At the Origin of Gratuity

Odong Arnold Kato is a student of Makerere University Business School, studying Business Administration, he was with Rose Busingye (Director of Meeting Point International) for the event ”At the origin of Gratuitousness.” He shared his experience on charity and gratuitousness. We shared with you his story;

-Okello Marvin 13.12.18

Good morning, am very happy to be here to talk about gratuitousness, because in Uganda where I come from, there are a lot of people who need help and every time am moving on the streets I hand over a coin to the beggars, so giving is a challenge that I have to face every day and I have to give every day even when I don’t have. One time a friend of mine from a catholic church invited me for a charity, I was very excited about it. I collected some little money, some old clothes, so we set off to go and visit the orphanage.

When we arrived, I jumped out of the car very fast, I had a lot of sweets in my hands that I wanted to share with the children. When I reached my hand out to give the children, I discovered that they had no hands to pick the sweets. The children where crippled and my friend who had invited me had not told me this. In this moment, I felt very sad and very weak, I was giving and the child was trying to reach out for what I was giving but they could not hold it. This is the moment that I realized that it is not I who gives. At some point I began to wish that I could give these children hands so that they could pick what I was giving but I couldn’t. After that we sang a song, and they were singing “Jesus loves me”, most of them had Down’s syndrome, they were very crippled and they were singing that Jesus loves me, this was the changing moment of my life.

 

In that moment I realized that the same sympathy that I was having for these kids, is the same sympathy and pity that Christ has for me every moment. And I came to realize that charity is not giving, because I have nothing to give, but charity is a contribution to the work of God, it is God who gives. In this moment when I was giving the sweets, it felt useless because many times when you give, you expect a response but when I was giving over the gifts, they could not talk, could not smile, most of them had down’s syndrome, so for me gratuitousness is way of serving God, is a way of helping others discover that they are preferred by God.

Another experience I encountered when I was walking back from school going home and I find a very old woman, she came to me and asked me for some money, at that moment, I had a few coins and I gave her. I was very happy, I went back home happy that I had responded to this woman’s needs. However, they next day when I was from school, I found her waiting for me again and she was still asking for more and the following days the same thing kept on happening, the whole week, I was seeing her. In the moment I was saying, “Why can’t his woman get satisfied with what I give her?” So for me I realize that through gratuitousness, Christ is always provoking me that it is not you who gives, that I am just a tool, that I am choosing you to do my work. So that’s all that I wanted to share with you. That it’s not all about giving but it’s all about contributing, because it is God who gives. Even what we think we are giving, we are also given. Thank you very much.

Odong Arnold Kato

I thought that without my parents, I had no value

We received a letter from our child Nyeko Rogers addressed to Rose Busingye. This is also addressed to you who support us such that we accomplish our activities. We thought we’d share with you his beautiful experience;

Hello Aunt Rose,

I hope you are fine, back to me am very fine and happy because of what you have done for me. Yesterday, I did not get the time to say anything when we had a meeting with you. But am very happy that you came for us and yesterday was a really special day for all of us.

I wrote this letter because I wanted to thank you for paying for my school fees since senior one up to this level. I studied primary in a school called Gulu Public Primary School and my primary seven in Kasubi Army primary school just near your former school Secret Heart. After primary seven, my life was so complicated because I had no one to help me continue in secondary. I thought that that was the end of my education but you discovered me from where I was lost and confused and you took me to school, I thank you for that.

Joining Luigi Giussani High School was like starting another life because many things changed. At first I was very scared of what my friends said about me back in primary. But I came to know that everyone in Luigi Giussani High School especially the teachers and friends were very happy to see me. This wasn’t in my primary school where my friends used to abuse me that I was alien because I had no parents. I lost my parents when I was 8 months, so I don’t know the way they look like but I know that they are happy where they are because you are now here for me. I joined the community school in 2015 and from there you taught me what it means to have a value. I thought that without my parents, I had no value. But from the community school, I discovered that I have a value because there is someone who loves and cares for me.

I will also take this opportunity to thank you for placing me in a good school because Luigi Giussani High School is the best school I have ever seen in my life. I also thank you for making sure that I am at school because there are many people out there who want to go to school but they don’t have the opportunity.

I would like to end here and once again thank you very much and May God bless and protect you.

