Helping Hearts Heal: Ugandan Nurse to Receive Ford Family Award

Author: Ashley Rowland

Rose Busingye during her meetings with the women

A Ugandan nurse who founded an organization for impoverished women and children with HIV/AIDS will receive the 2019 Ford Family Notre Dame Award for International Development and Solidarity this month at the University of Notre Dame.

Rose Busingye is president of Meeting Point International, a Kampala-based nongovernmental organization that provides medical care, schooling, and other services that help patients increase their self-sufficiency and develop social networks.

MPI’s mission emphasizes emotional as well as physical healing. In particular, Busingye focuses on helping patients recognize their inherent dignity and worth in a society where they are often shunned because of their medical diagnosis.

“Rose recognizes that she needs to treat the inside as well as the outside of the person,” said Rev. Robert Dowd, CSC, director of the Ford Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity. “She’s not a heart surgeon, but she helps heal hearts.”

Busingye will receive the award from the Ford Program, part of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, on Sept. 12 at the Hesburgh Center auditorium. The ceremony will be followed by an armchair discussion with Busingye on “The Value of a Life: AIDS, Outcasts, and the Search for Dignity in Uganda,” hosted by Faculty Fellow Clemens Sedmak, a professor of social ethics at the Keough School of Global Affairs.

Rose, he said, “makes it a point to see a person as someone with something to give to the world. She makes sure that everybody understands that these women are amazing people and so much more than patients suffering from a chronic condition.”

The Ford Family award is given annually in recognition of substantial contributions to human development through research, practice, public service, or philanthropy.

According to Dowd, Busingye embodies the Ford Program’s research and teaching focus on integral human development, a holistic model of human flourishing rooted in Catholic social thought that emphasizes the importance of being connected to others.

“Rose is doing the kind of work that promotes integral human development and those of us seeking to do the same have much to learn from her efforts,” he added. “She accompanies women in ways that free them up and helps them to make the most of their God-given potential.”

Busingye, who is also a midwife, started in MPI in 1993 after meeting HIV-positive women in the slums of Kampala who refused to take antiretroviral medications that could slow the progress of their disease. They believed their lives were meaningless; Busingye sought to convince them otherwise by telling the women they were loved and by creating a de facto family for them within MPI.

She explained on MPI’s website the philosophy behind her work: “The greatest need of a human being is the need of belonging….MPI creates simple environments where each person can find it easier to belong and experience love.”

Today, MPI serves approximately 2,000 women and more than 1,000 children, offering services including counseling, health and hygiene courses, adult literacy classes, and microcredit loans. It also runs an orphanage and operates a bead-making enterprise that helps women earn money to support their families.

Dowd noted that many of the women assisted by MPI have experienced emotional or physical abuse, including rape. Some are from northern Uganda and were brutalized by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a guerilla movement that terrorized the region for more than 20 years starting in the mid-1980s.

Many of those women are ostracized not only because they are HIV positive because they are from the north and were forced by the LRA to serve as soldiers or sex slaves, he said.

Many of the women are angry, resentful, and lonely. One of Busingye’s strategies for helping them deal with their emotions is by simply listening to them: “By listening to them, she helps them to recognize that they are valued and that they have value,” he said.

Previous Ford Family award recipients have been well-known within the field of international development, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, Acumen CEO Jacqueline Novogratz; and Partners in Health.

By comparison, Busingye’s efforts have received relatively little attention.

“In giving this award to her, we’re trying to raise the awareness of important work that often goes unrecognized,” Dowd said. “Some of the best work going on in the world is where it’s not being recognized, where there’s not a lot of PR for it, where it’s not being backed by millions of dollars, and we want to highlight that work.”

In addition to helping people reflect on the importance of listening, Dowd added that the Ford Program hopes giving the award to Busingye will spark new questions for future research within the Keough School and its constituent units.

The Ford Family award is named in honor of University Trustee Emeritus Doug Ford ’66 and his wife Kathy, whose generosity helped establish the Ford Program.

