Everyone who visits these women is a friend, this is what I felt for the three hours I spent with them.
Last week, the women of Meeting Point International invited me to visit their Savings Group Association in Naguru, a slum area just outside the city centre of Kampala. Every woman has a story to tell. The women have formed different saving groups to better manage their little finances and try to improve their standard of living. The way these women were staying together in front of the money they saved during this whole year, was something that recalled me to Rose Busingye’s words; “This has been an adventure in MPI, a very beautiful adventure in educating the heart not to fall into what it is not made for! To educate the heart to be at its original state.”
I met AKELLO SANTA, a 52 years old woman. With a beautiful smile she tells me, “I have no words and God is my witness. I thank God for having brought Rose like Angel that brought SCORE [a project implemented by MPI in collaboration with AVSI Uganda] to us. She opened our eyes, we are now seeing what we were not seeing. I am the head of the family – I don’t have brothers and I have three sisters. My mother is very old. One time I introduced her to Meeting Point International with a broken rib and she was hospitalized, she received treatment and MPI helped me to pay the bills. I have a husband with five children but he is like my first born, he can’t help, he cannot do anything. I am the one taking care of my mother and children, I work in the market, selling vegetables in the early hours of the morning. I tried to save with a group of shop keepers in the market, but the group was not serious, sometimes the members would refuse to pay back my money. But when MPI introduced us to the SCORE project, I started saving well in Nen Anyim (Going Forward) Group, without worries and so far the money I managed to save it’s over five millions (1,400 usd)! My desire is to build a nice house for my mother in the village even if of only one room, let her die at list when she has seen that her daughter has cared for her.”
I am continually learning to be educated by faces of these women and thanks to the women that invited me.
One year ago, a Mother died of AIDS. She had a daughter and an HIV Positive husband.
One day, the father was out for work, their 12 year old girl was left home alone since also the step mother had gone to buy food in the market. The 12 year old girl, locked herself in the house and set herself and the house on fire. What could have provoked this 12 years old to end up her life in this way? What could we say to the grieving father while counseling him?
I have worked in Meeting Point International for seven years and for all this period I have come to understand the truthfulness of Rose’s statement: “The greatest need of a human being is the need of belonging”. I am Birabwa Betty, a nurse and I receive a lot of patients with burnouts, vomiting, HIV/AIDS infected… For a while I was scared and I could ask myself all the possible questions a nurse asked to work in this situation would.
Looking at how Rose stays in front of me and how she is always available for me, it is something that motivates me to work and this has built my confidence in my nursing skills as well as my counseling competence. I feel really happy when I treat a patient and the following day I see her with a smiling face, feeling well and appreciating for the drugs given to her that made her better. This increases my affection towards my profession. In this way, I am encouraged even by my patients. While counselling, I have come to understand that a relationship with a person being treated is very important. I observe this during the times spent with my patients in Kireka, who came in with burn, confused over some situations and friendship with this person gives you the possibility to speak because they open to you and by the time we part at least there is a relief in a person’s life and you have change not there life but you find yourself changed.
Meeting Point International entered in the adventure with the sick with the help of the nurses and works with communities in order to respond these Questions.
On the 28th Dec 2016, Meeting Point International women and some of their children set off to Paraa National Park, a nine hours journey to the Northern part of Uganda.
“Where is my daughter now? She should have been here!” said ABILOMIT with a sad tone of voice…
We were up by 4.00am to go to the Murchison falls. On top of the falls we stood, gazing at the reflection of the Crystal rainbow….below us the rapidly flowing stream. We were amazed then proceeded to the park where we saw animals like elephants, buffalos
We with the sense of wonder said “if these things exist, then God does. “It is not enough to say that. Why did God create this thing? How beautiful is this falls, who am I? Aunt Rose said God put it there for you. You are so precious. God made it for you. She added that it would be stupid making the entire long journey. It is when you look at it you discover how important you are. What you see helps you to look at yourself.”
“Where is my daughter now, she should have been here! I have discovered who I am and I am so sad for my daughter who could have been here together with me and the fellow youths whom I see very happy and freely sharing their experiences.” said ABILOMIT.
