Achan Agnes Aida’s Journey with MPI

Achan Aida Agnes alias Modello Agnes, a social worker at Meeting Point International (MPI) is one of the longest-serving employees of MPI. Her workmates call her ‘Mother ’not only because of her experience with MPI, the women, and Rose Busingye (the executive director of MPI) but also her never-ending loving guidance about work and life in general.

I was always intrigued by Agnes’ approach to discourses within the MPI sphere. The way she talked in the meetings of the MPI women and also the staff meetings expressed expertise in her profession backed up by a rich life experience. When I talk about ‘experience’, you must imagine a bed of roses. I thought so too until she took me down memory lane to her cradle land.

Agnes who was living in northern Uganda by that time was abducted by Kony rebels in 1997. Her life with her husband and their three children would be disrupted for the next three years. “I remember when the rebels ransacked my village and held many of us captive,” Agnes said. “We were made to carry food looted from our own families to the border of South Sudan (then Sudan) and Uganda.” She proceeded.

Showing me the scars on her arms, Agnes said, “Look at how they cut me to punish me for trying to escape from the rebel camp. A month after our abduction, we were brought back to our own village to commit atrocities. They made us burn houses, Kill and abduct children. On top of those who escaped from the rebel camp ratting us out to our village mates, the village mates themselves saw us do these terrible things. Honestly, I did not want to do what I did. I did not know how to explain to anyone that I was just trying to survive because the moment you did not obey a command, that was the end of you.”

With an aura of melancholy, Agnes proceeded, “Death in the camp was not far. If you wanted to die a fast death, you only had to complain about thirst or hunger and you would be sent to your heavenly father. We used to carry boiling food on our heads from Kitgum to Gulu, Apach, etc. while destroying property, killing and abducting people. Life in the rebel camp became normal to us. You simply had to be alert and ready to fight if you got ambushed by UPDF government troops. The UPDF troops would bomb us randomly from their helicopters when they found out where we were.

Frome left, Agnes and her work mates Margherita, Isiko, Irene and Hanifah on the MPI premises.

My life started taking a turn when we got ambushed by UPDF troops during a rebel operation in Gulu. I was sickly at the moment and we had walked for six kilometres from Sudan. We put up a fight from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. guns blazing. My body gave way because I was too sick to fight yet we never had medicine in the bush. The rebels would give us some leaves to chew on if they had some mercy. Otherwise, we were expected to heal miraculously. That was the time I surrendered and handed over my gun to the UPDF troops.”

After handing herself over to the UPDF troops, Agnes was taken to an organization called GUSCO that was offering relief to victims of the Kony rebel activities. She finally got some rest from her apprehensive three years in the bush. All seemed fine until Agnes was taken back to her village only to be rejected by her own people. “They could not allow an ex-rebel to be part of them again,” said Agnes. “My husband prevented my children from coming next to me,” she continued. It was unbearable for Agnes to live with her people so she decided to come and live with her Auntie in Kampala hoping she would be safe. To Agnes’ dismay, her auntie had already been briefed on her past life and she treated Agnes exactly like the people back home in northern Uganda. Agnes’ sickness was worsening by that time. She tried to get some work to do around Naguru where she was living with her auntie but her efforts were in vain. “I one time did some work for a certain lady and when it was time to pay me, she said she could not pay a rebel that would kill her,” said Agnes as she made herself comfortable in her seat.

“I was too depressed to the extent that I chose to change my name. I was never Agnes. I was Aida Achan. I thought changing my name to Agnes would help me get rid of my haunting background. Nothing was working. After I had coughed terribly one night, my auntie carried me from the main house and took me to a cottage outside where I stayed for a while.  They did not want to touch me or come close to me. My food would be put by the door. I contemplated suicide in those dark hours,” Agnes said.

One day, a social worker from MPI visited Agnes. Agnes would later meet Rose Busingye who would shine some light on her dark life. The next time the social worker came, she came with Rose Busingye. “ After I had told Rose my story, she did not judge me. She asked to take me to the hospital but I was hesitant because I knew I could not afford the bills. Even when she offered to pay all my bills, I still declined the offer because I was not sure anyone would be with me in the hospital for the time I would be there.” said Agnes.

Smiling, Agnes proceeded, “I later accepted to be taken for a check-up at Nsambya Hospital where Rose was working at that time. I was found to be having Tuberculosis. Rose would visit me every day in the hospital bringing me food. When I got well, I did not know where I would stay because I could not go back to my auntie’s place. Rose picked me up after I had been discharged from the hospital and took me to a house she had rented for me. The house had a mattress in and it was just good enough for me.

