“EVEN WHEN I WAS CHASED AND DIDN’T HAVE WHERE TO STAY, I WAS HAPPY”

My name is Labol Beatrice, I am 38 years old and I come from Gulu district. I joined Meeting Point International (MPI) in 2014. I am currently staying in Kampala, Naguru with my family. We are about twelve people at home. I am the only one working, I sell fruits like mangoes and guavas. My husband used to work as a security guard but he lost his job and failed to find another. He hasn’t worked in years. Probably because of frustration, he resorted to drinking alcohol. This has now left me with all the responsibilities at home. Life has generally been a struggle for me. With the emergence of COVID-19, it came about with its complications which toughened everything. Since I am the only person working, I have been taking care of all necessities in the house like paying rent, school requirements, medical bills, buying food, and many other things. All these responsibilities became so hard and I felt a lot of pressure. To make everything worse, the coronavirus came in and there was a lockdown that was imposed in the country. It became hard to do my activities. When it was imposed, I only had Ugsh 40,000. I was seeing other people doing a lot of shopping so as they can have some food in their houses but I didn’t have enough money to stock food as well. With the little money that I had, I bought 2 kgs of maize flour and a kilogram of beans. I knew that we were going to go some days without food but I would at least be able to make some porridge for my children with the flour I bought. I was worried about how we were going to face this whole period of lockdown. But good enough, people that sell food items like me and many others were allowed to work. Big trucks that transport food, were also allowed to operate. I saw some hope in this. I would walk from my home in Naguru to Kampala center every morning to purchase mangoes and other fruits to sell. I would put them on a motorcycle (Bodaboda) then I would foot back to Naguru. I couldn’t board any car because public transport was not allowed to operate, however, motorcycles were allowed to deliver food and other necessities. My business was very slow because many people were not working and also the strict restrictions put in place limited people from walking. This meant that I had very few customers and hence I was getting little money. I was earning little and yet I had very many responsibilities. All the children were now home and I had to feed them. At least when schools were open, they could eat from there. I was also behind rent dues with very many months. The landlord was not happy with me and so he decided to chase me out of the house. He wanted to throw me out immediately but I pleaded with him to give me some more time, he took this issue to the local chairperson of our village. The chairperson managed to convince him to at least give me two weeks so as I could get where to stay. In these two weeks, I was very stressed and uncertain of where next I would go. But salvation came to me in different forms, one; is that one of the women in the community understood my situation and decided to rent me a small piece of land at a small fee, she gave me enough time to pay her the rent fee. Where I was chased from, I was paying Ugsh 250,000 monthly but in this new place, I am paying Ugsh 75,000 monthly. I decided to construct a one-roomed house with wood so as at least we could have where to stay. The other form of salvation is that I wasn’t alone in this moment, some women from MPI like Adong Christine (Akongo Margret) helped me. They provided me with money and other things that I needed. I was also counseled, even when I was chased and didn’t have where to stay, I was happy” When all hope was lost, I had people around me who took care of me. In fact, I wanted to go back to the village because I couldn’t handle the situation here in Kampala. But Rose and other women encouraged me not to go to the village and they were there for me. Without this company, I could have given up and gone back to the village where life is probably simpler than here in Kampala. With the people around me who helped me, I became less stressed, I became free!

I want to tell everyone that they shouldn’t lose hope in whatever situation they are facing. The darker times always come to pass; you shouldn’t reduce yourself to what you are facing now because there is always hope for a brighter future. What I have learned from being a member of MPI is that togetherness is very important. You shouldn’t despise anyone or refuse to associate yourself with people. These are the people who will always help you even when you have a problem like I was helped. You should also always learn how to help out a friend in need because however bad someone is; they have a value!

Compiled by Adoch Mary Clare

02/02/2021

A HOPE THAT SPRUNG FORTH FROM ONE THROUGH A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE OTHER.

My name is Kawuki Micheal, 40years old and a teacher at Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS) since 2010. I was asked to become the deputy headteacher that same year of 2010 and in 2014 I became the headteacher. Being a teacher here made me discover who I am and the meaning of work. I came to realize that I am not simply Kawuki but behind this face, there is Someone greater and this is what makes me who I am, for this I am able to look at my students beyond the subjects I teach them, to look at them as human beings who desire to be happy and loved like me. We are all the same with the same needs but the only difference is that I am an adult in front of them.