THE JOURNEY TO CONTINUOUS SELF DISCOVERY.
My first glance at the invitation letter, I was inflamed by the words of Aunt Rose, when she said that ‘’I Invite you as a friend, chosen such that you go deeper into the Majesty that has come into this world, that the mystery manifests in the risen Christ and that there is a nothingness that is not lost, even my nothingness is saved’’. This made me, to take a very deep breathe, my heart felt like it has reached the source of its origin and my whole day was full of burning desire to reach the day of departure.
We all gathered at Luigi Giussani Pre-Primary and Primary School in Kireka ready for the Journey at 6:00 and .by 6:30 am, the bus arrived and we entered happily in bus ready for the journey. This was a unique and special journey compared to all the trips that we made to Gulu. It involved us to really go deep in understanding God’s love and Mercy towards each one of us. It was accompanied by the singing of various songs that filled our hearts with Joy.
After a six hour drive, we reached in Gulu Town and we were to sleep and spend most our time at Comboni sisters near the cathedral in Gulu. After dropping our luggage in our respective rooms, we set off to St. Mary’s hospital Lacor to pay a visit to our dear father (Priest) Tibon, who has spent a period of one year in the hospital because he is getting old day and day accompanied with sickness and general body weakness which requires constant medical attention and care. We saw him in his room where he was resting, we sang for him some songs like La strada, Il disegno and many others which made his heart full of gladness that he held the hand of Aunt Rose very tight. At that moment, my heart felt alive and desired the same charisma and faith like that of father Tibon.
After this event, we all left in silence to our bus and went back to Comboni sister’s residence which was near. Our evening was interesting because we started by the sharing of experiences about what has struck us, asking questions and helping each other to move on the same journey. We played football which was really so awesome after which we enjoyed our dinner joyfully.
That night after dinner, we also had a very mysterious moment in the main hall because Aunt Rose shared with us her encounter with father Luigi Giussani and how the gaze of this man changed her life completely, she told us that her first encounter with Giussani was in the lift in Italy, this ‘’man’’ looked at her with different gaze, not usually common, as if she already knew who she was. She shared with us a lot of her experiences with him which did not leave me the same way, I too desired this very same embrace. Full of the fatigue for the whole day, we all went in our Beds in silence, to go deep into the event that had just happened to us that very night.
We slept well like queens and kings and we were woken up by the morning bells of the nearby cathedral, we had a delicious breakfast after which we had morning Prayers and mass led by father Martin, a friend from Gulu. After this we had another moment of the interactive learning session, with our hearts full, we shared, communicated and asked various questions. In our interaction, I was able to learn the true method of following, to always listen to my heart and follow what really corresponds to it.
After all this, we had lunch together, sang songs and we finally went to St. Mary’s hospital to say goodbye to our dear father Tibon and to keep him in our prayers. We came back to our homes very tired because of the long Journey. However, the memories of the event that happened to us will never vanish from our hearts and we will keep on desiring the same for the rest of our lives.
Compiled by Gashumba Emmanuel.
SIX YEARS OF GRATITUDE
I have taken a good number of years teaching Adult Literacy classes in Meeting Point International in Naguru. At the beginning this work was quite complicated since I was used to teaching young primary school pupils. In MPI I begun handling mature people who are comfortable in their deep-rooted habits. The big number of women looked to be tired and unmotivated to classroom work so I could find myself in front of the mature classroom with serious dedication problems.
Everything seemed to be not easy for me because my idea of the school had something to do with giving instructions to pupils that had to be followed. I was totally focused on my thoughts and I was thus getting upset with some women.
One day I got struck when I heard of a life story from one of my student (woman). We had received visitors and the Director Rose told the students (women) share their life experiences. She told the visitors that she was victim of the prolonged rebel activity in the northern region of Uganda where she grew up from, she was abducted and made to feed on human flesh, raped and got infected with HIV and AID many people who listened including me got emotional and started shading tears. When we closed our activities that day I went home, but something was hurting me.
