Marvin Okello was supported through his schooling by the Distance Support Program of AVSI Uganda in collaboration with Meeting Point International (MPI). Thanks to this shared journey with AVSI and MPI, today Marvin is a software developer. Come, join with us the joy and gratitude of Marvin’s story!
Author: Communications Officer
7 DAYS IN UGANDA – An article about the journey of an italian priest in Uganda
Massimo Vacchetti is a priest from Bologna, Italy. He came to Uganda to visit his sister who is volunteering with the italian NGO AVSI in Kampala, and he decided to take along some friends.
During their stay, they visited Meeting Point International’s headquarter, the women in Kireka and Naguru, the Luigi Giussani Schools, and COWA. They met Rose, who shared with them her story and the encounter with Father Giussani (the italian priest, founder of the movement of Communion and Liberation) which is the source of the whole experience of Meeting Point International and AVSI in Uganda.
Rose said: “The real poor person is the one who does not know for whom and for what he/she lives. The only thing I have understood and that I keep on repeating to all the people that come here to cure their bitterness, is that Christ came to affirm human kind. The value of each and every person is infinite. […] I tell what I live. Jesus took me as I am. I am nothing, but He loves me the way I am. I tell people what I have lived”.
Here is the full article in italian:
“WHO AM I TO BE WELCOMED THE WAY I AM?”
The Story of Tina
Story by Achan Agnes Aida
Kampala, 20th March 2023
Tina is 64 years old. She is a mother of 4 children. She lives in Banda B1, a big slum in Kampala suburbs, her house is located near Meeting Point International (MPI) cultural centre in Kireka. She used to see women gathering and having fun at MPI’s premises. She was curious about who these women were, and therefore she decided to join them: it was 2003. That year Tina’s health conditions were not good: she was very thin and her body was full of rashes. In 2006, she tested HIV positive, and this made her feel deeply depressed and traumatised, because she was worried that she was going to die. After she tested HIV positive, she decided to attend the weekly meeting in Naguru, the other Meeting Point cultural centre, due to the fear that people in her community in Kireka could know about her status.
At MPI, Tina met Rose Busingye, the founder and director. With time and with Rose’s teachings, Tina started discovering that she is not defined by the sickness she has, and this made her become aware of her value, which is greater than her problems. This companionship helped Tina to gain courage and later she started sharing her experience with the other clients of MPI. According to Tina, Rose’s teachings and friendship helped her gain confidence with time and she started attending the weekly meeting with Kireka members again. In her encounter with MPI, Tina received from Rose and the other members a love and care that no one in her family had ever given her in life. After she was found HIV positive, she even thought of being rejected and not expecting anyone to talk or move close to her. Surprisingly for her, Rose embraced her and loved her the way she was. Also the members of MPI welcomed her with much love that made her feel she was in the right place, a place she belongs.
She has got friends who are accompanying her, journeying together with her to face the challenges of reality. Rose’s teachings about the importance of the value that every human has, made her aware of her value which is greater than the sickness she has or the problems she is facing in life. She took some time to understand Rose’s teachings, but later on she understood that she is not reduced by her sickness.
This was the beginning of her new journey, a journey of freedom… Journeying to her freedom, her mind opened up and she started thinking in a different way, she is now free to tell people about her status, to openly say that she is HIV positive. She even shows people the medicine she is taking, freely. From that time, she does not keep quiet about her status and in fact her story has helped other members who are in the same situation. She is always the immediate example Rose uses during the meetings with the clients. Many times the example of Tina’s life has helped many people to disclose to Rose their HIV positive status. People feel free to be themselves, because they have discovered that MPI and its people don’t reduce anyone to the circumstances they are living in, but they embrace them the way they are.
Tina keeps on being an example and giving support to other MPI people who found themselves HIV positive: she is always there for them, giving them hope through her personal experience. Tina always tells the other members that her recent tests don’t reflect HIV in her blood (low viral load) and so she even gives members the hope of getting better.
Tina is living a happy and free life where she has gained hope in doing everything to earn a living. She eats well, drinks a lot of fluids and is free from stress, as taught by Rose through food and nutrition programs. She, therefore, always keeps encouraging other clients to follow the doctor’s advice because that is what is helping her. Of the same importance are Rose’s teachings, another greater treatment according to her experience.
Up to now, Tina still asks herself this question: “Who am I to be welcomed the way I am?”. Looking at her past and present experience, MPI is the home where she belongs.
“EVERYONE HERE IS LOOKED AT FOR THE IMMENSE VALUE THEY HAVE”
The visit of our friends from Support International
From the 20th to the 24th of February, our friends from Support International e.V. (https://www.supportinternational.de/), a German donor that has been supporting MPI’s activities for a long time, came to visit us.
While in Kampala, Erica, Sabine, Gaby and Valentina visited all MPI premises: the headquarter in Kitintale, the two cultural centers and clinics in Kireka and Naguru, Sonde mixed farm and training center, and the Luigi Giussani Schools.
They shared with us what impressed and moved them during their stay with MPI: the staff and the beneficiaries. We are very glad for the time they spent with us and thank them for the support they are continuously giving to MPI.
The atmosphere you breathe at Meeting Point International’s offices is really impressive. It is quiet over there, even though the office is full of people. It is not only quiet, but really peaceful, like a home should be. The way one is treated, the way clients are handled, the cleanliness of the premises, the attention to the guests… everything is a sign of a great respect for the person.
Nobody speaks of Jesus there, but you have no doubt that God is present at all times in this place: like a gentle breeze that you cannot see but you can clearly sense. For us as Support International these days meant more than a step forward in our collaboration with MPI. A confirmation that we share the same goals, the same method and the same heart. ONE heart!
The language of song and dance with which the women of Meeting Point Kireka and Naguru greeted us immediately overcame all differences between us. I could not imagine that they could be sick, because they were so cheerful and self-confident. When they took us to their houses in the surrounding slums, it was the first time for me. We were on the streets of red soil without the protection of walls or in a car. I understood this invitation as a sign of trust towards us and I was surprised about their freedom to show us their houses without shame. We were all the same, sharing one heart that longs for love and acceptance. I was impressed by the way they produce what they need in life from the little they have and do not waste their time with envy. Just before we left, I asked one of the women if they would dance the day after, even if we were not going to be there. She said, “Yes, of course, we dance every day because that is how we can show Him our happiness. That’s our duty.” I was very impressed by this answer.
During our visits to Luigi Giussani Pre-primary and Primary and Luigi Giussani High School, the names of our sponsored children finally got a face. We were able to get to know individual children a little better. These schools are places we would love to send our children too, because the focus of education is on the child and not just on the subjects. The school is like an island of hope in the slums, because here a relationship is built with the children, a bond that continues even after they leave school.
Also the visit to Ssonde was very impressive, we were delighted to see how many young people were working there. Flavia made us tour the farm and gave us a very good insight of their projects (raising rabbits and chickens, growing vegetables and fruit trees). In addition, they had just trained some students in agricultural cultivation. We were impressed by how much work they have already put in on the large property in the last three years, all manual labor. You really can see that it is slowly developing its potential! It was nice to hear that the yields from the fields are for the children of the Welcoming House.
What has most impressed me in these few days I spent in Kampala is that everyone here is looked at for the immense value they have. And you experience this on your own skin, because the people who are looked at by this gaze look at their children, teachers, pupils and even visitors in the same way.
This is the gaze that has built and continues to build the MPI and its projects, and this is the gaze that I hope to have in my life.
