Marvin Okello was supported through his schooling by the Distance Support Program of AVSI Uganda in collaboration with Meeting Point International (MPI). Thanks to this shared journey with AVSI and MPI, today Marvin is a software developer. Come, join with us the joy and gratitude of Marvin’s story!
Stories of Hope
“WHO AM I TO BE WELCOMED THE WAY I AM?”
The Story of Tina
Story by Achan Agnes Aida
Kampala, 20th March 2023
Tina is 64 years old. She is a mother of 4 children. She lives in Banda B1, a big slum in Kampala suburbs, her house is located near Meeting Point International (MPI) cultural centre in Kireka. She used to see women gathering and having fun at MPI’s premises. She was curious about who these women were, and therefore she decided to join them: it was 2003. That year Tina’s health conditions were not good: she was very thin and her body was full of rashes. In 2006, she tested HIV positive, and this made her feel deeply depressed and traumatised, because she was worried that she was going to die. After she tested HIV positive, she decided to attend the weekly meeting in Naguru, the other Meeting Point cultural centre, due to the fear that people in her community in Kireka could know about her status.
At MPI, Tina met Rose Busingye, the founder and director. With time and with Rose’s teachings, Tina started discovering that she is not defined by the sickness she has, and this made her become aware of her value, which is greater than her problems. This companionship helped Tina to gain courage and later she started sharing her experience with the other clients of MPI. According to Tina, Rose’s teachings and friendship helped her gain confidence with time and she started attending the weekly meeting with Kireka members again. In her encounter with MPI, Tina received from Rose and the other members a love and care that no one in her family had ever given her in life. After she was found HIV positive, she even thought of being rejected and not expecting anyone to talk or move close to her. Surprisingly for her, Rose embraced her and loved her the way she was. Also the members of MPI welcomed her with much love that made her feel she was in the right place, a place she belongs.
She has got friends who are accompanying her, journeying together with her to face the challenges of reality. Rose’s teachings about the importance of the value that every human has, made her aware of her value which is greater than the sickness she has or the problems she is facing in life. She took some time to understand Rose’s teachings, but later on she understood that she is not reduced by her sickness.
This was the beginning of her new journey, a journey of freedom… Journeying to her freedom, her mind opened up and she started thinking in a different way, she is now free to tell people about her status, to openly say that she is HIV positive. She even shows people the medicine she is taking, freely. From that time, she does not keep quiet about her status and in fact her story has helped other members who are in the same situation. She is always the immediate example Rose uses during the meetings with the clients. Many times the example of Tina’s life has helped many people to disclose to Rose their HIV positive status. People feel free to be themselves, because they have discovered that MPI and its people don’t reduce anyone to the circumstances they are living in, but they embrace them the way they are.
Tina keeps on being an example and giving support to other MPI people who found themselves HIV positive: she is always there for them, giving them hope through her personal experience. Tina always tells the other members that her recent tests don’t reflect HIV in her blood (low viral load) and so she even gives members the hope of getting better.
Tina is living a happy and free life where she has gained hope in doing everything to earn a living. She eats well, drinks a lot of fluids and is free from stress, as taught by Rose through food and nutrition programs. She, therefore, always keeps encouraging other clients to follow the doctor’s advice because that is what is helping her. Of the same importance are Rose’s teachings, another greater treatment according to her experience.
Up to now, Tina still asks herself this question: “Who am I to be welcomed the way I am?”. Looking at her past and present experience, MPI is the home where she belongs.
“EVERYONE HERE IS LOOKED AT FOR THE IMMENSE VALUE THEY HAVE”
The visit of our friends from Support International
From the 20th to the 24th of February, our friends from Support International e.V. (https://www.supportinternational.de/), a German donor that has been supporting MPI’s activities for a long time, came to visit us.
While in Kampala, Erica, Sabine, Gaby and Valentina visited all MPI premises: the headquarter in Kitintale, the two cultural centers and clinics in Kireka and Naguru, Sonde mixed farm and training center, and the Luigi Giussani Schools.
They shared with us what impressed and moved them during their stay with MPI: the staff and the beneficiaries. We are very glad for the time they spent with us and thank them for the support they are continuously giving to MPI.
The atmosphere you breathe at Meeting Point International’s offices is really impressive. It is quiet over there, even though the office is full of people. It is not only quiet, but really peaceful, like a home should be. The way one is treated, the way clients are handled, the cleanliness of the premises, the attention to the guests… everything is a sign of a great respect for the person.
Nobody speaks of Jesus there, but you have no doubt that God is present at all times in this place: like a gentle breeze that you cannot see but you can clearly sense. For us as Support International these days meant more than a step forward in our collaboration with MPI. A confirmation that we share the same goals, the same method and the same heart. ONE heart!
The language of song and dance with which the women of Meeting Point Kireka and Naguru greeted us immediately overcame all differences between us. I could not imagine that they could be sick, because they were so cheerful and self-confident. When they took us to their houses in the surrounding slums, it was the first time for me. We were on the streets of red soil without the protection of walls or in a car. I understood this invitation as a sign of trust towards us and I was surprised about their freedom to show us their houses without shame. We were all the same, sharing one heart that longs for love and acceptance. I was impressed by the way they produce what they need in life from the little they have and do not waste their time with envy. Just before we left, I asked one of the women if they would dance the day after, even if we were not going to be there. She said, “Yes, of course, we dance every day because that is how we can show Him our happiness. That’s our duty.” I was very impressed by this answer.
During our visits to Luigi Giussani Pre-primary and Primary and Luigi Giussani High School, the names of our sponsored children finally got a face. We were able to get to know individual children a little better. These schools are places we would love to send our children too, because the focus of education is on the child and not just on the subjects. The school is like an island of hope in the slums, because here a relationship is built with the children, a bond that continues even after they leave school.
Also the visit to Ssonde was very impressive, we were delighted to see how many young people were working there. Flavia made us tour the farm and gave us a very good insight of their projects (raising rabbits and chickens, growing vegetables and fruit trees). In addition, they had just trained some students in agricultural cultivation. We were impressed by how much work they have already put in on the large property in the last three years, all manual labor. You really can see that it is slowly developing its potential! It was nice to hear that the yields from the fields are for the children of the Welcoming House.
What has most impressed me in these few days I spent in Kampala is that everyone here is looked at for the immense value they have. And you experience this on your own skin, because the people who are looked at by this gaze look at their children, teachers, pupils and even visitors in the same way.
This is the gaze that has built and continues to build the MPI and its projects, and this is the gaze that I hope to have in my life.
A FACE CALLING ME EVERYDAY
Rocío’s YES to come to Uganda: the beginning of a new journey
Story by Irene Muto
Kampala, 3rd February 2023
Rocío Andreo de La Vega is the new Educational Advisor at Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS) in Kampala. She came from Madrid, Spain where she was working as a teacher, to continue the work that our friend Seve (Matteo Severgnini) carried out in the last 10 years.
The staff of Meeting Point International had a talk with her. Here is what she told us about her personal experience, the reason why she decided to come to Uganda and what she has discovered so far.
“I have been thinking about going on a mission since I was 15 years old. When I finished my university, I started working as a teacher in Spain, and I realized I was already on a mission in my school. Teaching is always and everywhere a mission.
While I was in Spain I got the opportunity to meet Rose and know more about the reality here, about Meeting Point International, the schools (Luigi Giussani Preprimary and Primary School and Luigi Giussani High School), the women. But I had never planned to come and work here.
What happened was that in January 2022 Monica, a friend of mine who had worked for 3 years at Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education (LGIHE) in Kampala, took me out for dinner and told me that they were looking for someone to work at the Institute. They asked Monica if she had someone in mind, and she told me “Your name kept coming to my mind for a whole week, so I thought maybe this thought is not mine, it must be from Someone else”. So, she proposed it to me, and I SAID YES, because I realized that this thing had my name written on it, all around it, it was made for me!
Concurrently it happened that Seve was asked to go back to Italy and the School needed someone to take his place as Educational Advisor. Again it happened that someone thought that I would be suitable for that role. The people responsible thought it was a good idea for me to work at Luigi Giussani High School and I thought “Why do they think it’s a good idea? They don’t know me at all!”. But again, I said YES because the important thing is not if I am able to do this kind of job. Instead, it’s if I am answering and I’m saying YES to Someone, because I understand that this is a calling for me, here in this place.
So my journey in Uganda began and since I arrived I keep on asking myself: “What are you doing here?”. Because I need to rediscover this calling every day. Of course after two months here it’s not the same as it was the first day. I have two months of reason and two months of certainty that this place is for me, but I still need to understand it every day.
I’m still at the beginning of the journey, but up to now I am very happy to be here. It’s not easy, but every day I can say: “YOU really want me here today. I don’t know about tomorrow. But YOU really want me here today!”.
Working with children and teenagers is not comfortable, it’s a risk, because the human in front of you is growing very fast and he or she is taking decisions you cannot take on their behalf. But I know I am not here to solve the problems of the children and I know that real education speaks to their heart.”
What I have been experiencing so far is that the students and teachers in Uganda and in Spain are the same, not because they do the same things or have the same kind of life, but because they have the same heart! I was struck during the dialogues some students had with Seve in the office regarding their problems: the students here remind me of some particular students I met in Spain. How is it possible that they need the same things and have the same desires, if they live two completely different lives? However, the needs of the kids are exactly the same. For me it’s also a relief because I am the same person I was in Spain. Sometimes I was thinking: “What if I cannot be part of this because I am different? What if I never feel at home?”
But I felt at home from the very first day, because of the way people were welcoming me and treating me. And the reason is that somehow we are the same. Of course here a lot of things are different but I feel at home because, even if I miss everything and everyone, I can say that here I’ve found the same gaze that tells me that my heart is not wrong for desiring so much, that I am beautiful and precious to Him, that I am loved even before I open my eyes in the morning”.
SAY YES IN FRONT OF SOMEONE WHO CALLS YOU
The 10 years of Seve with the family of Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS) and Meeting Point International (MPI)
Story by Lwamaza Isiko Shalifu
Kampala, 23rd January 2023
Our friend Matteo Severgnini (Seve), former Educational Advisor at LGHS in Kampala, recently went back to Italy. Before his departure in early January, MPI’s staff had a meeting with him where he told us about his 10 year experience in Uganda.
We thank Seve for the time he has been with us, accompanying our community in a beautiful journey of educational growth.
Here is how he answered these questions: “Why did you decide to come to Uganda and to stay here for 10 years? And why have you decided to go back to Italy?”
“When I was in High School, I had a problem which was: How to choose my next course at university? I was a smart student, I used to like all the subjects. So which to choose? I was a bit confused. At a certain point, I think that the subject chose me. I found that Philosophy had already chosen me, through the fascination I had for some particular philosophers. So I enrolled and started University.
I studied philosophy for four years. After completing University I had another problem: Now, which job to choose? But, it happened the same as before: staying in University with the young people, I found myself chosen to be a teacher. Even if, when I started studying at university, I was thinking that I would have done everything but teaching! However, life it is not a matter of choosing, but realising you are being chosen every time. Therefore, all you need to do is to SAY YES. So I started teaching in a High School in Bergamo and I was very happy with my work, my students, and my colleagues.
I am part of the memores domini (this means those who are living the memory of God), a laical association founded within the experience of the catholic movement of Communion and Liberation (CL). At a certain point, in 2011, I received an email from the directorate of the memores domini. In this email they were asking for availability of a person to go to work in Uganda, someone who could speak English and who was also somehow knowledgeable in the field of education. While I was reading this, I was shocked and screamed “Oh my God these people are looking for me!” and I remembered that it’s not a matter of choosing, but it’s about being chosen. There I had one option which was, again, to say yes.
I had met Rose (MPI Founder and Executive Director) years back when I was in University. Those days I met the movement of CL and my responsibles used to send me here in Uganda, also paying for my vacations. So my first vacation was here in Uganda in 2001 and that was when I first met Rose. After that first vacation, we kept in touch and when I saw the job vacancy to come to Uganda, Rose came to my mind and I immediately called her. When I told her about this possibility, she told me “God is great!”. So I applied and in less than six months I came here. The yes that you can say is always in front of Someone that has already chosen you. And the question about why and how I managed to stay here is the same: every day you are chosen and you just need to decide by saying yes to a God that is calling you.
When I came here I knew Rose, but I did not know about the women. When I met them I was happy to see them and I loved it when they took me through the story of the origin of the school, of how and why the school was built.
So, I came and I decided to stay for the same reason. This same reason also applies to my yes for going back to Italy. Earlier this year, Davide Prosperi (the president of CL movement), who is a friend of mine, called me and asked me if I was available to work in Italy. I said yes. Again someone chose me, called me. Everyday life is about calling.
Staying in Uganda helped me to grow, because if you are loyal, with time you become happier with the people you are living with. When I came here, I thought I would need to live in the community in order to meet Christ. But then I realised that I needed to belong to Christ in order to live in the community. This helped me to always be available to God’s calling and to realise this belonging every day.”
Seve’s experience teaches us that it is important to know that every day in life we are being chosen by Someone else: we only have to trust and say our YES. Thank you Seve!
A DESIRE ACHIEVED
Story by Adoch Mary Clare
Kampala, 16th December 2022
The Luigi Giussani Schools (Luigi Giussani Pre-primary and Primary School and Luigi Giussani High School) were born as a result of the experience of the women of Meeting Point International (MPI) after discovering their value and dignity. Rose (MPI director and founder) educated the women about their value and this is evident in the way they are living their lives. They have a place where they can experience love through the gaze of Rose and other friends. While they started experiencing this incredible love, they realised that their children were not living the same. Their children were attending schools where they were being reduced to their conditions like illnesses, performance, being victims of the war, poverty and many others. The mothers began to desire for their children to live the same experience they had found. They wanted a school where their children would be taught and treated as people who have value. Pushed by this desire, they made 48,000 paper necklaces and sold them in Italy through the help of AVSI (an international non-governmental organisation established in Italy in 1972) and other friends. This is how they were able to raise the finances to build the schools.
Luigi Giussani Pre-primary and Primary school (LGPPS) and Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS) have about 500 students each. The majority of the students are supported by MPI, but its unique way of education is now also attracting private students.
The desire of the women has been achieved. This is visible through a dialogue between the social workers of MPI and four senior six students (Kagame Christopher, Muganga Marvin, Nahwera Grace and Nabwire Ruth) who recently finished their national examinations. They shared the experiences they had as students of LGHS for 6 years. Christopher, Marvin and Grace are supported by MPI, whereas Ruth is a private student.
As they narrated their story, their faces vividly showed gratitude for attending high school at LGHS. According to them, this gratitude is born from the fact that they have been fully accompanied in life and as well at school.
“We were treated for our value and each person was treated uniquely as they are. We were helped to discover our value. This value we discovered helped us not to be pushed to study, but to put in our own efforts to learn. We were always free to express ourselves and always free to ask questions, even about something that didn’t concern academics. In the schools we were before, once you asked a teacher a question, it was seen as you were negatively challenging them and you were beaten for confronting someone who is older than you.”
“Am glad that we were also taught life skills! At LGHS, we were taught as a whole, it is ok to learn about Mathematics, but how will it help you if you don’t know how to behave in a society?” said Christopher.
Ruth said: “I joined LGHS in senior 6. Where I come from, school is business: the better the school performs, the more customers it attracts. You had to maintain a good performance if you wanted to remain there, the moment you started performing badly, you were told to look for another school or given brutal punishments in order to perform better. This meant that you were always studying under pressure, and that consequently led to cramming. When I joined LGHS, I immediately felt at home, this is because we were not caned, which gave me a chance to actually understand what I was being taught. There was no segregation, especially according to performance, as it was before for me. Life became beautiful at school and School also became home.”
Grace appreciated the good friends who genuinely cared for her. Her friends were not only students but also teachers and the school rector (Matteo Severgnini) who also became like a father to her. She also learnt the virtues of self-drive. Marvin is a student who lives about 30 km from school. However, he said he was always welcomed at school even when he was late. The school rector always listened to him and didn’t chase him back home. He was also always there for him if he was facing any challenge.
Marvin and Grace also appreciated the fact that they could go to School of Community. This is an educational tool for development in the experience of the encounter with Christ born out of a catholic movement called Communion and Liberation (CL), of which father Luigi Giussani was the founder. It consists of reading and personal meditation of a text proposed to the whole Movement of CL, followed by community meetings. For them, it is a place where their religious life was shaped and where they were also able to learn about life through the experiences of their friends and guidance of the adults.
In conclusion, through the dialogue with these four young people, one could clearly tell the general maturity about life they have attained, as opposed to academic gain that most schools in Uganda aim for. This is truly a gift that was born out of the desire of the women and that is being fostered by the teachers and administration of LGHS. The students speak fondly of the teachers and describe their school as home. This is because of the love and accompaniment they received from them.
RECOGNISING MY VALUE MOVED ME TO FORGIVE.
“…I realized I had everything I needed within me, to be what God created me for but had not yet figured out how to actively be that person.” narrates Nalukwago Shadia, a Kireka resident sharing her experience upon encountering MPI and how recognizing her value moved her to forgive her husband.
by Kisuki Simon, MPI Social Worker
RECOGNISING MY VALUE MOVED ME TO FORGIVE.
My name is Nalukwago Shadia, a resident of Acholi quarters in Kireka, Kampala. I am a mother of two girls, Kemigisha Sharon (9 years) and Kengozi Natasha (7 years) who both now study at Luigi Giussani Pre-primary and Primary School (LGPPS) since they were enrolled after I joined Meeting Point International (MPI). I encountered MPI through members of the community during a time when my life had become really hard for my family both economically and financially.
However, the situation that started out as a negative occurrence ended up teaching me a lot although I had not yet realised it at the time because it seemed like my life had ended. Once rumours alleging that Sharon wasn’t his daughter were spread within the community, my husband Arinaitwe Humphrey and I got into several heated arguments in which he would even threatened to kill me. These rumours brought about serious emotional torture and endless wrangles within my household.
After unproductive efforts to explain my truth to him and his emphatic refusal to hear me out, I had to run away for my life. Being a member of MPI had already earned me friends like Nahayo Allen who had become more like family so much so she allowed me to stay at her place as I figured out what to do next.Life became even harder due to the lockdown restrictions after the Covid-19 resurge. As time went on Allen’s house couldn’t accommodate us all since we amounted to a total of over 7 people and her single tiny room that was also full of other items would simply not do.
We then moved into a neighbouring school room after sharing our concerns with one of the administrators since the schools weren’t operating. We found there another family that was in a similar situation. During that time, I was afraid of exposing what I was facing to anybody and it was Allen that forcefully made me visit Rose’s office and her social workers to explain what was going on in my life. Before gaining the courage to meet them, my children and I had spent nearly 6 months moving up and down with no solution. I had never worked before in my life and had always looked to my husband for our financial needs and at that time, this felt like a situation I could not overcome. I started picking plastic bottles and scrap to resell and get something for my little ones to eat.
After a series of visits to me by the social workers of MPI, one on one dialogues with Rose including the knowledge I got during the dialogues we have every Tuesday and Thursday in Kireka. I really felt like I had awakened from a very deep sleep. I realised I had everything I needed, to be what God created me for but had not yet figured out how to actively be that person.
The conversations with Rose gave me clarity about my role in of my children’s lives and my own plus what I had to do to avoid regretting some of the decisions I was making at the time. At the time, I was feeling guilty for leaving my hostile husband and rendering my kids homeless and had been seriously contemplating taking my children to their grandparents deep in the village in which case I would have forfeited their chance at any education.
Like a genuine friend, Rose listened to me, offered advice and paid three months’ rent for us to leave the school and get a place we could call home. To ensure sustainability, she also gave me capital in form of clothes that I could resell, make profits and then start a business and this paved a way for the next chapter of my life. As planned, I opened up a snack making business just within the market of Acholi quarters, made some profits, and even gave some small re-imbursements back to Rose to show my gratitude and prove to her that I was indeed doing better.
After about two months in my new home, the overwhelming love showed to me by Rose and MPI deeply moved me and further confirmed to me my value and the value of others that Rose repeatedly talks about because MPI had absolutely no obligation to help me out. It is at this point that I decided to forgive my husband and let him back into our lives. This was not because I loved him very much but because I love my children that much. I realised that for unity to be witnessed within my family, give him another chance especially because he had started apologizing to me saying his actions were not intended to harm me. His character hasn’t necessarily changed much, he still comes home drunk but the most important thing to me is that he always comes back and shares that sense of belonging with our children which is very important to me because it makes my children happy that he is around. We are all indeed meant for something greater.