I felt I have been judgmental to my students, I prayed asking Christ to forgive me and to give me the grace change my gaze and to love all my students (women). I also realized that nothing depends on our effort, for this reason, I began to experience a change of attitude because the more I stayed with them, the more I loved my students and the more they opened up to me.
All mentioned happened to me within the first few months… Now it is six years since I started teaching them, we do English language, Mathematics, Health Science and Music Dance and Drama. Six years of teaching the women have been very interesting and adventurous, I have learned a lot from my students (women) and fellow workers. In fact, it has been a journey to discovering my real life and value my humanity which is rooted in the “infinite”. We all need a company like this to walk.
I cherish my students for providing me the best companionship as I discover my life.
TEACHER; WASSWA YUSUF
MEETING POINT INTERNATIONAL MY HOME.
ATIM FLORENCE, a single mother having 4 children because her husband abandoned them. She is a member of Mukisa saving group, she used to sell tomatoes, onions plus other items. She became depressed after her husband had abandoned her with the children; she was then put on drugs. Florence stopped taking drugs for almost a month because she could feel healthy without them. One day, she woke up and started burning her possessions that she almost burnt everything from her house. Always when something happens in the society, people gather to see what is happening. One of the women of MPI saw her and informed the Executive Director of MPI (Rose Busingye) who asked one of the field social worker to take her to the hospital. Florence was hospitalized for one week and during her stay in the hospital, her children were being taken care of by the women of MPI.
On her return from the hospital, she was moved to see that the women took care of her children especially with food, clothing, and scholastic materials such as school uniforms that were being demanded by the school.
The women decided to contribute money from their saving groups and gave Florence to restore her business which has enabled her to continue supporting her family with basic needs. During the weekly meetings with the women and the Executive Director (Rose Busingye), Florence thanked them for their friendship and she said that, “I thought, I had no family but now I realized that MEETING POINT INTERNATIONAL is my Home and I am happy to belong to such a family “from her experience. I realized what Rose Busingye always says, “The greatest need of a human being is the need of belonging”.
For privacy the name was changed.
Written by Jude.
Vincent finds home.
“I began to live and work when someone told me that you are mine”, Rose’s speech at the 30 years celebration of AVSI in Uganda in 2015.
Found under the tree with death certificate of his mother, Vincent was taken by the women of MEETINGPOINT INTERNATIONAL. He has now become one of them. Teddy Bongomin a leader for the women of MPI at Kireka narrates to me this story.
One sunny morning I and the women engaged in the daily activities such as making paper beads and singing of songs, suddenly one of us notices a boy of 13 years old seated under a tree, she feels a need to move towards him, invite him to come and join them, approaching him, Vincent cannot speak, in his heads is a death certificate of his deceased mother plus a medical form, to her greatest surprise, he is HIV positive. She takes him to a group of women asking what to do with him because they can’t live him alone. In her experience, she said “I encountered someone who looked at me with a value”. This makes me feel wanted, for this reason looking at Vincent, I see myself. With the other women, we decided to educate him, we contributed money and took him back to school with the help of Aunt Rose (DirectorMPI), and he is now on drugs. Now he is in senor one at Luigi Giussani High school. Vincent has found a home with the Women and now he is very happy.
For privacy I used Vincent.
STUDYING BECAME INTERESTING.
Mwaka Emmanuel is a 25-year-old boy born in Naguru a suburb of Kampala district, He encountered MEETING POINT INTERNATIONAL through His mother (ALOYO SYLVIA) who was a client. He tell his story
I got the opportunity to study with the help of MEETING POINT INTERNATIONAL, I never had a thought that I would make it in my education following the event of 2012 when we had a strike at school (CITY HIGI SCHOOL), I was pointed out as a ringleader for the strike and I was asked by the school to come along with my parent. I didn’t care so I did not tell my mother. I stayed in the village looking for what to do, I got a job of loading and offloading sacks of food and one time, I was arrested. regardless of what happened, I never lost hope because of the friendship my mother had with Aunt Rose ( Director ,MEETING POINT INTERNATIONAL ) I say this because in 2014, to my greatest surprise, my mother told me that there was a chance for me, MEETING POINT INTERNATIONAL had got a sponsor for me ,I was overjoyed that I asked to join Luigi Giussani High school where I completed my ordinary level and was awarded a certificate which enabled me to join an institute known as YMCA Comprehensive Institute where I took up a course in travel and tourism management because I liked traveling to different places, discovering new things ,this has been my desire since my childhood.