A FACE CALLING ME EVERYDAY
Rocío’s YES to come to Uganda: the beginning of a new journey
Story by Irene Muto
Kampala, 3rd February 2023
Rocío Andreo de La Vega is the new Educational Advisor at Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS) in Kampala. She came from Madrid, Spain where she was working as a teacher, to continue the work that our friend Seve (Matteo Severgnini) carried out in the last 10 years.
The staff of Meeting Point International had a talk with her. Here is what she told us about her personal experience, the reason why she decided to come to Uganda and what she has discovered so far.
“I have been thinking about going on a mission since I was 15 years old. When I finished my university, I started working as a teacher in Spain, and I realized I was already on a mission in my school. Teaching is always and everywhere a mission.
While I was in Spain I got the opportunity to meet Rose and know more about the reality here, about Meeting Point International, the schools (Luigi Giussani Preprimary and Primary School and Luigi Giussani High School), the women. But I had never planned to come and work here.
What happened was that in January 2022 Monica, a friend of mine who had worked for 3 years at Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education (LGIHE) in Kampala, took me out for dinner and told me that they were looking for someone to work at the Institute. They asked Monica if she had someone in mind, and she told me “Your name kept coming to my mind for a whole week, so I thought maybe this thought is not mine, it must be from Someone else”. So, she proposed it to me, and I SAID YES, because I realized that this thing had my name written on it, all around it, it was made for me!
Concurrently it happened that Seve was asked to go back to Italy and the School needed someone to take his place as Educational Advisor. Again it happened that someone thought that I would be suitable for that role. The people responsible thought it was a good idea for me to work at Luigi Giussani High School and I thought “Why do they think it’s a good idea? They don’t know me at all!”. But again, I said YES because the important thing is not if I am able to do this kind of job. Instead, it’s if I am answering and I’m saying YES to Someone, because I understand that this is a calling for me, here in this place.
So my journey in Uganda began and since I arrived I keep on asking myself: “What are you doing here?”. Because I need to rediscover this calling every day. Of course after two months here it’s not the same as it was the first day. I have two months of reason and two months of certainty that this place is for me, but I still need to understand it every day.
I’m still at the beginning of the journey, but up to now I am very happy to be here. It’s not easy, but every day I can say: “YOU really want me here today. I don’t know about tomorrow. But YOU really want me here today!”.
Working with children and teenagers is not comfortable, it’s a risk, because the human in front of you is growing very fast and he or she is taking decisions you cannot take on their behalf. But I know I am not here to solve the problems of the children and I know that real education speaks to their heart.”
What I have been experiencing so far is that the students and teachers in Uganda and in Spain are the same, not because they do the same things or have the same kind of life, but because they have the same heart! I was struck during the dialogues some students had with Seve in the office regarding their problems: the students here remind me of some particular students I met in Spain. How is it possible that they need the same things and have the same desires, if they live two completely different lives? However, the needs of the kids are exactly the same. For me it’s also a relief because I am the same person I was in Spain. Sometimes I was thinking: “What if I cannot be part of this because I am different? What if I never feel at home?”
But I felt at home from the very first day, because of the way people were welcoming me and treating me. And the reason is that somehow we are the same. Of course here a lot of things are different but I feel at home because, even if I miss everything and everyone, I can say that here I’ve found the same gaze that tells me that my heart is not wrong for desiring so much, that I am beautiful and precious to Him, that I am loved even before I open my eyes in the morning”.
SAY YES IN FRONT OF SOMEONE WHO CALLS YOU
The 10 years of Seve with the family of Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS) and Meeting Point International (MPI)
Story by Lwamaza Isiko Shalifu
Kampala, 23rd January 2023
Our friend Matteo Severgnini (Seve), former Educational Advisor at LGHS in Kampala, recently went back to Italy. Before his departure in early January, MPI’s staff had a meeting with him where he told us about his 10 year experience in Uganda.
We thank Seve for the time he has been with us, accompanying our community in a beautiful journey of educational growth.
Here is how he answered these questions: “Why did you decide to come to Uganda and to stay here for 10 years? And why have you decided to go back to Italy?”
“When I was in High School, I had a problem which was: How to choose my next course at university? I was a smart student, I used to like all the subjects. So which to choose? I was a bit confused. At a certain point, I think that the subject chose me. I found that Philosophy had already chosen me, through the fascination I had for some particular philosophers. So I enrolled and started University.
I studied philosophy for four years. After completing University I had another problem: Now, which job to choose? But, it happened the same as before: staying in University with the young people, I found myself chosen to be a teacher. Even if, when I started studying at university, I was thinking that I would have done everything but teaching! However, life it is not a matter of choosing, but realising you are being chosen every time. Therefore, all you need to do is to SAY YES. So I started teaching in a High School in Bergamo and I was very happy with my work, my students, and my colleagues.
I am part of the memores domini (this means those who are living the memory of God), a laical association founded within the experience of the catholic movement of Communion and Liberation (CL). At a certain point, in 2011, I received an email from the directorate of the memores domini. In this email they were asking for availability of a person to go to work in Uganda, someone who could speak English and who was also somehow knowledgeable in the field of education. While I was reading this, I was shocked and screamed “Oh my God these people are looking for me!” and I remembered that it’s not a matter of choosing, but it’s about being chosen. There I had one option which was, again, to say yes.
I had met Rose (MPI Founder and Executive Director) years back when I was in University. Those days I met the movement of CL and my responsibles used to send me here in Uganda, also paying for my vacations. So my first vacation was here in Uganda in 2001 and that was when I first met Rose. After that first vacation, we kept in touch and when I saw the job vacancy to come to Uganda, Rose came to my mind and I immediately called her. When I told her about this possibility, she told me “God is great!”. So I applied and in less than six months I came here. The yes that you can say is always in front of Someone that has already chosen you. And the question about why and how I managed to stay here is the same: every day you are chosen and you just need to decide by saying yes to a God that is calling you.
When I came here I knew Rose, but I did not know about the women. When I met them I was happy to see them and I loved it when they took me through the story of the origin of the school, of how and why the school was built.
So, I came and I decided to stay for the same reason. This same reason also applies to my yes for going back to Italy. Earlier this year, Davide Prosperi (the president of CL movement), who is a friend of mine, called me and asked me if I was available to work in Italy. I said yes. Again someone chose me, called me. Everyday life is about calling.
Staying in Uganda helped me to grow, because if you are loyal, with time you become happier with the people you are living with. When I came here, I thought I would need to live in the community in order to meet Christ. But then I realised that I needed to belong to Christ in order to live in the community. This helped me to always be available to God’s calling and to realise this belonging every day.”
Seve’s experience teaches us that it is important to know that every day in life we are being chosen by Someone else: we only have to trust and say our YES. Thank you Seve!
A DESIRE ACHIEVED
Story by Adoch Mary Clare
Kampala, 16th December 2022
The Luigi Giussani Schools (Luigi Giussani Pre-primary and Primary School and Luigi Giussani High School) were born as a result of the experience of the women of Meeting Point International (MPI) after discovering their value and dignity. Rose (MPI director and founder) educated the women about their value and this is evident in the way they are living their lives. They have a place where they can experience love through the gaze of Rose and other friends. While they started experiencing this incredible love, they realised that their children were not living the same. Their children were attending schools where they were being reduced to their conditions like illnesses, performance, being victims of the war, poverty and many others. The mothers began to desire for their children to live the same experience they had found. They wanted a school where their children would be taught and treated as people who have value. Pushed by this desire, they made 48,000 paper necklaces and sold them in Italy through the help of AVSI (an international non-governmental organisation established in Italy in 1972) and other friends. This is how they were able to raise the finances to build the schools.