I started to suspect Rose had an agenda because she was too good to be true. I had experienced too much hate from the people I least expected so It was hard to believe in love again. I asked myself, ‘How is a stranger able to show so much love to me like this?’  I made up my mind to ask for 20,000 from Rose so that I could go back to my hateful home in northern Uganda. Rose looked at me for about fifteen minutes without saying a word. Later she said to me, ‘Agnes, I simply love you. Not because of anything but because you have a value.’ My mind could not comprehend what value she was talking about. I wondered what value an ex-rebel would have to anyone. My own family had disowned me so what kind of fallacy was I hearing?

The women of MPI would come and visit me once in a while. It took me a long time to believe what was happening to me. One day after several invitations by Rose, I decided to visit MPI Naguru. The happiness I encountered was unbelievable since I had expected to find sad people like me. What perturbed me the most were the similarities in our stories. They had gone through what I had gone through and worse. I continued attending the meetings.

Later Rose introduced me to Community School where I was even more shocked. I remember that day we were studying Luigi Giussani’s book, ‘The Religious Sense’. Everything they were speaking about honestly depicted me. I thought Rose had told people my story yet it was not so.  I did not attend community school again for a while but when I went back, they spoke about freedom and I was challenged. I began to see a reason to get myself out of the cage I had locked myself in.”

Because of this companionship, Agnes shared with Rose about her three children that she had left in Northern Uganda with their father since she was not allowed to associate with them. After getting legal documents from the police, Rose sent the social worker who first visited Agnes when she was bedridden to bring the children to Kampala. The children were put in school on their arrival to the capital.

“My husband later visited me on the pretext of seeing the children but I was so angry at him because of how he had treated me. The education I had gotten from Rose could not allow me to harbour my bitterness. Rose told me to look at him as the human being he is and not to judge him. I later forgave my husband and we started to live as a family together. We later got our fourth child who is now at university.” said Agnes excitedly.

Sighing deeply, Agnes said, “I have learned that our journey to self-discovery does not happen overnight. It takes time. I am also convinced beyond doubt that love is the greatest medicine. Taking drugs with no one smiling at you is insufficient, you can not respond as you should.”

Written by Vancy Tomson.





Alex Muleke’s Journey 

“I am not just an artist but a person who shows what I feel inside visually on canvas. Art is all about expressing feelings and emotions,” said Alex Muleke during a conversation with him at his workshop in Kireka which is close to his former school, Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS). Alex is currently waiting to graduate from Kyambogo University where he was doing his Bachelor of Education in Fine Art.

I had not met a good painter in person until I encountered Alex Muleke. The beauty in his workshop was awe-inspiring. Before we could even sit down, he started to take me through the mysteries of his paintings that were hanging on the wall.

“What makes a painter a good one is the ability to express him or herself visually on canvas,” said Alex as he showed me a sit. Leaning back in his chair, he proceeded “Artists include realists, impressionists, expressionists, perfectionists, etc. During my tough days, I am an expressionist yet sometimes I can be an impressionist. Whenever I have no one to talk to, I talk to my canvas by painting. Impressionism is there to just show people that you can do something for example by making it hyper-realistic. I express what I feel deep inside myself and I love to tell my story through my Art work.

Alex did not look to the heavens for a miracle to start working on his dream. He made use of what was available to invent himself.

With a wide smile, Alex said, “I knew it was not going to be easy for me to do my painting, especially in a country like Uganda so I started by thinking of what would make a great artist. I thought of the styles and techniques along with the content I needed to do. During the lockdown, I decided to make an iconic painting on one canvas so that the people that will be born soon will see this painting and remember the dark days.

Since I come from a slum where people use a lot of charcoal for cooking, I decided to try using charcoal dust to paint. I made some research and found out that people who use charcoal for painting smash it to make a powder which is used commonly as dry media to smudge and draw. I decided to use it in its very form without smashing it.

Because of the quarries and many types of soil, I looked no further. I had a variety of soils to choose from, some were in, yellow, brown, black, etc. I started to pick these soil samples, got binders for the canvas, and came up with a sample painting. I then made a portrait called “The Mask which was my first painting. I posted a video of the painting on YouTube and an American friend wanted to buy the painting. I however declined the money and kept it because I realized its worth.

This is Alex’s first painting called The Mask.
More of Alex’s paintings. The one on the left is called The Face and the top right is called The Family.

Meeting Auntie Rose, doing life with MPI, and going to Luigi Giussani High School revolutionized not only my talent in painting but my life in general. Beyond her title as the Executive director, Auntie Rose has been my friend since I met her in 2012. She is a rare epitome of unconditional love. She always reminds me of the value that I ‘am’.

Being reminded that you are great and that you have value is the best way of teaching because it communicates to the heart. Jesus Christ of course is the validator of your value and his answer is always YES. If you are at the mercy of people’s opinions to do what you have to do, then you are bound to burn out.