During my studies, one thing that kept me going was the conversation that I had with Aunt Rose; when she asked me why I dropped out in the first place and I told her that it was because of stubbornness, she told me if you desired to ever go back to school there is always a chance for you, for this reason, studying became interesting because Aunt Rose cared for me and now I have finished my course, I am now looking for a job to take care of my family.
Compiled by Jude
Nicola, a visitor “from the sky
My name is Francesca, I am doing volunteer services in Kampala working for AVSI in DSP project. Two days a week, I work in Meeting Point International for the DSP office and I have the occasion of living the gaze that Rose and the social worker have to the children. Some friends, who are MPI donors, visited me for Christmas and they have the chance to visit the Luigi Giusanni Schools and to meet the children and the women of Rose.
Two of them were going back to Italy after one week with Rose and the women, they are both teachers and were very moved with what they saw. They were sharing what astonished them on their way back to Italy. Surprisingly the flying attendant, who is an Italian man working for Emirates called Nicola, interrupted their conversation. He asked them where they have been. The two friends were so involved in their conversation that pretended not to hear the question of Nicola. But he insisted on asking them. Why was he insisting and why did the conversation of these two people attract him? In that moment, they told him that they went to visit the daughter of one of the two and some friends. He couldn’t give up and asked: “do you belong to the movement of Communion and Liberation?” Why did he ask this question? The question made them keep quiet and they were asking themselves, within their hearts, “How did he discover what we belong to”? The friends were speechless because they could not realize how he did notice it.
In that moment, a dialogue started and a friendship starts to link them. Nicola met the movement years before; he left it and moved to Dubai because he was attracted by the life of the big city. He shouted up every question about God because the intensity of Dubai life convinced him that everything he had was enough. But he reminded that years before he heard about Luigi Giussani School and when his job drove him to Kampala he thought to visit them. But he didn’t.
So, on the way back to Dubai (the flight was from Kampala to Dubai) he got interested in the attitude if the two friends. The way those people were talking enquire him about his desires to visit the Schools and he decided to ask. He was moved by the two friends because they witness the beauty they saw. Since the day before Nicola was careless about “what was missing” in his life, but since that very moment, he starts to see the beauty the women were talking about.
He came to Kampala and visit Luigi Giussani Schools and the women of Rose. He was surprised by the intensity of life of these people. Apparently they were missing many things, but they are aware of what really matters. Rose said “try to answer the question – who am I? – who are you Agnes, Ronaldo, Bishop, Nicola?”. Nicola did not know what to answer. The women replied “Who I am? I am someone who someone else is doing. I am not making myself now. I have been created and at that very moment, someone is with me. This relationship is giving me value and gives value to everyone and every feature of reality that I face. Answering to the provocations of reality I can live and discover this value. If I discover who I am I became intelligent and I learn how to relate to reality. Discovering who you mean that everything that you do gain a value”. Nicola realized that the women were not giving the “right answer” but were describing their life. They were talking about the meaning that they experience every moment of their life.
For the fact that Nicola was there, everyone wanted to know him: children, women, the guys of School of Community wanted to know who he was. He said that he have never experienced people who were so freely interested in him. “It is so uncommon that people who are truly curious to discover who you are. These women are capable of loving everyone and everything because they know that they are loved. Even if many of them lost everything they have gained what allow them to love and to truly possess everything”.
ALOYO GLADYS STUDENT OF LUIGI GIUSSANI HIGH SCHOOL.