WE ARE MADE FOR HAPPINESS.
by Kisuki Simon Nimrod, DSP Social Worker.
WE ARE MADE FOR HAPPINESS.
My name is Okello Raymond, a 20year old staying with my mother and siblings in Acholi quarters – Kireka. My family is originally from Pader district in Northern Uganda but we had to flee to Kampala due to the constant attacks and threats from the rebels of the Lord Resistance Army. I’ve been told I was 4 years old then. My parents, Owona John Bosco and Ataro Rose successfully led this journey to Kampala where we ended up settling within the slums of Kireka (Acholi quarters). Life has not been easy; however, the start was definitely the hardest part. Around 2011, my parents found out that they had contracted the HIV Virus and my father decided to go back to the village because he was becoming weaker from the virus. He felt that it was best to leave because he wasn’t contributing anything to the household anymore. He also said he needed a calmer environment to settle in since the war had stopped but to us it felt like he was giving up on life and us.
My siblings and I have since then been raised by our mother who has struggled to make ends meet through her alcohol brewing business. There was a time when life became so tough she nearly gave up on educating us and the only practicle solution seemed to be joining our father in the village. This was especially hard on mother not just physically but mentally as well because other than the dire financial situation, she had to come to terms with the fact that she now had the HIV-virus to fight for a chance to raise her children herself. During this period, mom heard about how big an impact Meeting Point International (MPI) was making on the lives of the people within the community, decided to attend one of the meetings and our lives have never been the same. After a while, we started attending school in better schools, mom started looking forward to the meetings with the women and was always happier when she came back home. Our relationship with MPI kept growing due to mom’s active participation in MPI activities and the home visits carried out by MPI social workers to ensure we are doing fine. The women of MPI are invited to talk to Rose, the MPI Director whenever they have problems and with that we could easily access different forms of help like medical services from the MPI clinic in Acholi quarters (Kireka). During some holidays, we visited our dad in the village.
My educational journey as well as my siblings’ has been going smoothly and success in some cases for example my sister Adong Florence just finished her S.4 with 13 aggregates. My family and I are extremely proud of her. The love and compassion MPI has extended to our family has played a great role in enabling us to face whatever we have been going through with courage because we learnt that we are not defined by our problems. One day, the MPI director during a speech at our school, Luigi Giussani High School said that “We should always find something positive amidst all the bad times that you we face. Be it a lesson or something to be grateful for”. I thought about that during the period when schools closed due to COVID-19 and it reminded me to use that time to read given the bulkiness of my combination i.e. Biology, Chemistry, and Maths (BCM). I read hard and with the encouragement from my family, our teachers who used to check on us in our different localities and the consistent calls and visits from the MPI social workers helped me excel in my Advanced level exams of 2020 with 16 out of 20 points.
My dream has always been to become a teacher and it is something I even do now on a free lance basis when students have holidays. I am however considering becoming a surgeon and hopefully improve my society by providing them with better health care services. I know saying thank you is not enough to fully appreciate all the beautiful souls that have made it possible for me to reach this mile stone, but it is the least I can do. I take this opportunity to thank God, my dear sponsor, MPI and its staff, my family, the reliable friends God gave me and my amazing teachers for doing everything within their power to help me reach my goals.
A GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
by Achan Aida, MPI Social Worker.
A GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
Okumait Daniel KIR-1783 is a 20-year-old boy whom, with support from AVSI Foundation, has been sponsored by Meeting Point International (MPI) since senior one at Luigi Giussani High School. He is currently in senior five offering Physic, Economic, Mathematics and Computer Science.
In 2019, Daniel received a Ugx.206,000/= gift from his sponsor Cremonesi Paolo. When Aunt Rose called him to the MPI headquarters and asked him what he wanted to buy, he excitedly said pigs and explained that he wanted to start a piggery project. His gift managed to accord him two piglets, a female and male. After a while, the female gave birth to eight piglets the first time and nine piglets the second time.
When schools closed during the Covid-19 lockdown, he sold the first set of piglets that were 6 months old at the time and bought a smart phone that he needed in order to do academic research and receive school assignments online. Some of the money also helped the family buy food during the economically tough lockdown period. Daniel then decided to use the remaining proceeds of the sale to start a rabbit rearing (cuniculture) project and bought two rabbits, a male and female. As the piggery project expanded, space became insufficient so he made his second sale and opened up a bank account in order to safely keep and save his money for future use.
Luigi Giussani High School, all students attend community school where students are educated about their value among other important life skills in adherence to the social teachings of the Catholic Church. It is through these dialogues and how he is handled by his teachers that Daniel says he understood his value and the way he looked at things changed. Daniel was very happy with his project so he went ahead and gifted Rose Busingye, the MPI Director, with a pig. This humbled us as MPI staff and Rose was extremely happy to see that such a young person was so moved by his gift he thought about gifting her as well.
Due to insufficient space where he is doing the piggery and cuniculture at the moment, Daniel plans to switch to cattle rearing. He has also been advised that cattle may also be a little easier to manage and require less attention because God willing, he will be a candidate in 2023 and will need more time to concentrate on his studies. He plans to relocate the project to the village where the space is big enough to hold more cattle since he is working towards expanding the project.
The gift money he received from his sponsor encouraged him to develop good ideas and further contributed to his awareness about who he is and his potential. Daniel says the gift to Aunt Rose was his way of showing gratitude for what his sponsor, Rose, and MPI in general has done for him since he joined the MPI community.
ACCOMPANYING EACH OTHER TO THE FINAL DESTINATION
During the Easter Vigil of 2022, 15 widows of Meeting Point International (MPI) were received into the catholic church again after several years of cohabiting with their late husbands. We were able to have a dialogue with them and they disclosed to us why they had this desire to go back to the church.
Story by, Adoch Mary Clare
Kampala, July 6, 2022.
ACCOMPANYING EACH OTHER TO THE FINAL DESTINATION
A war that killed tens of thousands and displaced more than 1.6 million people in northern Ugandan united very many women despite its horrendous consequences. Among the people displaced are some of the women of Rose (MPI director) who are united in a Kampala slum known as Acholi Quarters and others in Naguru. 15 of these women were welcomed back into the catholic church after renewing their baptism vows, the sacraments of penance and holy Eucharist. Some of them were not receiving the body of Christ before because they were cohabiting with their husbands. However, because their partners passed on and most of these women are above the age of 50 years of age, they decided they want to be closer to God by respecting Him and actively practising their catholic faith and this was the first step to achieve that.
They wanted to do this together in each other’s company because they believe through this relationship with God, they will be able to set an example for both young and old within the community. They believe that if you are close to Him, you attract people who will hopefully trust you enough to approach you in whatever situation they are facing, be it good or bad. Through this, they wanted to show love to themselves first, then to those around them and the community at large.
Many of these women met through Meeting Point International and became even closer through actively participating in MPI activities where a bond was created. However, they share some characteristics like being widows, victims of war and agemates that brought them even closer enough to encourage each other to get this baptism. Another reason for the baptism was; during of the war, most of them lost their documents like baptism cards and birth certificates in the chaos yet these are documents essential in one’s life because in most of the offices that provide essential services, these documents are a requirement. They celebrated their return to the church with their fellow women of MPI and Rose who provided them with a cake that was inscribed with “we are now free”.
We were moved by these women, in their simplicity, to ask for baptism and the sacraments! “This achievement by these women was worth celebrating because we didn’t ask them to go back for the sacraments and this shows a kind of awareness within themselves which is a success for MPI. They are living in a natural way. MPI didn’t impose this on then and it implies that even when MPI ceases to exist, they will be able to do things on their own. They will be able to eat a balanced meal, cook well, take their drugs, clean their house because they have an awareness of their own.” said Rose on why we celebrated their achievement.
The women were baptised from their usual meeting place in Kireka where meetings with them are held. This place also acts as a church on Sundays with permission from Rose; the mass is usually held in a language they understand which is Acholi. Rose commented on the reason as to why she allowed the mass to be held from MPI saying; “Allowing the women to have mass from there is the same as allowing God to happen there. God is happening in our place where we sit, where we cry, where we are happy, where we are a mess, so the same way we can’t refuse that God is there is how we can’t refuse the priest to make Him happen in our place. Mass, a sacrament for us Catholics, represents the fact that God died, rose again and became flesh of our flesh through the holy Eucharist. The value is God that is happening in us, when you talk about God, the father of fathers, our heart is vibrating, when we celebrate Him, its beyond something beautiful.”
WISDOM LIES IN THE MINDS OF THE LISTENERS
“…knowledge acquired from the MPI dialogues and my conversations with Rose reminded me of my value and taught me that I needed to start being the protagonist in my life by…”
by Kisuki Simon Nimrod, DSP Social Worker.
Life often has hard corners to maneuver but can be simple depending on one’s perspective. This is how Anyiri Sarah, a mother of 3, guardian to 5, summarizes her experiences and responsibilities today. Even without an education, she was the only child among her siblings with considerable success at a young age being the one that held her family together financially. Once she got married and a few years later, her husband impregnated a maid Sarah had employed for the sole purpose of giving said maid an opportunity to sustain her family.
Once she found out about the pregnancy, she separated from her husband and left with their 3 children in the guise of visiting an aunt. Sarah describes leaving her husband as the most heartbreaking and painful experience she has ever been through not to mention the hardest choice she has ever had to make. Sarah’s Aunt allowed her to stay for as long as she needed. However, due to depression over the end of her marriage, betrayal, worry for her children, and the fear that she may be HIV positive, Sarah looked and felt sick, so much so she could neither stand nor sit on her own. This is when she was rushed to Reach Out for testing and later Mulago for treatment for different infections. Luckily she was HIV-negative.
This is the period during which she was introduced to the Meeting Point International (MPI) Executive Director, Rose Busingye having heard about how big an impact she was making in the lives of many of the women that resided around the Kireka-Acholi quarters. She says at first she thought her husband would come and take them back home, but due to his emphatic refusal to go for HIV testing with her till date, she couldn’t trust him enough to take him back.
Sarah had some little money left after her treatment that she used for rent and started a small retail shop that grew over time. She later joined a savings group where she saved consistently using whatever she could spare from her shop’s profits. However, she was unfortunately robbed and she didn’t get a single coin when it was time to share the money which led to all her plans like restocking her shop and buying out her landlord being cancelled which depressingly meant starting from scratch again.
Life became so hard to the extent that Sarah could not afford any underwear for herself and some days she couldn’t afford a meal for her family. By this time, she had started attending MPI dialogues but was still timid about confiding her problems to Rose. One day she followed Jacky, an MPI social worker at the time, and asked her for some money. Jacky gave her ugx.5000 and advised her to find a source of income because requesting for money isn’t sustainable. This encounter happened after Rose advised them to feel free to go to her with their problems. She gathered her courage and went to meet Rose who she says gladly offered her much needed advice and help. Sarah was at the time also suffering from a terrible skin infection and Rose gave her medicine to apply to her body and kept inquiring about how she was fairing, not to mention surprising her with underwear at a later date!
“Jacky and Rose’s eagerness to help, knowledge acquired from the MPI dialogues and my conversations with Rose reminded me of my value and taught me that I needed to recognize that one way of the ways I can be the protagonist in my life is by using my capabilities to survive in my reality rather than feel sorry for myself.” recalls Sarah. She then used the ugx.5000/= as capital to start up a cassava frying business which is still running very successfully to date. She is very proud of it because the returns have enabled her to sustain her family, made it a little easier to take care of 5 more children in need and contribute for their school requirements since MPI caters for their school fees.
From these lessons, Sarah now testifies and advises fellow MPI women during the community dialogues on how they can be more proactive in their lives. She encourages the mothers to be companions in their children’s lives the same way MPI offers companionship to them. She urges them to take responsibility of finding out if for example the school fees paid by MPI was cleared at the school, how their children are performing in school, make sure they do their homework, etc…and not leave the full responsibility of the child to MPI even if MPI already takes such responsibility.
“Rose’s words to the women are a very strong instrument that will always drive you to something great when fully understood” says Sarah. In one of the personal dialogues she had with Rose, she was advised to always write down her daily expenditure and then see how to narrow it down given the other demands she always has at hand. This taught her to be in control of what’s hers, to leave within her means at whatever financial position she finds herself because that is the only way she will not fail to fulfil her responsibilities.
All this combined with how loved Sarah has felt since the day she was welcomed into Meeting Point International (MPI), has moved her into being responsible for those she encounters. Not only her children but her relatives, MPI members, people in her community or any human being for that matter. She says that Rose’s constant encouragement to remind ourselves to not only be mindful about ourselves and what is ours, but for others as well, is what provoked her heart.
“I do not regret the day I decided to settle here because it has given me the opportunity to keep discovering who I really am.” Sarah added.
Today, with the support from donors like AVSI Foundation and Support International, among others, MPI is supporting all her 8 children and this gives her some leeway to take care of their other needs. One cannot imagine that the story behind this woman’s life is hers because of how happy she is, and how she conducts herself despite her circumstances. This tells us that we all need to be loved and welcomed without putting anything but humanity under consideration.
THE UNEXPECTED LOVE
My name is Achan Priscilla, a 22-year-old teacher at Luigi Giussani Pre-primary and Primary school (LGPPS). I live with my two siblings Abraham, a 19-year-old, and Rovia, a 12-year-old in Acholi quarters. I just finished my degree at Kyambogo university this year where I was pursuing a bachelor’s degree of arts in education. I managed to get a first-class degree and am very happy about it. This would not have been possible without the support of my donors and Meeting Point International (MPI).
Having lost my father in 2003, a lot about my life became uncertain especially completing school. My mother struggled to raise us and got some relief when she discovered MPI and I was enrolled for support in 2008 when I was in primary five. Unfortunately, when I was in senior four, my mother succumbed to cancer and passed away. I now had a family to take care of and provide for yet I was a candidate that very year and I still had to sit national examinations amidst the grief and new responsibilities. I, however, managed to work hard and earn myself a first grade.
Overwhelmed with my new responsibilities, I requested Aunt Rose to allow me skip the Advanced level of secondary school and opt for a shorter course of one year and gain hands-on skills so that I could be in a position to support my family. She assured me that MPI would support my family financially and provide any help we needed. This gave me strength because I realized I was not alone. I attended Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS), a school whose focus is to help students discover themselves every day. The teachers helped me embrace the reality of my situation and I began looking at my mother’s death with positivity which paved way for growth and maturity. I completed my senior six in 2016 and emerged as the best student in my school.
I also wanted to attest to all the girls and orphans that it is possible to find success amidst the hardships we go through. I am very fortunate to have encountered MPI because they have continued to accompany me in my daily life even now by catering to my family’s education, health, and other needs. I was given a job at LGPPS, a school founded by MPI and I began volunteering there as a teacher. The same beauty I encountered at LGHS is what I found at my workplace which prompted more personal growth.
I decided to become a teacher because of the inspiration of my teachers at the LGHS. The teachers not only taught in a way that made me understand the subject but also addressed the needs of my heart. Their hearts were open to what was happening with each student. Mr. Wandera Joseph my History teacher inspired me with the way he presented himself and spoke in public. He had this self-esteem that I admired and wanted to imitate or even better.
My journey at the university wasn’t easy because I would go to work in the morning, go to study at the university in the afternoon, and later get home late in the evening and care for my siblings who would be back from school too. However, I had a lot of support from my colleagues at work, the LGPPS administration that allowed me to reschedule my timetable to study in case they clashed, my lecturers and course mates always helped me catch up through discussions because they were moved by my situation. This degree that I have achieved is not just for me but for everyone who stood with me.
“I want to thank MPI and all my sponsors especially Familie Zöpfl and Support International that accompanied me through my school journey. I wish that they could feel my love, excitement, and gratitude for them.”
They have accompanied me even in times when I had lost all hope. I don’t take for granted the fact that they decided to love me this way, that they decided to prefer me this way. In the absence of my parents, MPI and my donors have been the parents for it is usually only parents who would do what they do for me. They love me for who I am and their biggest desire was to see me happy. I am happy and grateful and I will always strive to make them proud. I am going to study and get a master’s degree in linguistics and P.H.D dedicated to them. I recognize the value in everything that they have done and I want what I have encountered to be able to help whoever I encounter so that the people out there also understand the value of life and its meaning.
Story written by Adoch Mary Clare
Below are link to story of Priscilla’s brother Aron’s story for more insight of her journey and that of her family.
A RELATIONSHIP BRINGING ME BACK TO MYSELF
My name is Mr. Wandera Joseph, 38 years old, a teacher at Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS) and I teach Christian Religious Education (CRE) and History. Am also in charge of training the choir. I joined LGHS in 2013 and became the deputy headteacher officially in 2015.
When the lockdown was imposed for twenty-one days, we thought that after those days, things would go back to normal but it didn’t happen that way. The lockdown was indefinite and we didn’t know when schools would open, we had no hope at all. Most of us teachers were at home and didn’t really have anything to do in line with our jobs. I was at home with my children, I would do a number of activities with them but I felt that something was missing. I was missing my colleagues and also the work. When the HTC (Head Teacher’s Council) was suggested and it first convened through google meet, I was very happy, it brought back life and hope. First of all, this meeting was for us (adults) because ‘you can’t give what you don’t have’ and later for the students who join us all together. It was from these meetings that we decided to give work or self-study materials to the students and also visit them at their homes. Since the lockdown had affected us, we also imagined how our students were doing. We had to keep in mind our relationship with them. We decided to engage the teachers first, to begin with preparing work for the students. It would be dangerous for us to leave them ‘alone’ at home. The students received the work but later got tired of it. Their daily lives were not involving academics; they were facing a number of issues as human beings. We were interested in their humanity than anything else. If a human being is ok, then they are able to face anything. The human being requires another. Before the lockdown, we had a relationship with our students where they would reveal to us the challenges they were facing in life. Since the lockdown was put in place, we didn’t know how they were doing and if they had anyone to talk to. It was then that we decided that the work was not enough, we then went to their homes. They were asking us when they were going back to school, we didn’t have an answer for them, but we told them that the fact that we were at their homes and providing them work as well, we were thinking of them.
One of the places we went to was the welcoming house where we have a lot of our students. We had a session of dancing and singing with them. They easily express themselves in this way, it was a nice moment that we realized they liked as well. Seve (Educational Advisor at LGHS) continued to journey with them through different activities. He later gave me a letter that the children wrote inviting me to sing with them. We arranged and I started to go there for a number of reasons i.e. I like music, all the children were in the same place so it was easy to organize, their parent was willing to accept me into the home, most of the things I learned in music was free and most importantly, I was moved with how the children were expressing themselves, I wanted to do something for them given my knowledge in music. Being there was also for my own good because I was always happy, it was an opportunity for me to keep on discovering myself. I have an opportunity to interact with children at school and my home. A relationship with a child helps me to be appreciative to God because I was once their age and He has taken care of me through all these stages. He is looking over me and He takes me as a precious person. If you are by yourself, it’s hard for you to discover some things but in a relationship with another, you discover a lot. We had the Christmas carols with the children at the welcoming house, they were of different ages but for me, it was the humanity before me. It was an opportunity to live the moments of the nativity through the songs. After the carols, we were all happy and I kept on checking on them through phone calls. Some days I would go there and we would do a number of activities like playing, singing and I was even teaching some of them how to play the keyboard.
COVID-19 had its negative effects like confusion in the education system but for me, it was an opportunity to stop and think, to ask myself what life is, and to reflect. To discover the important things in life and not take them for granted. For me, one of the ways I discovered this was through the children.
Compiled by Adoch Mary Clare
THE BEST WAY TO LIVE IS BY HOLDING THE OTHER PERSON’S HAND AND MOVE TOGETHER.
