasting their lives and time, l would like t create awareness among them that they can do something for themselves and make a difference in their lives. I am confident that now that l can change the face of my family, my life and that of the society. I have hope now that some of my ambitions will come to light, for instance ,giving away to charity, may be the hand, l have been exchanging is not enough.
I would love to help the needy basically because out of love and charity l was able to go to school and l was able to reach where I am now. Therefore l want to make a different in someone’s life.
At this point of my life, l look forward to advance in agriculture, l desire to do a diploma course after completing my certificate and if possible l would love to continue further to do a degree course. I realized the more l advance in my studies, the more l get exposed to a wider agriculture, and discover more technologies and innovations. I also believe more opportunities will come my way, my friends keep on reminding me of years but l am not worried about it as studying and discovering never ends until we go to our gravels.
I want to join the world of people who are fighting famine and starvation all over villages because times have changed so we need to change also, as we cannot just sit and look as our fellow friends die basically due to facts that, there is nothing left to eat. This has been a major problem in Uganda in the pasted years, l would like this to happen again. Agriculture is the back bone of my country and there are a lot of opportunities in it, l cannot afford to miss this beautiful journey.
I send special thanks to my sponsors, mentors, family, and friends for being always there for me, without any of you, l do not think whether l would be making big decisions in my life.
You have sacrificed a lot in order for me to attain education especially my sponsors i appreciate the kindness and generosity you have shown me.
“DESPITE THE CIRCUMSTANCES, HE WAS ABLE TO FIND HOPE.”
Gashumba’s father is a Rwandese by race, he had lived and worked in Rwanda as a Chef but because of civil wars, he fled to Uganda in search of peace and access to better social services, and he later found a job working for AVSI Volunteers but later they had to leave for Italy and he was left unemployed, It was then that Rose Director Meeting Point International (MPI) saw him, and she employed him to work at her home. With a good relationship, Gashumba Emmanuel got an opportunity to be supported by Meeting Point International right from his childhood and at the age of five; he attended his Primary level of education at St. Kizito Primary School Bugolobi.
Gashumba tells me that; “during school days, Social Workers from MPI could come to meet us and we would write letters to our sponsors, this was the time I realized that I was supported by MPI.”
Having completed his Primary level, he joined secondary level in St. Maria Goretti Katende. It was a big school but MPI proposed to him a new school (Luigi Giussani High School) and he was told he would like it. It`s location only made him regret why he had left his former school. Luigi Giussani high school was situated in Kireka Acholi quarters a slum in Kampala city; it was a young school with one building without electricity besides, the head teacher and her Deputy Head teacher were so harsh and strict to students; this made him to think that there was no difference between his former school and the later.
Those were the moments in which Gashumba felt life was not interesting because of the challenges and circumstances he was going through in his life; especially the father’s leg that had been amputated because of cancer. With harsh and tough teachers, Gashumba was sinking in bewilderment; it was then that Rose invited him to start attending the school of community that could take place at his school. It was then that he heard the words like love, beauty, happiness, Justice and the value of a person. He could understand nothing but with time, he found a correspondence with what he was being told, Gashumba found happiness. With this feeling of happiness, his school performance greatly improved, school became interesting and gained meaning. He then managed to complete his ordinary and Advanced level of education successfully. While in his vacation, he asked Rose (Director MPI) if there was a possibility of a job so that he could be doing something to support himself and the family. He was introduced to work, at the beginning, it was a challenge for him to work and Study at the same time but it was a help for him, to learn on how to face the reality. Thanks to MPI, Gashumba has managed to complete his diploma in social work and social administration and he is looking forward to upgrade in his studies.
In Meeting point International we are happy that Gashumba Emmanuel discovered his Value, and he understood the value of his education despite all that he went through, we can still see that starting from the awareness of his value, Gashumba was able to find hope again and this allowed him to triumph.
In Acholi quarter, Kireka, there’s a rather exceptional woman named Akullu Margret. With a stunning smile she tells me she has always considered herself to be a lucky woman. She never went to school but, living with Women of Meeting Point International (MPI), she was being educated on how to stay with people, neighbours and even to do business. She considers herself lucky ever since she met MPI, she has also started a business selling charcoal (used for cooking food) which enables her to earn a living.