Before I joined the movement, I was someone who had lost track of life. I was living just for the sake of the things that were happening. When I joined LGHS (Luigi Giussani High school) my mother asked me if I can join the school of Community. Since then everything for me was nothing, I asked my mother to let me judge about what to do or not. By then my elder brother (Ocaka) who was different among many of my brothers asked me to give it a try. My first time everything seemed to be confusing but I remember only one thing that Aunt Rose said that if one gains value, one looks at everything even the most useless things with the value. Meaning that “everything gains value”.
I decided to go back to the school of the community for that one thing that I had from Aunt Rose but everytime it seemed not enough because everything began to correspond, giving meaning to my life. The affection towards the community school grow and I can say with certainty that life is beautiful to live.
Published by Lumanyika Jude
AYO VANESSA A STUDENT OF LUIGI GIUSSANI HIGH SCHOOL.
We went to see my grandfather whom I had never seen since my childhood. All that I heard about Him wasn’t good. Everybody at home even my own mother didn’t like him. I was very much struck that the very instant mother saw Him, she run towards Him and embraced Him. In that moment, However much we forget about Him, He is always there waiting for us.
Published by Lumanyika Jude
AMONY ALICE (WOMAN OF MEETING POINT INTERNATIONAL)
Amony Alice says that she stayed with the daughter of her sister in law, called Awir, Annett for 15 years. Alice paid for Annett’s school fees from primary one to primary six. Annett’s father had died long ago when she was still a baby and left the wife Annett’s mother with other children. The lady had no official job or business to do so as to earn a living. The condition in which Annett’s mother lived after the death of her husband moved Amony to help her stay with one of the children Awar Annett.
While in school Amony failed to get money to pay for Annett’s school fees. So she sat at home with the other girls in the village. In her vending business, all that happened forced Amony to take Annett back to the village in Aoyama district, Minakulu village in the north of Uganda. She (Annett) kept digging for people in order for her to sustain herself and family.
When Amony went to Gulu with MEETING POINT INTERNATIONAL both women and youth for a tour. Youth shared their experiences and from those experiences Among realized the value of her humanity and this moved her. From that moment, she realized the need to welcome Annett back in her home. Amony says that her attitude towards Annet changed.
Published by Lumanyika Jude
HOPE CHANGES EVERYTHING.
(KABANDA EDWARD A 20 YEAR OLD STUDENT OF LUIGI GIUSSANI HIGH SCHOOL)
My name is Mukunda Awaru, a social worker of Meeting Point International in charge of accompanying children supported by DSP program in their path of growth. During the past year I had the opportunity to interact with Edward; at that time he had just completed his senior four examinations which will help him to be awarded a Uganda certificate of education. I felt happy about his goal and I decided to interview him because the pictures of our path are very similar. Our stories are indeed very similar: when I look back at the time I was Edward’s age, I realize that mine and his stories have many point in common. After the completion of senior six, I never had hope to join the university but as they say, Hope changes everything: I was failing at first but through constant hard work and determination, it was eventually a success for me that I completed. I really got moved by the way he passed through all the challenges up to when he was successful; this is our mission: not to reduce the person to the challenges he encounters but to let him discover that he has an infinite value as Rose Busingye (MPI Director) says it, “The greatest need of a human being is the need of belonging, which gives stability and certainty in all aspects of life. Meeting Point International has discovered that with a belonging you can approach others while taking into account their reality and you can be able to truly embrace him/her whichever are the differences that separate you. MPI creates simple environments where each person can find it easier to belong, and experience love.”
When Edward completed his primary seven, he was unable to join secondary school because by then his uncle Mukabiri Geofrey who was paying his school fees had lost his job. He sat at home for one year, all his hopes of continuing with studies was all gone. He is the fifth born in a family 0f 6 children with 03 brothers and 03 sisters, the other children were studying using the little saving that his uncle had accumulated while he was still in service before he lost his job, his uncle was looking for a way of supporting Edward in secondary school but he failed so Edward decided to sit for a year. His family comes from Iganga district found in the eastern part of Uganda. His parents came to Kampala in search for job opportunities and they settled in Naguru housing estate which was considered redevelopment and the tenants where displaced. Edward’s family relocated to Kiganda zone, a neighboring village to Acholi quarters where Meeting Point International has a center. His father earns very little income by making chapatti, their family burden out weights their income this is why Edward was being paid in school by his uncle. His father lives in the same place, so when he received help from his brother (Edward’s uncle) to support Edward in primary, he was so happy but when it came to secondary, it was a burden for all of them because the uncle could not any more afford to pay his school fees, so Edward did not give up, he knew one day, he would go back to school, the desire for studies kept him awake to focus on his dreams. His father is our client in Meeting Point International and he was active in all the activities of our organization.