The award presentation will be held at 5 p.m. in the Hesburgh Center Auditorium. The event is open to the public and will be followed by a reception.

Source: Kellog Institute

UGANDA. IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO SAY, “A NICE COMPANIONSHIP”.

The new life of Gladys and her father; a lunch with Anifa, a Muslim, in the heart of the slum, the holiday with the university students, from the music of Arnold and Marvin to the fear of the spirits of Ochaka… The four-day story in and around Kampala.
Ignacio Carbajosa 

30.9.2019

I arrived in Kampala for the Clu holidays in Uganda with three Spanish friends: Juan, Javi, and Paula. On Thursday morning, we went to see the women that nurse Rose Busingye welcomes at the International Meeting Point. As usual, after a couple of hours of dancing, I improvised a small assembly with them. When I met them, I asked them questions that I had at heart, knowing that their experience is rich. This time, in the wake of the Fraternity Exercises, I asked them what nourishes their joy, even today, years after meeting Rose, who welcomed and treated them (they are suffering from AIDS). The first thing that struck us is that Rose continues to be present in their lives just as she was on the first day. They refer, in a simple way, to a paternity that is ever-present. They also share the same awareness that Rose has: that there is One who is making her in every instant.

Then we went to lunch at Gladys’ house, a high-school senior, who participates in the life of the Clu (which includes students from the last two years of high school). Last year, we had also gone to this same house, a two by three meter shack, located in the slum. Glady’s dad was not there last time, but remained so struck by the fact that we had been their guests, that, since then, he has named the humble house “the new Jerusalem”.

Gladys tells us that, since that day, her dad has not been the same, and that many serious problems in his life have disappeared. He works as a guardian at the Luigi Giussani Primary School. At lunch, he told us of his change, of the grace received and of his faith. It was moving, in that humble place, to hear him say: “I don’t miss anything“. We also witnessed a beautiful dialogue between father and daughter: “You still doubt my change, because you think it’s my work”, he says: “But I’m quiet because it’s something that the Lord has done“.

The holiday with the Ugandan university students

Also at the lunch are Sara, her Muslim friend Anifa and Achiro Grace, who, having finished high school, had a son and, in the last two years, has distanced herself and then been brought back closer, more than once, to the community. But it is clear that she has been marked by what she has met in the movement. Anifa prepared the lunch. It was striking to hear her talk about her meeting with CL as a preference for her life and how cooking for us filled her with joy. It didn’t seem as though she had any problem with the fact that she is Muslim and we are Christians: it is evident that the encounter with us is a treasure for her life.

The next day we left for Hoima, the location of the holiday. We traveled by bus for five hours with about fifty students (among them, two Muslim girls: a university girl and Anifa’s daughter). Once arrived, an introduction was given by Marvin, one of the boys of Kampala. This was followed by some African dancing.

During dinner, I talked to Vicky, who is one of the older students, who will graduate at the end of this year. They are the first to graduate. Until now, I hadn’t heard anyone speak of confusion and fear of finishing university, the fear of losing a certain way of being with friends, the School of Community, the Exercises, the holidays… I tried to help her look at what has happened in her life: “If what you found here is only a nice companionship, then you’re right to fear the future. But if instead, what you have found is of a divine nature, then fear becomes a question to the Mystery of how He will bring everyone’s life to fulfillment”.

In the evening, Mary Claire, Marvin’s sister, presented the film the Miracle of Marcelino. Some had seen it and, impressed, they proposed it to everyone else. The simplicity of the film, Marcelino’s gaze towards everything and the concreteness of his relationship with Jesus, will leave footprints in the following days, also because many of the boys have lost their mothers, just like the film’s protagonist.

Ignacio and Gladys during the mass in the holiday

On Saturday morning we left for an excursion to Lake Albert. We celebrated mass on a hill overlooking the lake. We ate and then listened to the presentation of the biography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, which Gladys had read and proposed to everyone. Then, a game together.