Last year, in 2020 March when the lockdown was imposed and it was said that schools should close for twenty-one days, both the teachers and students were happy because we thought it was going to be an opportunity to have a small vacation. But those three weeks turned out to be dark because of the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus. After those three weeks, the same amount of time for the lockdown was added as well. People were losing their jobs, the living conditions at home worsened, more people were dying around the world and for students, hopes of schools being opened was minimal. One day, Seve (educational advisor at LGHS) called proposing a meeting with the Headteacher’s council (HTC) that is composed of five members.  Public transport was closed so we used to have these meetings through google meet. It was through these meetings that we got hope to see the faces of one another. I realised that it is not easy to come out of a dark moment without the other, I remain rotating around it.  But with someone else, he/ she can help me point in the direction where the light is. For us, this person was Seve, we followed him, without following, I am very limited.  Through these HTC meetings, we decided to reach all the teachers asking them to prepare self-s

tudy materials. By April, all teachers were available to make the materials ready not simply to make the students busy but to enable them to learn even from home.  We started giving out this work in May. Transport was paralysed at that moment so some of the places had become far especially Naguru. But for me, the distance didn’t matter, what mattered were the students who had spent months without studying. I accepted that what I was doing was no longer simply a job that earned me money but a vocation, I realised it was my call to help these young people, to bring out who exactly they are. After some months of giving out the materials, we realised that we need to see the faces of our students and to find out how they are doing. We were worried about the boys and girls but especially the girls who were at a high risk of getting pregnant. They were also tired of getting the work and they were losing hope. As the HTC team, we decided to go to the homes of each one of them. They were very happy to see us. Through our faces, they regained hope. Them looking at our faces, that gaze that loved them was an opportunity for them to come back to themselves but also for us to come back to ourselves. We wanted them to know that they are not alone though they were not coming to school, that we were thinking about them and everything we were doing was for them though also for us. The environment where the students live is not very conducive, they can easily be cheated or confused by some people in it. But with our encounter with them, they managed to live through what they faced with hope. The school has now started for some classes and we are glad that we haven’t gotten any cases of pregnancies. We are also happy that for the classes at school, almost all of them are back which is an achievement for us considering the high levels of drop outs country wide. When the students got back, we could vividly tell that they were scared because of the impacts of the virus and the life that had changed. The senior fours had to do exams in four months’ time and yet they had a lot to do. They were not used to waking up early in the morning anymore. It would be useless to ask them where we stopped with the learning ten months ago. With the fear they had, they were not going to be able to learn anything. The first thing we did was to start by having dialogues with them about life, how they faced COVID-19 and the lockdown and the experiences they have had. We provoked them to ask questions about life. For us, this was a starting point to help them adapt to the system of school they had not been in for many months. With the information, we were getting from them was one way to know where to start from, how to help them start because they were not the same anymore. The important thing was to listen to them and help them start. There is a big difference between education and teaching. Teaching is within education. In education, I handle the whole person, am not going to give my own idea to the student but am going to try to bring out what is within the student. You have to be fully involved and listen. If I instead go to teach, I leave out the biggest aspect of the student. The teachers were supposed to be ready to face the students. We were not idle during the lockdown period, we were having training and workshops which kept us refreshed. If we were not ready, it means we were not going to be able to handle the students.

For me, this lockdown period taught me that in following, you make no mistake. Follow a person who has that gaze, who already realised this gaze. Most importantly, we don’t give hope but looking at particular faces, hope comes back again.

Compiled by Adoch Mary Clare

21/03/2021

HAVING BEEN LOVED, I LOVED!