Nyeko Rogers

 

 

THIS FRIENDSHIP HELPS ME TO BE MYSELF

 

Kissa Joel and Lugamba Vincent are students of Luigi Giussani High School. Both of them have already sat their final examinations for High school and will start the University next year. In September 2018, they along with some university students and others from Luigi Giussani High School had a holiday titled “By these facts you will know that I am the Lord” with Rose Busingye, a Spanish priest (Fr. Ignacio Carbajosa) and five students from Universities in Madrid, Spain. I meet with them to listen to what they had to share after this encounter- by Okello Marvin 11.12.18

The holiday was 3 days, situated in a town called Hoima which is next to Uganda’s second largest lake, Lake Albert, the place has steep hills and a beautiful shore. During the holiday, the group went for a hike on the hills besides the Lake, sang songs together by the lake shore, played games together, shared experiences and watched a movie titled Les Miserables”.

Can you describe what struck you most about this holiday?

Joel in red and Vincent in white

Joel: For me, starting from the theme of the holiday, “By these facts you will know that I am the Lord” was enough to show me that I was going for something good for my life. I feel happy that I am going to complete the high school, but I was feeling sad and my heart was unsettled. I don’t want to leave high school, this is the place where everything is given and this is the sign that I am not alone. Going for the holiday, I was looking for an event that could help me face this restlessness.

Did any special thing happen?

I cannot say any special thing that happened because the whole holiday was special, in the bus we were in two teams and my team was beaten while I was sleeping. It didn’t matter much that we lost because it was overcome by the way we way staying together and this was very beautiful. Everything was just simple in spite of the fact that some people were older than me and others younger, everyone was living with the simplicity of the heart. You don’t have to hide in front of them because you know that these are people who love you and who are on the same journey with you of self-discovery. That alone for me was very beautiful. I was interacting with everyone with a different gaze and full of the newness because of the way I’ve been looked at.

Vincent: Looking at the experiences of Hoima. Fr. Nacho said that the hypothesis of life is to always face life with curiosity. And I began to ask myself where the facts where, where Christ was showing that He is the Lord. The most concrete fact that I had in front of this was this Presence. Was what was happening before me, were my friends. For me I thought that it was awkward to say that I can meet Christ through a face of someone. But then it became more concrete because I was becoming more aware of myself the more I lived with these people. Some people where describing their experiences and they were the same as mine, so this kind of similarity helped me to discover about myself more and more.

There’s a time when I said that I wanted to meet Christ face to face to ask Him some questions, but I met him in a different way through this companionship, in staying together, the way we played, when we went to the shore of the lake, the way we were holding each other’s hands while climbing the steep hill, all of that was so beautiful for me and I found that, this was my appointment with Christ. To meet Him in a different way.

I don’t normally talk about my dad. When I compare Gladys’ experience with her dad and mine it’s almost the same, the same thing happened. I was living without caring about him but then one evening when we watched the movie “Les Miserables”, I went to sleep at night, thinking about Jean Jaljean and the Bishop, made me realize that the same way Christ is looking at me is the same way He is looking at my dad. If Christ loves me, it means that he also loves my Dad no matter what he is doing. I don’t live with my dad. I realize that even my dad is Important and he is there for a reason. I also relate this to what Fr. Carron said when he spoke of the preference for me. Right now my perception of my dad has changed. Whenever I think of him, I don’t define him by what he has done or by his mistakes. I look at him as a sign of Christ’s preference for me. Because for me to be here was through my dad, so for me it is a concrete sign, so I am looking at him with what Fr. Giussani calls “an irreducible newness.”

So after watching “Les Miserables”, I was ashamed of myself. How can I live this kind of beauty and then hate my dad? So what struck me most was that I began to miss my dad as well. So for me this was a very beautiful experience that I will never forget.

So after this holiday, what do you guys desire for? What remains in your hearts after this encounter you had in Hoima?

Joel: When I went back to my room after watching “Les Miserables”, I began to wish that life would always be like this. This is the same thing I am trying to live after the holiday. I am trying to relive the events and live in that beautiful way. I might not be able to always see these faces every morning when I wake up. What always helps me is that I am loved. In this holiday, someone showed me love that Christ is thinking of me. This is something very beautiful that I wish to live every day. Aunt Rose always says that in following you never make mistakes, and in the holiday, I followed someone, I followed Aunt Rose and Fr. Nacho and I was able to discover myself more. So this is something that I desire for every day.

Vincent: I have never felt this anywhere in my life, I am realizing my purpose and my value through this companionship so for me what I desire is to stay with this friendship because it is what helps me to be myself always.

Pay Attention to the Instant, To the Now-Aloyo Gladys

When Gladys came back to Uganda, I caught up with her and she told me her experience being in Rimini, Italy for the first time, for the event “The forces that move history are the same that make man happy”  by Okello Marvin

From the time that I got to understand the movement and the charism of Fr. Giussani through the friends that had encountered him, the one and undying desire of my heart was to reach his grave. I didn’t know when, but certainly I knew I would reach him one day and pour out my heart to him at the foot of his grave.

