I FELT LIKE A BOSS EVEN WHEN I DIDN’T HAVE MONEY-(Namwegezi Hanifa)

I met with Hanifa at Meeting Point International (MPI) offices in Kitintale to get to know her experience of working at MPI, gratuitousness was written all over her face as she time and again thanked Aunt Rose (Rose Busingye) and MPI for all the help she received. Like the other women, she is a member of MPI too. She is a mother of 2 children and a guardian of other 2 one, all of whom MPI supports. She lives in Acholi Quarter (Kireka) with her husband who is a sheik in the mosque in their locality. Last year, Hanifa got a job as a Cleaner at MPI. She describes her experience and of how she got the job and how it has been helpful for her;

Hanifa with one of her daughters.

(The Interview was made in Luganda and has been translated to English)

I began working here at Meeting Point International when I didn’t expect it because I did not go to school. There was a day when I went to see Aunt Rose to check on her, then she told me that there was a job. I thought that only people who knew how to speak English could have gotten it. I needed it but I didn’t expect it, but Aunt Rose told me that I was going to have it (Cleaning at the MPI office and supporting the staff). I couldn’t believe it, but she was serious about it. And she took me to Alberto (Technical Advisor at MPI) and I was imagining how I was going to speak to him because I couldn’t speak English, but he didn’t have problems and I was cleared to work. I had to set up the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) account and the bank account. I started to work and I even saw my name on the list of employees at the office, it was like a dream for that whole week, I couldn’t believe all this was happening to me.

I started working on 15th May 2018. When the month ended, I was paid for the days I had worked!!!! I went home very happy, my children were very happy and we bought food, we bought things that were needed at home. I continued working and another month elapsed, my payment was made in my bank account. I even saw the notification of the payment to my account on my phone, I was so overjoyed. I even saw the message from NSSF, these were things I only saw on television and I knew that it was for people who went to school. Now me too I could be paid on an account, am also on NSSF.

I don’t know what to do to show my gratitude to Aunt Rose for what she has done for me. I don’t even have what to give her to show my gratitude. I also thank Alberto for being patient with me, since I didn’t study, I don’t understand everything he tells me. He is patient that even if we don’t understand each other I am still working with him. I even ask myself, “Whom am I, that I work with a white man yet I don’t speak English?”

Aunt Rose gives me salary for my work, but even if I fall sick, she doesn’t think of the salary that I got, but she still takes me to the hospital and pays for my medical expenses. This surprises me so much. Even when am sick and the treatment costs Ugandan Shilling 20,000/=, she still pays for it, without deducting it from my salary. She is very different. When I think of what she has done to me, I start to tear, because she really changed my life.

My children now study, I can pay for their scholastic requirements, and I can buy for them books. My child used to stay home for up to two weeks without studying because she was sent away for not having an exercise book that costs 3,000 shillings. But now I can buy the books, I can give her the school requirements. When I get home I can buy food, soap, sugar. By the time I was joining MPI, I couldn’t even remember the price of a kilogram of sugar, I used to take tea without sugar.

 

In my whole life on this earth, no one has loved me to this extent that Aunt Rose has. My children are happy, they don’t go to bed without eating. They can wash their clothes, those days we used not to have soap, we couldn’t afford it. The children could only wash their uniforms on Saturday. My child wanted to commit suicide, she hated herself and was fed up of her condition. She wanted to study but couldn’t. She even asked me what her future was. She was going to Kololo (a government school) and she was always chased. Whenever they chased her from school she would hide in the toilets and then return to class when they had stopped chasing children. She never got her report cards whenever the terms got done because she hadn’t paid school fees, she was living in that kind of situation. Now all of that changed with the help of MPI. My child is at school studying and I can now pay for her scholastic materials. This is the first thing I did when I get my salary so that my child could study. I now feel that I have also a pillar that I can lean on. When I fall sick I am not worried. When I fell sick, I felt that I was only left with dying. But when I joined MPI, I got hope, I felt like I am a person, alive. I don’t need to be reminded to take medicine, it just comes to mind that I need to take drugs. 

I live near a trench, the muddy water is always flowing. But Aunt Rose stills comes and sits in my home in spite of that mud that flows near my house. This makes me wonder so much! I am a Muslim but she treats me like the other workers. My hope and that of my children has been returned.