During the time he stayed at home without going to school, Edward admired his friends who managed to join secondary school. He often visited them at their homes to try to understand what goes on at secondary level. His closest friend by the names of Tumwa Derrick had joined Luigi Giussani High school and his mother Apia Betty was a member of Meeting Point International. Apia Betty was moved when she got to know that Edward who is a close friend to her son had dropped out of school at primary level. She encouraged him to talk to Rose Busingye (Director of M.P.I) about his challenge because Rose helps needy and vulnerable children like Edward (she supports them). He first hesitated because he is used of hearing of corn men who promise that they are going to pay for people, then in return take their money and the promise becomes false. Apia Betty insisted and kept on telling him to go to Meeting Point International, so one time Apia Betty invited him to go to Meeting Point International Naguru. Edward agreed and went with Betty to Meeting Point International Naguru, when Edward reached, the other women attending the weekly meeting in Naguru wondered why Betty had come with a young boy because the meetings are usually attended by women and besides Rose was out of the country. Apia Betty talked to Achieng Agnes (one of the field social workers in Naguru) about Edward’s challenge, Agnes called Edward and he narrated his story to her, Agnes was touched and she promised to tell Rose about his situation. Agnes also talked about Edward during the women’s meeting , they too felt concerned about him, however Edward doubted their reaction he thought that ‘’may be the women would isolate him because he was just a small boy’’ but he was surprised with the way he was welcomed and comforted with love and care like he was their own child. He stayed with them and enjoyed their dances, songs and drama when lunch time approached, he was very hungry yet he had no money on him however another surprise unveiled, two women invited him for lunch they bought for him a snack with milk for lunch.
This warm welcome made him feel at home, so every week, he would join them for the weekly meeting where Adult literacy is also conducted to give an opportunity to mothers who never had a chance to study to learn how to write and read . Each passing week everything was so nice to Edward, he would come, listen to what they study, take breakfast, lunch with them and after go home. Edward that the weekly meetings became his home because he would wake up with no money to eat but the only thing he thought was to go and be with the women. He would come and sit with them, listen and watch what they study and after go home. One day, one of the women told him that she knew some history and geography, she asked him to come with his books so that can teach him geography and history. Edward was very excited he could not wait for the next meeting, when the day he was more than ready to learn, the lady taught him for two weeks. When Rose came back from her journey in Europe she was welcomed with dances and songs of joy often depicting courage and strength in the fight against AIDS. Rose did not realize the presence of a new family member until her next meeting with the women. When she came back a day after, Agnes introduced Edward to Rose and told her about his situation. She also told about the joy that he brings to the women whenever he attends their meetings. Rose asked Edward to go to her office located in Kitintale about five Kilometers from Naguru. When Edward reached Kitintale the next day, Rose asked him, “are you the boy who has been attending with the women?” Edward said he was the one. He wanted to tell her his story Rose kindly said, “Edward I know everything about you because Agnes has explained everything about your situation. Bring your photos so as to fill a form for you to get someone to support your education”. He went back home very happy, and returned with the photos. Edward knelt down and thanked God for he has answered his prayers. Rose Busingye told Edward that we are going to request for support but it will take a while before the request is answered. He went home full of gratitude and waited patiently. It was coming to the end of the year when his form was filled and it takes some months to find a sponsor. So another year began when he was still at home, first term elapsed; it was during first term holidays when he finally got a sponsor. He was admitted to Luigi Giussani high school where he has now completed senior four this year.