My name is Ateng Beatrice (fake name). I live together with my children, grandchildren and husband in Banda B1 commonly known as Acholi quarters (AQ). My family is made up of 15 members. I have eleven children of my own, some of them are now married and staying in their homes. I make paper beads to earn a living. My husband Okello (fake name) works as a security guard. I come from the northern part of Uganda, particularly Kitgum district. We moved to Kampala in 1991 where we first settled at Kasokoso then later moved to AQ where we are up to now. At that time, AQ was very unhygienic, you could move and find human wastes everywhere. No rich person could want to come here. But then I saw Rose (MPI director) coming to AQ and I wondered why she kept on doing so because she looked beautiful and rich. She would come and take care of the sick people, move up to the stone quarry and help people there as well. I really admired her for this and I kept on asking myself who she is. At that time, life was very hard for me, I had many children to take care of, we were doing stone quarrying with them, they were not going to school and we had no food. I then joined MPI in 2003 and they started to support me. My children started to go to school, I joined beads for life where I was able to make more money, I joined the saving’s group and my standards of living really improved. I was really in awe as to how someone you are not related to and doesn’t know you can love and support you.

In July 2010, as we came back from one of the saving’s meetings meeting at night, we found very many people gathered near my home. There was a baby that had been abandoned. It was covered in mud and other dirt that had dried up and really made the skin hard. The baby looked like it would pass on at any time because it’s breathing was uneven and it really looked very fragile. I figured out that she might be feeling cold since she had been left in the cold for a long. I went home and got a coat that we used for wrapping her up. People had decided to take this baby to the L.C.1 Mr Bongomin but in my mind, I had decided that I would take care of this child. You can only ignore a non-living thing like a tin and other things but you can’t ignore human life because it is of great value. If MPI had helped me and still helping out a lot of people, I could do this for another human being. Although I was poor and didn’t have a lot, my heart was really moved for this child and that it why I wanted to help her. This baby was eventually taken to Mr. Bongomin’s place and he decided that they should take this child to police. I was carrying this baby, I just decided to carry it home, my husband followed me and am glad that he didn’t question me about my decision, he supported me instead. When I reached home, I had to bath the baby, I had to bath her for long because of the mud that was stuck on her skin. At that time, I was breastfeeding my last born so I could breastfeed this child as well. After a while, I had to stop because I was told to first find out the health status of this child. My husband then started supporting me by buying milk for her. From his job, money for milk was being deducted from his monthly salary. When people in my community saw that I was taking care of this child, they started to criticize and abuse me for taking care of her because I already had very many children myself and I wasn’t rich either. I didn’t mind so much about what they said because what mattered is that my heart was moved for this child and God works with a heart that is moved. I knew I wouldn’t lack when it came to the necessities of this child. My elder children loved this child so much that they could do casual work to provide for her anything she wanted. When this child reached two years old, she was then registered to start school with the support of MPI.

After some years, I started to support another child called Bob (fake name) because he was staying a bit far from school (Luigi Giussani Pre-primary and Primary School) and his mother couldn’t really manage to take care of him. Rose asked the women who could take care of this child and I decided to do so. This child has become a part of my family though he is from another tribe. He went back to stay with his mother after some time but he still has a place in my family and he comes to visit us.

I have been able to do these things because I learnt from Rose, she is taking care of a lot of children and she doesn’t even know them. If she is able to do so, then am also able to love and care for other people because we both have the same value. Am glad that I met Rose, MPI because I was loved, and in turn have been able to love others. I have learnt a lot and grown.

Compiled by Adoch Mary Clare

25/02/2021

SUCCESS STORY FOR ABER GRACE

 

I am Aber Grace a 43-year-old married woman living with my family of 14 members in a three-roomed house in Naguru slum, Kampala. I stay with my husband Denis, 6 biological children and the rest are children I welcomed into my home. When I was growing up, I always loved helping others and sharing things with them. I got married to Denis whose wife had abandoned with four children and his youngest child at that time was only 3years old. I embraced them and took care of them as my own. I joined Meeting Point International (MPI) and I was able to meet Rose the director who educated my heart even more about the human value. “My entire family was welcomed, loved and cared for by MPI and I still continue to ask myself who I’m that I am looked at in this special way by people who do not know me. This has guided me more to welcome people wherever I go because it is a beautiful way of living. I am not afraid of what we shall eat or if we will fit in our small house because I choose to live in the moment that God has placed in front of me” – Aber Grace.