Luigi Giussani Pre-primary and Primary school (LGPPS) and Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS) have about 500 students each. The majority of the students are supported by MPI, but its unique way of education is now also attracting private students.
The desire of the women has been achieved. This is visible through a dialogue between the social workers of MPI and four senior six students (Kagame Christopher, Muganga Marvin, Nahwera Grace and Nabwire Ruth) who recently finished their national examinations. They shared the experiences they had as students of LGHS for 6 years. Christopher, Marvin and Grace are supported by MPI, whereas Ruth is a private student.
As they narrated their story, their faces vividly showed gratitude for attending high school at LGHS. According to them, this gratitude is born from the fact that they have been fully accompanied in life and as well at school.
“We were treated for our value and each person was treated uniquely as they are. We were helped to discover our value. This value we discovered helped us not to be pushed to study, but to put in our own efforts to learn. We were always free to express ourselves and always free to ask questions, even about something that didn’t concern academics. In the schools we were before, once you asked a teacher a question, it was seen as you were negatively challenging them and you were beaten for confronting someone who is older than you.”
“Am glad that we were also taught life skills! At LGHS, we were taught as a whole, it is ok to learn about Mathematics, but how will it help you if you don’t know how to behave in a society?” said Christopher.
Ruth said: “I joined LGHS in senior 6. Where I come from, school is business: the better the school performs, the more customers it attracts. You had to maintain a good performance if you wanted to remain there, the moment you started performing badly, you were told to look for another school or given brutal punishments in order to perform better. This meant that you were always studying under pressure, and that consequently led to cramming. When I joined LGHS, I immediately felt at home, this is because we were not caned, which gave me a chance to actually understand what I was being taught. There was no segregation, especially according to performance, as it was before for me. Life became beautiful at school and School also became home.”
Grace appreciated the good friends who genuinely cared for her. Her friends were not only students but also teachers and the school rector (Matteo Severgnini) who also became like a father to her. She also learnt the virtues of self-drive. Marvin is a student who lives about 30 km from school. However, he said he was always welcomed at school even when he was late. The school rector always listened to him and didn’t chase him back home. He was also always there for him if he was facing any challenge.
Marvin and Grace also appreciated the fact that they could go to School of Community. This is an educational tool for development in the experience of the encounter with Christ born out of a catholic movement called Communion and Liberation (CL), of which father Luigi Giussani was the founder. It consists of reading and personal meditation of a text proposed to the whole Movement of CL, followed by community meetings. For them, it is a place where their religious life was shaped and where they were also able to learn about life through the experiences of their friends and guidance of the adults.
In conclusion, through the dialogue with these four young people, one could clearly tell the general maturity about life they have attained, as opposed to academic gain that most schools in Uganda aim for. This is truly a gift that was born out of the desire of the women and that is being fostered by the teachers and administration of LGHS. The students speak fondly of the teachers and describe their school as home. This is because of the love and accompaniment they received from them.
Rose Busingye featuring in Tempi, an italian magazine.
Tempi, an Italian magazine, yesterday published an article about the story of Rose Busingye, the founder of Meeting Point International in regards to the book by David Perillo wrote about her and her journey with the people living in the worst slums of Naguru and Kireka . The book is entitled “Your names are written in heaven”. Please click the link below for the full story.
PAOLA’S ENCOUNTER WITH THE WOMEN OF MPI
by Paola Salanitro,
Paola an Italian friend to Irene Muto, a Projects officer at Meeting Point International (MPI) visited us and shared her experience with the Women of MPI in Naguru and Kireka in Uganda. Please click the link below to read full story.
News about Rose and Meeting point in the IL FOGLIO magazine.
The article is about how she has ‘freed’ women who had lost hope in their lives by educating them about the value of knowing who they are. Please click the link below to access the full article where Rose was featured.
An Interview of Rose by Famiglia Cristiana.
A book about Rose Busingye, our executive director and the women of Meeting Point International was written by an Italian author, David Perillo. An interview by journalist Roberto Zichitella from the italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana was published in their October issue. Please click the link below to access the full interview. Full Interview by Famiglia Christiana
SOLIDARITY WITHOUT BORDERS
At the Meeting Point International in Kampala, Rose Busingye has been journeying with thousands of women who fled the civil war for over 3o years by offering them friendship and psycho social assistance. The story was featured in the L’osservatore Romano. Please click the link below to access the full story in Italian.
Ugandan women regain hope to live thanks to nurse Rose Busingye
EXPECTED ONLY DEATH – Ketty is 42 years old, with a round face, an endless scar on her leg and a story that takes her breath away: kidnapped by rebels in her village in Northern Uganda, she was raped, she got HIV, she lost a child. She forced her to eat human flesh and do horrible things in order not to be killed. When she managed to escape to Kampala, the capital, her body was full of sores and a patch of burnt skin instead of hair: “In the bush ( bush , ed) they made me walk with a brazier on my head and the stuff they cooked in the pot”. She no longer expected anything from her life. Only death.
She now she is there that she dances and she laughs and welcomes the guests who arrive at the Meeting Point of Kireka, one of the slums ( slums, ed) poorer than a very poor city, singing ” Now I’m free “, now I’m free. Next to her are Agnes, Teddy, Lilian. And dozens, hundreds of other women, almost all Acholi (a people of South Sudan) and almost all with a similar history. A good half have HIV. Many survive by breaking stones in a quarry, or by selling papier-mâché necklaces, wet and pressed into colored beads.
HAPPY FOR THEIR NEW LIFE – Yet, they dance and sing. And they are happy. The next day I see them doing aerobics. Now that Covid has let go, they have started playing football again and taking trips on Lake Victoria, piled up in broken-down vans “to see the beauty of the sunsets.” These are the same women who have set up savings groups and mini cooperatives. They founded two – beautiful – schools for their children. They made a collection to send a thousand euros to war-torn Ukrainians. You look at them, and you have a thousand questions: where does this strength come from? How can you be happy even like this?