Vincent (a 17-year-old student at Luigi Giussani High School)
“I come from a poor family in Lira where I lived with my father, Onyenye. My mother is not there. I was brought to Kampala by a relative who loved me, and said I should come and study in Kampala because I had spent almost three or four years out of school due to financial problems.
A common problem here is that of jealousy. When others members of the family saw how I excelled in school they got bitter and said I should go to the village and study no more. I was determined to continue my studies though, and found a friend of mine who I had been working with in a construction site. He found for me a school where I could work in order to pay my school fees, but this was a very difficult arrangement.
One day I explained my problems to a woman involved with MPI. I knew of Meeting Point International because there are many of my tribes there in Kireka. This woman, Adong took me to MPI in Kireka where I met Margaret. I was very surprised that when I told Margaret my name she began to cry. She said that MPI had been looking for me, but said that a relative had told them I had gone mad and died!
To my surprise, I also wept and cried with this thought that someone could be so bitter towards me. She told me to be strong hearted though, and that God has a good plan for me and things would become better with time.
I met Rose, who told me “you are not defined by the circumstances around you; you have a value.” I almost cried again because it was my first time to see someone who is even not my tribe mate saying I have a value. I was shocked and moved with in me totally, I failed to understand her because she embraced me with un usual love.
When Aunt Rose started paying for me fees I had the problem of accommodation because I could not stay with the one who said I was dead. MPI arranged for a place for me to stay. I found belonging with others and saw that out that my nothingness came the same one that has catered for and died for my happiness, justice and love.
I’ve learned about the Uganda Martyrs and that has made me very strong hearted no matter what comes my way. With all that had happened I am moved most by the love and support of Meeting Point International women of Kireka who not only embraced me but also accepted me their son and keep collecting money for my well being.
I remember when Aunt Rose said that ‘you are surrounded by angels everywhere, angles are surrounded you’. May God help me in my education that was cursed by many people and may God bless all Meeting Point International.”
Mbakire Jessica (a 38-year-old HIV positive woman)
I remember waking up with many nurses around me, confirming that this was not a dream; I was HIV positive, and the world was swallowing me up. It was after having given birth to my second child that I began falling sick regularly. I wondered why this was happening, and I talked to my husband who was always so quiet about the topic. He was so arrogant to me when I asked what could be wrong that I decided to go alone for a blood test at the hospital. This was when I was found to be HIV positive. This is when I collapsed, waking up to these nurses in what felt like a nightmare. When I went home I told my husband about this, but he was not bothered, as if he knew already every thing that was going to happen. We returned to the hospital and they put us on ARV. My husband’s CD4 was already very low and after a year he died. That was in 2002. I was so confused about where to begin; I was remaining alone with two children and I did not have any source of income to support us. I began falling sick regularly and amidst this my sister brought me to Kampala to stay with her. She and her husband tried their best to look after me by taking me to the hospital. But still, they could not afford the drugs I needed.
One day my sister’s friend came to visit and found me sleeping on the ground. She asked my sister who I was and what was happening to me. When my sister told her of my problems, this woman she said she was a member of an organization called Meeting Point International, and that they could help me.
I went with my sister to the first meeting and we found very many people – mostly women – seated on the waiting bench. We also sat there, when it came to my turn, a lady with a smiling face welcomed me and listened as I told her that I was sick. She asked me for documents that confirm my sickness, told me how the organization works and how she could help me. I was registered in their book as a new client then another lady took us to introduce our selves to the other women whom we found busy studying. They welcomed us with big handclaps, and that was the moment I realized that I wasn’t alone.
Each one of these women had a story of suffering just as I did. I found my self sympathizing with them, almost forgetting my own suffering. I have learned that everyone I meet in life may be passing through the hardest experience on this earth. I looked at my problems as being easy after I heard one of the clients tell the story of her having a zero CD4 count, as she stood there smiling and looking well.
The day I met the director, my strength even grew further, her smile to me was unmistakable. She loved me and I could see it. Despite my disease, I could see that she loved me. I later started ART through Nsambya hospital- in a few months my CD4 count increased, I was also enrolled into the WFP and my children started receiving school fees. I have no exact manner in which I can thank MPI for giving me back my life, but I know that I want to spread this joy they have given me to other women out there who are in a place like I was before I came here.