Akongo Margret, a 47-year-old mother lives with her family of 10 members in Naguru, a slum in Kampala. She stays with her husband, 3 biological children, and other children she is currently looking after while others are no longer under her care because their lives became better with Margret’s support. Margret grew up as a paternal orphan. Her mother did not attain any education and when she lost her husband, she decided to move to Kampala with her children because there was insecurity in the northern part of Uganda where they originally come from. Living with a single mother who did not have a formal job was not easy. People around used to consider them to be the most vulnerable family which led to their discrimination and stigmatization. Margret’s mother used to collect firewood from people’s fences in a place called Kololo and sell them to earn income while she picked wild green vegetables that she used to feed her family. Some well-wishers would give them food once in a while. When Margret got married, she used to spend most of her time alone because she felt that she cannot fit anywhere in society because of how vulnerable she was and also because of how her family was treated while growing up. She had no confidence to speak freely and rejected invitations to gatherings because she felt unworthy to be among people. Her elder sister who had been a member of Meeting Point International (MPI) died due to complications from HIV/AIDS and that is when Margret got courage to join the MPI family whose invites she had been ignoring for long because of her fears of rejection. She managed to meet with the MPI director Rose Busingye who educated her about the value and dignity of a person which is greater than sickness, poverty, riches, one’s level of education, and many other worldly things. “I was embraced by this community in a way that I felt desired yet they did not know me. I had not experienced this kind of love and so this was the beginning of my self-discovery into my value which opened up my heart and mind to the world” Margret contemplated. She used to reduce herself by the circumstances she was facing but after getting this education, she discovered that the human value and life are very precious. This guided her into looking at everyone as having the same value as herself and she started to associate more freely and embrace people in her everyday life. “Before this education from MPI, I never knew that I could make a great change in another person’s life even with the little I have. I always feel so much pain in my heart whenever I see another suffering and I wish to take their pain away.”– Margret. Discovering her value more every day widens her knowledge because she looks at everything with a gaze that is why she is giving a helping hand to the people in her community. “The way our sponsors care for us without knowing us makes me pose a question in her mind, “Who Am I?” – Margret.
She gave a recent scenario from where she is operating her small business of selling fruits with one MPI member called Beatrice. Beatrice kept running short of capital and Margret encouraged that they combine funds and buy a large box of mangoes, sell them and share the profit which they did. They started this journey in November 2020 and their business is operating well in that they are able to buy food for their children, save with the MPI savings groups, and keep little for an emergency without encroaching into their capital. Other friends who sell close to them borrowed the idea but it was not working and one of them asked Margret why theirs was a success. “They borrowed this idea from me without first knowing who they are and why they are doing it so I encouraged them to look closely at everything not for personal benefit but for the need to journey together” – Margret. In her community people are united in that when anyone is sick, you find members of MPI visiting while others manage your business till you are fit to resume.
“Margret picked me up when I felt that I was between a rock and a hard wall with no relative or family to help me and nowhere to sleep after being thrown out by the landlord. My family had rejected me and my children but Margret gave me the remaining small land beside her house and now I have a place to sleep. I am also selling mangoes to help look after my family. The MPI family is always holding my hand which gives me strength. I am now aware of my value and one of others since I have been shown a better way of living” said Akwiri Alice
In the photo above is Akongo Margret (left) and Akwiri Alice (right) standing in front of the small structure they set up for Alice. Besides it on the extreme right is Margret’s house.
Margret insists that the best way to live is by holding the other person’s hand and move together without leaving anyone behind because she believes that whoever she encounters is sent to her by God. Margret ended by saying how blessed she is to have met the MPI family because before their intervention into her life, she was always sad and worried. She thought that her children would not study beyond Primary Seven since she is not educated and was struggling to look after the family single-handedly. However, one child completed university and two are in secondary school all because she was embraced and her only wish is for all to live in this way.
In the photo above is Akongo Margret in the middle and two social workers from Meeting Point International
Written by MPI social worker
Achan Aida Agnes
Story of Muleke Alex.
Embracing change in his life, a formerly defiant Alex now enjoys painting.
He uses recycled material to create attractive art and his dream is to start an art school in Kampala City.
Story by Clelia Vegezzi (Communication Officer AVSI Uganda), 30th July 2021.
Alex is one of 3,650 children supported through his education by the Distance Support Program. He is a student of art at a Kampala university, and his innovative painting is helping him provide an upkeep for his mum.
He went to school at Luigi Giussani Secondary School for six years and in 2018 he completed his secondary school level with excellent grades. Previously disinclined to stay in school, Alex Muleke gradually found the motivation in art – which became his path to continue his studies. Deep-rooted in the school’s curriculum, the teachers at Luigi Giussani Secondary School believe in the power of art and deliberately encourage students to cultivate their potential in creativity. But Alex’s strife in class angered his classmates.
“I don’t know why I didn’t want to listen, I constantly annoyed my classmates and I enjoyed it when I upset teachers.” This is how Alex, now twenty, tells of his early years at Luigi Giussani High School in Kampala.
In 2013, Alex’s mum, Loyce lost hope in her son, she suffered from an illness, she wouldn’t count on her husband for assistance for their family, and there was not enough time available to her to spend with her six children since she had to work hard to meet the expenses of her home.
The social workers at Meeting Point International helped Loyce – they provided psychological and medical support and introduced her to the activities of a group of women in Kireka slum. Loyce, encouraged by the enthusiasm of the other women soon found the determination to face her problems. She joined the group of women where they met every once a week to sing, dance and learn different skills such as weaving and financial trainings to help them manage their savings and small businesses. And from the Distance Support Program, she also received a financial contribution of school fees for her children and this time, Alex was certain he would study and shape a good future for himself and be able to help his mum one day.
“The teachers became my friends: they gave me a clear vision about my life, and I realized that I had a beautiful chance. I am talented and I soon composed myself, I paid attention during class lessons, and I began life anew.”
Today, Alex is enrolled at Kyambogo University. “When I paint I can control my thoughts. I am developing my own style with art. I like portraying people and I look for creativity in materials, in everything I touch.”
It was Alex’s passion and determination that helped his mum to face the difficult months of the lockdown imposed by the Ugandan Government to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The situation does not stop Alex’s creativity. He focuses on the emotions he experienced during his early days which he often refers to as “a strange time of his life” and his creativity prompts him to experiment on new materials using coal dust and red earth to make unique artistic pieces such as the extraordinary painting of a masked woman, a piece which brought him a new range of clients and with them the money he much needed to care for his mum and siblings.
And thanks to the help of the local organization Meeting Point International, an implementing partner of AVSI Foundation in the Distance Support project Alex has stayed on course with his education.
“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
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
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
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
OYELLA CATHERINE’S LETTER
My name is Oyella Catherine, a member of Meeting Point International, an organization that has educated my heart. How are you? “Fine” has become the least used word for these past months because of the havoc created by COVID 19. Every day, we are awakened to this terrible reality that many want to escape but unfortunately can’t because reality is the Master. Greeted by news of terror, of the ever-increasing numbers of victims taken by the virus that neither spares the young nor the old.
Through all this, I have been pushed to ask myself of that preference of still being healthy and alive, that you and I are getting now. And who is preferring you this instance? To be sincere, this period has strengthened my relationship with He who creates me (Christ). I now use my heart more to judge things happening before my eyes. With this, I have learnt that Christ has not abandoned us through these hard times and I am certain of this.
It is hard to hear of all this lockdown, increasing victims, curfew, and related terms (words) but with Christ, all become beautiful to me and I hope it does for you too. Thanks friends, and stay safe.
(In the photo is Oyella Catherine with her lastborn son, Lakony Marco)
“THROUGH BEAUTY, THE CURIOSITY IS BECOMING A METHOD FOR US TO BECOME ADULT.” – SEVE
“THROUGH BEAUTY, THE CURIOSITY IS BECOMING A METHOD FOR US TO BECOME ADULT.” – SEVE
(Hello Seve! I am aware that you started to do some activities with the kids of the Welcoming House. I would like to understand what you are doing, your experience here, and how this desire to come here was born in you, that is, the origin of your experience here?)
My name is Matteo Severgnini. I am the Education Advisor at Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS).
I think that this experience started many months ago during the lockdown, when Michael Kawuki (LGHS Head Teacher), Joseph Wandera (Deputy Head Teacher), Betty (Teacher), Marceline (Director of Studies) and I, decided to go and visit our students one by one, knocking on their doors especially in Kireka and Naguru. We went there because we wanted to visit them at home, and that was a great surprise for us. It was also full of emotions because many children were so happy to see us and many of them, were telling us: “We are blessed to see you because now we know that there is still hope for us: We belong to someone.” While they were saying this, I felt that I too was belonging to someone. We were so happy after those visits, and we decided to have a meeting and lunch with Rose (MPI director) at my home. We wanted to tell her about what we saw and to judge together what had happened because it was something great and beautiful. We also wanted to share the challenges we found out among our students at their homes in order to find some solutions and hypotheses. When we started to tell her about our worries, Rose stopped us and challenged us in a very incredible way: “Okay! What you saw, is very important and also the problems are quite important. We need to face them, for this reason, I am asking you to write me a report. But I want to ask you a question. How many schools in the world do you know that have been doing these kinds of visits? Really, how many schools in your opinion, are going out encountering and meeting their own students one by one at their homes?” She continued: “If you don’t understand the origin of your experience, also the consequences will die very soon. The most important thing is to understand what and who managed to move your heart and made you move and visit your students.” This was a great discovery for us because it was true, we were not aware of the origin of our action. While we were thinking and being challenged by this question, we thought that the only point that moved our hearts was the fact that we are loved. That Michael, Betty, Joseph, Marceline and I, have been living and we are living a love that is for free and that was the origin that pushed us also to go and visit our students. There is someone (who we are saying is Christ), that is loving us so much and pushed us to go and visit all our students. I was struck because I am always thinking that the revolutionary thing is what I can do. Instead, the revolutionary thing, the novelty, is the One that is conquering my heart, that is moving my heart to go and visit all my students. So, since that lunch, a seed entered in my heart because while we were visiting our students, we came once also here to the Welcoming House to stay with the children for one full day. I found myself belonging to this place! During that very lunch after this provocation of Rose, I asked her: “Rose, if I must follow what is happening to my life, I would like also to go to Welcoming House to visit these friends of mine. I would like to stay once a week with them because I think that staying with them, is also another way for me to discover the One that is conquering my heart. I also asked my Headteacher and the other administrators of the school permission to absent myself once a week from school. They said, “for us, it is fine because if you are doing something that is helping you, we believe it can also be something that is helping Luigi Giussani High School.” Starting from there, I decided to come here every Friday morning at 9:30 am. We do study together up to 12:30 or 1 pm and after, we usually watch cartoons together up to 2 pm. All the assignments and lessons that we are doing are related to the cartoons that we are watching. We study English and Mathematics, having in mind the cartoon. This is the origin or the reason as to why I have been coming here for the last two months.
In these past 2 months, what struck me the most is that all of us, are made to be happy. Whenever I am entering that gate, the way that the kids are welcoming me is so beautiful because they are so happy. The second thing that struck me is that this happiness comes from the fact that there is a relationship. They are always waiting for me and on the other side, I am also waiting for them. Every Friday morning, I am very happy to know that I am coming here. The third thing is that we are made for something great in life and for this reason, there is a kind of seriousness with which we are doing our assignments. And why should we be serious with our task? Because we perceive that also this small task that we are facing every Friday, that is, Mathematics and English, these simple exercises are done to become adult, that is, to grow. Facing small tasks with heart is helping us to understand that the task in life is deep. We are made for something great. And the other thing is that the curiosity to grow is helped by beautiful things, for this reason, we decided to watch every Friday a cartoon that is not just a simple cartoon. Usually, they are very meaningful cartoons. We are watching Toy Story, which is an animated cartoon about belongingness. And we are watching Kung Fu Panda, that is instead about discovering that life is given for something great because Someone made us with this greatness. In order to be great, you need to have friends. Through beauty, curiosity is becoming a method for us to become an adult.
(How has this experience here helped you to do your work at LGHS?)
What I am facing here is helping me at LGHS but also, it is true the opposite! The work at school is helping me to come here as well because life is one. Let me say that the work that I am doing at school, is helping me for example, to be faithful to this moment because when I am here with these 40 kids, I have always in mind this point, “But if Michael, Wandera, Betty, and Marceline were here, in which way would they face this moment?” These people, though they are not here, are helping me to stay with these kids. From here, I am learning a simplicity of belongingness, because all these kids, the thing that they really show me, is that in order to live, you need to belong. All these kids while we are doing assignments together, they are always depending on you in the sense that they are looking for you, maybe to do 2+2 =4. They are there with you, depending on you, and following you. This is a kind of simplicity of saying, “I belong to you, and if I don’t belong to you, I am not even able to do 2+2.” I need this kind of simple awareness in belonging, that is the real freedom.
Story compiled by Vicent.
(13Th November 2020)
THIS KIND OF GAZE SAVES EVERYTHING FOR ME!
My name is Lugamba Vicent, a child of Meeting Point International (MPI). I stay in Naguru, one of the cultural centers of MPI. I stay with 2 brothers Jimmy Torach and Francis Munvaneza, and another adult Emmanuel Kintu, our guardian. We are not specifically of the same tribe or lineage but we’re brothers linked together by a heartfelt relationship which was born from an encounter with Meeting Point International (MPI) and we’re a happy family.
I joined MPI in 2013, it found me hopeless especially about my studies due to the fact that my mother, a single parent, could not manage to pay for me in a secondary school. My father had run away from his responsibilities ever since 2005 up to now, because of alcoholism which had created a lot of violence at home. Therefore, it was our mother toiling and moiling to put food on the table. It was not easy but she always did her best. When I finished primary school in 2012, it seemed impossible to join high school and I was left in front of the face of uncertainty. During that moment of uncertainty about my future, God surprises me with a gift of Aunt Rose who offered to take me to school and I was taken to a very beautiful school, Luigi Giussani high school, in 2013. Here I experienced a lot of beauty and a different kind of education that embraced the whole of me. It was not only an education to get a good job in the future but one that introduced me to the totality of life. I spent 6 years in high school and finished in 2018. In this new family, I always feel loved, important and hopeful. The way she gazed at me at first sight was different yet very attractive, she embraced me as her own like she had known me for years! There is a kind of freedom I have attained in being a son to this family. I am now pursuing a degree in dental surgery at Makerere University. Ever since 2013, it has been a continual journey of discovering myself and the truth about reality. This is helping me to live life responsibly. I now have many mothers, that is, the women of meeting point international, who are embracing me always as their biological son and are educating me a lot through their simplicity and openness in their hearts.
let me share with you one of the things that struck me and educated me at the same time during the period of COVID-19 total lockdown of the country. In that period, almost everyone was hit down financially and it was only survival for the fittest especially for the low-income earners. Everyone was struggling to get something to provide for their families, and whatever little thing they managed to get, it was theirs and could not share with anyone because it was little. This seemed cogent to me, but here comes a very different experience that reawakened me and proposed an attractive way of living, a different mentality and a new knowledge.
At a certain point during the lockdown, the government decided to distribute some food to sustain people in different areas. However, it was a struggle to get this offer due to a lot of corruption among the trusted food distributors, this also affected us and we did not receive the offer despite the fact that we had been registered for it. A few days after that event, about four women of MPI came on different days to visit us and shared with us the little food they had received from the government. They did not know that we had missed but they still thought about us! This was a great provocation to me and left me naïve because, in the first place, I knew that it is by having much that we can give. Instead, for the mothers, it is very clear that no man has nothing to offer. It is not about being rich or poor, having much or little, but it is about the heart and a relationship with another (you are our children) and living and offering yourself for the one you love. This experience educated me a lot and arose in me an urgent admiration for their eye in front of reality because this kind of eye saves every moment and everything. I am thankful to God who embraces me every instant through this family of Meeting Point International, I do not take for granted this gift of belonging. Indeed, we are one heart and we are international. I know there are a thousand “thank you’s” from the so many lives you have touched in many ways. Thank you Aunt Rose for embracing me always as a son.
( In the photo is Jimmy to the left, Francis in the middle and Vicent to the right)
“I thank God that He gave me you” – Aron
Ciao Aunt Rose,
Hope you are well, I write this to tell you that I am very happy and thankful for everything that is now happening in my life, first of all for my new contract 2020, secondly for the love and care that you have shown me, thirdly for loving my family and lastly for not being only a Director but friend. Every day I ask myself where I would be if I didn’t meet Meeting point international, where would I be if I didn’t meet Aunt Rose <maybe I would even have become nobody, maybe drunkard, maybe a thief or even a drug user but Meeting Point international gave me a new life, a starting point for me and my family and a new chance to live again with a reason and a meaning. A lot of challenges and bad things has been happening in my life and in the life of my siblings in the past years, for example, the loss of both my parents that broke us down completely to zero, we became hustlers that we could do any job just to survive and to pay for home bills which weren’t the case before. I was lost, broken and hopeless. All my relatives run away from us thinking that we are just a burden. But now see, we are still here pushing on with life and we can still afford to live tomorrow, I thank God the He gave me you and you gave me life and were to start from and you introduced me to a group of people who even don’t know who I am but love more and more. For sure working with Meeting Point International has made me somebody today, the education that I have received and still receiving from you, Alberto and the movement is very beautiful. The new friends that I have met in the movement and in the office have changed my life and have given me joy. Now my family has met a new family that loves them. Finally, we have found a place to belong.
Thank you, Aunt Rose.
ANYWAR RICHARD’S STORY
It was on 22/01/2020 when Anywar Richard one of the children once under the DSP support came with his mother Angwech Mary to MPI main office in Kitintale. His mother told Aunt Rose the director of MPI that her son takes too much alcohol that has made him fall sick. He was really badly off with his hands wounded and he was so weak. Angwech had no money to treat him but when she approached Aunt Rose she was advised to take Richard to Butabika hospital.
Therefore, Aunt Rose requested me to accompany Richard to the hospital. When we reached Butabika, we managed to see the doctor who asked him questions. She asked him how much quantity of waragi (alcohol) he took per day, the good thing he was open and told her everything. He said he could not count how much since he begins drinking very early in the morning until midnight and begins every day. The doctor asked him whether he smokes and he said he smokes mjanji a Tobacco for Indians. The doctor also asked him where he gets money for buying it because it’s expensive, but he didn’t give an answer. Then the doctor decided to admit him in the Alcohol and Drug unit and he accepted. When I went back to check on him after five days, there was a big change. The wounds had dried up, he was very happy and he promised me that he will never drink alcohol or smoke again. He told me that doctors counseled him well. I also got a chance to talk to the doctor and he told me that they gave him good counseling and they were very happy about his response. He was on medication and he looked very okay. The doctors were also very happy because he was helping them to carry patients who disturbed them. I Left the hospital and promised to pick him on 3/02/2020 the day the doctor suggested that he would be discharged.
On 3rd 02, 2020 I went back to pick Richard from the hospital. I went with some clothes and shoes that Aunt Rose gave me to take to him. In fact, they were of great help because the clothes and shoes that he went with had been torn by the other patients (the mad people). He was dressed in the uniform of patients. When I reached there they had changed him to another ward of the patients who be waiting to be discharged. One patient took me there and when Richard saw me from a distance, he came out with a big smile and welcomed me well and showed me his hands that had completely healed. The wounds had dried completely and his body was ok. He told me he wants to go out of the hospital and appreciate Aunt Rose for what she has done for him and promise her that he will never take alcohol again. Then on that very day, he was discharged from the hospital and went to his home in Kireka, Banda B1. Therefore on the next day 4/02/2020 on a Tuesday, We had a women’s meeting in Kireka where he also joined us, knelt down before Aunt Rose and appreciated her and promised her that he will never drink alcohol or to smoke Mjanji anymore. He said he has been working in a club but he will never go back because he may be tempted to drink again. He is looking for a job in order to take care of his family. Richard has a wife and two children. He is not renting since he stays in the house of his father.
I would like to thank Aunt Rose for her efforts towards helping Richard though the rest of the society had abandoned him for his character. With Aunt Rose, he was not reduced to that and this helped him to at least understand value of his life as he even promised to stop drinking Alcohol. We hope that this awareness will stay with him forever in order for him to live a better life. However, for continued checkups, the doctors advised that I take back Richard on 3rd March so they can review him farther. I also appreciate the doctors of Butabika for the care they gave to Richard.
From Kabanyana Jackline, a social worker of MPI.
“There is nothing I can do to pay for this love”-Ocaka Goldie
I came to Kampala only to be safe from the rebels (LRA) who killed and abducted so many of my village mates in the early 2000s, I was living with my grandmother in the slums of Banda, life was really threatening because she didn’t have work yet we had to survive so I started stone quarrying and later attending a government school where we were asked for little money. But even this little money was a problem to find and I was always chased away from school for not being able to pay it. The problem worsened because that money kept on increasing termly and my grandmother couldn’t afford to pay it anymore so I eventually dropped out school when I was in Primary 5.
Left to Right: Rose Busingye, Ocaka Goldie, Bongomin Teddy and Akello Florence (Ocaka’s Mother) celebrate his graduation at Meeting Point International (MPI) Kireka.