I went to Nsambya Hospital in Kampala, I had never gone there. When I arrived, I handed in my documents of referral, the doctors treated me and they gave me receipts. I felt like a boss even when I didn’t have money. I was cared for in the hospital, the doctors checked me thoroughly and all of this was possible with the help of MPI. Those days, no one wanted to treat me because I didn’t have money, I couldn’t have reached that hospital if it wasn’t for MPI. The only thing I can do to thank MPI and Rose is to pray for them so that God may continue giving them life.

My husband used to give me Ugx 5000/= shilling (approximately  €1.5) daily to buy food, charcoal, sugar, to buy soap and this wasn’t enough. These days even if he leaves home that amount of money, I don’t care because I am now earning and I can buy necessary needs for our home. I am so happy for all the help that I’ve received.

By Okello Marvin

18/02/2019

Kampala

Agri-business – (Okeny Christopher and Agit Simon)

Gratitude from the Agri-business boys (Okeny Christopher and Agit Simon)

As Meeting Point International, we are very happy when we see our children happy for what they are receiving. Two of our boys whom we sent for an Agri-business course at COWA vocational Institute come to us and they had written a letter to Rose Busingye appreciating what they had been given;

“Appreciation for Opening Our Eyes towards a Bright Future through Giving Us a Chance of Going Back to School and Study (Agribusiness at COWA)

Happy New Year mom, we are very pleased and grateful to God to have someone special like you. The main reason for writing this letter is to say “Thank you, mom.” As a lovely mother, you have given us the best gift a parent should give to her child. That is education because nowadays academic qualifications are really considered for one to get a good paying good and you have given us a go ahead.

 

We really appreciate you and Madam Teddy for this gift because personally, I had lost hope but now at least I feel and see myself as someone of great honor.  In seven years to come through Agri-business.

You have shown as the way and we promise not to disappoint you or ourselves or even forsake the course because with the 3 months training, we have seen the greatness in it and we are ready to continue with it if the chance is still there. We have tested and seen the good part of it and the bright future it can impact our lives. And we believe to be good examples to other fellow youth who undermine the courses (such as agri-business).

We are very glad for this opportunity. Through your actions, we have also picked out something and that is sharing. We can’t do it perfectly as you but we shall try our best. May the Lord richly bless you together with Madam Teddy for the great work with peaceful hearts full of love that you are sharing with the youths, elders and many others. Now we don’t have anything worthy that we can thank you with but we believe our prayers with a faithful heart through the Virgin Mary will do more than any other thing.

May God bless the works of your hands, families, friends with healthy life and minds full of peace, joy and happiness.

Yours faithfully,

Okeny Christopher and Agit Simon”

 

Kampala, 16/01/2019

 

An Extract of Rose’s Speech; At the Origin of Gratuitousness, Florence Italy

Rose Busingye was in Florence, Italy for the event At the Origin of gratuitousness, in which she was handed keys to the city. This is an extract of the speech she made at the event which occurred on 1/12/18;

What is at stake is man! Always, when it comes to a human being, we must start with themselves. In the beginning, I thought this was selfishness, but it is true that we cannot give what we do not have. Who am I and who is this man I have to take care of? It is not enough to do an investigation on existence, even an instinctive reaction is not enough because it does not make it out of the Confusion that characterizes our days, does not bring out the “I”, its face. The analysis is never enough. Apparently, man can seem to be nothing in front of his problems, illness, poverty and even death.

Let me quote a great Italian poet, Giacomo Leopardi:

«Niuna cosa maggiormente dimostra la grandezza e la potenza dell’umano intelletto, né l’alte‘zza e nobilta dell’uomo, che il poter l’uomo conoscere e interamente comprendere e fortemente sentire la sua piccolezza. Quando egli, considerando la pluralita de’ mondi, si sente essere infinitesima parte di un globo ch’e minima parte d’uno degli infiniti sistemi che compongono il mondo, e in questa considerazione stupisce della sua piccolezza, e profondamente sentendola e intentamente riguardandola, si confonde quasi col nulla, e perde quasi se stesso nel pensiero della immensita delle cose, e si trova come smarrito nella vastita incomprensibile dell’esistenza; allora con questo atto e con questo pensiero egli da Ia maggior prova possibile della sua nobilta, della forza e della immensa capacita della sua mente, la quale rinchiusa in si piccolo e menomo essere, e potuta pervenire a conoscere e intender cose tanto superiori alla natura di lui, e puo ‘abbracciare e contener col pensiero questa immensita medesima della esistenza e delle cose».