While at LGHS, I met an amazing man called Seve who was the educational advisor at that time He fell in love with my work and looked for me at my place. He took me to his staff and showed them my work which motivated me to work on my craft. I started getting gigs making portraits where I got some money that I shared with my family.”

Without the right people around you, valid dreams can die. It is important to speak genuine positivity to others when you also surely see it. If you do not see value in others, then you will become a stumbling block to them. Alex, later on, realized that chasing money is not the ultimate source of happiness and satisfaction even after he had seriously embarked on his painting journey.

This became clear to him when he stood face to face with a big East African musician called Diamond Platinumz to gift him with a painting of himself at a press conference in Kampala.”When I entered the press conference, I realized money was not going to be enough. I felt there was something more than money and it is that happiness that comes with being appreciated.

Diamond instructed me to talk to his Personal Assistant to be paid but I did not say a word at that moment. I missed the money but I was overjoyed by the fact that I was appreciated. I need the money but my eyes are set on something bigger than the money. Happiness is free so I will always choose it.

Alex Muleke in his workshop.

I always wanted to be an artist ever since high school. It was not a very strong motivation because all I wanted was to make some money off of painting to take care of my family. I want to be that  great artist like Benon Lutaya, and Luganzi Bruno my lecturer. I want to be the person who organizes a gallery and people turn up to marvel at my story. I know it will take time, but am not about to give up even though my journey feels lonely sometimes. I know I am not alone and I am made for happiness.

Written by Vancy Tomson.





A Poet’s Journey 

Moses Owori, alias Mosh the Poet, has journeyed with Meeting Point International (MPI) since 2014 when he joined senior one at Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS). He is the fourth-born son of Aketch Loyce (one of the MPI members). Loyce and her six children live in Kireka. Moses is currently doing a Bachelor’s degree in English and Literature at Kyambogo University where he has harnessed his gifts of poetry and acting from.

Like Rose Busingye (the executive director of MPI) loves to say, “Real development is not just delivering projects, and reaching objectives, by giving food, money, or education. What is at the core instead is the value of the person.”  MPI focuses on the value of the person as the center of its work, it denotes success through the holistic development of a person and not necessarily the accumulation of wealth or academic prowess. It is crystal clear that the Journey Moses Owori has walked so far with MPI is the epitome of success.

Going through LGHS was a huge bonus for Moses because the methodology there is similar to that of MPI. Moses said that the culture of MPI and LGHS has helped him a lot. For example, the paintings on the wall of LGHS, especially the one of the tax collector in the bible called Mathew being called by Jesus reminded him that God knows him by name and he needn’t be afraid.

“We moved to the slum of Kireka in the wake of serious financial constraints in my family.” Said Moses with a faint smile. “My mother tried so hard to keep me in Elgon Infant School but she failed in Primary five because she could barely afford school fees. It was at this point that I was taken to the village where I stayed for about three years not studying. When I came back to Kireka, my mother convinced the teachers to allow me to sit for PLE exams even though I hadn’t been studying the whole time.” He proceeded. By the grace of God, Moses was able to score 14 aggregates which qualified him for secondary school. Just in time, MPI came as a Godsend to cater for his secondary school fees.

“I count myself blessed to be a son of MPI,” said Moses as he reflectively peered into space thinking about how much MPI has helped him to grow into the person he is today. “I did not do any poetry or MDD (Music, Dance, and Drama) in my entire high school yet I am now able to express myself poetically. I struggled with self-esteem because of my deep voice. My friends used to make fun of me whenever I spoke and yet I felt there was something big inside of me that I needed the world to behold.” Moses said.

Making himself comfortable by pushing forward in the seat across the table, Moses proceeded. “While I was still at LGHS, I did not appreciate the education I was receiving from both MPI and LGHS until I left. I had taken a lot of things for granted during my six years of high school. MPI and LGHS have  educated me to reflect on life intentionally and to appreciate my journey so far. The ‘value’ they educated us about helped me realize that I can’t afford to listen to my insecurities. I understood that being a value meant that I was made for greatness.

It is this kind of education that pushed me to start doing poetry no matter what people said. This very motivation birthed my creative group called Zukuka (meaning wake up) which I started with my big brother Alex Muleke. We started this to remind our friends to wake up and come to a realization that they are beyond their circumstances which include their addictions.”

Moses Owori recieving his certificate after a poetry competition in which he emerged as the first runner up.

Just as it has been for Moses, life is a journey during which we discover who we really are. You do not have to have everything figured out to find a balance in your happiness. Moses may not be even an inch close to achieving his dream but he has chosen gratitude as the way to go.

“I may not have made it according to the standard of the world but at least, I know my dreams are valid,” Moses said.