Back in Hoima, the evening awaited us, the main “dish” of those days: a trail of songs by very famous contemporary songwriters (Sinéad O’Connor, Pink, James Arthur, Lady Gaga, Passenger and others). Arnold and Marvin are on guitar, sometimes accompanied by Juan and other voices, such as that of GladysPrimPriscilla… The thread that unites the chosen pieces is that of the heart of every man: the cry of meaning, desire, the expectation of something great, the dynamic of preference… A slide is projected for each song, with a short text, and for each one, one of the boys recounts, giving examples from his life, what the song conveys to him. It’s something exceptional.

At the end of the evening, I asked what happened during the show. An experience, I add, cannot be reduced to saying “what a lovely evening” or “how good they were”. It’s not even enough to say that those songs express the nature of our hearts. The evening is an expression of the presence of the risen Christ who, by entering the lives of these children, allows them to understand the dynamics of their hearts, better than the rock stars who wrote those songs.

In these days, the thing that filled my mind was the way in which, this summer, we talked about the experience. That is, the possibility, of being able to recognize Christ as a real factor in life. On Sunday, with Rose, I held the assembly. I was particularly struck by what Ochaka recounted. He had accompanied Alberto, the day before the trip, to ask the local tribe for permission for us to stop for lunch and celebrate mass. Last year, there had been problems, because they were asking for money saying that, if we did not pay, the spirits of the mountain would have sought revenge by stoning the intruders. I was struck by how Ochaka realized that the encounter with Christ freed him from fear of the spirits. Even today, it’s not something to be taken for granted in African culture. And not only there.

Source: Communion and Liberation

“There is nothing I can do to pay for this love”-Ocaka Goldie

I came to Kampala only to be safe from the rebels (LRA) who killed and abducted so many of my village mates in the early 2000s, I was living with my grandmother in the slums of Banda, life was really threatening because she didn’t have work yet we had to survive so I started stone quarrying and later attending a government school where we were asked for little money. But even this little money was a problem to find and I was always chased away from school for not being able to pay it. The problem worsened because that money kept on increasing termly and my grandmother couldn’t afford to pay it anymore so I eventually dropped out school when I was in Primary 5.

Left to Right: Rose Busingye, Ocaka Goldie, Bongomin Teddy and Akello Florence (Ocaka’s Mother) celebrate his graduation at  Meeting Point International (MPI) Kireka.

That was the time my parents came to Kampala; this is the period when my mother heard of Meeting Point International (MPI) and started attending the weekly meetings. Later I was enrolled in a project that supported us for three years and that meant I was going to complete primary school; I was very happy that at least I would complete primary though my desire to study didn’t stop. During my vacation after primary school, I crushed stones with the hope of joining secondary level and I even gathered enough money to join one of the affordable secondary schools around (Mbuya college). I started the first term well but in the second term things weren’t easy because I didn’t have the money anymore. My family spoke to the school so that I paid the fees in installments and this happened until I completed senior one. I was the first in my class and the school didn’t want me to leave but it was during this time (2010) that Luigi Giussani High School began.

Acro-yoga: Ocaka (second from the right) during acro-yoga sessions every Saturday at MPI Kireka

So I was again enrolled by MPI and this time I got a sponsor called Anna Targa Mietta, she supported me till I completed high school and I joined the Institute of Certified Public Accountant of Uganda where I did ATD (Accountant Technician Diploma), I still didn’t believe I was  going to receive a certificate of education until I  received an email from my school saying I was among those who were going to graduate in March 2019. Without MPI and Anna this wouldn’t be possible, forever I will live to remember MPI and Anna because they did for me something beyond my imagination, I feel am preferred and loved by MPI (Aunt Rose) more than even my own people. I didn’t pay a coin for all these achievements, this is not common in most of the Non-Government Organizations in Uganda, MPI is very special.

Tina is lifted up by Ocaka during the Acro-yoga sessions.