“Niente mostra di piu la grandezza, il potere dell’intelletto umano, I’altezza e la nobilta dell’uomo, della capacita che egli ha di percepire e capire la sua piccolezza; quando considera la pluralita dei mondi, sente se stesso come parte infinitesimale del globo, percependo questo profondamente confonde se stesso con il nulla e quasi perde se stesso nel pensiero dell’immensita delle cose, si trova quasi perso nell’incomprensibile vastita dell’esistenza.”

Nothing more demonstrates the greatness and power of the human intellect, nor the highness and nobility of man, that man can know and fully understand and strongly feel its smallness. When he considers the plurality of the worlds he feels himself to be infinitesimal part of a globe that is minimal part of one of the infinite systems that make up the world, and in this consideration amazes of its smallness, and deeply feeling it and intently considering it, it is almost confused with nothing, and almost loses itself in thought of the immensity of things, and finds itself lost in the incomprehensible vastness of existence; then with this act and with this thought he gives as much proof as possible of his nobility, of the strength and immense capacity of his mind, which is locked up in a small and small way to be able to come to know and understand things so much superior to his nature, and can embrace and contain with thought this immensity of existence and of things “.

Nothing shows more the greatness, the power of the human intellect, the height and nobility of man, of the capacity he has to perceive and understand his smallness; when considering the plurality of gods worlds, feels itself as an infinitesimal part of the globe, perceiving this deeply he confuses himself with nothingness and almost loses himself in the thought of the immensity of things, yes he finds almost lost in the incomprehensible vastness of existence.

What is the nature of the human person? And what makes him happy?

I began to work enthusiastically, willing to help, if possible also to heal everyone that I met. I work with HIV/AIDS patients, their orphans and their families in poor neighborhoods of the city of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. I equipped myself with all the knowledge I could and the tools I had at layout. I thought this was enough but what seemed obvious was not; for example, the cards to mark when taking TB (Tuberculosis) drugs or the retroviral drugs came to compile very well, but the tablets ended up in the trash! The same for food: it was sold to buy alcohol or other things. The boys I sent to school preferred to stay in the streets rummaging through the garbage to find things to sell. Those who said they were my friends, even worse, made me suffer more, so much so that, to a certain point I wanted to escape on a deserted island with some animals but without men. Every day I saw people dying or people who disappointed me, but what I had studied and designed it was not like that. I went into crisis!

My teacher “fished me”, educated me and taught me what I was missing: who is man and who I am. Man is a relationship through which he screams of being someone. Don Giussani has revealed to me who I am and the man who I have to take care of! He established the content and method of my work: to communicate to everyone the greatness, the value and the dignity of every single person.

In this way, we started the Meeting Point International. First, it was called Meeting Point Kampala, but then we wanted to call it “International” to show that the heart of man is international, and the same for everyone and that each person must be watched in its entirety. We are involved in an adventure with HIV/AIDS patients, orphans, the poor, the mad etc, and we want to make them understand that they are not defined by the situation in which they live, but that they are greater than whatever their condition is.

Our work is based on education at all levels, because we consider education as the privileged way of discovering oneself. The method we use helps us not to solve the situation, but to go beyond and, as Fr. Giussani teaches, to look for correspondence between the reality and self-awareness, allowing the discovery of the unitary hypothesis that explains everything.

Why this method?

I began to live and work when someone told me “you are mine.” Don Giussani had not known me; it was evident that I was nothing, but I felt wanted and desired. It was as if his gaze told me, “I want to be with you, you have an infinite value”.

From this gaze everything was born, I discovered that I was not defined by my limits and my faults. From this gaze, I began to sense a meaning for my life. It is as if a light had enlightened everything, I discovered the truth of my existence and from here began an attraction, a tenderness for my life and that of others.

I began to live and work when I was able to respond concretely to the question “who am I”, this question has been answered in precise faces that have a name and a surname; so I became free. Paradoxically I became free belonging, that is, having a link. When you are free you can finally face the whole reality without fearing it, you can face everything because you know who you are! And whoever is free does not demand any more from others because he/she already has everything.

I felt free, great and the protagonist of reality because Fr. Giussani revealed to me who I am (example; meeting with Don Giussani, he said that if I were the only man on earth, God would have come all the same. Then he immediately stopped and said “No! He came for you because God does not come on earth for a group of men, before God every man is unique as an only child! He came for you, died for you, so that your nothingness is not lost “). Then a friend, Pope Benedict, in “Deus Caritas est” spoke of the love of God as a “divine madness“.