My name is Apolot Florence and I am 35 years old, from the eastern part of Uganda in a district called Bukedea. I am HIV positive. When I realized I was HIV positive I became worried, and weak. The symptoms of HIV had begun appearing as a rash all over my body, a cough, and pain everywhere. After a year of my husband telling me that there was no problem and to forget it, I went for testing where they confirmed my fears.
I thought I was going to die very soon. I would stay indoors because there was nobody in the community who I could tell my status to after even my own relatives had rejected me. They said that they were not the ones who sent me to get this virus, so they would also not be the ones to cure me!
My family separated my plates, cups and wash basins fearing that I would infect them. They even decided to isolate me to a house away from theirs and dig a hole inside that house for me to defecate in so that I wouldn’t disturb them.
When the rainy season came with the cold they said I would surely die. When I began coughing, the people in the village were saying that I was not going to live more than a month. When I would hear such words I was very worried and had sleepless nights. It was one of these nights I decided to write a letter to my sister who was staying in Kampala. She arranged for me to come stay with her, and told me of Meeting Point International.
I came to MPI and found Aunt Teddy here. She welcomed me to come to a meeting with the other women. At first I was fearing to talk to the women because there were very many. Over time though I realized that I liked the singing, dancing and making beads. After some time Auntie Rose came and she welcomed me too. I told Aunt Rose about my status, and my children who were at home without school. Aunt Rose gave me the money to send the children to school, to resume treatment, and even the money for rent. After this I began feeling better, and at a certain point I thought I would travel back to village as I was strong enough to live without the support of Meeting Point. I was taking my medicine, though I had to travel far to the health center, but I saw that life had again become difficult. I said to myself, “what is the problem now?!” I realized that even though I was on my medication there was a big part of life that was different in the village, and that was that I had nobody to talk to about my problems or share my happiness. I realized that as much as the ARVs were helping me, it was still of no good without also having the love of others.
So as much as I thank Rose and Meeting Point for everything they have done, the greatest thing that I have been given is the love, peace, and a hope for life. I feel very fine now, and wish to tell my story to any other person who might be feeling as I was. This love is the greatest cure I have found!
I do not go to the Meeting Point because I have a problem. I go there and I say what urges in my heart and everybody listen to me. Nobody is afraid to speak with me, nobody says “I am too tired, this is too much…” They always listen to me. Every Monday Rose send me a message “How are you Josephine?”. This simple thing make you feel that there is somebody who always cares for you.
After one month of treatment I started to feel better, but were not the medicines which made me feel better: it was the compassion of the people. I know that at the end I will die – all of us will die – but I will have lived a full life.
Many of us have been abandoned, some of us have been abandoned even by children, husbands have died many years ago…none of us had an hope in this world. What was killing me was the sadness, not the sickness. I was only waiting the coming of my day….
Many of my friends told me: “Do not stay here waiting to die…you have children, you are sick, go and speak with the people of Meeting Point”. I went there and they welcomed me for what I was. I was a miserable women and they made me start smiling”. Until then I refused to have the HIV test but mama Rose encouraged me. So I went and the results confirmed I was sick. I told Rose: “There is nothing to do! I am sick!” But Rose told me: “Do not be afraid, these things happen, but you scan still live, you have to live! You are still an human being”. My joy came, I rejoiced again. I became almost mad for my sickness and now I am able to work quite well, I put on weight, I feel well, fever has gone away. Now I can run, I can do whatever I want to do. I am 55 years old but I look much younger!
We thank mama Rose for everything she has done and continues to do. Nobody could have ever imagined somebody like her in this world. She has really given back life.
“When I got to know of the disaster happened in America, I wanted to do something for them as Rose did with me when she met me. Their children are the same of my children, and I desired they could feel to be loved, I wanted to love them as Rose loved me. So it came that together the other women of MPI we started to work for collecting money for them.”