That was the time my parents came to Kampala; this is the period when my mother heard of Meeting Point International (MPI) and started attending the weekly meetings. Later I was enrolled in a project that supported us for three years and that meant I was going to complete primary school; I was very happy that at least I would complete primary though my desire to study didn’t stop. During my vacation after primary school, I crushed stones with the hope of joining secondary level and I even gathered enough money to join one of the affordable secondary schools around (Mbuya college). I started the first term well but in the second term things weren’t easy because I didn’t have the money anymore. My family spoke to the school so that I paid the fees in installments and this happened until I completed senior one. I was the first in my class and the school didn’t want me to leave but it was during this time (2010) that Luigi Giussani High School began.
Acro-yoga: Ocaka (second from the right) during acro-yoga sessions every Saturday at MPI Kireka
So I was again enrolled by MPI and this time I got a sponsor called Anna Targa Mietta, she supported me till I completed high school and I joined the Institute of Certified Public Accountant of Uganda where I did ATD (Accountant Technician Diploma), I still didn’t believe I was going to receive a certificate of education until I received an email from my school saying I was among those who were going to graduate in March 2019. Without MPI and Anna this wouldn’t be possible, forever I will live to remember MPI and Anna because they did for me something beyond my imagination, I feel am preferred and loved by MPI (Aunt Rose) more than even my own people. I didn’t pay a coin for all these achievements, this is not common in most of the Non-Government Organizations in Uganda, MPI is very special.
Tina is lifted up by Ocaka during the Acro-yoga sessions.
They treated me as a value and loved me as Ocaka and I feel there is nothing I can do to pay for this love because I feel nothing is enough. Just feel so unworthy, But I will only try to my capacity to be myself. I thank God and Aunt Rose so much for preferring me and pray that He blesses her in her life. She has also given me work in her office and still this lives me with silence in my heart because who am I to now work in an office God. I thank God that made me meet MPI and Rose because they changed the story of life.
FROM DREAMING TO BEING A DOCTOR TO AGRI-BUSINESS
In Uganda generally, the youth prefer to study the advanced level in secondary and then head to the university compared to studying in a vocational institute. Okeny Christopher, after completing senior 4 started doing Agri-business, which is not usual. Christopher tells us his story of this new path he is making;
By Okello Marvin, 1.4.2019
I am Okeny Christopher and I finished my senior 4 in 2017. From when I was a child, I wanted to become a doctor. My sister was working with Dettol (Soap making company), she was supplying different government hospitals. I used to go with her and I could see patients, so I got an interest in becoming a health worker.
Initially you were not doing agribusiness, what were you doing before, how did you end up doing agribusiness?
After senior 4, I decided to branch to a nursing school in Jinja and at first my parents didn’t agree because my grades were good, so they expected me to continue to the advanced level in Ugandan secondary schools. To reduce the burden of expenses on my father, I did an interview in order to get a government scholarship, prior to that I was sponsored by Reach Out Uganda but the program had ended. After that, since I was a good football player, I had a full bursary under football.
After that, I had succeeded in getting the government scholarship and they had requested for 1 million Ugandan Shillings for requirements. I got this money with the help of two of my uncles and my father. But then my sister was to sit for her final paper before she could graduate, she hadn’t yet paid her tuition then my mother and young sister were sick, so my father had to use that money collected for my requirements. This culminated into me going to school 2 weeks late. I discovered that the school administration had given my place to someone else. One of the instructors who saw me during the Interview told me that I could go and study at Mbale, the newly opened branch but no longer on government scholarship and that was going to cost more than two million shillings so I couldn’t make it. That’s when I started losing hope on that dream to become a doctor.
I began doing small works as I waited for my father to return the money. During the time of election, I met Madam Teddy who was campaigning to become the LC1 in our area. She didn’t win. After the elections, she called us and invited us to go to Rwanda. I could not miss the chance! It was organized by Madam Rose and Teddy, we went to Kibeho were the Virgin Mary appeared to some students in a school. When we came back, I had no plans and hope, the money needed to study was about 3 million. So, I began to do work where I was paid in a range of 10-15 thousand Ugandan shillings. I always sent the money I got to the village to do some farming.
I was doing agriculture in a minor way. In the village we have fertile land so my mother always planted cassava and sweet potatoes, generally food crops and she sold to harvest in Kampala to earn besides making beads and crushing stones. So, I also acquired that skill from her and I also started planting crops in the village through the villagers. I did it for some good time and I was making some money.
Was it hard for you to switch to Agri-business since you had other dreams?
It was not hard for me to switch from my dreams of becoming a doctor to Agri-business. I had already started doing agriculture by sending money for farming to the village. If I fail to become a doctor to treat human beings, through agriculture I can still become a veterinary doctor for animals so I’ve never lost hope. I still have hope even if I had started losing it. So, switching to agribusiness has never been difficult for me.
At Agromax, what was your typical day and week?
From Monday to Friday, we followed the programs of Agromax. And in the weekend, we did our own activities. On Monday we had leadership sessions. I was a leader in the field of entertainment. So, I used to give reports of previous weeks on how my department was doing, we had 45 minutes for all the departments to give out the reports. Then we would go to the field, either in the green house or we could harvest. We used to harvest on Mondays and Fridays. Personally, I was given seven green houses to manage including one of; tomatoes, cucumber, sweet paper. Among the workers, I had friends who could help me. Among the students assigned to Agromax, I was the one with the greatest number of green houses to manage, so I had to befriend the workers so that they could help me. We could also spray and give fertilizers to the plants. On Tuesday we could do field work and on Wednesday and Thursday, we would have classes.
What did you enjoy most during your field attachment at Agromax?
I enjoyed the hands-on practice. Before I used to practice agriculture unknowingly, I could send money to the village for planting crops, during harvesting I could head to the village and then come back and sell the harvests. I used to hate handling a hoe. Now I can do all that, I work in different fields like greenhouses, now I can manage a greenhouse very well. We never only studied about being a good farmer, we also had life skills training as a person in the community. I have met friends, I met senior agronomists, business partners, I’ve met different people who sometimes call me to do for them certain tasks and my network is growing. My life has never remained the same.
How did you end up studying Agri-business?
After the trip to Rwanda, when we came back, we had a call from Aunt Rose and Madam Teddy. They wanted to meet all the youth who had traveled with them to Rwanda, so I took that chance to attend. So, I wanted to go and appreciate what they had done, I hadn’t asked to be taken to Rwanda but they still took us there. Rose had no information about our lives but she loved and cared for us. She wanted to hear from us the changes in our lives after the journey to Rwanda. They were asking us about our plans and goals. When I heard that, in my heart, I was saying, “Thank you God for what you are doing in my life!” Since I failed to get a scholarship from the government for the nursing course, I felt that I needed to do something better outside the bracket of football. I was waiting for her to tell me, “What do you want to be?” I wanted to do catering!
But instead, Teddy recommended us to a special course, Agri-business. She explained more about the course. I looked at my life. I was sending money to the village to plant crops and this was a kind of Agri-business as well. So, this would help me adjust to what I was already doing. I used to read about it, for example having a small garden in the compound and earning from it, so I picked interest. We were many youths and people selected different courses but my friend Agit and I chose the Agri-business course. So, after that I went to Madam Teddy she explained more about the course. We joined COWA vocational institute and thereafter we were sent to Agromax. From then my life has never been the same.
I appreciate my parents, Madam Chrispine of COWA, Mr. Alberto of MPI, my mothers and mentors Rose and Teddy. At the level where I have reached, I can do something of my own even if I am at the initial stages. I would like to thank Meeting Point International!
I wished it could rain so heavily so that we all die at night because I felt worthless in this world - (Akumu Olga)
The story of how Akumu Olga built a house by borrowing money from her VSLA group.
Before Olga joined Meeting Point international, she was working at the stone quarry with all her children. The kids were not going to school because their mother Olga didn’t have enough money to pay for their school fees. But when she encountered Rose, all her children were enrolled in schools. Olga herself became a member of Meeting Point International (MPI) where she was able to attend meetings on the various activities carried out like community dialogues, psychosocial activities, sensitizations on food and nutrition, health and hygiene which helped Olga to discover the meaning of life and her value. Olga’s main economic activity still remained stone quarrying but she was not earning enough. She could not afford to pay for her children’s school fees and pay for their scholastic requirements as well, MPI was doing this for her. To make it worse, her house collapsed at one point due to heavy rains and she lost hope in life. Faced with such a reality, she reflected what she had learnt during the different activities that she was engaged in and she realized that she too could be able to help herself but rather not being helped all the time by someone. She was able to pick up herself by carrying out different activities to earn some money. She worked so hard and constructed a two-roomed house. She occupies one room with her children and rents the other which helps her to pay scholastic materials. She heads the family and her husband doesn’t live with her or provide any support. He went back to the village. Below, she narrates her story;
One day it rained a lot and my house collapsed but I had nowhere to go, so I just stayed in that house though it was in a very poor condition. My neighbours told me to move out of that house but I could not because I had nowhere to go. They even called the police, so that I could leave but I still couldn’t leave. I wished it could rain so heavily so that we all die at night because I felt worthless in this world, If God really cared about us then my house would not have collapsed. I could not sleep at night because I had to check on my children. This was because it was a dangerous period whereby they were kidnapping and killing people. The police again came and warned me, I had to move out this time. I decided to go and stay at my sisters’ place and she gave us a single room to stay in for a month. When the month elapsed, she told us to move out of her house because she wanted to rent it out and get some money. I then had no option but to go back to my old house that had collapsed, I used to cry a lot due to the tough situations. We would cook from outside and when it rains, we would sit on a neighbour’s veranda. I had thought of going back to the village because the situation had worsened but my children persuaded me that we should stay because they wanted to study. It was easy for me to get food because I would go to different markets like Nakawa and Banda market and people would have pity on me and give me food, I would also try and collect the leftovers that the market vendors had thrown.
The main problem now was that of money, I had to go to different markets and collect tiny pieces of cassava and maize that were not needed and grind them to make flour and the remaining would be used to make alcohol (marua). It was from this point that I started getting some money because people would come and purchase alcohol. That is the money that I would use to buy food and also save to pay the school requirements of the children. But the money I got from brewing alcohol was not enough so I would go to look for vegetables in different areas like Ntinda, Naalya, Kisasi and many other places, I would save this money in the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) group of Meeting Point International. I could then borrow money and pay school requirements. As I kept on getting money from the activities like selling vegetables and alcohol, I would return the money that I had borrowed. I again borrowed money and started another activity of selling cow heads and the hooves, I would roast it and sell it to the people in Kitgum, I would deliver it through the bus and a relative in Kitgum would sell it for me and send back the money. This house that I constructed I consider it a gift from God. When they demolished houses from Naguru Barracks, a friend of mine informed me about it and she told me that people were collecting the bricks from there and selling them because they were good, they were used by the British back then in the colonial era. Many women were collecting them and selling them to the wealthy men who came with trucks to buy them but me I knew God had answered my prayers, so I instead collected them to construct a new house. When I had collected many of them, I ran to my VSLA group of Meeting Point International and they lent me 200,000ugshs, I also went to my sister who lent me 300,00ugshs which I used for transporting the bricks at home.
I brewed more alcohol and paid back the loan I got from my VSLA group. I then borrowed more 500,000ugshs from them (VSLA group) I used part of it to collect more bricks and part of it for buying sand. I have a gentleman who is my neighbour, some years back he had requested me for a small piece of land to construct his toilet and I gave it to him without any pay, he again requested for more land to build another toilet, but this time around, he decided to give me 1,000,000ugsh as an appreciation for being kind to him. With that money, I was able to buy two trucks of sand and 13 bags of cement, then I got some boys who were builders to construct the house, I paid them 400,000ugshs. I did not have iron sheets to use, I decided to use the old ones. As the construction was going on, we ran short of building materials, I again had to go back to Naguru to extract more bricks so that I could sell them. I managed to get 600,000ugshs to buy the remaining materials. The iron sheets leak at times but my elder son tried to glue it, it has not helped much but I know that in the future again, I will be able to buy new iron sheets. So that’s how I was able to construct my house, I put in my all and I was disciplined with the money because I had learnt the value of money.
Before my children were being paid for by Meeting Point International, we all used to go with them for stone quarrying, no one was going to school until one day my elder son Robert went to play football and he met Rose, who asked him why he was not at school, he told her that “my mother doesn’t have money to take us to school”, she asked for my name and after Rose took his photo. After a while Rose came to the place where we were doing stone quarrying from and she came with the photo of Robert asking for the mother, I was not around but my friends later informed me that the director of Meeting Point International was looking for me, I had to go and meet her and she told me that Robert would begin school, she also asked for my other children that were not going to school and she enrolled them too. After a while, all my children were going to school. Besides all this, am so happy that because of Meeting Point International, my children are studying, if Rose had not supported them I would count myself useless because I would not have been able to educate them at school. Am confident that my children are having a good foundation because they are studying from Luigi Giussani schools, although in the future they go to study somewhere else, their foundation has been laid firm. Am also happy that through the VSLA initiative at Meeting Point International, It helped me to construct my own house when all hope was lost. It’s a two roomed house, I rent out one room and the other I live in it with my children. I put in my all and I was disciplined with the money because I had learnt the value of money.
I FELT LIKE A BOSS EVEN WHEN I DIDN’T HAVE MONEY-(Namwesezi Hanifa)
I met with Hanifa at Meeting Point International (MPI) offices in Kitintale to get to know her experience of working at MPI, gratuitousness was written all over her face as she time and again thanked Aunt Rose (Rose Busingye) and MPI for all the help she received. Like the other women, she is a member of MPI too. She is a mother of 2 children and a guardian of other 2 one, all of whom MPI supports. She lives in Acholi Quarter (Kireka) with her husband who is a sheik in the mosque in their locality. Last year, Hanifa got a job as a Cleaner at MPI. She describes her experience and of how she got the job and how it has been helpful for her;
Hanifa with one of her daughters.
(The Interview was made in Luganda and has been translated to English)
I began working here at Meeting Point International when I didn’t expect it because I did not go to school. There was a day when I went to see Aunt Rose to check on her, then she told me that there was a job. I thought that only people who knew how to speak English could have gotten it. I needed it but I didn’t expect it, but Aunt Rose told me that I was going to have it (Cleaning at the MPI office and supporting the staff). I couldn’t believe it, but she was serious about it. And she took me to Alberto (Technical Advisor at MPI) and I was imagining how I was going to speak to him because I couldn’t speak English, but he didn’t have problems and I was cleared to work. I had to set up the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) account and the bank account. I started to work and I even saw my name on the list of employees at the office, it was like a dream for that whole week, I couldn’t believe all this was happening to me.
I started working on 15th May 2018. When the month ended, I was paid for the days I had worked!!!! I went home very happy, my children were very happy and we bought food, we bought things that were needed at home. I continued working and another month elapsed, my payment was made in my bank account. I even saw the notification of the payment to my account on my phone, I was so overjoyed. I even saw the message from NSSF, these were things I only saw on television and I knew that it was for people who went to school. Now me too I could be paid on an account, am also on NSSF.
I don’t know what to do to show my gratitude to Aunt Rose for what she has done for me. I don’t even have what to give her to show my gratitude. I also thank Alberto for being patient with me, since I didn’t study, I don’t understand everything he tells me. He is patient that even if we don’t understand each other I am still working with him. I even ask myself, “Whom am I, that I work with a white man yet I don’t speak English?”
Aunt Rose gives me salary for my work, but even if I fall sick, she doesn’t think of the salary that I got, but she still takes me to the hospital and pays for my medical expenses. This surprises me so much. Even when am sick and the treatment costs Ugandan Shilling 20,000/=, she still pays for it, without deducting it from my salary. She is very different. When I think of what she has done to me, I start to tear, because she really changed my life.
My children now study, I can pay for their scholastic requirements, and I can buy for them books. My child used to stay home for up to two weeks without studying because she was sent away for not having an exercise book that costs 3,000 shillings. But now I can buy the books, I can give her the school requirements. When I get home I can buy food, soap, sugar. By the time I was joining MPI, I couldn’t even remember the price of a kilogram of sugar, I used to take tea without sugar.
In my whole life on this earth, no one has loved me to this extent that Aunt Rose has. My children are happy, they don’t go to bed without eating. They can wash their clothes, those days we used not to have soap, we couldn’t afford it. The children could only wash their uniforms on Saturday. My child wanted to commit suicide, she hated herself and was fed up of her condition. She wanted to study but couldn’t. She even asked me what her future was. She was going to Kololo (a government school) and she was always chased. Whenever they chased her from school she would hide in the toilets and then return to class when they had stopped chasing children. She never got her report cards whenever the terms got done because she hadn’t paid school fees, she was living in that kind of situation. Now all of that changed with the help of MPI. My child is at school studying and I can now pay for her scholastic materials. This is the first thing I did when I get my salary so that my child could study. I now feel that I have also a pillar that I can lean on. When I fall sick I am not worried. When I fell sick, I felt that I was only left with dying. But when I joined MPI, I got hope, I felt like I am a person, alive. I don’t need to be reminded to take medicine, it just comes to mind that I need to take drugs.
I live near a trench, the muddy water is always flowing. But Aunt Rose stills comes and sits in my home in spite of that mud that flows near my house. This makes me wonder so much! I am a Muslim but she treats me like the other workers. My hope and that of my children has been returned.
I went to Nsambya Hospital in Kampala, I had never gone there. When I arrived, I handed in my documents of referral, the doctors treated me and they gave me receipts. I felt like a boss even when I didn’t have money. I was cared for in the hospital, the doctors checked me thoroughly and all of this was possible with the help of MPI. Those days, no one wanted to treat me because I didn’t have money, I couldn’t have reached that hospital if it wasn’t for MPI. The only thing I can do to thank MPI and Rose is to pray for them so that God may continue giving them life.
My husband used to give me Ugx 5000/= shilling (approximately €1.5) daily to buy food, charcoal, sugar, to buy soap and this wasn’t enough. These days even if he leaves home that amount of money, I don’t care because I am now earning and I can buy necessary needs for our home. I am so happy for all the help that I’ve received.
By Okello Marvin
Agri-business – (Okeny Christopher and Agit Simon)
Gratitude from the Agri-business boys (Okeny Christopher and Agit Simon)
As Meeting Point International, we are very happy when we see our children happy for what they are receiving. Two of our boys whom we sent for an Agri-business course at COWA vocational Institute come to us and they had written a letter to Rose Busingye appreciating what they had been given;
“Appreciation for Opening Our Eyes towards a Bright Future through Giving Us a Chance of Going Back to School and Study (Agribusiness at COWA)
Happy New Year mom, we are very pleased and grateful to God to have someone special like you. The main reason for writing this letter is to say “Thank you, mom.” As a lovely mother, you have given us the best gift a parent should give to her child. That is education because nowadays academic qualifications are really considered for one to get a good paying good and you have given us a go ahead.
We really appreciate you and Madam Teddy for this gift because personally, I had lost hope but now at least I feel and see myself as someone of great honor. In seven years to come through Agri-business.
You have shown as the way and we promise not to disappoint you or ourselves or even forsake the course because with the 3 months training, we have seen the greatness in it and we are ready to continue with it if the chance is still there. We have tested and seen the good part of it and the bright future it can impact our lives. And we believe to be good examples to other fellow youth who undermine the courses (such as agri-business).
We are very glad for this opportunity. Through your actions, we have also picked out something and that is sharing. We can’t do it perfectly as you but we shall try our best. May the Lord richly bless you together with Madam Teddy for the great work with peaceful hearts full of love that you are sharing with the youths, elders and many others. Now we don’t have anything worthy that we can thank you with but we believe our prayers with a faithful heart through the Virgin Mary will do more than any other thing.
May God bless the works of your hands, families, friends with healthy life and minds full of peace, joy and happiness.
Okeny Christopher and Agit Simon”
Welcoming House Rehabilitation
Meeting point international always ensures that the children of the welcoming house live in a beautiful and conducive environment where they can grow up happy and healthy.
Meeting Point International renovated Welcoming House thanks to the help received from AVSI – Assiteca and Support International. Renovation works of bed, chairs, tables, windows, kitchen, stairs, etc. has been ongoing throughout the year and the house structure has been repaired and improved both internally and externally. New structures have been set up, for example, the shed where children can now play and study.
We share some images from the welcoming house showing the renovations;
At the Origin of Gratuity
Odong Arnold Kato is a student of Makerere University Business School, studying Business Administration, he was with Rose Busingye (Director of Meeting Point International) for the event ”At the origin of Gratuitousness.” He shared his experience on charity and gratuitousness. We shared with you his story;
-Okello Marvin 13.12.18
Good morning, am very happy to be here to talk about gratuitousness, because in Uganda where I come from, there are a lot of people who need help and every time am moving on the streets I hand over a coin to the beggars, so giving is a challenge that I have to face every day and I have to give every day even when I don’t have. One time a friend of mine from a catholic church invited me for a charity, I was very excited about it. I collected some little money, some old clothes, so we set off to go and visit the orphanage.