A few years back, my husband was not happy with how I was welcoming people into our home because of our low family income. It brought wrangles between us but I continued to respectfully educate him as to why I was doing this. It is lovely that he is now very welcoming to these children and keeps encouraging me to bring them home since he understood the value of a human being that I had always been emphasizing. I am a cook in a school while Denis does casual work so we mainly live off daily income but we are very happy. Rose continuously teaches us that our human value is greater than sickness, poverty, richness, race, ability or disability. “When your heart is moved, you find yourself doing things that makes other people wonder what kind of heart you have yet it is just that you let your heart be with what it was made for” – Aber Grace.

One of the children I welcomed is Muliisa Sam, a 28years old Rwandese refugee who lost both parents when they were still living in Ntungamo (Western Uganda). He is also a graduate from the University. “I was working as a security guard at a construction site but unfortunately, there was a robbery and I was held accountable. I was arrested and spent some good time in Luzira Prison. When I was released, my family and friends did not welcome me back, all my academic documents and National Identification card (ID) were all stolen from the house that I had been living in before. My life was very hard but I happened to meet Grace while in the community and told her the story of my life. She welcomed me, gave me a home, food and told me not to worry about anything. Her husband helped me get another ID and I am slowly following the process to be able to get back all my documents. I have never felt so loved and welcomed to the point that this home is a rehabilitation centre for me. Grace’s entire family is united and we care for one another” – Muliisa Sam.

The other child is Mutagambwa Aloysius, a 20-year-old Mukiga by tribe. He came from Kabale (Western Uganda) with a truck carrying bananas (matooke) which they were to supply in Naguru Go-down market (Kampala). He was working as a casual labourer but he was left behind by the truck yet it was his first time in Kampala and did not know anyone. He resorted to sleeping under a stall in the market for about a month when the people around reported to the local authorities. Grace’s husband heard about Aloysius and brought him home. “I have been welcomed by a family that loves and cares for me even without knowing me and I wish to stay with them forever for. I try to help her with any work around because there is no way I can ever repay her for this love and care.” – Aloysius.

Amito Lucy a 14year old has been under Grace’s care since 2018. Lucy was living with her paternal grandmother within Naguru but the time came andshe was chased on allegations that she was indisciplined and lazy. She then started sleeping on verandas of bars yet Naguru which is very unsafe. Lucy used to hung around the school where Grace cooks food and was noticed because she was always very dirty and looked sad. Grace started feeding Lucy and tried to reunite her with her grandmother in vain. Since they were not welcomed on several occasions, Grace took up looking after Lucy and is happy that Lucy has also been enrolled under MPI’s Distance Support Program to attain a good education. “For all this time I have been with Lucy, she is disciplined, hardworking and relates well with the rest of the family not as I had been told before.” – Grace.

Okello Richard, a 19 year old boy who is a paternal orphan has been living with me since 2017 because his mother was having difficulty pushing him through school and providing for the family needs. Richard’s mother is a neighbour to Grace’s family in their home village. Richard sat for his senior four final examinations (Uganda Certificate of Education) recently from Luigi Giussani High School. This has been possible through support from Meeting Point International and also because of the relationship that Grace created with him which brought him close to us. ”My mother is the happiest because she never saw me obtaining a good education. Grace whom I look at as my second mother has loved me from way back and still continues to make me feel like her son which is very special to me. I may not be related to her by blood but this kind of heart is more special and it is keeping us together.” – Richard.

In the photo above from left to right are Amito Lucy (in yellow), Aber Grace, Muliisa Sam (male in the back), Akello Mercy (front left), Mutagambwa Aloysius (striped shirt) and Denis (extreme right). Mercy and Denis are Grace’s step children whom she has lived with for many years. These are some of the children we found available at home.

Grace and her husband are living happily with this big family and she commented that although things have not been easy for them, God has always watched over them and they are surviving happily. “I encourage everyone one else to allow their hearts to be educated by what Rose is doing because I personally feel a lot of joy in my heart when I am there for others. I always feel pain when someone else is suffering because I imagine if it were me or my child being in that same situation” – Grace.

Compiled by Hope Clare Lakaraber

01st February 2021

 

A COMPANIONISHIP RE-AFFIRMING MY VALUE.