THE TURN: IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO TAKE CARE OF THE BODY – It is to look for an answer that he was born Your names are written in the skies(Bur). It is a journey into the world of these women and into the life of another woman: the one that allowed them to come back to life. Her name is Rose Busingye, she is 54, she is a nurse. She and she is in charge of Meeting Point International, an association that helps more than 5,000 people in Kampala. She was born thirty years ago, when Rose started looking for AIDS patients in the slums. But she has deeper roots, she comes from her meeting with Pietro Tiboni, a Comboni missionary, and then with Fr Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion and Liberation. It is he who makes her discover a faith “that has to do with every aspect of life”. “Many others had told me that God was made flesh, but not in that way there.” Rose’s story began like this. She is studying as a nurse. You enter the Memores Domini, the consecrated lay people of CL. She is dedicated to AIDS patients, when the emergency explodes in Africa. Around her, a little at a time, an important reality is born. But it’s not a linear story. In the mid-nineties, it went into crisis. The Meeting Point is efficient, it works. Still, something is wrong. «I gave the medicines to the sick, came back the next day and found them in the garbage. I said to myself: it’s impossible. That pill is to save your life. Because?”. The turning point came there. When Fr Giussani asked her to drop everything and come to Italy. Rose stayed there for six months. He, already old and sick, went to see her as soon as he could. “We talked. She told me about herself and his experience of her. He didn’t do anything else ». But they are not the words of that priest: it is he, his world of looking, of doing. To enjoy life. But it’s not a linear story. In the mid-nineties, it went into crisis. The Meeting Point is efficient, it works. Still, something is wrong. «I gave the medicines to the sick, came back the next day and found them in the garbage. I said to myself: it’s impossible. That pill is to save your life. Because?”. The turning point came there. When Fr Giussani asked her to drop everything and come to Italy. Rose stayed there for six months. He, already old and sick, went to see her as soon as he could. “We talked. He told me about himself and his experience of her. He didn’t do anything else ». But they are not the words of that priest: it is he, his world of looking, of doing. To enjoy life. But it’s not a linear story. In the mid-nineties, it went into crisis. The Meeting Point is efficient, it works. Still, something is wrong. «I gave the medicines to the sick, came back the next day and found them in the garbage. I said to myself: it’s impossible. That pill is to save your life. Because?”. The turning point came there. When Fr Giussani asked her to drop everything and come to Italy. Rose stayed there for six months. He, already old and sick, went to see her as soon as he could. “We talked. He told me about himself and his experience of her. He didn’t do anything else ». But they are not the words of that priest: it is he, his world of looking, of doing. To enjoy life. it’s impossible. That pill is to save your life. Because?”. The turning point came there. When Fr Giussani asked her to drop everything and come to Italy. Rose stayed there for six months. He, already old and sick, went to see her as soon as he could. “We talked. She told me about herself and his experience of him. He didn’t do anything else ». But they are not the words of that priest: it is he, his world of looking, of doing. To enjoy life. it’s impossible. That pill is to save your life. Because?”. The turning point came there. When Fr Giussani asked her to drop everything and come to Italy. Rose stayed there for six months. He, already old and sick, went to see her as soon as he could. “We talked. She told me about herself and his experience of him. He didn’t do anything else ». But they are not the words of that priest: it is he, his world of looking, of doing. To enjoy life.
NEW AWARENESS – From those six months Rose went out without instructions for use, but with a new awareness. Of himself, and of the other. The value of the person, therefore. Not confined to sermons or speeches, but witnessed, embodied.
It seems nothing, yet it is from this discovery itself that “Rose’s women” have started again, with the immeasurable strength that only women can have. And that’s where everything exploded: the Meeting Points, the medicines, the meetings, the cooperatives, the English courses, the hygiene courses … The schools, who wanted them “so that our children are educated as you are educating us” (Rose had plans to start a hospital, but she put her plans aside and went with them.) And much more: in the book there are dozens of stories and facts that forced me to rethink many things as I saw them happen.
Examples? What does it mean to help development: projects and financing are indispensable (important NGOs like AVSI collaborate with Rose), but if they do not help people grow, nothing changes. Or, how crucial is education, at school, and outside. Or, again, because the Church can only exist “outgoing”, as Pope Bergoglio repeats.
In the end, however, Rose’s story showed me one thing above all: a faith lived in this way can make you free. Even in the slums of Kampala.
100 years of the Communion and Liberation’s founder in a face.
A story about Rose Busingye , a Memor Domini and nurse, who sets women with HIV/AIDS free and is helping people find out the value of knowing who they are in Uganda through Meeting Point International, an organisation she founded. Click the link below to read full article.
RECOGNISING MY VALUE MOVED ME TO FORGIVE.
“…I realized I had everything I needed within me, to be what God created me for but had not yet figured out how to actively be that person.” narrates Nalukwago Shadia, a Kireka resident sharing her experience upon encountering MPI and how recognizing her value moved her to forgive her husband.
by Kisuki Simon, MPI Social Worker
RECOGNISING MY VALUE MOVED ME TO FORGIVE.
My name is Nalukwago Shadia, a resident of Acholi quarters in Kireka, Kampala. I am a mother of two girls, Kemigisha Sharon (9 years) and Kengozi Natasha (7 years) who both now study at Luigi Giussani Pre-primary and Primary School (LGPPS) since they were enrolled after I joined Meeting Point International (MPI). I encountered MPI through members of the community during a time when my life had become really hard for my family both economically and financially.
However, the situation that started out as a negative occurrence ended up teaching me a lot although I had not yet realised it at the time because it seemed like my life had ended. Once rumours alleging that Sharon wasn’t his daughter were spread within the community, my husband Arinaitwe Humphrey and I got into several heated arguments in which he would even threatened to kill me. These rumours brought about serious emotional torture and endless wrangles within my household.
After unproductive efforts to explain my truth to him and his emphatic refusal to hear me out, I had to run away for my life. Being a member of MPI had already earned me friends like Nahayo Allen who had become more like family so much so she allowed me to stay at her place as I figured out what to do next.Life became even harder due to the lockdown restrictions after the Covid-19 resurge. As time went on Allen’s house couldn’t accommodate us all since we amounted to a total of over 7 people and her single tiny room that was also full of other items would simply not do.
We then moved into a neighbouring school room after sharing our concerns with one of the administrators since the schools weren’t operating. We found there another family that was in a similar situation. During that time, I was afraid of exposing what I was facing to anybody and it was Allen that forcefully made me visit Rose’s office and her social workers to explain what was going on in my life. Before gaining the courage to meet them, my children and I had spent nearly 6 months moving up and down with no solution. I had never worked before in my life and had always looked to my husband for our financial needs and at that time, this felt like a situation I could not overcome. I started picking plastic bottles and scrap to resell and get something for my little ones to eat.
After a series of visits to me by the social workers of MPI, one on one dialogues with Rose including the knowledge I got during the dialogues we have every Tuesday and Thursday in Kireka. I really felt like I had awakened from a very deep sleep. I realised I had everything I needed, to be what God created me for but had not yet figured out how to actively be that person.
The conversations with Rose gave me clarity about my role in of my children’s lives and my own plus what I had to do to avoid regretting some of the decisions I was making at the time. At the time, I was feeling guilty for leaving my hostile husband and rendering my kids homeless and had been seriously contemplating taking my children to their grandparents deep in the village in which case I would have forfeited their chance at any education.
Like a genuine friend, Rose listened to me, offered advice and paid three months’ rent for us to leave the school and get a place we could call home. To ensure sustainability, she also gave me capital in form of clothes that I could resell, make profits and then start a business and this paved a way for the next chapter of my life. As planned, I opened up a snack making business just within the market of Acholi quarters, made some profits, and even gave some small re-imbursements back to Rose to show my gratitude and prove to her that I was indeed doing better.
After about two months in my new home, the overwhelming love showed to me by Rose and MPI deeply moved me and further confirmed to me my value and the value of others that Rose repeatedly talks about because MPI had absolutely no obligation to help me out. It is at this point that I decided to forgive my husband and let him back into our lives. This was not because I loved him very much but because I love my children that much. I realised that for unity to be witnessed within my family, give him another chance especially because he had started apologizing to me saying his actions were not intended to harm me. His character hasn’t necessarily changed much, he still comes home drunk but the most important thing to me is that he always comes back and shares that sense of belonging with our children which is very important to me because it makes my children happy that he is around. We are all indeed meant for something greater.
AVSI MEETS POPE FRANCIS
Meeting Point International, as a founding member of AVSI Foundation celebrates AVSI’s 50th anniversary where they got an opportunity to address His Holiness. Below is an article from AVSI foundation about the address to Pope Francis and His response.