When we arrived, I jumped out of the car very fast, I had a lot of sweets in my hands that I wanted to share with the children. When I reached my hand out to give the children, I discovered that they had no hands to pick the sweets. The children where crippled and my friend who had invited me had not told me this. In this moment, I felt very sad and very weak, I was giving and the child was trying to reach out for what I was giving but they could not hold it. This is the moment that I realized that it is not I who gives. At some point I began to wish that I could give these children hands so that they could pick what I was giving but I couldn’t. After that we sang a song, and they were singing “Jesus loves me”, most of them had Down’s syndrome, they were very crippled and they were singing that Jesus loves me, this was the changing moment of my life.
In that moment I realized that the same sympathy that I was having for these kids, is the same sympathy and pity that Christ has for me every moment. And I came to realize that charity is not giving, because I have nothing to give, but charity is a contribution to the work of God, it is God who gives. In this moment when I was giving the sweets, it felt useless because many times when you give, you expect a response but when I was giving over the gifts, they could not talk, could not smile, most of them had down’s syndrome, so for me gratuitousness is way of serving God, is a way of helping others discover that they are preferred by God.
Another experience I encountered when I was walking back from school going home and I find a very old woman, she came to me and asked me for some money, at that moment, I had a few coins and I gave her. I was very happy, I went back home happy that I had responded to this woman’s needs. However, they next day when I was from school, I found her waiting for me again and she was still asking for more and the following days the same thing kept on happening, the whole week, I was seeing her. In the moment I was saying, “Why can’t his woman get satisfied with what I give her?” So for me I realize that through gratuitousness, Christ is always provoking me that it is not you who gives, that I am just a tool, that I am choosing you to do my work. So that’s all that I wanted to share with you. That it’s not all about giving but it’s all about contributing, because it is God who gives. Even what we think we are giving, we are also given. Thank you very much.
Odong Arnold Kato
I thought that without my parents, I had no value
We received a letter from our child Nyeko Rogers addressed to Rose Busingye. This is also addressed to you who support us such that we accomplish our activities. We thought we’d share with you his beautiful experience;
Hello Aunt Rose,
I hope you are fine, back to me am very fine and happy because of what you have done for me. Yesterday, I did not get the time to say anything when we had a meeting with you. But am very happy that you came for us and yesterday was a really special day for all of us.
I wrote this letter because I wanted to thank you for paying for my school fees since senior one up to this level. I studied primary in a school called Gulu Public Primary School and my primary seven in Kasubi Army primary school just near your former school Secret Heart. After primary seven, my life was so complicated because I had no one to help me continue in secondary. I thought that that was the end of my education but you discovered me from where I was lost and confused and you took me to school, I thank you for that.
Joining Luigi Giussani High School was like starting another life because many things changed. At first I was very scared of what my friends said about me back in primary. But I came to know that everyone in Luigi Giussani High School especially the teachers and friends were very happy to see me. This wasn’t in my primary school where my friends used to abuse me that I was alien because I had no parents. I lost my parents when I was 8 months, so I don’t know the way they look like but I know that they are happy where they are because you are now here for me. I joined the community school in 2015 and from there you taught me what it means to have a value. I thought that without my parents, I had no value. But from the community school, I discovered that I have a value because there is someone who loves and cares for me.
I will also take this opportunity to thank you for placing me in a good school because Luigi Giussani High School is the best school I have ever seen in my life. I also thank you for making sure that I am at school because there are many people out there who want to go to school but they don’t have the opportunity.
I would like to end here and once again thank you very much and May God bless and protect you.
THIS FRIENDSHIP HELPS ME TO BE MYSELF
Kissa Joel and Lugamba Vincent are students of Luigi Giussani High School. Both of them have already sat their final examinations for High school and will start the University next year. In September 2018, they along with some university students and others from Luigi Giussani High School had a holiday titled “By these facts you will know that I am the Lord” with Rose Busingye, a Spanish priest (Fr. Ignacio Carbajosa) and five students from Universities in Madrid, Spain. I meet with them to listen to what they had to share after this encounter- by Okello Marvin 11.12.18
The holiday was 3 days, situated in a town called Hoima which is next to Uganda’s second largest lake, Lake Albert, the place has steep hills and a beautiful shore. During the holiday, the group went for a hike on the hills besides the Lake, sang songs together by the lake shore, played games together, shared experiences and watched a movie titled “Les Miserables”.
Can you describe what struck you most about this holiday?
Joel in red and Vincent in white
Joel: For me, starting from the theme of the holiday, “By these facts you will know that I am the Lord” was enough to show me that I was going for something good for my life. I feel happy that I am going to complete the high school, but I was feeling sad and my heart was unsettled. I don’t want to leave high school, this is the place where everything is given and this is the sign that I am not alone. Going for the holiday, I was looking for an event that could help me face this restlessness.
Did any special thing happen?
I cannot say any special thing that happened because the whole holiday was special, in the bus we were in two teams and my team was beaten while I was sleeping. It didn’t matter much that we lost because it was overcome by the way we way staying together and this was very beautiful. Everything was just simple in spite of the fact that some people were older than me and others younger, everyone was living with the simplicity of the heart. You don’t have to hide in front of them because you know that these are people who love you and who are on the same journey with you of self-discovery. That alone for me was very beautiful. I was interacting with everyone with a different gaze and full of the newness because of the way I’ve been looked at.
Vincent: Looking at the experiences of Hoima. Fr. Nacho said that the hypothesis of life is to always face life with curiosity. And I began to ask myself where the facts where, where Christ was showing that He is the Lord. The most concrete fact that I had in front of this was this Presence. Was what was happening before me, were my friends. For me I thought that it was awkward to say that I can meet Christ through a face of someone. But then it became more concrete because I was becoming more aware of myself the more I lived with these people. Some people where describing their experiences and they were the same as mine, so this kind of similarity helped me to discover about myself more and more.
There’s a time when I said that I wanted to meet Christ face to face to ask Him some questions, but I met him in a different way through this companionship, in staying together, the way we played, when we went to the shore of the lake, the way we were holding each other’s hands while climbing the steep hill, all of that was so beautiful for me and I found that, this was my appointment with Christ. To meet Him in a different way.
I don’t normally talk about my dad. When I compare Gladys’ experience with her dad and mine it’s almost the same, the same thing happened. I was living without caring about him but then one evening when we watched the movie “Les Miserables”, I went to sleep at night, thinking about Jean Jaljean and the Bishop, made me realize that the same way Christ is looking at me is the same way He is looking at my dad. If Christ loves me, it means that he also loves my Dad no matter what he is doing. I don’t live with my dad. I realize that even my dad is Important and he is there for a reason. I also relate this to what Fr. Carron said when he spoke of the preference for me. Right now my perception of my dad has changed. Whenever I think of him, I don’t define him by what he has done or by his mistakes. I look at him as a sign of Christ’s preference for me. Because for me to be here was through my dad, so for me it is a concrete sign, so I am looking at him with what Fr. Giussani calls “an irreducible newness.”
So after watching “Les Miserables”, I was ashamed of myself. How can I live this kind of beauty and then hate my dad? So what struck me most was that I began to miss my dad as well. So for me this was a very beautiful experience that I will never forget.
So after this holiday, what do you guys desire for? What remains in your hearts after this encounter you had in Hoima?
Joel: When I went back to my room after watching “Les Miserables”, I began to wish that life would always be like this. This is the same thing I am trying to live after the holiday. I am trying to relive the events and live in that beautiful way. I might not be able to always see these faces every morning when I wake up. What always helps me is that I am loved. In this holiday, someone showed me love that Christ is thinking of me. This is something very beautiful that I wish to live every day. Aunt Rose always says that in following you never make mistakes, and in the holiday, I followed someone, I followed Aunt Rose and Fr. Nacho and I was able to discover myself more. So this is something that I desire for every day.
Vincent: I have never felt this anywhere in my life, I am realizing my purpose and my value through this companionship so for me what I desire is to stay with this friendship because it is what helps me to be myself always.
Pay Attention to the Instant, To the Now-Aloyo Gladys
When Gladys came back to Uganda, I caught up with her and she told me her experience being in Rimini, Italy for the first time, for the event “The forces that move history are the same that make man happy” by Okello Marvin
From the time that I got to understand the movement and the charism of Fr. Giussani through the friends that had encountered him, the one and undying desire of my heart was to reach his grave. I didn’t know when, but certainly I knew I would reach him one day and pour out my heart to him at the foot of his grave.
Hardly had I known that Christ had already prepared everything for me. He looked at my heart and was granting me my desire. Hardly had I known that I was going to go to Italy this year in August. Everything happened when I least expected. Being invited to Rimini Fiera was a sign to me that despite my nothingness. Christ is always choosing and preferring me. Even though I am not worthy of anything as big as this, he has, He has made me worthy by making me now and loving me the way I am. It is something that makes me marvel up to now, at the mysteriousness of God.
Before going to Rimini (Italy), my prayer was that Christ helps me to understand why he has chosen me for the days ahead, and also help me not to lose myself in fear or uncertainty (since I was going completely to a new environment and for the first time) and that he stays with me. Things were a bit difficult at the airports and at certain moments I was so scared. In those moments of getting scared, I could hear the voice of Aunt Rose (Rose Busingye), she had told me once, that I should always pay attention to what is happening at the instant, because the instant you miss everything.
For me this voice was like a waking call to me. And immediately I remembered this I could wake up and look at things around me. And all the things before me communicated one thing to me, “I am with you” Everything that was happening to me was because somebody was making me them and making them for me. So everything I looked at gave me Christ back and this was my certainty because I know that Christ is with me, he is communicating himself to me, He wants me to understand him more.
On arrival to Italy, Teddy and I were taken to the grave of Fr. Giussani. We spent close to 15 minutes and I knelt before Fr. Giussani, I was very emotional that I even failed to say a word. I looked deep into the eyes his eyes, in his portrait. He was looking at me. To me, it seemed as if he was calling me to follow him. I could see and understand whom I am. Because his face looked like that of a beggar, one in need of something. This is what I am, a beggar, who without an “Other” cannot live. I need a “You” in order to live every instant of my life. Fr. Giussani wrote that the real protagonist of history is the beggar, man’s heart that begs for Christ and Christ’s heart that begs for man.
And Fr. Giussani, in his eyes was telling me that I need to be a beggar in order to understand the days that I was to spend at Rimini and thereafter. So I started the days of Rimini with Fr. Giussani’s face in my eyes and heart and Christ with me, so I managed to live those days with a begging and curiosity. How I wish I had the words to describe every moment I was there. It was so beautiful. A beauty, that even now nothing can erase it away.
I met so many people at the tent of AVSI (where I was staying during the day). I met friends that I had been with in Uganda. I also made new friends. Their faces made me feel one with them and at home. They were so free to me and open with me. Through them I realized that I need this simplicity of a child in order to understand everything. Because a child has a simple heart, open, yet curious to know and understand. This is also what I need in order to face myself and everything.
For example, a certain lady came to the tent of AVSI and she had seen me in a video. She immediately began telling me about herself and how the movement helped her to be who she is now. This openness is only possible when one has the simplicity of a child.
I attended the encounter of Fr. Carron on Job. And from Professor Marro’s words and also from the experience of a sick doctor, I think I understand more about human suffering. Fr. Carron explained ways in which man suffers. He said that sometimes man suffers because of his freedom, and that he does something that hurts himself. Then he also said that sometimes man suffers because of things beyond his control, for example natural calamities or even Job who suffers innocently. Fr. Carron was asking, “But why does God keep quiet in front of human suffering? Why doesn’t he intervene?” He answered himself by saying that, if God intervenes, or takes away the suffering of man, He would have taken away the freedom of man. God wants man to face everything freely. Even so no answer is enough to take away human problem. “But does this mean that God has left us?” Says Fr. Carron, “in front of suffering, he offers to us his powerful presence. And this is only possible if we are in a relationship with Him.
Like the “why” of Job was because he was familiar with God. Fr. Carron also said that God didn’t answer the cries of Job (He instead asked Job questions) but he gave his son Jesus Christ as the best answer to the sufferings of man. Only the awareness of his presence enables man to face human problem differently. A poet said that (Imitating Job), “You have given me all possible reasons to leave You but I won’t, I am only asking why?”
All these words were for me. And even as am back to Uganda, I have everything I need to live those days even here. I don’t want to forget anything. Those days are helping me to live now even more certain and in a meaningful way.
I thank God for this friendship, this belonging that he has given me and He is using it to bring me closer to Him. It is here that I want to stay all the days of my life. I won’t let go because he doesn’t let go.
What Did Teddy Say?
EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT DAY IN BRUSSELS
What topics were you discussing about at the event? What was the event all about?
We attended the European Development Day (E.D.D) and we had a stand for AVSI foundation and Meeting Point International where we exhibited our products. This year’s theme was on how to include the vulnerable groups that is to say women and the girls. So generally, it was designed to help in finding a way on how women, girls, boys and men can be brought together. It was also about finding the vulnerable can enjoy and access public spaces economically, socially and recreational. So, it was all about inclusive city for all were every body of all walks of life would enjoy. There were different panels, many meetings at different panels and we were before some panelists, I also attended one session with Plan International were I told them my witness like a woman who grew up in the slum and as vulnerable woman who has worked so much to see that women are empowered through forming of groups and training them.
I posed a question before the panelist, “How were we supposed to fight poverty?” As much as they are fighting for women to enjoy the public spaces, in Kampala it is a bit tricky. You find that the women are the bread winners in the place where I come from in Kireka. The women are the protagonists and want to enjoy the public spaces by using it economically. Some of these women go to town to sell their mangoes, bananas, paper beads but the KCCA (Kampala City Council Authority) authorities do not allow them in the name of cleaning up the city.
But now for whom are they cleaning these cities if am to ask? Are they not cleaning the city for every body to enjoy? Is it only for the rich people to enjoy the good streets?
There is no security for these women, I witnessed it, I had to go to the police cell to see that some women come out of the prison because of their arrest in the name of cleaning up the city. They arrest these women and spend three days in a cell and imagine they are the bread winners at home. What do you think happens to their children at home yet their mothers have been detained for three days? It only means that the children have to go hungry. The children have to move around and even end up stealing to get something to eat. Child abuse comes into play in this situation, since they are not supporting the children because they are arrested. Back home the child is just moving a round which puts him or her at the risk of kidnappers, those who do rituals and child sacrifices for richness. The whole household is at a risk originating from cleanup of the city which in the end is just for the minority leaving out the majority of the people who are vulnerable in the city.
So, I wasn’t happy because of this. I had to present this before the panelist. How are they going to help us? How will they help the vulnerable women and girls to enjoy this pubic space yet it is being restricted from them? The women are also taken to the prison and coming out of the prison they have to spend a lot of money, come back and restart again at home. Children are left unattended to, they go hungry for days and end up stealing. In the process of stealing something to eat they are also caught, arrested and taken to cell. These children face the risk of kidnappers.
When you placed this issue in front of the panelist, what was their response? Did they respond in a way that they could solve this problem? Is there a response they gave that you think can help in this current situation?
The moderators gave me only two minutes which I had to use wisely. I was directed to a lady who was from Plan International, Uganda, I think she’s an American.
Basically, she was talking about the safety, security of girls in Kampala. She gave an example of girls who go to use toilets. She said girls no longer go on their own because they are afraid of being kidnapped. They are afraid of being raped. So, for her, she was only looking at the toilet issues. That these girls have to first gather themselves to go and use the toilet. She was only advocating for girls in Kampala about the security.
Here we are fighting poverty, we are not begging for money and we are not begging people but we feel that we can do it ourselves. Why don’t they support us like giving us the tools and we use the tool to protect ourselves including the life of the others, I would prefer it this way. I don’t know if the lady from Plan International had really to go down to the grass root. The people at the high level always get statistics. These statistics don’t reflect what is on ground most times. For me who is on the ground, I would still say they should go to the root causes of all these problems.
Girls should be sensitized not to fall prey due to poverty, they should seek on how to address these problems. Majority of the girls who have been kidnapped and killed are from the university. These girls should also be sensitized about love issues, here you find that they are tricked into love affairs just because they want gifts, money and many other needs. They should be taught, just like they say “give someone a hook to go and fish, teach someone how to catch fish and not to only eat fish or be given fish each time he/she is hungry.”. Or else it creates a dependence syndrome. This takes us back to the discovery of ones’ self. We should always educate the young ones who are falling prey of this situation.
This lady should let her organization and all her stake holders get down to the root causes and then sensitize the girl, educate them to become aware of themselves. Let them discover themselves and let them know who they are. The moment they discover themselves, they will avoid all these other problems like kidnapping. If you know that your life is precious then protect it. These organizations should go and collect data from the field and find out more challenges faced by the vulnerable.
How can someone archive this self-discovery? What does this self discovery mean for you?
First of all, you cannot discover yourself on your own, you need someone in your life you need someone to look at, someone needs to educate you. So, when I discovered myself, I became happy. I feel that as much as I have discovered myself, it’s not enough. I want to rediscover more and its really beautiful to live this way. It is not that when I discovered myself all the problems disappeared, my problems continue, I will continue having the problems that have been having before and these problems will not go away. For me reality has taught me to live my life in a more meaningful way and that is what am doing now. All our value is greater than even what we have that is to say my value is greater than the sickness, my value is greater than everything that am going through.
By Okello Marvin
OLA AMBROSE, the man behind the fitness sessions with our women
OLA AMBROSE, the man behind the fitness sessions with our women
Can you please tell me about yourself?
My names are Ola Ambrose, I reside in Acholi quarters Kampala but I was born in Pader district in northern Uganda way back in 1995 that is on 8th of June, I was born in a village called Lee Ogweyo that is in Pader. It’s been quite a lot have passed through to reach where I am right now. My father was shoot dead 6 month before I was born. I have lived with my mother since I was born till 2004 when she was killed by HIV/AIDs. We became orphans six in number born from the same mother. The first born was married in a village somewhere in northern Uganda.
What challenges have you faced?
It wasn’t easy, first of all my father died even before I could see him. I stayed with my mother for quite few years and then she died so we remained alone as total orphans. My mother died in 2004 and life wasn’t easy, with the help of God we managed to overcome some of these circumstances. Our elder sister who was the first born of the family was married somewhere but since we were young we didn’t know but as we grew we started realised that she was married. After the death of our mother, they told her (Oldest sister) to come from where she was so as to take care of us since we were suffering and all alone. She had to first agree with the family of her husband if she could leave and move with her husband to central Uganda, but the husband disagreed. So, she left her husband and came and started taking care of us but we were young and my sister was also very young. She helped us cope up with the challenges we were facing.
In which year did you come to Acholi quarters?
We came in 1996 when I was one year old and my mother came along with us because of the war that was taking place in northern Uganda. She brought us to Kampala and we resided in Acholi quarters beginning in 1996. We came as a family because it our mother who brought us we were very young children so she just carried us and brought us during the war.
What was her source of income for a living?
Our mother when she was still in northern Uganda, she used to have a restaurant. She used to cook but the challenges she used to face that time was, some of the food used to be eaten by the rebels. The rebels used to eat her food and some could not pay. So, the day she denied rebels food, they came and found that she had never prepared food, then they went away. My mother realised and told everyone from the village to depart, to run away because she sensed something, so that’s how she escaped and brought us to Kampala. So, when she came to Kampala, she used to go and pick the food that she used grow and brings them to Kampala in a while. She brings them and sells then from there the war became too much so she decided to stay this side and she changed her occupation. She resorted to stone quarrying, stone mining, she also started buying food items from Nakawa a market in Kampala then, sold them in Acholi quarters to other people in the community.
When you came to Kampala, did you start schooling?
When I came to Kampala I was not schooling at the beginning but after sometime, my mother took me to a Universal Primary Education (UPE) school that was free of charge near Acholi quarters by then. The school which was called Kireka barracks. That’s where I used to school with other friends of mine and some other big brothers of mine so we used to go and school from there.
How did you encounter Meeting Point International MPI and in which year?
I knew MPI in 2018, that’s the year I knew MPI and it was through madam Teddy. When I was still a kid, I used to see MPI. We used to come to MPI and they would teach us how to draw pictures. I grew up seeing MPI. I thank God that in 2018 we got in touch because Teddy is like a mother to us as well. So, she introduced me, my siblings and other friends of mine in February 2018 and all these happed through the activities we do at MPI that is yoga session, acro-yoga and health education that we were doing with the mothers there.