Hardly had I known that Christ had already prepared everything for me. He looked at my heart and was granting me my desire. Hardly had I known that I was going to go to Italy this year in August. Everything happened when I least expected. Being invited to Rimini Fiera was a sign to me that despite my nothingness. Christ is always choosing and preferring me. Even though I am not worthy of anything as big as this, he has, He has made me worthy by making me now and loving me the way I am. It is something that makes me marvel up to now, at the mysteriousness of God.

Before going to Rimini (Italy), my prayer was that Christ helps me to understand why he has chosen me for the days ahead, and also help me not to lose myself in fear or uncertainty (since I was going completely to a new environment and for the first time) and that he stays with me. Things were a bit difficult at the airports and at certain moments I was so scared. In those moments of getting scared, I could hear the voice of Aunt Rose (Rose Busingye), she had told me once, that I should always pay attention to what is happening at the instant, because the instant you miss everything.

For me this voice was like a waking call to me. And immediately I remembered this I could wake up and look at things around me. And all the things before me communicated one thing to me, “I am with you” Everything that was happening to me was because somebody was making me them and making them for me. So everything I looked at gave me Christ back and this was my certainty because I know that Christ is with me, he is communicating himself to me, He wants me to understand him more.

On arrival to Italy, Teddy and I were taken to the grave of Fr. Giussani. We spent close to 15 minutes and I knelt before Fr. Giussani, I was very emotional that I even failed to say a word. I looked deep into the eyes his eyes, in his portrait. He was looking at me. To me, it seemed as if he was calling me to follow him. I could see and understand whom I am. Because his face looked like that of a beggar, one in need of something. This is what I am, a beggar, who without an “Other” cannot live. I need a “You” in order to live every instant of my life. Fr. Giussani wrote that the real protagonist of history is the beggar, man’s heart that begs for Christ and Christ’s heart that begs for man.

And Fr. Giussani, in his eyes was telling me that I need to be a beggar in order to understand the days that I was to spend at Rimini and thereafter. So I started the days of Rimini with Fr. Giussani’s face in my eyes and heart and Christ with me, so I managed to live those days with a begging and curiosity. How I wish I had the words to describe every moment I was there. It was so beautiful. A beauty, that even now nothing can erase it away.

I met so many people at the tent of AVSI (where I was staying during the day). I met friends that I had been with in Uganda. I also made new friends. Their faces made me feel one with them and at home. They were so free to me and open with me. Through them I realized that I need this simplicity of a child in order to understand everything. Because a child has a simple heart, open, yet curious to know and understand. This is also what I need in order to face myself and everything.

For example, a certain lady came to the tent of AVSI and she had seen me in a video. She immediately began telling me about herself and how the movement helped her to be who she is now. This openness is only possible when one has the simplicity of a child.

I attended the encounter of Fr. Carron on Job. And from Professor Marro’s words and also from the experience of a sick doctor, I think I understand more about human suffering. Fr. Carron explained ways in which man suffers. He said that sometimes man suffers because of his freedom, and that he does something that hurts himself. Then he also said that sometimes man suffers because of things beyond his control, for example natural calamities or even Job who suffers innocently. Fr. Carron was asking, “But why does God keep quiet in front of human suffering? Why doesn’t he intervene?” He answered himself by saying that, if God intervenes, or takes away the suffering of man, He would have taken away the freedom of man. God wants man to face everything freely. Even so no answer is enough to take away human problem. “But does this mean that God has left us?” Says Fr. Carron, “in front of suffering, he offers to us his powerful presence. And this is only possible if we are in a relationship with Him.

Like the “why” of Job was because he was familiar with God. Fr. Carron also said that God didn’t answer the cries of Job (He instead asked Job questions) but he gave his son Jesus Christ as the best answer to the sufferings of man. Only the awareness of his presence enables man to face human problem differently. A poet said that (Imitating Job), “You have given me all possible reasons to leave You but I won’t, I am only asking why?”

All these words were for me. And even as am back to Uganda, I have everything I need to live those days even here. I don’t want to forget anything. Those days are helping me to live now even more certain and in a meaningful way.

I thank God for this friendship, this belonging that he has given me and He is using it to bring me closer to Him. It is here that I want to stay all the days of my life. I won’t let go because he doesn’t let go.

 

 

What Did Teddy Say?

EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT DAY  IN BRUSSELS 

What topics were you discussing about at the event? What  was the event all about? 