Source : AVSI FOUNDATION
On Saturday September 3rd on the occasion of the Open Hospitals in Syria conference, AVSI was received in audience by Pope Francis.
Below, the greetings that Giampaolo Silvestri, Secretary General of AVSI, addressed to the Pontifex and the Pope’s speech.
The words of greeting that Giampaolo Silvestri addressed to the Pontifex
I would like to thank you on behalf of AVSI, all the friends, supporters, and donors who are represented here, along with our colleagues in the field from the Middle East, Africa, Latin America: thank you for this audience and for the support that the Holy See has provided to the Open Hospitals project in Syria.
When we started thinking about this project in 2016, Syria was at the top of world emergencies: the Syrian people were asking for help right away. At the initiative of Card. Zenari, with the support at the beginning of Cor Unum, then the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, we tried to respond.
Our intervention does not claim to “save” Syrians, but aims to help bring relief to the victims of a conflict and an economic crisis that make life more unsustainable every day.
The awareness that we cannot “save” those in need, that we cannot help everyone, has never been an alibi for giving up intervening in contexts of war or extreme poverty.
AVSI, which is celebrating 50 years this year, has always been interested in looking at reality in all its complexity and contradictions, and is pushed by this to translate its mission into concrete actions, together with different partners and actors.
Since its establishment on the initiative of a few people belonging to “Communion and Liberation,” who have been joined over time by many others from different backgrounds, AVSI has been working for a world where the person can be the protagonist of his/her development and that of his/her community.
Because, as the encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti indicates, building development requires social friendship and universal fraternity. It “calls for an acknowledgement of the worth of every human person, always and everywhere”.
This is the cornerstone of the Open Hospitals project, which has provided almost 80,000 free treatments and aims to take care of 140,000 Syrians by 2024.
There are countless testimonies from the people treated we receive: they mostly say they are grateful. Sometimes they are almost surprised to have found a loving welcome although they were of a different religion, as if the trust that the other can be a resource, not always a threat, has been lost in the country.
Some people, cared for by the project, return and ask to volunteer in hospitals. Like Hani, a young Muslim man who was badly injured and feared he would never walk again. Instead, he was back on his feet thanks to a series of surgeries, was able to start playing with his son again, and to work to support him. Such testimonies document how perceiving oneself welcomed is generative of good: it produces hope, social friendship and fraternity, which are essential for rebuilding a country wounded by war.
The project, made possible thanks to many donations, from the savings of a child – here today – to the millions from businesses and public and private entities, was also well received by local, civil and religious institutions.
The partnership between different hospitals provides a model to be inspired by: tackling the most critical situations together makes a good flourish that goes beyond the sum of individual efforts.
But we cannot stop. The Syria emergency has been joined by countless other emergencies, challenging the most fragile and those like us who work in development cooperation. They almost create a dispute: who “deserves” more help? Is there a hierarchy to be respected in need? How to be present?
These are questions that we ask ourselves every day and entrust to you, Holy Father, as children who do not want to lose sight of the authentic and original motive of their action.
Giampaolo Silvestri, segretario generale Fondazione AVSI
The Holy Father’s speech
Dear brothers and sisters, welcome!
I offer you a warm greeting, as you meet in these days to advance the praiseworthy initiative of “Open Hospitals” in Syria. I thank Dr. Giampaolo Silvestri, Secretary General of the ASVI Foundation, for his kind words of introduction. I also cordially greet Cardinal Zenari, who has served as Apostolic Nuncio in Syria for fourteen years.
When we think of Syria, there comes to mind the verse of the Book of Lamentations: “Vast as the sea is your ruin; who can heal you?” (2:13). Those words refer to the sufferings of Jerusalem, but they also make us think of the suffering endured by the Syrian people in these twelve years of violent conflict. If we consider the number of the dead and wounded, the destruction of entire quarters and villages, as well as important infrastructures, including healthcare institutions, it is natural to ask: “Syria, who can now heal you?”
International observers tell us that the crisis in Syria continues to be one of the most serious worldwide, in terms of destruction, growing humanitarian needs, social and economic collapse, and poverty and famine at dire levels.
Recently, I was given a gift, a work by an artist who, inspired by a photograph with real faces, portrayed a Syrian father, physically exhausted, carrying his son on his shoulders. He was just one of some fourteen million internally displaced persons and refugees. That is more than half of the Syrian population prior to the conflict. It was a powerful image of the sufferings experienced by the Syrian people.
In the face of such immense suffering, the Church is called to be a “field hospital” and to heal wounds both physical and spiritual. We think of the words of the Gospel: “That evening, at sundown, they brought to [Jesus] all who were sick and possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases” (Mk 1:32-34; cf. Lk 4:40). It is the Lord who heals.
From the time of the Apostles, the Church has remained faithful to the mandate she has received from Jesus: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You have received without payment; give without payment” (Mt 10:8). In the Acts of the Apostles we read that “they carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by” (5:15) and might heal them.
Mindful of this legacy, I have frequently encouraged priests, especially on Holy Thursday, to touch the wounds, the sins, the anguish of their people (cf. Homily, Chrism Mass, 18 April 2019). To touch them. I have also encouraged all the faithful to touch the wounds of Jesus, that is, the many problems, difficulties, persecutions, and infirmities of those who suffer (cf. Regina Caeli, 28 April 2019; Evangelii Gaudium, 24), and the wars.
Dear friends, your project – “Open Hospitals” – is committed to supporting the three Catholic hospitals that have operated in Syria for a hundred years, as well as four walk-in clinics. This initiative came about with the patronage of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and is supported by the generosity of Church-related institutions – The Papal Foundation and several Bishops’ Conferences, and some government agencies – Hungarian and Italian –Catholic humanitarian institutions and a number of generous individuals.
Your programme is precisely that of “Open Hospitals”. Open to those who are sick and poor, without distinction of ethnic or religious affiliation. This is the hallmark of a Church that seeks to be a home with open doors, a place of human fraternity. In our charitable institutions, people, and above all the poor, must feel “at home” and experience a climate of dignified welcome. Then, as you have rightly emphasized, two things will result: people’s bodies will be cared for and the social fabric will be mended by fostering the exemplary coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups that is characteristic of Syria. In this regard, it is significant that the many Muslims assisted by your hospitals are the most grateful.
Your initiative, together with others that have been promoted by the Church in Syria, blooms, as Saint John Paul II said, from the “creativity of charity” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 50).
Today, you gave me a beautiful icon of Jesus the Good Samaritan. The man in the Gospel parable, beaten, robbed and left half-dead by the side of the road, can serve as another tragic image of Syria, beaten, robbed and abandoned for dead on the roadside. Yet not forgotten or abandoned by Christ, the Good Samaritan, and by so many other good Samaritans: individuals, associations and institutions. Several hundred of these good Samaritans, including several volunteers, have lost their lives helping their neighbours. Our gratitude goes to all of them.
In the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti, I wrote that, “The story of the Good Samaritan is constantly being repeated. We can see this clearly as social and political inertia are turning many parts of our world into a desolate byway, even as domestic and international disputes and the robbing of opportunities are leaving great numbers of the marginalized stranded on the roadside” (No. 71). And I asked everyone to consider that “all of us have a responsibility for the wounded, those of our own people and all the peoples of the earth” (No. 79).