A COMPANIONSHIP RE-AFFIRMING MY VALUE.

My name is Aduke Christine and I am 35 years old, I joined Meeting Point International (MPI) in 2011, I have now been a member for nine years now. I come from Kaberamaido in the Eastern part of Uganda, am a kumam by tribe but I speak Acholi language as well. My husband is called Labeja Carlos and he is an Acholi from Agago district in the northern part of Uganda. I got to learn Acholi from his family members. I stay with Carlos, my young sister (Lucy 14years) and my two children (Sandra 11 years and Emma 5years). We stay in Kireka D. I met Carlos several years back when I was still at school, I was in senior four by then. I got pregnant and gave birth to Sandra, I didn’t go back to school again. I started to stay with him from then onwards. Living with Carlos was not bad, we would have arguments and fights but we would solve them. However, in 2019, we had a major fight, he beat me up, abused me verbally and chased me from his place. There was no place I was left to go to other than my parents’ home that is in Kireka D.

My parents gave me little money to hire a small pickup car and collect my belongings, for Lucy and my children. We were staying in Kireka C by then when Carlos abused me. My parents welcomed me into their house but living there as an adult was very hard since, in most of our cultures, a grown woman is supposed to be in her home regardless of the problems she is facing. Around the same period, I was having problems with Carlos, I also lost my job. I was working at Darling, a company that makes hair products. This made life harder. Even with these problems I was facing, I would still attend the weekly meetings that the women of MPI would have with Rose. But I had quickly turned from the lively woman I used to be during the meetings to a shell of that. I would go for the meetings, sit and just look on. I was very depressed and stressed out. What made it even harder is that I heard Carlos had got another woman.  I would sit and watch other women, they all looked happy like they were not facing any problems. Soon they noticed that I wasn’t happy, I then narrated to them what I was facing. Most of them shared with me the problems that they were having and I realised that some of them had bigger and more problems than I did. What perplexed me is that they still managed to remain happy amidst the problems.

I was counselled by some of them, the social workers like Jackie and Teddy, and aunt Rose who reminded me of my value. All these made me stronger and able to face the hardships I was facing without reducing myself to them. With this new awareness, life became simpler for me. I now concentrated on making myself a better person. My mother suggested that I should join in in her business. She brews local alcohol commonly known as ‘marua’ here in Uganda. I agreed to her suggestion and joined her business. I then started to save every coin through the saving groups that we have, I was doing this on a weekly basis. In January 2020, through the savings I got, I managed to buy a small piece of land in Kireka D close to my parents’ home. I continued to work hard to save some money so as I could construct a house for myself. My mother supported me as well, she lent me some money to help me with my plans. Within some months, I had started constructing my one-roomed house. When I was almost finished with it, my husband heard that life was getting better for me and he decided to meet me. He apologised for what he did to me and wanted us to get back together. I really hesitated to have him back in my life and it took some time before I really forgave him but I finally did. I forgave him because of the teachings that I had received from the meetings with Rose and other women. I also couldn’t imagine myself with another man besides the father of my children considering my age as well. My heart was free and whatever he didn’t make me become a bitter person because I knew my value. He requested to participate in constructing the house though I had done most of the work already.  He provided money for cementing it and connecting electricity into it. Today, I eat and even get satisfied, this is because I open and close my door for myself with no query from anyone. My husband works as a window and door fitter, he now provides some support for the family. We are planning to expand the house when we get some money so as we can have a bedroom as well.

I noticed that when the relationship between me and my husband changed, my children also became happier. One of them called Sandra, changed so much. When we used to fight a lot with my husband, she would cry and even refuse to eat. Her social worker noticed that she was always sad and less lively compared to other children. But when we sorted out things with my husband, she became happy, livelier and she opened up a lot. She is now able to express herself much better than she could before. I then realised that the relationship parents have with each other really affects our children.

Everyone needs a shoulder that they can lean on in times of need because a problem will never overcome or suffocate you if you are really attached to someone who loves you and helps you realise your human value and dignity. One that can encourage, advise and always welcomes you at all times. For me, I have Meeting Point International and this is where I belong.

Compiled by Adoch Mary Clare

28/01/2021