We attended the European Development Day (E.D.D) and we had a stand for AVSI foundation and Meeting Point International where we exhibited our products. This year’s theme was on how to include the vulnerable groups that is to say women and the girls. So generally, it was designed to help in finding a way on how women, girls, boys and men can be brought together. It was also about finding the vulnerable can enjoy and access public spaces economically, socially and recreational. So, it was all about inclusive city for all were every body of all walks of life would enjoy. There were different panels, many meetings at different panels and we were before some panelists, I also attended one session with Plan International were I told them my witness like a woman who grew up in the slum and as vulnerable woman who has worked so much to see that women are empowered through forming of groups and training them.

I posed a question before the panelist, “How were we supposed to fight poverty?” As much as they are fighting for women to enjoy the public spaces, in Kampala it is a bit tricky. You find that the women are the bread winners in the place where I come from in Kireka. The women are the protagonists and want to enjoy the public spaces by using it economically. Some of these women go to town to sell their mangoes, bananas, paper beads but the KCCA (Kampala City Council Authority) authorities do not allow them in the name of cleaning up the city.

But now for whom are they cleaning these cities if am to ask? Are they not cleaning the city for every body to enjoy? Is it only for the rich people to enjoy the good streets?

There is no security for these women, I witnessed it, I had to go to the police cell to see that some women come out of the prison because of their arrest in the name of cleaning up the city. They arrest these women and spend three days in a cell and imagine they are the bread winners at home. What do you think happens to their children at home yet their mothers have been detained for three days? It only means that the children have to go hungry. The children have to move around and even end up stealing to get something to eat. Child abuse comes into play in this situation, since they are not supporting the children because they are arrested. Back home the child is just moving a round which puts him or her at the risk of kidnappers, those who do rituals and child sacrifices for richness. The whole household is at a risk originating from cleanup of the city which in the end is just for the minority leaving out the majority of the people who are vulnerable in the city.

So, I wasn’t happy because of this. I had to present this before the panelist. How are they going to help us? How will they help the vulnerable women and girls to enjoy this pubic space yet it is being restricted from them? The women are also taken to the prison and coming out of the prison they have to spend a lot of money, come back and restart again at home. Children are left unattended to, they go hungry for days and end up stealing. In the process of stealing something to eat they are also caught, arrested and taken to cell. These children face the risk of kidnappers.

When you placed this issue in front of the panelist, what was their response? Did they respond in a way that they could solve this problem? Is there a response they gave that you think can help in this current situation?

The moderators gave me only two minutes which I had to use wisely. I was directed to a lady who was from Plan International, Uganda, I think she’s an American.

Basically, she was talking about the safety, security of girls in Kampala. She gave an example of girls who go to use toilets. She said girls no longer go on their own because they are afraid of being kidnapped. They are afraid of being raped. So, for her, she was only looking at the toilet issues. That these girls have to first gather themselves to go and use the toilet. She was only advocating for girls in Kampala about the security.

Here we are fighting poverty, we are not begging for money and we are not begging people but we feel that we can do it ourselves. Why don’t they support us like giving us the tools and we use the tool to protect ourselves including the life of the others, I would prefer it this way. I don’t know if the lady from Plan International had really to go down to the grass root. The     people at the high level always get statistics. These statistics don’t reflect what is on ground most times. For me who is on the ground, I would still say they should go to the root causes of all these problems.

Girls should be sensitized not to fall prey due to poverty, they should seek on how to address these problems. Majority of the girls who have been kidnapped and killed are from the university. These girls should also be sensitized about love issues, here you find that they are tricked into love affairs just because they want gifts, money and many other needs. They should be taught, just like they say “give someone a hook to go and fish, teach someone how to catch fish and not to only eat fish or be given fish each time he/she is hungry.”. Or else it creates a dependence syndrome. This takes us back to the discovery of ones’ self. We should always educate the young ones who are falling prey of this situation.

This lady should let her organization and all her stake holders get down to the root causes and then sensitize the girl, educate them to become aware of themselves. Let them discover themselves and let them know who they are. The moment they discover themselves, they will avoid all these other problems like kidnapping.  If you know that your life is precious then protect it. These organizations should go and collect data from the field and find out more challenges faced by the vulnerable.

How can someone archive this self-discovery? What does this self discovery mean for you?

First of all, you cannot discover yourself on your own, you need someone in your life you need someone to look at, someone needs to educate you. So, when I discovered myself, I became happy. I feel that as much as I have discovered myself, it’s not enough. I want to rediscover more and its really beautiful to live this way. It is not that when I discovered myself all the problems disappeared, my problems continue, I will continue having the problems that have been having before and these problems will not go away. For me reality has taught me to live my life in a more meaningful way and that is what am doing now. All our value is greater than even what we have that is to say my value is greater than the sickness, my value is greater than everything that am going through.

By Okello Marvin