In the face of so many serious needs, we experience how very limited are our possibilities for intervening. We feel a bit like Jesus’ disciples, faced with an enormous crowd that had to be fed: “We have only five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” (Jn 5:6-9). A drop of water in the desert, we might say. Yet even the rocky Syrian desert, after the first spring rains, is clothed in a blanket of green. So many small drops, so many blades of grass!
Dear friends, I thank you for your work and I offer you my heartfelt blessing. Keep pressing forward! May the sick be cured, hope be reborn, and the desert blossom! I ask this of God, for you and with you. And I ask you too, please, remember to pray for me. Thank you.
(After the blessing)
This image, of the Syrian father fleeing with his son, reminded me of when Saint Joseph had to flee to Egypt. He did not go in a carriage, no, he went like this, fleeing precariously. The original of this image was given to me by the artist, who is from Piedmont. I want to offer it to you so that, looking at this Syrian father and his son, you can think of this everyday flight into Egypt, of this people that is suffering so much. Thank you.
WE ARE MADE FOR HAPPINESS.
by Kisuki Simon Nimrod, DSP Social Worker.
WE ARE MADE FOR HAPPINESS.
My name is Okello Raymond, a 20year old staying with my mother and siblings in Acholi quarters – Kireka. My family is originally from Pader district in Northern Uganda but we had to flee to Kampala due to the constant attacks and threats from the rebels of the Lord Resistance Army. I’ve been told I was 4 years old then. My parents, Owona John Bosco and Ataro Rose successfully led this journey to Kampala where we ended up settling within the slums of Kireka (Acholi quarters). Life has not been easy; however, the start was definitely the hardest part. Around 2011, my parents found out that they had contracted the HIV Virus and my father decided to go back to the village because he was becoming weaker from the virus. He felt that it was best to leave because he wasn’t contributing anything to the household anymore. He also said he needed a calmer environment to settle in since the war had stopped but to us it felt like he was giving up on life and us.
My siblings and I have since then been raised by our mother who has struggled to make ends meet through her alcohol brewing business. There was a time when life became so tough she nearly gave up on educating us and the only practicle solution seemed to be joining our father in the village. This was especially hard on mother not just physically but mentally as well because other than the dire financial situation, she had to come to terms with the fact that she now had the HIV-virus to fight for a chance to raise her children herself. During this period, mom heard about how big an impact Meeting Point International (MPI) was making on the lives of the people within the community, decided to attend one of the meetings and our lives have never been the same. After a while, we started attending school in better schools, mom started looking forward to the meetings with the women and was always happier when she came back home. Our relationship with MPI kept growing due to mom’s active participation in MPI activities and the home visits carried out by MPI social workers to ensure we are doing fine. The women of MPI are invited to talk to Rose, the MPI Director whenever they have problems and with that we could easily access different forms of help like medical services from the MPI clinic in Acholi quarters (Kireka). During some holidays, we visited our dad in the village.
My educational journey as well as my siblings’ has been going smoothly and success in some cases for example my sister Adong Florence just finished her S.4 with 13 aggregates. My family and I are extremely proud of her. The love and compassion MPI has extended to our family has played a great role in enabling us to face whatever we have been going through with courage because we learnt that we are not defined by our problems. One day, the MPI director during a speech at our school, Luigi Giussani High School said that “We should always find something positive amidst all the bad times that you we face. Be it a lesson or something to be grateful for”. I thought about that during the period when schools closed due to COVID-19 and it reminded me to use that time to read given the bulkiness of my combination i.e. Biology, Chemistry, and Maths (BCM). I read hard and with the encouragement from my family, our teachers who used to check on us in our different localities and the consistent calls and visits from the MPI social workers helped me excel in my Advanced level exams of 2020 with 16 out of 20 points.
My dream has always been to become a teacher and it is something I even do now on a free lance basis when students have holidays. I am however considering becoming a surgeon and hopefully improve my society by providing them with better health care services. I know saying thank you is not enough to fully appreciate all the beautiful souls that have made it possible for me to reach this mile stone, but it is the least I can do. I take this opportunity to thank God, my dear sponsor, MPI and its staff, my family, the reliable friends God gave me and my amazing teachers for doing everything within their power to help me reach my goals.
A GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
by Achan Aida, MPI Social Worker.
A GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
Okumait Daniel KIR-1783 is a 20-year-old boy whom, with support from AVSI Foundation, has been sponsored by Meeting Point International (MPI) since senior one at Luigi Giussani High School. He is currently in senior five offering Physic, Economic, Mathematics and Computer Science.
In 2019, Daniel received a Ugx.206,000/= gift from his sponsor Cremonesi Paolo. When Aunt Rose called him to the MPI headquarters and asked him what he wanted to buy, he excitedly said pigs and explained that he wanted to start a piggery project. His gift managed to accord him two piglets, a female and male. After a while, the female gave birth to eight piglets the first time and nine piglets the second time.
When schools closed during the Covid-19 lockdown, he sold the first set of piglets that were 6 months old at the time and bought a smart phone that he needed in order to do academic research and receive school assignments online. Some of the money also helped the family buy food during the economically tough lockdown period. Daniel then decided to use the remaining proceeds of the sale to start a rabbit rearing (cuniculture) project and bought two rabbits, a male and female. As the piggery project expanded, space became insufficient so he made his second sale and opened up a bank account in order to safely keep and save his money for future use.
Luigi Giussani High School, all students attend community school where students are educated about their value among other important life skills in adherence to the social teachings of the Catholic Church. It is through these dialogues and how he is handled by his teachers that Daniel says he understood his value and the way he looked at things changed. Daniel was very happy with his project so he went ahead and gifted Rose Busingye, the MPI Director, with a pig. This humbled us as MPI staff and Rose was extremely happy to see that such a young person was so moved by his gift he thought about gifting her as well.
Due to insufficient space where he is doing the piggery and cuniculture at the moment, Daniel plans to switch to cattle rearing. He has also been advised that cattle may also be a little easier to manage and require less attention because God willing, he will be a candidate in 2023 and will need more time to concentrate on his studies. He plans to relocate the project to the village where the space is big enough to hold more cattle since he is working towards expanding the project.
The gift money he received from his sponsor encouraged him to develop good ideas and further contributed to his awareness about who he is and his potential. Daniel says the gift to Aunt Rose was his way of showing gratitude for what his sponsor, Rose, and MPI in general has done for him since he joined the MPI community.
ACCOMPANYING EACH OTHER TO THE FINAL DESTINATION
During the Easter Vigil of 2022, 15 widows of Meeting Point International (MPI) were received into the catholic church again after several years of cohabiting with their late husbands. We were able to have a dialogue with them and they disclosed to us why they had this desire to go back to the church.
Story by, Adoch Mary Clare
Kampala, July 6, 2022.
ACCOMPANYING EACH OTHER TO THE FINAL DESTINATION
A war that killed tens of thousands and displaced more than 1.6 million people in northern Ugandan united very many women despite its horrendous consequences. Among the people displaced are some of the women of Rose (MPI director) who are united in a Kampala slum known as Acholi Quarters and others in Naguru. 15 of these women were welcomed back into the catholic church after renewing their baptism vows, the sacraments of penance and holy Eucharist. Some of them were not receiving the body of Christ before because they were cohabiting with their husbands. However, because their partners passed on and most of these women are above the age of 50 years of age, they decided they want to be closer to God by respecting Him and actively practising their catholic faith and this was the first step to achieve that.