They treated me as a value and loved me as Ocaka and I feel there is nothing I can do to pay for this love because I feel nothing is enough. Just feel so unworthy, But I will only try to my capacity to be myself. I thank God and Aunt Rose so much for preferring me and pray that He blesses her in her life. She has also given me work in her office and still this lives me with silence in my heart because who am I to now work in an office God. I thank God that made me meet MPI and Rose because they changed the story of life.

FROM DREAMING TO BEING A DOCTOR TO AGRI-BUSINESS

In Uganda generally, the youth prefer to study the advanced level in secondary and then head to the university compared to studying in a vocational institute. Okeny Christopher, after completing senior 4 started doing Agri-business, which is not usual. Christopher tells us his story of this new path he is making;

By Okello Marvin, 1.4.2019

I am Okeny Christopher and I finished my senior 4 in 2017. From when I was a child, I wanted to become a doctor. My sister was working with Dettol (Soap making company), she was supplying different government hospitals. I used to go with her and I could see patients, so I got an interest in becoming a health worker.

Initially you were not doing agribusiness, what were you doing before, how did you end up doing agribusiness?

After senior 4, I decided to branch to a nursing school in Jinja and at first my parents didn’t agree because my grades were good, so they expected me to continue to the advanced level in Ugandan secondary schools. To reduce the burden of expenses on my father, I did an interview in order to get a government scholarship, prior to that I was sponsored by Reach Out Uganda but the program had ended. After that, since I was a good football player, I had a full bursary under football.

After that, I had succeeded in getting the government scholarship and they had requested for 1 million Ugandan Shillings for requirements. I got this money with the help of two of my uncles and my father. But then my sister was to sit for her final paper before she could graduate, she hadn’t yet paid her tuition then my mother and young sister were sick, so my father had to use that money collected for my requirements. This culminated into me going to school 2 weeks late. I discovered that the school administration had given my place to someone else. One of the instructors who saw me during the Interview told me that I could go and study at Mbale, the newly opened branch but no longer on government scholarship and that was going to cost more than two million shillings so I couldn’t make it. That’s when I started losing hope on that dream to become a doctor.

I began doing small works as I waited for my father to return the money. During the time of election, I met Madam Teddy who was campaigning to become the LC1 in our area. She didn’t win. After the elections, she called us and invited us to go to Rwanda. I could not miss the chance! It was organized by Madam Rose and Teddy, we went to Kibeho were the Virgin Mary appeared to some students in a school. When we came back, I had no plans and hope, the money needed to study was about 3 million. So, I began to do work where I was paid in a range of 10-15 thousand Ugandan shillings. I always sent the money I got to the village to do some farming.

I was doing agriculture in a minor way. In the village we have fertile land so my mother always planted cassava and sweet potatoes, generally food crops and she sold to harvest in Kampala to earn besides making beads and crushing stones. So, I also acquired that skill from her and I also started planting crops in the village through the villagers. I did it for some good time and I was making some money.

Was it hard for you to switch to Agri-business since you had other dreams?

It was not hard for me to switch from my dreams of becoming a doctor to Agri-business. I had already started doing agriculture by sending money for farming to the village. If I fail to become a doctor to treat human beings, through agriculture I can still become a veterinary doctor for animals so I’ve never lost hope. I still have hope even if I had started losing it. So, switching to agribusiness has never been difficult for me.

At Agromax, what was your typical day and week?

From Monday to Friday, we followed the programs of Agromax. And in the weekend, we did our own activities. On Monday we had leadership sessions. I was a leader in the field of entertainment. So, I used to give reports of previous weeks on how my department was doing, we had 45 minutes for all the departments to give out the reports. Then we would go to the field, either in the green house or we could harvest. We used to harvest on Mondays and Fridays. Personally, I was given seven green houses to manage including one of; tomatoes, cucumber, sweet paper. Among the workers, I had friends who could help me. Among the students assigned to Agromax, I was the one with the greatest number of green houses to manage, so I had to befriend the workers so that they could help me. We could also spray and give fertilizers to the plants. On Tuesday we could do field work and on Wednesday and Thursday, we would have classes.

What did you enjoy most during your field attachment at Agromax?