How did you get the sponsorship at MPI?
I remember when Teddy introduced us to MPI, we did a yoga session with the mothers like three times then Rose called me. She asked me to meet her and I accepted and asked if I could come along with my siblings. We met her the following day. When we entered her office, she welcomed us and we really loved it she was smiling. She asked us to introduce ourselves. We were three guys doing the sessions with the women, so we introduced ourselves. Talked about how we lived our lives and how we coped with school because some of us studied but due to school fees and tuition couldn’t go ahead. She told us to go to any school and get an admission. We came out all us just smiling at each other very happy. That’s how the whole sponsorship came in.
What really attracted you to MPI and why did you think you were chosen?
First of all, when we came to do the sessions, what really inspired us was because we had passion in what we were doing, we loved what we were doing so it really inspired us. What inspired us was seeing the young people of Acholi quarter having the potential to do something to our mother, we had the potential to give back to our mothers. It might not be financially but we were boosting the health of our mothers through the sessions we were doing. In this we had the of yoga, acro-yoga and health education plus some other parts of also dancing with the mothers. In that process the mothers started gaining some changes in their health status so Rose was very happy because she saw the passion we had, she saw the motivation we had and when reached her office, she told us that is very rare to find young people like us doing whatever we have been doing.
What do you do currently for a living?
Currently, I am unemployed but I just do casual work, any kind of work which can at least earn me a living. I just do pottery work like helping builders at construction sites. It’s not a permanent job so you can even work a few days then wait for another chance. So, in this construction sites you have to do any kind of work. I used to do all kind of work that was really required of me so I did any work available so long as it could help me and my family. This brought contribution because we help each other. That’s how we survive though it’s not easy but that’s how we try.
Do you have any other activity that you do besides the construction work?
During our free time, we normally teach the community just like we normally do with the mothers. We don’t only do it the mothers, we do it even to the whole community like even teaching the young people as well so we do the yoga, acro-yoga and health education with the community too, leadership and communication cycle that is we do it as a project. We do the b-boy dancing with some few youth and kids who got inspired by what we. This is mainly to promote togetherness among we the young people and to teach the young people good morals and values in their lives. At first when we just began this activity we had a lot of criticism in the community were most parents were against us thinking that we may mis-lead their children but latter they realized the benefit and started to send their children in large number.
Can you tell me about how your project began and how you manage it?
We named our project New Hope Dance Project Uganda. It’s a project that came out of passion. For the love, we had to learn certain things. We always moved around to learn new things like the dances. It was a way of killing stress. When our mother died, we used to find possible ways to relieve ourselves from stress. So, we went around and started learning the type of dance that our friends introduced us. We started copying up with the dances slowly until 2009 when we formed a crew. We used to perform around and earn some little money and balance it with other jobs. We had to get other possible ways of earning some money like learning more of the dances, yoga, acro-yoga and some other activities like leadership skills, community saving, community sanitation then later in 2016 we formed the project officially we called it New Hope Dance Project Uganda. That’s when we opened and started teaching the community because we believed we had gained enough skills to share with others so, we started teaching the young people in the community and other people outside our community. In February 2018 Teddy who was our good friend also introduced us to MPI so we started doing a session with them as well. That’s how we started running the project. It was passion that made us do all these.
Do you have any support from any organisation to help you in this project?
We never had support but thank God we met MPI and they really appreciated the work that we were doing, they helped us with certain needs that we really wanted for the project since we lacked certain things like speakers and uniforms. So, they offered us some funds which we used to buy speakers, uniform, shoes, we bought a camera. We really working with MPI.
What inspired you to really open up this project?
At the beginning it wasn’t a project because we were just doing everything as a way of relieving stress after our mom’s death because after our mother’s death we were just trying to cope up with the new life when things were not easy. So, friend of ours introduced us to dancing so we started coping with the dancing slowly. We used to be relieved so we continued dancing. With that inspiration we got from friends around, we started learning how to dance. We also got inspired by prominent dancers like the late Michael Jackson, Usher Raymond and Chris Brown. We used to watch videos and copy some of the styles of the dancing. We never had access to dancing schools so we just learnt from friends. We used to move far from Acholi quarters to look for friends who had more ideas in dancing.
And how about the future goals for this project?
First of all, we are so happy that MPI has gone ahead to help us with the project, Rose plus the entire MPI offered our project 3,000,000 Ugandan Shillings to buy our necessities. So, we bought shoes, clothes, carpets, radio and these days we just love to train. In fact, we got more motivation to create and to share and in fact even our project has grown bigger. We were so happy for that.
We would like better training ground such that we can engage more people from the community. Then we are also looking if there is a possibility of our project getting into an entrepreneurship. In a way that we are taught entrepreneurship skills such that we can have some businesses for the project so that we can become self-funded.
by Okello Marvin
An Interview with ROSA HUANG
On 25/05/2018, there was an event in Hong Kong, “Africa Day Hong Kong 2018”, Meeting Point International was represented in this event. This was through a relationship with Jinja limited. Find out about the woman behind this and how it all started.
Okello Marvin 02/08/2018
My name is Rosa Huang-Rierson and I am a social entrepreneur, I am building a small company, a small business here with the aim to provide employment and training, but very much by exporting products that are going to make money. Otherwise I don’t believe that in a sustainable way create some real livelihood to support in a long term for people. So, this is what Jinja Kimala limited is about and this is what have I been working upon in the past nine months to twelve months because there was a lot of preparation we were doing.
I leave between here (Kampala) and everywhere because I travel a lot. so, my husband is here with my daughters but because of the business I need to travel quit a lot to be meeting clients and to understand what the market demands. Everything that I will sell in future wont be in Uganda and not in Africa and I will be exporting to other continents. One of the co-mission of the company is to really have a lot of the value in Uganda so I want to export finished product not raw material or ingredients. I want to export product that are handmade here but designed from somewhere else and the hand made part will be here for sure, the packaging will be here possibly everything will be here as much as possible. it is a challenging business model because most people make money by selling big volume of raw material but less work but for me I want to be true to the social mission. This is a company that is not only going to be making money but making money with a purpose.
- Do you have a fixed range of products that you that you work on or you cut across?
I have two categories of products right now, one is organic dried fruits that are actually certified organic with certain farmers in Uganda. Second category home wear and other objects that are functional for the use in homes and that are using materials from Uganda. Speaking of this, Initially the design is outside Uganda so I have a designer in London hopefully in the future some of the design can also be designed here. The reason am trying to combine western design for western test with local material is to know the different choices because not everybody likes things that looks too African. and I don’t want to create souvenir that you bring back when you come to safari. I really want to have people see these objects and say wow they are beautiful not knowing where it comes from unless they really look and then understand that is coming from Uganda. So, two main categories of product.
- How did you encounter Meeting Point International?
I was introduced to meeting point by Italian friend. She was working and volunteering at Meeting Point International (MPI) and she talked to me about a bark cloth. At that time, I thought the bark cloth was very interesting and I wanted to initially do bark cloth. But after a lot of investigation and a lot of investment to try to understand what was required to make some beautiful products, I decided that I would wait a little bit because the required investment is too high and also the risk is very high too. So, I start first with paper beads and painting with MPI and I worked with MPI for almost a year initially on bark cloth and now on paper beads and painting.
- That event which you had in Hongkong were you displaying some products for MPI? What was the main purpose? Why did you choose to fund raise for MPI?
Because this Hongkong client is already commissioned for work for a mural and she’s also a close friend of mine. She believes that we could do a mural using paper beads. Initially she wanted us to finalize the mural by the end of May and I told her it was too rushed because the 24th of May is when the event happened up to 25thmay. We had not even started the design so I had to push back and I said its too early but what we can do we can be represented.
The event on the 25th was an event that she was organising with the board of investors of different African countries and Hongkong, a lot of artists, a lot of NGOs as well as refugees in Hongkong. She’s also helping a lot of African refugees in Hongkong by giving a job for them in the kitchen, help in cooking food so she’s helping a lot of the local NGO.
She reached out to me and said “okay for the mural, there is not going to be enough time but at least we can do something that introduces Meeting Point International and Jinja Kimala so that my clients and my supporters know what is coming.” and then for that we basically decided that we will make something easy. I discussed with Alberto (Technical Adviser at MPI) to reuse some of the paper beads that were already made and we did something for decoration. So, people could look touch and ask questions about it and also, they would see logo of MPI. There was a little bit of information about who is Meeting Point International.
And about how Jinja Kimala will reward MPI, we basically try to find project of product and then we the ladies basically provide the labor and the livelihood on a daily rate. All of the materials we purchase, so there is no risk and so the ladies do not need to go and buy the materials, do the design, do the further things. So, the relationship between Jinja Kimala and MPI is that MPI provide a talent pool that we trust, that we understand through Rose Busingye and though Alberto, they tell us who is good to work with us. They will be trained and all of them will be there and we understand that and we want to give more work for the ladies of MPI.
- You are concentrating more on not making so much money but to empower the person who is also working for. Why is this so interesting for you, why do you choose this approach?
I was definitely very inspired by Rose and Alberto and also the ladies that I work with that is Agnes, Catherine. They had suffered a lot but they have retained that self-respect and they have retained that desire to work hard, to earn respect and earn what they do by working well and I think it’s quite rare for an NGO because have seen a lot of NGOs that are forward NGOs. Very good-hearted westerners who come here and say ooh I can help this family that way but its very difficult because these westerners don’t often understand what the local uplifting means and I was inspired by Rose and her story of how over 25 to 27 years she built slowly -slowly this friendship and relationship with the ladies. So, it’s not an NGO that just like 1 year, 2 year, 3 years, 5 years or 10 years, it’s a whole life time.
- What have you learnt from this relationship with MPI?
The women have gone through a horrible side but in spite of what has happened to them they still have the self-respect and have a value as a human being. The women focus on the positive side of life no matter what happens. Everyone has a good side and a dark side and Rose is focusing on the beautiful side of life which is helping the women to overcome their challenges.
I couldn’t have reached this far without you
I joined Meeting Point International (MPI) through Aunt Rose; she was a very good friend to my late mum. My mum passed on in 2001 when I was only 7 years old, and my dad passed on a bit earlier, by that time I was already sponsored. I started to live with my Aunt but five years later she passed on too, I was only left with my two sisters and two cousins, we have been living together since then with the support of our uncle. My two sisters were also sponsored by MPI which also gave us food like rice, cooking oil, beans, sugar and salt, maize flour among others.
It has been 17 years of sponsorship right from Primary to university, I went to Naguru Katali primary school, St Maria Goretti SSS Katende and then Makerere University where I was able to complete my studies in Bachelor of Journalism and Communication which took me four years with the help of MPI that provided me with school fees along with scholastic materials, how couldn’t I be more grateful for such an opportunity?
I faced challenges throughout my education journey; it was never a smooth road because when I finished secondary school, MPI informed me they could not pay my full tuition and at that time my uncle didn’t have enough money to top up the rest of the tuition, my elder sister had just got a job and she could not contribute that much. At that moment, I could not see reality just as it was, It was impossible but with simplicity; I regained the awareness of what reality was asking me, my sister contributed the little she could and I solicited some money from close friends, I had to struggle with transport from home to the university on a daily basis. There were times when I could stay home because I didn’t have money for the taxi fare but, I am extremely glad because I had the opportunity to study till this far. I was able to complete my degree in Journalism and Communication, come January I will be graduating all thanks to MPI. With what I have studied; I can be a public relations manager in any organization, write news, stories for a newspaper, do photography, shoot and edit videos.
Many thanks to my sponsor, Gini Lorella, to whom I owe a lot more than what I can say. Thank you for supporting me since way back, I couldn’t have reached this far without you. Thank you very much! May God bless you abundantly for your love and generosity. I am so glad that I was introduced to Meeting Point International years ago, it has been a blessing to me and my family, I wouldn’t have made it.
Thank you so much, Meeting Point International. May God bless and keep you all.
By Lumanyika Jude Bright
My Story by Adoch
My name is Adoch Mary Clare Ochira. I am 22 years old and completing the university level soon. I was only 16 years old when I joined the Meeting Point International sponsorship, and by then I was in senior four which is a candidate class and waiting to go to the next level of education which is the advanced level of education in the high school. It was during that period when my father lost his job, and my hopes of sitting my final examinations suddenly dropped. My mother was unemployed she could not support me at school and my whole family depended on my father’s job. It was a hard time period for me and in my family since it was an extended family whereby I lived with my siblings, cousins and other family members.
We are twelve, six females and six males, I remember being in class at school when a teacher walked towards me telling me that my mum was outside and she wanted to greet me. It was then she told me about being enrolled in the program. I began once again to hope in my education, I was overjoyed about the news and I managed to sit for my examinations. I performed very well, I got the first grade. With my good grades, I was able to join the advanced level where I studied history, economics, geography, subsidiary mathematics and general paper. With no time, I reached the candidate class which is the final class in high school. With God’s grace, I was able to excel again, I was among the top five students in my class, and I obtained three principle passes which enabled me to join the university. I, therefore, applied at one of the top five universities in Africa and the best in East Africa which is Makerere University Kampala and I was given a vacancy. I, therefore, started pursuing a bachelor’s degree in arts in social sciences. I majored in public administration and minored in criminology.
The university was quite challenging because it was a new environment and it required a lot of hard work due to high competition and also need to perform well. It also needed a lot of self-drive in order to excel. I really worked hard and I can say my performance was good throughout up to the final year. I currently fall into the category of second class upper and I hope I have maintained it. I am now working as a social worker at meeting point international, I chose to be a social worker because I wanted to interact more with people because I believe that with this I can be able to learn a lot from people which increases my knowledge about society. It is four months now since Meeting Point International offered me an occupation as a social worker, I have learned a lot starting from the way I stay in front of the reality of the children that I am following, to the awareness of myself. I feel very grateful to ISP through Meeting Point International for giving me this opportunity to study because not all people can manage to reach this level of education because it is expensive and also not easy. I pray that the almighty God bless you for your great deeds. And that you may continue to support many other people.
I love fashion and design and I hope to venture into this sector in the future. My greatest inspiration and role model is mother Theresa because she had such a great heart and she was selfless. I also hope to emulate her good character so as I can touch lives out there.
By Adoch Mary Clare Ochira
Seeking to find a relationship within which one can be free.
I first heard about Meeting Point International when I was desperate for a friendship, a relationship due to the condition that I was in; three younger ones not being at school, to having no meal in a day, having three children dropouts at home, at that moment I needed none of my problems to be solved. What I needed was a friend, somewhere to belong and when a woman called Joyce who is a client of Mpi spoke to me about it. I felt that it was like any other Organization where by you feel alone even when your children are under sponsorship.
Hanifah together with her three children and husband lives in a place called Acholi quarters. It was a camp in Uganda, which was initially considered a place of the internally displaced persons. It is located outside the capital Kampala, in what might seem to be an inhospitable environment. The family lives in one room house made out of bricks with low light since it doesn’t have windows but one door with rays of light coming in, the only furniture is the small bench for both the family and visitors to sit.
The floor is cemented since the mattress is laid on the floor during the night. Hanifah with tears in her eyes narrates “At one point of my life, I lived with my children on the floor outside on the veranda since I didn’t have money to pay for the house. My child was sick, I couldn’t take him to the hospital because I lac ked money and when I attempted to do so, the doctors asked me for money for checkup and I could return home with him and since the people of the community that I lived in knew my condition, they gave me money for checkup and my child was treated. One woman who was a member of Meeting Point International, Joyce invited me to stay with them and this is where I joined with the women in kireka, At first it was difficult since I stayed with them and felt alone but with time I started dancing and singing and this took away most of my weights because I felt that sense of belonging and a friendship was born with the women since her business was to make papers bags for a living, I was moved and since it was simple I asked her to teach me so that I could do the same since I had nothing to do.
While sitting learning to do the paper bags. Rose Director MPI asked me to bring my children to be registered for sponsorship and all of them were registered and enrolled in school. One of my child in the primary and the other two in Luigi Giussani High school. I remember talking to myself that I should start doing these papers in order to buy the school requirements since Meeting Point international is paying for my children’s school fees. when I started doing paper bags, I started getting some money for food, requirements for my children, which is my business up to now and I do it for a living and it feels like my life was given back to me . I was always alone but not anymore because now I have discovered a companion beyond”.AS Hanifah recounts all that happened to her, There was a gentleness in her face and eyes.
By Lumannyika Jude
A TURNING POINT IN MY CAREER PROSPECTIVE
By AYO VANESSA (Companionship of Works Association (COWA VTC )
I have discovered something beautiful that is now a wonder in my life. A dream I have never desired to a part of my life or even wished to be involved in. A voice you hear how has fallen passionately in love Agriculture starting from production to commercialization.
I am going to be frank with you, the previous years I looked at life at different perspective as far as careers are concerned, I dreamt of having a white collar job or highly paid professions like law, mass communication and IT management. I despised manual jobs such as agriculture and others looked at it as dirty, a fact that one has to touch soil, I wanted clean work where I do not have to break myself with bulky stuff but just getting simple and clean money. At least that is what was running through my mind those days.
After completing my high school in form six last year 2016. I was very excited about enrolling to the university during the vacation, I remember very well that I even drew down plans for the university around 22, January, 2017 which included getting a job during the vacation, then buy for myself a laptop, lots of clothes, shoes and a smart phone so as life at the university is really good and fun where I do not have to worry about anything else but books. l wanted to do IT management (Information Technology) at the university basically a degree course at any university in Uganda.
I shared this with aunt Rose but she disagreed with me and advised me to choose a course that is more lively, touchable and look at the job availability in Uganda whether I will be able to get a job. Deep inside my heart, I was not convinced so I went back hoe that day to think about it. But all I could think of was to do IT management at the university.
A simple invite to do a short course under agribusiness in COWA (Companionship of Works Association) an institute located in kamuli –kireka, Wakiso district, Uganda, changed everything in my life.
Aunt Rose invited me and my friends to do a course in order to keep ourselves busy during vacation as we wait for the university. She addressed this offer to us during a meeting she hosted. During the meeting, she wanted to know how her girls were doing, the challenges we were facing she can us accordingly. This is so because we were protected and spent all our lives at high school but now we were wide open into the world. So there could be high chances of messing up so she wanted to guide us and also make us feel secured that all in, there is someone we can to for counseling when challenges and problems come our way.
I was expected to start work in two weeks’ time I had got a job in Turkish supermarket around Ntinda, Kampala, Uganda. They were going to pay me some good money around 300,000/=.It was a lot of money for me as a starter. With this kind of money, l would have paid all my debts in the movement [communion and liberation] and a few friends who demanded me and also I would have bought all the requirements I needed at the university.
I know this sounds like regrets, actually sometimes l wonder whether l made the right decision. l say this because when l decided to do a short course in agribusiness along the way, l gained interest in this field so l gave up the job but this broke war at home , my Aunts were not happy about the decision l my made , they said that l have killed an opportunity of changing my life financially and independently.lt was tough for me in making this decision, my Aunts even made it worse for me l almost gave up the course also but my mom stood up for me as she said that whatever decision l make as long as it comes from my heart , the decision will always be right .This motivated me and uplifted my courage and confidence because l realized l was not a lone but rather with someone who loved me.
Our trainer Mr. Michael in COWA really motivated me and made me fall in love with agriculture , l remember he shared with us experience about some of his friends who did urban farming basically dealing in tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and Sukuma wiki respectively . And how they were profitable for instance, the one of tomatoes who could get 200,000/=daily. And this enabled him to take care of family, take his children to school and finish constructing his house. These persons were using the available space at home not so big but the produce could be high. This really caught my interest.
At around march most of the form six leavers where to apply to the universities of their choices and the courses they would like to do including myself. At this point, l was in dilemma because in August COWA was taking the Agriculture students to agro max limited Uganda- a farm in order for the students to acquire more skills basically we were going for green house management and also other things we would find there. This very month the students at the university would be starting their studies especially as the first years.
I tell you what, l lost weight in two weeks as l was thinking of what to do, on the other hand, my girlfriends were reminding me to apply because most of them were going to apply and others had already applied. They were asking me the course l will be doing and which university l will going to. This was really too much, so l went for help to my mom and the director of COWA know as Miss Chrispine who told me that their options would be as good as useless to me now and the only thing was make up my mind and make a decision because this was a critical moment in my life which l had to make on my own. I felt as if this was a matter of life and death.