This has messed up my life, what I thought of myself and others, of eating and drinking, of the sleeping and waking up, crying or laughing; everything has gained a density, a value that you cannot imagine. Don Giussani, revealed to me that God has done for me more than what was necessary, that he gave Himself to me, a gift of total self.

Charity in its essence is this! God comes out of himself, divine madness! You act in a certain way because inside your humanity there is this origin that vibrates in your bowels. If there isn’t this charity in the instant, none of us here present or out of here can exist. He is given to us because we are happy and fulfilled.

What is coming up in my work is the truth of the value of the person. In this way, I can offer a clear and identified friendship to which everyone can belong. The “I” that is aware of belonging to this friendship becomes a protagonist, the lord of the reality not because he owns it, but because he discovers that the One making the reality is also making him.

This is why I chose as a symbol of MPI the picture of Matisse’s Icarus: I wanted that everyone could look at the red heart. The small dot which seems nothing, yet instead gives meaning to the whole painting! A man who looks like nothing, with all his problems, miserableness, poverty, death to him every day, is great. My “I” is a dot, a grain, (Don Giussani called me a black dot!) a breath that fails to be herself without belonging. Without belonging, the “I” grabs here and there. It clings to what happens, but this over time, leaves bitterness around in the mouth, as Carron says.

I saw the others happen again to me. For example, Lucy, one woman who suffered all sorts of violence, her body and physique had been disfigured by the rebels. She found herself when I told her, “you’re not the horror that happened to you, you’re an infinite value that comes from God who makes you be and who loves you!” Today she says that the only pain she has is of those she killed but can’t go to kneel down before them to apologize.

We use everything, music, and dances of every culture, trips together to valleys and hills, Lakes and rivers, football etc. We work in groups, to introduce people to the meaning of everything that surrounds them and this leads to a wonderful burst of discovery that becomes an educational chain.

This shows that it’s not enough to do projects, but its necessary the presence of a person who loves and that helps to give the true meaning to the standards and the indicators. Otherwise one suffocates while trying to measure or track progress in the projects.

Note: Not reviewed by the author.

 

Grant from Solidarity Charitable Trust

Meeting Point International (MPI) is currently implementing a project entitled “Improve the quality of life of the people, mainly women and youths of the slums and suburban areas of Kampala, Uganda.”

 

The funds of this project were received from Solidarity Charitable Trust and are being used to strengthen two cultural centers in Kampala’s slums of Naguru and Kireka. MPI will also build another center at its headquarters in Kitintale. In this way, adults of MPI, their children and the children of the Welcoming House will have a safe environment where their awareness on the importance of education and culture will be facilitated as well as the development of their personality and self-awareness. Beneficiaries of the project are the clients of MPI which includes; 1027 vulnerable children including 56 Orphans living in Welcoming House and 2190 Adults of which 950 are taking anti-retroviral drugs.

Adult Literacy sessions will be organized for adults so that they can learn how to express themselves properly and freely in the community; the youth groups like New Hope Dance Project Uganda will use these centers especially in Kireka and Naguru for activities like fitness sessions and dancing. Other youths will also access the library to do homework and reading. Various other activities will be organized such as training of the members of the saving groups; the adults and youth will participate in outreach activities such as trips to help them discover each other in a context of beauty and relaxation which is different from the daily conditions in the slums. There will be weekly workshops for example music, dance, and drama, in which adults and youth talk about their lives, express their feelings and need to be together.

 

Sports with Real Madrid Foundation

This is the second year (2018) in which Luigi Giussani High School and Meeting Point International have been funded by Real Madrid Foundation through Cesal, for a sports program at the school premises, where the 185 students between the ages of 13-17 years have had football training sessions and throughout the whole the whole year. The students have been practicing dribbling, shooting, goal keeping, throwing in, positioning, ball controlling, passing, attacking and defending with the sports coaches.

The program has been an opportunity to improve life skills of the students through learning how to play the fair game along with all its rules, accepting defeat after a loss in the football game and being aware of one’s limitation in such a way that one can work ways to improve it both individually and collectively in the team.

The students eventually applied their skills when they played a number of games against their teachers as well as themselves. They also played football on the sports day which occurred in March.