I enjoyed the hands-on practice. Before I used to practice agriculture unknowingly, I could send money to the village for planting crops, during harvesting I could head to the village and then come back and sell the harvests. I used to hate handling a hoe. Now I can do all that, I work in different fields like greenhouses, now I can manage a greenhouse very well. We never only studied about being a good farmer, we also had life skills training as a person in the community. I have met friends, I met senior agronomists, business partners, I’ve met different people who sometimes call me to do for them certain tasks and my network is growing. My life has never remained the same.

How did you end up studying Agri-business?

After the trip to Rwanda, when we came back, we had a call from Aunt Rose and Madam Teddy. They wanted to meet all the youth who had traveled with them to Rwanda, so I took that chance to attend. So, I wanted to go and appreciate what they had done, I hadn’t asked to be taken to Rwanda but they still took us there. Rose had no information about our lives but she loved and cared for us. She wanted to hear from us the changes in our lives after the journey to Rwanda. They were asking us about our plans and goals. When I heard that, in my heart, I was saying, “Thank you God for what you are doing in my life!” Since I failed to get a scholarship from the government for the nursing course, I felt that I needed to do something better outside the bracket of football. I was waiting for her to tell me, “What do you want to be?” I wanted to do catering!

But instead, Teddy recommended us to a special course, Agri-business. She explained more about the course. I looked at my life. I was sending money to the village to plant crops and this was a kind of Agri-business as well. So, this would help me adjust to what I was already doing. I used to read about it, for example having a small garden in the compound and earning from it, so I picked interest. We were many youths and people selected different courses but my friend Agit and I chose the Agri-business course. So, after that I went to Madam Teddy she explained more about the course. We joined COWA vocational institute and thereafter we were sent to Agromax. From then my life has never been the same.

I appreciate my parents, Madam Chrispine of COWA, Mr. Alberto of MPI, my mothers and mentors Rose and Teddy. At the level where I have reached, I can do something of my own even if I am at the initial stages. I would like to thank Meeting Point International!

Okeny Christopher.

Kampala

I wished it could rain so heavily so that we all die at night because I felt worthless in this world ­- (Akumu Olga)

 

 

The story of how Akumu Olga built a house by borrowing money from her VSLA group.

Before Olga joined Meeting Point international, she was working at the stone quarry with all her children. The kids were not going to school because their mother Olga didn’t have enough money to pay for their school fees. But when she encountered Rose, all her children were enrolled in schools. Olga herself became a member of Meeting Point International (MPI) where she was able to attend meetings on the various activities carried out like community dialogues, psychosocial activities, sensitizations on food and nutrition, health and hygiene which helped Olga to discover the meaning of life and her value.  Olga’s main economic activity still remained stone quarrying but she was not earning enough. She could not afford to pay for her children’s school fees and pay for their scholastic requirements as well, MPI was doing this for her. To make it worse, her house collapsed at one point due to heavy rains and she lost hope in life. Faced with such a reality, she reflected what she had learnt during the different activities that she was engaged in and she realized that she too could be able to help herself but rather not being helped all the time by someone. She was able to pick up herself by carrying out different activities to earn some money. She worked so hard and constructed a two-roomed house.  She occupies one room with her children and rents the other which helps her to pay scholastic materials. She heads the family and her husband doesn’t live with her or provide any support. He went back to the village. Below, she narrates her story;

One day it rained a lot and my house collapsed but I had nowhere to go, so I just stayed in that house though it was in a very poor condition. My neighbours told me to move out of that house but I could not because I had nowhere to go.  They even called the police, so that I could leave but I still couldn’t leave. I wished it could rain so heavily so that we all die at night because I felt worthless in this world, If God really cared about us then my house would not have collapsed. I could not sleep at night because I had to check on my children. This was because it was a dangerous period whereby they were kidnapping and killing people. The police again came and warned me, I had to move out this time. I decided to go and stay at my sisters’ place and she gave us a single room to stay in for a month. When the month elapsed, she told us to move out of her house because she wanted to rent it out and get some money. I then had no option but to go back to my old house that had collapsed, I used to cry a lot due to the tough situations. We would cook from outside and when it rains, we would sit on a neighbour’s veranda. I had thought of going back to the village because the situation had worsened but my children persuaded me that we should stay because they wanted to study. It was easy for me to get food because I would go to different markets like Nakawa and Banda market and people would have pity on me and give me food, I would also try and collect the leftovers that the market vendors had thrown.