Soon or rather, l had to make a decision where l chose agribusiness over IT Management .This time my relatives especially my Aunts quarried, the y almost wanted to swallow me a life. They complained that l was wasting time and resources. They said that l should not have studied A’LEVEL it I knew, l would have branched off immediately after O’LEVEL and then they confessed how disappointed they were in me. But a fact is that studying never ends and may be this is what God had prepared for me all along. So that l can discover my talents and interests.
During my trainings in agro max limited Uganda Gayaza-Luteete-Kampala which lasted about three months have really been of great importance to me . l have gained a lot of skills, competence, determination, motivation and courage to go further, research , study and venture more in agriculture. Discovering more technologies and is innovations in agriculture so as to advance and commercialize the produce and the products.
- Green house management
- Nursery management
- Coffee nursery and mother garden management
- Open field management
- Tissue culture propagation
- Passion fruit management
- Site selection for open field and green house
- Seed preparation
- Fertigation schemes
- Irrigation practices
- Agro-forestry nursery kinds of propagation
- Sprying techniquics
- Propagation of plants using cloning method
- Soil treatment
- Vegetative method of propagation
- Crop nutrition practices
- Pest and disease identification and control
- Record keeping in both open field and green house
- Sales and marketing
I plan to start up a project so as to practice the skills l have attained, and l also look forward to share my skills with the youth like me especially those who are wasting their lives and time, l would like t create awareness among them that they can do something for themselves and make a difference in their lives. I am confident that now that l can change the face of my family, my life and that of the society. I have hope now that some of my ambitions will come to light, for instance ,giving away to charity, may be the hand, l have been exchanging is not enough.
I would love to help the needy basically because out of love and charity l was able to go to school and l was able to reach where I am now. Therefore l want to make a different in someone’s life.
At this point of my life, l look forward to advance in agriculture, l desire to do a diploma course after completing my certificate and if possible l would love to continue further to do a degree course. I realized the more l advance in my studies, the more l get exposed to a wider agriculture, and discover more technologies and innovations. I also believe more opportunities will come my way, my friends keep on reminding me of years but l am not worried about it as studying and discovering never ends until we go to our gravels.
I want to join the world of people who are fighting famine and starvation all over villages because times have changed so we need to change also, as we cannot just sit and look as our fellow friends die basically due to facts that, there is nothing left to eat. This has been a major problem in Uganda in the pasted years, l would like this to happen again. Agriculture is the back bone of my country and there are a lot of opportunities in it, l cannot afford to miss this beautiful journey.
I send special thanks to my sponsors, mentors, family, and friends for being always there for me, without any of you, l do not think whether l would be making big decisions in my life.
You have sacrificed a lot in order for me to attain education especially my sponsors i appreciate the kindness and generosity you have shown me.
“THE GREATEST NEED OF A HUMAN BEING IS THE NEED OF BELONGING”
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 stepmother 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-year-old to end her life in this way? What could we say to the grieving father while counseling him?
I am Birabwa Betty, a nurse and I receive a lot of patients with burnouts, vomiting, HIV/AIDS infection. For a while I was scared and I could ask myself all the possible questions a nurse asked to work in this situation would I have worked in Meeting Point International for seven years as a nurse 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”.
Looking at how Rose stays in front of me and how she is always available for me, 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 counseling, 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 up to you and by the time we part at least there is a relief in a person’s life and you have changed not only their life but also find yourself changed too.
Meeting Point International entered the adventure with the sick with the help of the nurses and works with communities in order to respond to these questions.
MPI Social Workers
“DESPITE THE CIRCUMSTANCES, HE WAS ABLE TO FIND HOPE.”
Gashumba’s father is a Rwandese by race, he had lived and worked in Rwanda as a Chef but because of civil wars, he fled to Uganda in search of peace and access to better social services, and he later found a job working for AVSI Volunteers but later they had to leave for Italy and he was left unemployed, It was then that Rose Director Meeting Point International (MPI) saw him, and she employed him to work at her home. With a good relationship, Gashumba Emmanuel got an opportunity to be supported by Meeting Point International right from his childhood and at the age of five; he attended his Primary level of education at St. Kizito Primary School Bugolobi.
Gashumba tells me that; “during school days, Social Workers from MPI could come to meet us and we would write letters to our sponsors, this was the time I realized that I was supported by MPI.”
Having completed his Primary level, he joined secondary level in St. Maria Goretti Katende. It was a big school but MPI proposed to him a new school (Luigi Giussani High School) and he was told he would like it. It`s location only made him regret why he had left his former school. Luigi Giussani high school was situated in Kireka Acholi quarters a slum in Kampala city; it was a young school with one building without electricity besides, the head teacher and her Deputy Head teacher were so harsh and strict to students; this made him to think that there was no difference between his former school and the later.
Those were the moments in which Gashumba felt life was not interesting because of the challenges and circumstances he was going through in his life; especially the father’s leg that had been amputated because of cancer. With harsh and tough teachers, Gashumba was sinking in bewilderment; it was then that Rose invited him to start attending the school of community that could take place at his school. It was then that he heard the words like love, beauty, happiness, Justice and the value of a person. He could understand nothing but with time, he found a correspondence with what he was being told, Gashumba found happiness. With this feeling of happiness, his school performance greatly improved, school became interesting and gained meaning. He then managed to complete his ordinary and Advanced level of education successfully. While in his vacation, he asked Rose (Director MPI) if there was a possibility of a job so that he could be doing something to support himself and the family. He was introduced to work, at the beginning, it was a challenge for him to work and Study at the same time but it was a help for him, to learn on how to face the reality. Thanks to MPI, Gashumba has managed to complete his diploma in social work and social administration and he is looking forward to upgrade in his studies.
In Meeting point International we are happy that Gashumba Emmanuel discovered his Value, and he understood the value of his education despite all that he went through, we can still see that starting from the awareness of his value, Gashumba was able to find hope again and this allowed him to triumph.
Story by Lumanyika Jude Bright.
I have been educated on how to stay with people.
In Acholi quarter, Kireka, there’s a rather exceptional woman named Akullu Margret. With a stunning smile she tells me she has always considered herself to be a lucky woman. She never went to school but, living with Women of Meeting Point International (MPI), she was being educated on how to stay with people, neighbours and even to do business. She considers herself lucky ever since she met MPI, she has also started a business selling charcoal (used for cooking food) which enables her to earn a living.
As she carrying on with her daily work, she noticed one thing in particular; during the day she met a lot of men, women, and children who were at home who seemed to be doing nothing.
She joined MPI in 1999 after facing a lot of problems which had not only made her feel like an animal but also unable to live with people because she was always fearful. She remembers standing outside MPI watching the women gathering, then Rose (Director MPI) invited her in, she entered and felt welcomed for the first time ever.
Margret: “I saw a white man sitting beside Rose, he had this smiling face, he took a photo of me with my child. When he returned to Italy, he framed it and sent it back to me, through Aunt Rose. We then started a friendship and a few years later, he started supporting me and my family”.
MPI started taking her children to school while she, on the other, hand started thinking of ways of supplementing her husband’s income from his job in the stone quarry. The moment Margret realized her infinite value, this introduced an openness in her. It was then that she started desiring to pay for her children’s requirements and to start a Charcoal business. She used the profit to buy a small plot of land to build a house.
She is now a mother to 12 children, of which six are her own and the other six orphans, all sponsored by MPI. She is able to pay for her children’s requirements and has also opened a shop for the husband to work in.
By Lumanyika Bright
She emerged as the best student at Luigi Giussani High School
It was late evening when Priscilla had finished her work. She works as a cleaner at the Luigi Giussani Institute for Higher Education to support her siblings since she is the head of her family (though still so young). I have known Priscilla since she was 11 and started being supported by Meeting Point International (MPI) and this year, she scored 17/20 points in the Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB) emerging as the best student at the Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS). I desired to ask her what she is living and what made her study so hard despite all that she went through.
“We were raised by a single mother because our father had passed on when I was three years old. I hardly knew him, but I knew that he loved us. I remember after the burial, we moved to Naguru(Kampala). We are four in the family, and I am the second born. It wasn’t easy for my mother as she tried always to take care of us, both at school and home with all what we desired.
We later moved to a place called Mbuya (Kampala District), where my mother had married another man, the father to my younger sister. Unfortunately, he also passed on before she was born (by then I was 11 years old). Later on, my mother had heard about MPI and she started meeting with the Women in Kireka. My mother continued paying my school fees from her little income she managed to earn with the small bar she was managing, even if sometimes we had difficulties in getting money for feeding.
I was in a government school, we were over 200 children in a class. I could perform but I could be 100th position in the class. This had made me hate school. Only when we joined St MatiaMulumba Primary School I met new friends and teachers and this made me love school once again and motivated me to work hard and my performance started improving. The school environment was nice, and everything was new, from the subjects to the teachers. I started reading and consulting teachers and as time went on, I was improving. I never stopped working hard because I knew that my mother didn’t go to school and she would have been happy if I had finished my studies.
It was a Thursday, the first week at the beginning of senior four, while at school I received a call from the Hospital; my mother was admitted because of cancer. I rushed to the hospital, I was stillin the school uniform. With tears in her eyes, my mother asked the reason to why I was there. I couldn’t leave her all alone because she was the most important thing for me in that moment.
It was on Friday when my mother was released from the hospital; maybe the doctors had already known that she was going to pass on. She seemed so different from the state that she was at the hospital, it was as if she had not suffered from any disease and when our neighbours brought us food, drinks she could eat without problems. That evening she was so happy as if nothing had happened.
The same night, I slept in the same room, but her conditions worsened and I started praying for her because she could not speak. I woke up in the morning and I was preparing something to eat for her. When I went to check on her, she was dead.
After the burial, I had to go back to school. I started copying notes, reading books but the thoughts of my mother were in my mind. The teachers, since they had known my situation, started giving me all the attention that I needed to study. Our economic situation worsened and because we couldn’t find money and also the feeding wasn’t so easy. In order to get food to eat, we were also helped by another organization. When I came back from school, I would cook for my siblings.
I could do some small works after school or during holidays to collect money to pay for the school requirements. My English teacher paid for my school uniform. My brother started skipping school in order to provide food for our siblings. I could study only at school because at home I would go back and cook for my siblings. I must thank all the friends and the teachers that dedicated time to me. I was surprised to see that I got 17 points making me the best in school.”
This year Achan Priscilla is joining the University to study English literature because she wants to become an English teacher.
By Lumanyika Bright.
I felt introduced to the new family. Dear Bright
I thought I’d write to you to tell you how everything is going on both at School and in my life. I was born on 15th November 1992 in Kitgum district in the Northern part of Uganda. I am currently living in Naguru (Kampala) with my uncle who had invited me to stay with him and his family because of the insurgency that happened in northern Uganda. In the course of the civil war my parents died. As result, I had been confined in the camp, where I had been studying and I was in primary three when my uncle brought me to Kampala.
I hardly knew my uncle and his family when I came to live with Him. I returned to school in Kampala and immediately I was demoted to the previous class (cause my level of preparation was too low for P4) and this affected me… but couldn’t abandon school because I loved studies and with time I got acquainted with the environment, I made new friends and I became happy.
It was in 2009, and the same year I was introduced to Meeting Point International by my auntywho had been a client of MPI for a long period of time. Fortunately, I started to receiving support and school became more interesting since my fees were paid and I didn’t have to struggle again to look for money to pay for myself.
This is one of the great things that have happened in my life, because I never thought that I could be so lucky to complete my studies that I enjoyed so much. I finished my primary in 2011 and in 2012 I joined Luigi Giussani High School. When I was introduced to the school, I felt introduced to the new family because it felt like home. I perceived a strong sense of belonging and it was beautiful. While in school, I started attending the School of Community (It is a place where people from different back grounds meet to be educated of who they are in relation with their experiences in life) that made me aware of the relationship between me and Christ. This made me realize that everything that happened in my life had a value. This changed my life and it is still changing me.
If I remember correctly, everything seemed like a dream but it was reality. While recognizing this, I was moved and I started asking myself, “Why me? Who am I?” I thought that God must love me so much, also because I realized that among all my siblings I was the only one chosen to take this journey. It is like a journey, while you walk the future becomes brighter and brighter every day.
I have been very committed to my studied and I completed my ordinary level of studies in 2015. The following year, I thought of joining a vocational institution so that I could attend the course I wanted. Aunt Rose [Director MPI] supported my decision and accepted to be paying my tuition, currently, I am pursuing a two-year certificate in Welding and Metal Fabrication at COWA Vocation Training Centre. I have achieved some skills and knowledge that will help me and by the time I will complete my course, I will not lack what to do.
My special thanks go to Rose and the all Meeting Point International that has taken part in my educational life.
Odong David Lakuc
Lumanyika Bright (Social Worker & Communication MPI)
‘While many were fleeing, we stayed’
‘While many were fleeing, we stayed’
During the outbreak of war in 1986, many people fled Gulu in Northern Uganda because of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The news about the rebels began like a rumor, so few people were skeptical about the rebels because they couldn’t believe it was true and those who believed wouldn’t think that the war would pass by their villages.
We heard women were being raped, robbed and people’s mouths were being cut off, young ones were being taken to fight for the rebels. Confusion started in our village too, people started fleeing the village, one by one until when the entire village was empty. We started hearing weirdsound of screams in the nearby villages, my mother and sister were too scared so fled with people but my father and I remained because my father was sure the rebels wouldn’t reach our village.
Like any other morning when my father and I were sited under a mango tree, we heard some voices of people approaching, we run in the house but it was too late since they had already seen us. They pulled both of us outside and they beheaded him.
Witnessing what had happened, I was told to sit down and they put my father’s head in my arms, I began trembling in fear of being raped or killed. They entered the house, robbed us and left me alone sitted with my father’s head.
I neither remember the day nor the time when I suddenly heard voices. A huge crowd was approaching; I thought to myself “are the rebels coming back?” I had not eaten and drunk in a long time. After witnessing my father’s death, I couldn’t see anything. In a dizzy way, I saw a woman lifting my father’s head from my arms, screaming and people were surrounding us.
When the war had been pushed too far from my village, my mother heard of a job in town, which required only girls to work as housemaids; I was given a job and it was during my stay in town that I met a man whom later I began to stay with. He was moved to western Uganda, a place called Kasese, where we lived for two years. It was there where I got my first pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy child. We decided to take the baby to my village for my mother to seehim.
Upon my arrival, I found out that my mother had died one month earlier, I busted into tears, and I hoped that she could had seen my child. I found my sister bedridden with HIV/AIDS, laying half-dead. I told myself, “Maybe if I had stayed home, nothing would have happened.”
When my sister died, we decided to return to Kasese. In 2002, we moved to Kampala and by then we had four children; my husband was working as a Boda Boda motorcyclist (carrying people on a motorcycle for a pay). The income wasn’t enough, so I tried all kinds of jobs but failed, and I became miserable, began working in stone quarries. Until one day when I passed by Meeting Point International, seeing very happy women sitting, making beads. I began admiring to be like them. Since some of them knew me from the quarry they invited me to stay with themat Meeting Point International (MPI), with the other women, with the promise that I would be happy.
When I joined MPI, my four children began attending school with the help of Aunt Rose – executive director. I began to feel at peace with myself so I continued working in the stone quarry happily.
After having seen what Meeting Point International was doing in educating me about my value , I discovered the value of my children, as a parent, I desired to participate in my children’s education by giving a small saving box to the school were my children are attending since it was very difficult for me to save at home. So that every morning, I could give my children the little I get from quarry to put in that box. In this way I can contribute to my children’s education. I started by giving at least 1000shillings.
Rose, 37 Years Old (MPI Women )
by Lumanyika Jude
THE STORY OF LALAM FLORENCE 60 YEAR OLD WOMAN
For 25 years a widow, at the time when Lalam’s husband died, she was pregnant with her second child. That tragic experience not only brought sorrow but Left Lalam a single mother. She had to look for work in order to meet all the basic needs of her two beautiful daughters despite the fact that she had just lost her husband.
Lalam was born in the northern part of Uganda but due to war which lasted for over 20years, Lalam and her husband had to move and seek shelter elsewhere and in this case they ended up in a place called Naguru Kasenke that recently has become a suburb of Kampala where she lives up to now with her two lovely daughters.
Lalam after the death of her husband realized that it was because of HIV/AIDs she had lost her husband; another heartbreaking experience that made her living a life of uncertainty. When the symptoms began to show on her body, she went for testing where the doctors confirmed that she was positive and broke into tears.
She was 36 years old when she heard about Meeting Point International, and the possibility to be welcomed. Then she went and joined the women, dancing, but she was still uncertain of the place asking herself “what is the meaning of going to dance when at home there is no food?” It was the same year 1992 and she started creating time every day, until when she met Rose, who put her on treatment and supported her children in order to join the school
For 25 years she has been in Meeting Point International in Naguru. In 2014, Meeting Point International started financial literacy training through score (to put all the sentence of score) project and women were encouraged to save the little money they earn. Lalam started to save in NEN ANYIM WOMEN’s Group. In the same year 2014, with these first savings, she managed to rise the wall fence and start the foundation of her two-room house, in her owned small plot of Land that she had failed to develop for lack of money till that moment.
She is now a 60 years old woman still living with her children who are in their 20’s, and her fellow women have nicknamed her “the chairperson of Meeting Point International”.
KAMPALA, MARCH 2017
THE INTERVIEW WITH THE EDUCATIONAL ADVISOR OF LUIGI GIUSSANI PRE PRIMARY AND PRIMARY SCHOOL ANDREA NEMBRINI
On Wednesday 15th march 2017, I interviewed ANDREA NEMBRINI, the that LUIGI GIUSSANI PREPRIMARY AND PRIMARY SCHOOL. He studied at UNIVERSITÀ CATTOLICA in Italy (Milano) and for seven years he taught at FONDAZIONE SACRO CUORE, MILANO. Andrea was sitting in the head teacher’s office… his office was still under construction.
During the interview, he spoke about the hope he has for both the teachers and the students...
Why did you decide to come to Uganda?
I am a teacher, I have been teaching for seven years in Italy. I was invited here by one of mygreat friends who has been working here since 2012. When I heard about the story of the womenof MPI, Rose and the school, I decided to come here to see, enjoy this experience and to work with the certainty that it is a great possibility for me for growing as a teacher and as a human being.
Can you tell me about the last five months you have been here?
These five months were very nice because there has been all the beauty of the beginning… when you start something new it is always amazing because you don’t know what is going to happen! All is a surprise and for this reason every new beginning is wonderful! The challenges are many,but the beauty remains the core of this school.
How is the situation? Can you tell me something of what is happening in the school?
The most important aspect of the school are the teachers, as they are the ones moulding the shape of the school. That’s why, we are working a lot with them. We are having many training coursesand collaborating with some Italian schools. We are trying to help the teachers to improve their job.
Even the walls and the building must communicate the beauty that generated the school. That is why we are trying to renovate the infrastructure; because a beautiful environment is a help forthe teachers, students and the life of the school.
The setting of the school is wonderful, when I came here, for the first time I was really impressed. But it was clear that some changes were needed, for making a better use all this plot, Idesired the best!
Of course, running a school while carrying out renovation works is not easy, but the works are almost completed and the general outlook of the school has changed a lot. I think that the children with time will be able to enjoy the new pitch, all the external works and the new toilets. I think they have understood that we are making new things for them so they are bearing with the situation. I am so happy for all these improvements; having two sports fields, shelters where children can stay during their free time or while having lunch… Even the secretary and head teacher are going to have a better place where to work.
You mentioned how pivotal is the role of the teachers in a school, may you tell us something more about the work you are doing with them?
Recently, at the beginning of the year, we held two training courses for them, and we are going to add more training sessions during the year. We are working with teachers according to the level of their pupils (nursery, lower classes and upper classes) trying to help them to grow professionally by accompanying them, since most of them are young teachers. And they are wonderful because they want to learn and they are eager to work together and collaborate with me and Ruka John Bosco, the head teacher. We are trying to become more aware of the importance of our job. We spend a lot of time together, sharing experiences, advices, tools and speaking about the various aspects of this job. All we are trying to do is to become more and more aware that starting point are not the children but ourselves. A teacher can teach only if she knows what her need is.
What is your hope for the teachers?
My hope is that teachers can become men and women certain of the reality and of themselves. The way to reach this certainty is through their job; teachers must be serious with their job as we ask our children the same.
How are the children welcoming or facing these changes taking place in the school and inthe teachers?
