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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FROM DREAMING TO BEING A DOCTOR TO AGRI-BUSINESS

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

By Okello Marvin, 1.4.2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Agromax, what was your typical day and week?

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

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

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

How did you end up studying Agri-business?

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

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

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

Okeny Christopher.

Kampala

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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