 

The main problem now was that of money, I had to go to different markets and collect tiny pieces of cassava and maize that were not needed and grind them to make flour and the remaining would be used to make alcohol (marua). It was from this point that I started getting some money because people would come and purchase alcohol. That is the money that I would use to buy food and also save to pay the school requirements of the children. But the money I got from brewing alcohol was not enough so I would go to look for vegetables in different areas like Ntinda, Naalya, Kisasi and many other places, I would save this money in the Village Savings and  Loan Association (VSLA) group of Meeting Point International. I could then borrow money and pay school requirements. As I kept on getting money from the activities like selling vegetables and alcohol, I would return the money that I had borrowed. I again borrowed money and started another activity of selling cow heads and the hooves, I would roast it and sell it to the people in Kitgum, I would deliver it through the bus and a relative in Kitgum would sell it for me and send back the money. This house that I constructed I consider it a gift from God. When they demolished houses from Naguru Barracks, a friend of mine informed me about it and she told me that people were collecting the bricks from there and selling them because they were good, they were used by the British back then in the colonial era. Many women were collecting them and selling them to the wealthy men who came with trucks to buy them but me I knew God had answered my prayers, so I instead collected them to construct a new house. When I had collected many of them, I ran to my VSLA group of Meeting Point International and they lent me 200,000ugshs, I also went to my sister who lent me 300,00ugshs which I used for transporting the bricks at home.

I brewed more alcohol and paid back the loan I got from my VSLA group. I then borrowed more 500,000ugshs from them (VSLA group) I used part of it to collect more bricks and part of it for buying sand. I have a gentleman who is my neighbour, some years back he had requested me for a small piece of land to construct his toilet and I gave it to him without any pay, he again requested for more land to build another toilet, but this time around, he decided to give me 1,000,000ugsh as an appreciation for being kind to him. With that money, I was able to buy two trucks of sand and 13 bags of cement, then I got some boys who were builders to construct the house, I paid them 400,000ugshs. I did not have iron sheets to use, I decided to use the old ones. As the construction was going on, we ran short of building materials, I again had to go back to Naguru to extract more bricks so that I could sell them. I managed to get 600,000ugshs to buy the remaining materials. The iron sheets leak at times but my elder son tried to glue it, it has not helped much but I know that in the future again, I will be able to buy new iron sheets. So that’s how I was able to construct my house, I put in my all and I was disciplined with the money because I had learnt the value of money.

Before my children were being paid for by Meeting Point International, we all used to go with them for stone quarrying, no one was going to school until one day my elder son Robert went to play football and he met Rose, who asked him why he was not at school, he told her that “my mother doesn’t have money to take us to school”, she asked for my name and after Rose took his photo. After a while Rose came to the place where we were doing stone quarrying from and she came with the photo of Robert asking for the mother, I was not around but my friends later informed me that the director of Meeting Point International was looking for me, I had to go and meet her and she told me that Robert would begin school, she also asked for my other children that were not going to school and she enrolled them too. After a while, all my children were going to school. Besides all this, am so happy that because of Meeting Point International, my children are studying, if Rose had not supported them I would count myself useless because I would not have been able to educate them at school. Am confident that my children are having a good foundation because they are studying from Luigi Giussani schools, although in the future they go to study somewhere else, their foundation has been laid firm. Am also happy that through the VSLA initiative at Meeting Point International, It helped me to construct my own house when all hope was lost.  It’s a two roomed house, I rent out one room and the other I live in it with my children. I put in my all and I was disciplined with the money because I had learnt the value of money.