They wanted to do this together in each other’s company because they believe through this relationship with God, they will be able to set an example for both young and old within the community. They believe that if you are close to Him, you attract people who will hopefully trust you enough to approach you in whatever situation they are facing, be it good or bad. Through this, they wanted to show love to themselves first, then to those around them and the community at large.
Many of these women met through Meeting Point International and became even closer through actively participating in MPI activities where a bond was created. However, they share some characteristics like being widows, victims of war and agemates that brought them even closer enough to encourage each other to get this baptism. Another reason for the baptism was; during of the war, most of them lost their documents like baptism cards and birth certificates in the chaos yet these are documents essential in one’s life because in most of the offices that provide essential services, these documents are a requirement. They celebrated their return to the church with their fellow women of MPI and Rose who provided them with a cake that was inscribed with “we are now free”.
We were moved by these women, in their simplicity, to ask for baptism and the sacraments! “This achievement by these women was worth celebrating because we didn’t ask them to go back for the sacraments and this shows a kind of awareness within themselves which is a success for MPI. They are living in a natural way. MPI didn’t impose this on then and it implies that even when MPI ceases to exist, they will be able to do things on their own. They will be able to eat a balanced meal, cook well, take their drugs, clean their house because they have an awareness of their own.” said Rose on why we celebrated their achievement.
The women were baptised from their usual meeting place in Kireka where meetings with them are held. This place also acts as a church on Sundays with permission from Rose; the mass is usually held in a language they understand which is Acholi. Rose commented on the reason as to why she allowed the mass to be held from MPI saying; “Allowing the women to have mass from there is the same as allowing God to happen there. God is happening in our place where we sit, where we cry, where we are happy, where we are a mess, so the same way we can’t refuse that God is there is how we can’t refuse the priest to make Him happen in our place. Mass, a sacrament for us Catholics, represents the fact that God died, rose again and became flesh of our flesh through the holy Eucharist. The value is God that is happening in us, when you talk about God, the father of fathers, our heart is vibrating, when we celebrate Him, its beyond something beautiful.”
WISDOM LIES IN THE MINDS OF THE LISTENERS
“…knowledge acquired from the MPI dialogues and my conversations with Rose reminded me of my value and taught me that I needed to start being the protagonist in my life by…”
by Kisuki Simon Nimrod, DSP Social Worker.
Life often has hard corners to maneuver but can be simple depending on one’s perspective. This is how Anyiri Sarah, a mother of 3, guardian to 5, summarizes her experiences and responsibilities today. Even without an education, she was the only child among her siblings with considerable success at a young age being the one that held her family together financially. Once she got married and a few years later, her husband impregnated a maid Sarah had employed for the sole purpose of giving said maid an opportunity to sustain her family.
Once she found out about the pregnancy, she separated from her husband and left with their 3 children in the guise of visiting an aunt. Sarah describes leaving her husband as the most heartbreaking and painful experience she has ever been through not to mention the hardest choice she has ever had to make. Sarah’s Aunt allowed her to stay for as long as she needed. However, due to depression over the end of her marriage, betrayal, worry for her children, and the fear that she may be HIV positive, Sarah looked and felt sick, so much so she could neither stand nor sit on her own. This is when she was rushed to Reach Out for testing and later Mulago for treatment for different infections. Luckily she was HIV-negative.
This is the period during which she was introduced to the Meeting Point International (MPI) Executive Director, Rose Busingye having heard about how big an impact she was making in the lives of many of the women that resided around the Kireka-Acholi quarters. She says at first she thought her husband would come and take them back home, but due to his emphatic refusal to go for HIV testing with her till date, she couldn’t trust him enough to take him back.
Sarah had some little money left after her treatment that she used for rent and started a small retail shop that grew over time. She later joined a savings group where she saved consistently using whatever she could spare from her shop’s profits. However, she was unfortunately robbed and she didn’t get a single coin when it was time to share the money which led to all her plans like restocking her shop and buying out her landlord being cancelled which depressingly meant starting from scratch again.
Life became so hard to the extent that Sarah could not afford any underwear for herself and some days she couldn’t afford a meal for her family. By this time, she had started attending MPI dialogues but was still timid about confiding her problems to Rose. One day she followed Jacky, an MPI social worker at the time, and asked her for some money. Jacky gave her ugx.5000 and advised her to find a source of income because requesting for money isn’t sustainable. This encounter happened after Rose advised them to feel free to go to her with their problems. She gathered her courage and went to meet Rose who she says gladly offered her much needed advice and help. Sarah was at the time also suffering from a terrible skin infection and Rose gave her medicine to apply to her body and kept inquiring about how she was fairing, not to mention surprising her with underwear at a later date!
“Jacky and Rose’s eagerness to help, knowledge acquired from the MPI dialogues and my conversations with Rose reminded me of my value and taught me that I needed to recognize that one way of the ways I can be the protagonist in my life is by using my capabilities to survive in my reality rather than feel sorry for myself.” recalls Sarah. She then used the ugx.5000/= as capital to start up a cassava frying business which is still running very successfully to date. She is very proud of it because the returns have enabled her to sustain her family, made it a little easier to take care of 5 more children in need and contribute for their school requirements since MPI caters for their school fees.
From these lessons, Sarah now testifies and advises fellow MPI women during the community dialogues on how they can be more proactive in their lives. She encourages the mothers to be companions in their children’s lives the same way MPI offers companionship to them. She urges them to take responsibility of finding out if for example the school fees paid by MPI was cleared at the school, how their children are performing in school, make sure they do their homework, etc…and not leave the full responsibility of the child to MPI even if MPI already takes such responsibility.
“Rose’s words to the women are a very strong instrument that will always drive you to something great when fully understood” says Sarah. In one of the personal dialogues she had with Rose, she was advised to always write down her daily expenditure and then see how to narrow it down given the other demands she always has at hand. This taught her to be in control of what’s hers, to leave within her means at whatever financial position she finds herself because that is the only way she will not fail to fulfil her responsibilities.
All this combined with how loved Sarah has felt since the day she was welcomed into Meeting Point International (MPI), has moved her into being responsible for those she encounters. Not only her children but her relatives, MPI members, people in her community or any human being for that matter. She says that Rose’s constant encouragement to remind ourselves to not only be mindful about ourselves and what is ours, but for others as well, is what provoked her heart.
“I do not regret the day I decided to settle here because it has given me the opportunity to keep discovering who I really am.” Sarah added.
Today, with the support from donors like AVSI Foundation and Support International, among others, MPI is supporting all her 8 children and this gives her some leeway to take care of their other needs. One cannot imagine that the story behind this woman’s life is hers because of how happy she is, and how she conducts herself despite her circumstances. This tells us that we all need to be loved and welcomed without putting anything but humanity under consideration.
A Token Representing Our Tears
“Ndi muntu, sili kabila”, meaning “I am not my tribe, I am a human being”, is how Acen Karamela Kasule, one of the oldest members of Meeting Point International responded when asked why she was the first person to contribute to the Ukraine cause once the idea to collect funds to support the war victims was suggested. The beauty in this statement is that many a time, we are more inclined to help people with whom we have personal relationships or similarities like ethnicity, religion, etc…, yet we ought to be moved by the compassion that should ideally come from recognizing that a fellow human being’s infinitely great value is in jeopardy.