Sighing deeply, Moses continued. “I find pleasure in reminding my mates that their aspirations matter. Sometimes it gets tough but I can’t resist the joy that comes with reminding others that they are greater than what they think they are and that they are a value. I have seen the same energy in my Zukuka team members whom I barely pay yet they come through and we do our Poetry together. I would like to share with them the Joy I have.

I have learned that knowing your value makes you sensitive to what is around you. This is when the lord’s commandment of loving your neighbour as you love yourself starts making perfect sense. You start to see God in your life and also your neighbour’s life.”

Written by Vancy Tomson.







Koreyo Phiona’s Journey with MPI

“When I joined Meeting Point International (MPI) last year as an employee, I faced a question that was simple yet tricky. Who am I?” Koreyo Phiona, a social worker at MPI remembered her first days at MPI. No one asked her this question but the atmosphere of MPI was communicating. The women of MPI, the children, and her workmates brought a new experience into her life.

“I wasn’t close to my mother like I was with my father. This gap has affected me until now, I am still fighting my past.” Phiona took me back to the genesis of everything.

“One Day when I was in the field doing my social work, I beheld a life-changing moment. I did not know a mother and a daughter could be so close until I saw Adoch Clare, my workmate embracing her mother, laughing and playing with pure happiness.” Phiona continued. “I envied Clare because my mother brought me up with an iron fist. She was a stranger to me. I remember when I was young, I loved to pretend to be allergic to millet bread. My father would buy me eggs every time they made millet bread. He would say, ‘Give her whatever she likes.’

It was not too long until my secret was uncovered. My mother prepared millet bread when my father travelled and she forced me to eat it. I tried to act as though I wanted to throw up so I stood to run out and she raised her voice ‘Do not dare move out!’. I ate the millet bread and nothing happened to me. From that time, it became so hard for me to be free with my mother. I could only share with my father what was going on in my life.” Phiona proceeded.

By the time Phiona was awestruck by the relationship Clare and her mother had, she (Phiona) had been taking even more than a month without hearing from her mother.

Koreyo Phiona in the MPI premises.

“When I asked Clare about how she maintains a beautiful relationship with her mother. I realized that it did not happen by mistake. Clare told me ‘My mother was the toughest woman I ever knew until she joined MPI. Something happened to her along the way. Before, it was as though she hated happiness and joy but new life sprung out of her. My siblings and I were fortunate enough to join MPI too and seeing our mother Joyfully dancing with her fellow women was a beautiful spectacle. The same joy was brought into our home. My siblings and I started to love each other more. We stopped reducing ourselves to our  mistakes and judging ourselves  basing on what we do. Right now we can turn on the music and dance as a family for no reason but just because MPI has taught us to love life and appreciate it. Happiness is free. The happiness the women of MPI have is contagious. How can one resist it?’

I made up my mind to rebuild my relationship with my mother at all costs after learning from Clare’s experience.” Phiona said.

Smiling, Phiona proceeded, “I decided to start by calling my mother. After calling her consecutively for a week, she wondered if everything was okay because she was used to the gap she had created. I told her I was okay and I just loved to check in on her. My relationship with my mother is not where I want it to be but I am grateful for the journey so far. Discovering my value as a person has opened my eyes to reality. None of us is perfect so why would I judge anyone for what they do? I look at Rose Busingye (MPI Executive director) in wonderment. I wonder how she can bring  people who have been deemed  ‘outcasts’ by society close to her and still look at them as humans that deserve all the love there is to give.

I had started transferring my brokenness to my four-year-old daughter when she schooled me about my harsh words and tone. When my daughter did something I never liked one day, I attempted to shout at her and she immediately told me, ‘Mummy, I don’t like the way you talk to me. If you are angry at me, call me and speak to me as a human being and I will apologize and do better.’ My eyes welled up with tears in a wink of an eye. How was a four-year-old more human than me? Where was this coming from? I broke down and started recollecting everything.

Adoch Clare and Phiona in the MPI premises.

I realized that my mother had grown up in the same environment as I and she passed it on to me. She was in an environment full of condemnation and reproach. I used to also beat my little girl sometimes to discipline her but I realised it was not working. Clare advised me to try a different approach by denying my daughter something she loved. When she failed to do her homework one day, I decided to buy everyone else ice cream except her. She was so disgruntled that she could not apologize enough. That was the last time we had a problem with not doing homework. I saw the insufficiency of brutality and harshness and I learned to educate with reason. Even the children we might look at as little know their value and they will demand it.

I was disappointed because I was passing on the same pain to my daughter. After encountering MPI, I made it my mission to break the chain. It is not easy, to be honest,  I sometimes fail at it. However, I pick myself up when my daughter reminds me, ‘Mom, you are shouting again.’

Do I know who I am now? Yes, I do. I am a value’, not because of what I possess or who I am but because I am a human being. Everyone around me is equally a value and I ought to treat them the way I would like to be treated.”

Written by Vancy Tomson.