As she carrying on with her daily work, she noticed one thing in particular; during the day she met a lot of men, women, and children who were at home who seemed to be doing nothing.
She joined MPI in 1999 after facing a lot of problems which had not only made her feel like an animal but also unable to live with people because she was always fearful. She remembers standing outside MPI watching the women gathering, then Rose (Director MPI) invited her in, she entered and felt welcomed for the first time ever.
Margret: “I saw a white man sitting beside Rose, he had this smiling face, he took a photo of me with my child. When he returned to Italy, he framed it and sent it back to me, through Aunt Rose. We then started a friendship and a few years later, he started supporting me and my family”.
MPI started taking her children to school while she, on the other, hand started thinking of ways of supplementing her husband’s income from his job in the stone quarry. The moment Margret realized her infinite value, this introduced an openness in her. It was then that she started desiring to pay for her children’s requirements and to start a Charcoal business. She used the profit to buy a small plot of land to build a house.
She is now a mother to 12 children, of which six are her own and the other six orphans, all sponsored by MPI. She is able to pay for her children’s requirements and has also opened a shop for the husband to work in.
It was late evening when Priscilla had finished her work.She works as a cleaner at the Luigi Giussani Institute for Higher Education to support her siblings since she is the head of her family (though still so young). I have known Priscilla since she was 11 and started being supported by Meeting Point International (MPI) and this year, she scored 17/20 points in the Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB) emerging as the best student at the Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS). I desired to ask her what she is living and what made her study so hard despite all that she went through.
“We were raised by a single mother because our father had passed on when I was three years old. I hardly knew him, but I knew that he loved us. I remember after the burial, we moved to Naguru(Kampala). We are four in the family, and I am the second born. It wasn’t easy for my mother as she tried always to take care of us, both at school and home with all what we desired.
We later moved to a place called Mbuya (Kampala District), where my mother had married another man, the father to my younger sister. Unfortunately, he also passed on before she was born (by then I was 11 years old). Later on, my mother had heard about MPI and she started meeting with the Women in Kireka. My mother continued paying my school fees from her little income she managed to earn with the small bar she was managing, even if sometimes we had difficulties in getting money for feeding.
I was in a government school, we were over 200 children in a class. I could perform but I could be 100th position in the class. This had made me hate school. Only when we joined St MatiaMulumba Primary School I met new friends and teachers and this made me love school once again and motivated me to work hard and my performance started improving. The school environment was nice, and everything was new, from the subjects to the teachers. I started reading and consulting teachers and as time went on, I was improving. I never stopped working hard because I knew that my mother didn’t go to school and she would have been happy if I had finished my studies.
It was a Thursday, the first week at the beginning of senior four, while at school I received a call from the Hospital; my mother was admitted because of cancer. I rushed to the hospital, I was stillin the school uniform. With tears in her eyes, my mother asked the reason to why I was there. I couldn’t leave her all alone because she was the most important thing for me in that moment.
It was on Friday when my mother was released from the hospital; maybe the doctors had already known that she was going to pass on. She seemed so different from the state that she was at the hospital, it was as if she had not suffered from any disease and when our neighbours brought us food, drinks she could eat without problems. That evening she was so happy as if nothing had happened.
The same night, I slept in the same room, but her conditions worsened and I started praying for her because she could not speak. I woke up in the morning and I was preparing something to eat for her. When I went to check on her, she was dead.
After the burial, I had to go back to school. I started copying notes, reading books but the thoughts of my mother were in my mind. The teachers, since they had known my situation, started giving me all the attention that I needed to study. Our economic situation worsened and because we couldn’t find money and also the feeding wasn’t so easy. In order to get food to eat, we were also helped by another organization. When I came back from school, I would cook for my siblings.
I could do some small works after school or during holidays to collect money to pay for the school requirements. My English teacher paid for my school uniform. My brother started skipping school in order to provide food for our siblings. I could study only at school because at home I would go back and cook for my siblings. I must thank all the friends and the teachers that dedicated time to me. I was surprised to see that I got 17 points making me the best in school.”
This year Achan Priscilla is joining the University to study English literature because she wants to become an English teacher.