“Who are we not to help or contribute something however small to those who are suffering, to offer them the companionship we have been shown by MPI and donors we may never meet. Watching the news about Ukraine makes me cry because those too are my children, they belong with me and the memories it brings up reminds me very vividly of how painful what those people are going through must be .We need to unite with the people in the war through prayer because we cannot live as if we are different and should love one another as human beings. There’s nothing like this one is black or white, we are all one. And this is why we are sending our support. It may not be able to feed them but it is a sign of our tears to show that we are with them in these trying times. If Ukraine or Russia was like in Mbarara (a Ugandan district), we would ask Rose to take us so that we can help however we can but we can’t due to the distance.” said Karamela.
Karamela Kasule, like many of the Meeting Point International (MPI) women were victims of the LRA guerrilla war in Northern Uganda when they experienced first-hand the horrors that come with war and it is how they ended up relocating to the slums of Kampala. Watching/ listening to news of the Ukraine war brings back very painful memories for many of them.
“Sometimes we watched as the rebels raped mothers in front of their children, cut off people’s body parts, buried people alive, among other inhumane acts that would make us so traumatised we lost hope and started doubting God’s existence.” said Akello Florence, a 50-year-old member of MPI.
“Today, I have learnt so much from MPI and from community school and I have the awareness that what we have contributed is nothing, but we want to help the victims with more than words of prayer and hope that this small token may remind even one person that God still exists. The money, above all, represents our voices and the cries of our hearts from the pain of what’s happening to humanity. I am requesting those who are fuelling the war to ask themselves “what is a human being?” because it should be only God that makes the decision to take away one’s life. We are praying that they recognise that what has already happened is bad enough and that God created us all with his love, not human love and they are eliminating this love forcefully. I call upon all of us and not just the war victims to prepare ourselves and our hearts, to ask ourselves, how I can clean my heart and make my life better? Am I worthy of God’s love? So that our hearts are filled with God’s love and when death comes, we are not scared because we know that we have a value and are filled with God’s love.” continued Akello Florence.
“It is very painful what is happening in Ukraine because those people are our brothers and sisters but also because it reminds us of the horrors of war we experienced and pray that God saves them like he did us. My heart is with MPI because I am grateful for the education on how to live with people and now am learning that when another human gets a problem, it is also my problem as well. We have to come together, unity is Golden, giving advice to someone is golden. In the past, different countries came together to help us during the war because their hearts moved for us, right now, they are also in our hearts and in my house hold, we include them in our prayers. May God bless and multiply the little we have given so that it can make a difference.” said Anek Florence.
“The people responsible for the war should remember the value of a human being. Covid-19 killed us in very large and we don’t need any more deaths. This money we have collected could take care of our struggling families because I personally take care of 4 orphans, however I understand the terror war can bring to people and I pray that this small contribution helps them so that they don’t lose faith in humanity and God.” said Atimango Josephine, a 56-year-old mother.
“Watching the news about Ukraine reminds me of my difficult childhood and watching children go without food bring tears to my eyes. My father passed away when my twin and I were 7 months old and after a few months, my father’s family chased my mother out of their clan. My mother, having no stable source of income suffered terribly with us trying to find food for us and we would sometimes go a day without any meals. I feel so much pain because I know what it is like to be a hungry child but now that I have children of my own, I can only imagine the pain the mothers must be going through helplessly watching their kids starve all because of a war brought about by fellow human beings. When we started to contribute, I gave whatever I had in my pocket and keep praying to God that the people can unite so that the war can stop.” contributed Nyangoma Mackline.
One after another, over 300 women of Meeting Point moved by the pain being experienced by the people in Ukraine and Russia managed to contribute Ugx. 3,000,000/=, approximately EUR.833/= which was forwarded through his excellence the Papal Nuncio, Luigi Bianco who was welcomed with music and dance by the MPI women on May 12th, 2022. He was thankful to the women and commended them on their solidarity for human kind.
MPI women have however expressed this solidarity before after hearing of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. The women of Meeting Point International like now were moved to action. For weeks, they crushed truck-loads of stones in the nearby Kireka quarry and contributed about $1,000. “It may only be a drop in the ocean, but our donation proves that the human heart is international, and without our unity the human race would become withered like a plant without nourishment” said Rose Busingye, MPI Director.
by Mariam Asiimwe.
THE UNEXPECTED LOVE
My name is Achan Priscilla, a 22-year-old teacher at Luigi Giussani Pre-primary and Primary school (LGPPS). I live with my two siblings Abraham, a 19-year-old, and Rovia, a 12-year-old in Acholi quarters. I just finished my degree at Kyambogo university this year where I was pursuing a bachelor’s degree of arts in education. I managed to get a first-class degree and am very happy about it. This would not have been possible without the support of my donors and Meeting Point International (MPI).
Having lost my father in 2003, a lot about my life became uncertain especially completing school. My mother struggled to raise us and got some relief when she discovered MPI and I was enrolled for support in 2008 when I was in primary five. Unfortunately, when I was in senior four, my mother succumbed to cancer and passed away. I now had a family to take care of and provide for yet I was a candidate that very year and I still had to sit national examinations amidst the grief and new responsibilities. I, however, managed to work hard and earn myself a first grade.
Overwhelmed with my new responsibilities, I requested Aunt Rose to allow me skip the Advanced level of secondary school and opt for a shorter course of one year and gain hands-on skills so that I could be in a position to support my family. She assured me that MPI would support my family financially and provide any help we needed. This gave me strength because I realized I was not alone. I attended Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS), a school whose focus is to help students discover themselves every day. The teachers helped me embrace the reality of my situation and I began looking at my mother’s death with positivity which paved way for growth and maturity. I completed my senior six in 2016 and emerged as the best student in my school.
I also wanted to attest to all the girls and orphans that it is possible to find success amidst the hardships we go through. I am very fortunate to have encountered MPI because they have continued to accompany me in my daily life even now by catering to my family’s education, health, and other needs. I was given a job at LGPPS, a school founded by MPI and I began volunteering there as a teacher. The same beauty I encountered at LGHS is what I found at my workplace which prompted more personal growth.
I decided to become a teacher because of the inspiration of my teachers at the LGHS. The teachers not only taught in a way that made me understand the subject but also addressed the needs of my heart. Their hearts were open to what was happening with each student. Mr. Wandera Joseph my History teacher inspired me with the way he presented himself and spoke in public. He had this self-esteem that I admired and wanted to imitate or even better.
My journey at the university wasn’t easy because I would go to work in the morning, go to study at the university in the afternoon, and later get home late in the evening and care for my siblings who would be back from school too. However, I had a lot of support from my colleagues at work, the LGPPS administration that allowed me to reschedule my timetable to study in case they clashed, my lecturers and course mates always helped me catch up through discussions because they were moved by my situation. This degree that I have achieved is not just for me but for everyone who stood with me.
“I want to thank MPI and all my sponsors especially Familie Zöpfl and Support International that accompanied me through my school journey. I wish that they could feel my love, excitement, and gratitude for them.”
They have accompanied me even in times when I had lost all hope. I don’t take for granted the fact that they decided to love me this way, that they decided to prefer me this way. In the absence of my parents, MPI and my donors have been the parents for it is usually only parents who would do what they do for me. They love me for who I am and their biggest desire was to see me happy. I am happy and grateful and I will always strive to make them proud. I am going to study and get a master’s degree in linguistics and P.H.D dedicated to them. I recognize the value in everything that they have done and I want what I have encountered to be able to help whoever I encounter so that the people out there also understand the value of life and its meaning.
Story written by Adoch Mary Clare
Below are link to story of Priscilla’s brother Aron’s story for more insight of her journey and that of her family.