It is too early to say… because this kind of job is like farming, you sow the seed in the soil but you will see the fruit in a long period. What I can already tell you is that, there is a nice atmosphere of trust on the side of pupils. Particularly we are trying to change the educational approach in nursery and in the lower primary; I feel they are enjoying it. They aren’t scared because they trust their teachers and they feel what is happening is a good for them.
it is the beginning, they are little sparks we need at least one year to see if it works! I feel also the parents are going to help us in this.
Now that you spoke about the parents as a school, how are you going to engage parents to help you in this work?
We need the parents! We are not mothers and fathers and at the same time they are not teachers. Our task is different and the most useful thing for me is that a mother, in her house, with herchild, is a mother and a father is a father. I think this is the best way, for a parent, to help us in our daily work. In the educational path, it’s very important that parents and teacher speak to each other. This means I will talk more with the parents to understand their feelings and their questions not because I want to hear all their complaints but cause I need their feedback. It is very important because they can see something that we cannot see as we see some aspects of their children they do not see.
The hope I have for the teachers is also the hope for I have the parents. The time children spend in school is important for the parents too, for they can also learn.
Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.
Meeting Point International | Lumanyika Bright
Luigi Giussani Pre-Primary and Primary school (LGPP)| ANDREA NEMBRINI
THE MEETING WITH THE WOMEN OF MEETING POINT INTERNATIONAL LUIGI GIUSSANI HIGH SCHOOL
Since the school started, the history of the school has always been explained to us many times, that it was born out of the experience the women of Meeting Point International (MPI) had with Rose Busingye. With Rose these women were helped to discover their value despite the situations they were going through, from that back ground they desired to have a place to educate their children as they are educated.
This for us was something of another world and we too desired to have the same gaze like the women have. I for one was asking myself what really made them have this gaze and this awareness on themselves to have such a choice of having a place for their children.
This was a starting point to ask ourselves what did they meet that made them like this. So, we desired as teachers to go deep into this, this provoked me and other teachers to ask through Seve if we can go and stay with the women so that we are helped also to look at what they are looking at because I desired what they have encountered be my own. Her answer was so dramatic in which she said; “Come and see, this is a home and you are welcome to this family”. Hearing this I was even more enthusiastic to go and see. So, with the teachers we set off for Meeting Point International. I can tell you that staying with them, it was clear that those ladies have moved many miles ahead of us. I came back with a greater desire to live the experience of the ladies of meeting Point International and look at life in a different way.
From their experience, it was evident that without the love from Rose who helped them discover themselves, they wouldn’t have discovered that they have a value and they are more than what they go through. To me this is so important because as a teacher I cannot be in positon to make a journey with my students if there is no love for them and what I do.
At Paraa National Park
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.
“I THOUGHT, I HAD NO FAMILY BUT NOW I REALIZED THAT MEETING POINT INTERNATIONAL IS 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.
NEN ANYIM SAVING GROUP
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 center 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 million (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 least 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.
EVEN IF MANY OF THEM LOST EVERYTHING THEY HAD, WHAT ALLOWS THEM TO LOVE AND TRULY POSSESS EVERYTHING
Nicola, a visitor “from the sky”
My name is Francesca; I am doing volunteer services in Kampala working for AVSI in the 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 on the children. Some friends, who are MPI donors, visited me for Christmas and they have the chance to visit the Luigi Giussani 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? At 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.
At 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’s life convinced him that everything he had was enough. But he remembered 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 of 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 woman 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 become 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 had 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”.
Compiled by Francesca Peverelli
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 breath, 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.
“HOPE CHANGES EVERYTHING”
– Says 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.
IF SHE’S GIVEN , IT’S LIKE I HAVE ALSO RECEIVED.
It was a Friday 26/11/2015 at 8:00am, I saw this child with her mother and sister at Meeting Point International head office together with gifts that she had received. A child was dressed in white, with a smile. In her smile rose in me a desire to get to know her and to understand what puts that smile on her face. It’s something unexpected yet, so much desired, so I decided to put a question to this family in order to learn more from them.
Bright: Tell me more about yourself?
Mother: I came from Kitgum district found in the Northern part of Uganda and I am Acholi by tribe; I came here because of the war that was led by the Lord Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony. When I reached Kampala, I settled in Banda B1 a suburb of Kampala district. I found Meeting Point International (M.P.I) was already supporting people and then I joined them because the people looked happier like as if they never had problems. My life started to change, I became happier too. I found Aunt Rose (Director of M.P.I) there, she took care of me and other women, I discovered as time went on that we were all one. There was friendship, that’s how I came to learn how to love myself and the others, how to stay with people in the community in which I live. We are of different tribes in Meeting Point International but we speak in the same language because of our encounter with Aunt Rose, I give an example:
One day I found a baby who was delivered and dumped. I asked myself if Aunt Rose embraced me with all my nothingness, why not me? Suddenly I picked the child, she is now 6 years old, and I named her Gift Lamaro because to me she is a Gift, she studies from Luigi Giussani Pre- Primary and Primary School and this made me to learn more the meaning of my life.
Bright: How many children do you have?
Mother: With Lamara Gift, there are 11 children and we are very happy because one of them finished a course at the university and she was supported since primary, I am filled with gratitude towards Meeting Point International because all my children are supported.
Bright: How long have you been in Meeting Point International?
Mother: It’s now 13 years.
Bright: What would you say to the sponsor of Kitui Lydia?
Mother: I cannot find appropriate words to express myself to her but the only thing I can say to her is that, I am very thankful for the support given to Kitui Lydia and my family. All the children are happy because of the support. We received mattresses not only for Kitui but also for the others, I pray that God protects her and makes her happy.
Bright: What do you do?
Mother: I sell paper beads and sometimes I go to the stone Quarry in order to support my family. I am also in the village saving groups with the other women of meeting Point International, this saving has also helped me to support my family.
Bright: What did Kitui receive?
Mother: I am very, very happy because it is a very good thing to me; she received 3 mattresses, a triple decker, 2 pairs of bed sheets and a dress.
Bright: I also asked her sister Irene who was present at that moment how she felt when her sister receives a gift!!!
Namasaba Irene (Sister): I feel great because the sponsor is showing a lot of love towards my sister, so I feel happy for her because my sister is like myself , if she’s given , it’s like I have also received.
Bright: Lydia was more excited and she responded before I could ask her any question.
Kitui Lidia: I am 6 years old and what I can say to my sponsor is that I am very happy. I am in primary one; I am studying from Luigi Giussani Pre-Primary and Primary school and I also love the school, I love the new dress.
After talking to Lydia and her family, I want to constantly remember that family, every day.
VISIT TO NAIROBI-KENYA
Meeting Point International is fully committed towards enhancing the value of the person, in order to promote his/her human growth, help him/her discover the meaning of life and make a true experience of freedom. Any person sincerely true to him/herself, wherever he/she may live, perceives a desire of happiness that is never exhausted; the human heart asks for something else, something that goes beyond and over him/her. When the person experiences such level of awareness in his/her relationship with everything, with the whole reality, he/she starts knowing something about mystery. Such a human position puts the person in action; he/she is no longer a surrender or passively waiting for events, rather he/she becomes an actor of development for him/herself, his/her family, community and country. Through an organized and effective response to the daily needs of the people we encounter, our development cooperation work is also aimed at raising the essential questions on the meaning and sense of life. The continuous educative possibly for self discovery through many activity where everyone can live a comparison and consciousness of themselves, this is done through tours in the hills, touring towns, valleys lakes and rivers, game parks , seminars guide films, songs and guided reading books. This is also done for our patients to rediscover the meaning and the beauty of things. This is always done with the guidance of Rose Busingye and friends of Meeting Point International.
Women and men of Meeting Point International from Kireka and Naguru, visited Nairobi-Kenya on 11-13 September 2015. This tour comprised of a cache of psychosocial activities including singing, drama, sharing of experiences between the women of Meeting Point International, visit to Nairobi city, visit to the cathedral, visit to Mazuri Market where many of African crafts are displaced, interactive sessions etc. during the activities the women and men interacted freely and this created a stronger bond with in themselves. This kind of bond attracted so many other people in Kenya to come and listen to how the women have really become free, this is portrayed in the song ‘I am now free’ composed and sung by the women of Meeting Point International. This is what attracts people to live like them for them, they are free indeed, no fear of any difficulties in front of them. The women had a chance to interact with Rose Busingye on the theme of ‘understanding the importance of our life’. ‘There is something greater inside yourself, if I look at you and see the way you present yourself, the way you dress, even the way you look, this means that I will reduce you to all that, it is common we start from the appearance of the person not the real person. We do not treat a piece of the person, we treat the whole person but if you understand that you have a value, you treat everyone with value. You see if somebody decides to spend money on you, it means you have a value and if everyone understands this, you will conquer the whole world and if you go deep and understand the value of your life, you treat everything with value. We cannot be determined by the difficulties we pass through because they come and go but life remains. We need to live a life with simplicity, those difficulties will pass. Let difficulties not make us unstable but if you know I have a value and when you take yourself that, I am not this difficulty, my life has a meaning’
The Women and Men of Meeting Point International had the opportunity to share their life experiences about the discovery of the value and dignity, a simple encounter and events that resulted into appreciations of things surrounding them and giving thanks to even difficult situations that made it possible to realize the meaning of everything in front them.
Adong Ketty gave her experience on how she survived the rebels who had killed her brother. She worked with the rebels and they did each kind of bad things to her to the point of even getting affected and infested with the HIV/AIDS virus. She had lost hope in her life but the encounter with Rose Busingye changed her story, she could not imagine someone she did not know could take care of her. This Gaze has changed everything that surround her and because of the love, belonging, she is now free and she appreciates everything in front of her.
Teddy Bongomin, a field social worker and a ‘mother’ for the women gave an experience of how hard it was after losing her husband, everybody neglected her even the very friends, relatives she thought would support her in this difficult situation turned her down. It was a hard situation indeed to face yet she has a burden of her children and five more not related to her that she has to take care of. But because she has discovered herself and understands the value of her life, she treats every one with value and besides all the difficulties she passes through, life remains.
There are so many other mothers who also shared their personal experiences of self discovery and dignity, all of them passionately talked about times of difficulties in their lives and their families. They confirm that a person who discovers his value discovers beauty of life and lives in freedom and happiness this person is not afraid of anything. The mothers and the youth were moved by the experiences of their colleagues, Rose Busingye did the recap of the sessions explaining into details what this “value” means, she said everything that is done has this value inside, and nothing is disconnected from this “value”.
The tour to the Nairobi city
This is a time when everyone was waiting for, when the women were asked whether to take a tour in the park and visiting the Nairobi-town, it was a Yes to Nairobi town where everyone was longing to see the beauty in the town. With the help of our tour guides, we boarded the buses with smiles all over the faces of the women from Maria Polis place where they were staying up to Nairobi town. It was all over the streets of city to see them overwhelmed and with happiness in the face. They reached at Uhuru Park, located in the middle of the city, walked on the streets, saw the place where Jomo Kenyatta was buried, the parliament, Lunar Park, then to the beautiful cathedral where we entered and looked at the beauty in the church. From there, we moved to the Mazuri market where most of the African crafts are displaced and sold, it was indeed beautiful! We also looked a beautiful lake in the city and tall buildings. We passed through the tunnel and saw good roads, one was surprised about a road with cars passing down, others passing up, which looked so more beautiful. Nairobi now has super highways, bypasses and little avenues that are not only well constructed, but well maintained. Of course, there are still some parts of the city that have a few potholes here and there, but most of it has roads that can match up to international standards. This makes transport within and without the city much less of a nightmare as is with many African nations, or as it used to be in Nairobi itself. After visiting the town, it was time to go and have lunch. After reaching our place, it was dancing, it was not on tiredness, it was not tiredness any more, it was happiness, nobody would think about tiredness.
Why a visit to Nairobi city
Nairobi has amazing weather; towering skyscrapers with mesmerizing lights; beautiful parks that allowed us to have a deep breath with the environment around, Yes, Nairobi is a beautiful city. The ‘beauty of the city’ was on the look of the infrastructures, shopping malls, housing, the people that were around us, parks etc. The city’s parks are places you can go and just breathe for a period of time such as Uhuru Park, Jeevanjee Gardens and many others. The parks are plush and serene part of the city, ingeniously incorporated into the cityscape. Drop into one of these parks for sights of the city’s most peaceful side, where people come to chill, reminisce and relax.
Nairobi has it all. Big office building skyscrapers; multinational companies; small business enterprises; an industrial area that simply won’t stop churning out the necessary goods and high speed internet connection to the rest of the world. If there is ever any place in Kenya where you can be whatever you want to be, that place will be Nairobi. Dreams have come true and fortunes have been made here. All you need is the right mix of intellect, ambition and drive. Nairobi will provide you with the opportunity and the infrastructure to make your dreams come true.
Kenya is generally a nation full of very friendly and neighborly people. In Nairobi, you never know what kind of connections you will make; be it business or social. For that very reason, almost everyone is very friendly towards everyone else. They are ready to smile, ready to assist (mostly with directions) and always up for a party.
Opportunities to observe all the above are important to our viewing experience and have an aesthetic importance, as well as helping especially older people recall previous home environments, maintaining healthy mental activity, promoting awareness of time and reducing boredom. This is crucial because many of our beneficiaries live far away from their homes of origin which they are not able to visit often.
Report written by
INTERVIEW TO TEDDY AND KETTY ABOUT THE MEETING WITH THE POPE
Teddy and Ketty are two of the women that are going to Rome on the 7th of March for the Audience with Pope Francis on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the birth of CL and the 10th anniversary of the death of Fr. Luigi Giussani.
We have asked them to tell us why they have decided to go to meet the Pope, what they are looking for by going there and also what kind of sacrifice is for them going to Rome in terms of money and work.
Teddy: “I want to share with you a bit of my experience. I want to tell you how was my life before I encountered a friend, that is Auntie Rose. She really changed my life and it is still changing. My parents died in 1992 when I was still young, I dropped out of school and the only thought that came to my mind was: ‘maybe if I get married, that will be the beginning of my happiness and I will finally enjoy life’. But even after I got married, life was not as I thought. I still needed something more, there was something lacking in me. There was nothing beautiful. Every day was a new day of sorrow, there was no happiness and yet I thought that someday I would be totally happy, but it wasn’t so. Not until I encountered Auntie Rose. Every day, after work, she went to community school. After some time I asked to Auntie: but what do you really do in community school? I also want to come and see what you people do there. She said to me: yes, you can come! She had never told me how beautiful it was.
The first time I went, I didn’t understand well, but still I wanted to hear more and more about the work of Father Giussani. He was still alive, he had not yet died. One day I picked the courage and I asked her: how did Father Giussani gather all these information so that he can really talk about people? I thought that he was directly talking about me. How can his speaking correspond also to what I have been throughout in my life? I had no one that showed me the right way to go through my life, not until, slowly by slowly, during the work of community school, I was educated and I became aware of myself, finding who I am.
Once I was attending a community school for youth and auntie Rose asked to us: Who am I? Who is man? From there I understood about the infinite desire of the heart and how the heart of men was created by God. For me, in general, throughout my life and from the time I met the movement, what really touched my life and the way that I live now is that I become aware of myself. My heart is educated, I learn about myself and so I am now free to live a happy life. Now I live knowing that I am a value and I look at everything as a value, I look at all the gifts, the gift of friendship, the gift of the husband that I had (my husband passed away last year). When it was announced the meeting with the Pope in Rome on the 7th of March, I was really touched because I just automatically said: I am going to meet God, because the Pope is God himself and so I am going to meet my Father. The work of community school has taught me a lot, it has changed my life: I look at things in a different way, not as I originally looked at them. With my experience, how my parents passed away, how I was left alone and how I was treated from my in-laws, I almost lost everything, but even in that I still remain happy because I know that all of this has happened for something greater. It is only Him who makes me exist, He is the only one who will continue to make me live, because He is the only one who knows me better than any other person. I am happy because of one thing: the greatest thing that I have in my life and in me is the gift of life and Christ that lives in me. I know that even in sadness He is here with me, accompanying me together with all my friends. First I thought that I was alone but after discovering myself, I was never the same, I have never been alone anymore. Without Christ and without the encounter with Him in my life, I would not be the one that I am. I am going to meet the Pope full of joy, I know that when I will meet him, I will come back different. I am going to be more and more aware of myself, my heart is going to be reawakened.
Finally, I want to say that money is nothing, I borrow them from the saving group. Tomorrow morning I am going to borrow some money to get the Visa and the day after I will proceed to the embassy. But I am not feeling any pain, I am not regretting anything because going to meet the Pope is about me, it is all about my life. I have made many sacrifices but I did them because I saw more value in going to meet the Pope because it concerns me and my life.
I pray the Holy Spirit to touch each and every person in the whole world, so that they can become aware of themselves, of their value and of their dignity. I think that if people could know that they are a value, the world will be at peace until the day in which we will meet our destiny. Thank you.”
Ketty: “The first time that I have met Rose she smiled at me and she showed me another life. That was the time I realized: ‘maybe I will be ok’. But what did she really do to me? She just asked me: ‘What is your name and where are you from?’ I feared everything because I was having a lot of smell and flies around me, but Auntie Rose and the women showed me that I am important, that I have a value. I have started to join them, to work with them hand to hand and then I also started to go to community school. The first time it was not ok because I didn’t understand well and I came back home and I stayed there for 3 weeks. But my heart was telling me to go back to community school. I went and I put my mind to learn. I learnt that if you want to know and learn something you have to be patient and also that the work of community school is good for me and for my life. Before meeting Rose, I was always thinking to what happened to me in the past, but since I joined community school I can live all my things in the present. My heart kept on moving. When I went for prayers and for Mass I saw people that were taking the body of Christ, so I asked myself: ‘Why can’t I take the body of Christ like them too? I wanted to be in the number of those who were taking the body of Christ. By the time I joined community school, they showed me that Catholic people welcome people. So I decided to be baptized. Last year on Easter I was baptized with my children and with other 15 people. I was very happy.
One day at Meeting Point in Kireka, Auntie Rose told us about the meeting with the Pope in Rome. Now I can say that money is nothing. When I will meet with the Pope it will be even better than meet my father. I look at the Pope as a big father. I was not expecting Rose to tell us anything that day, but when I heard it, I understood that money is nothing to me. Money is not my life, but the value that I am. Community school makes my heart moving ahead so I go to meet the Pope”.
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 tells his story here below.
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 HIGH 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 ( MPI Director) 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
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 everything 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 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 ourselves 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 myself 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!
SIX YEARS OF GRATITUDE
I have taken a good number of years teaching Adult Literacy classes in Meeting Point International in Naguru. In the beginning, this work was quite complicated since I was used to teaching young primary school pupils. In MPI I began 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.
Written by Tr. Wasswa Yusuf and Compiled by Lumanyika Jude.
VINCENT FINDS HOME!
In the photo are students of Luigi Giussani High School
“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. – written by 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
ALOYO GLADYS, A FORMER 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 Luigi Giussani High school my mother asked me if I can join the school of Community. At that time, 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 heard from Aunt Rose but every time 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
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.”
Necklaces changing lives of HIV-positive widows
Sanyu Andrew Nsubuga, Uganda Monitor
Yet still, nothing observable about those beautiful, bright-coloured necklaces serves to prepare a beholder for the incredible story behind those handicrafts. A story of necklaces some have called magical for the way they have been able to turn around the lives of everyone connected to them.
We are talking about the necklaces made by the women of Meeting Point International (MPI), an NGO in Nakawa division, which works to improve the lives of poor women living with HIV –particularly around Kireka and Naguru areas in Kampala.
MPI was founded 22 years ago by Rose Busingye, a woman who, upon returning to Uganda from a 10-year sojourn in Italy, just couldn’t watch passively as positive women living with HIV in her neighbourhood of Kireka were dehumanised and destroyed by the disease.
Busingye says: “I saw that the women were very poor and had problems finding food, shelter and other provisions, not only for themselves but their families too. Being HIV positive in tough conditions had made their life hell, and they needed help to begin living meaningful and fairly dignified lives.”
Busingye got some of her own money and added to it what she was able to raise from her friends overseas, then began seeking out the suffering women and trying to help them live better lives. She registered the NGO Meeting Point in order to have her initiative working in an organized manner.
“She would help us with medication as well as food to eat,” says 68-year old Janet Nabirye, who was one of the first to join Meeting Point Kireka in 2000. “She also would find sponsors to pay our children’s school fees.”
Starting to make Necklaces
Busingye recalls that as the number of women she was helping increased, it became very challenging to meet the bills, and she had to figure out a way the women could also help themselves.
Since most of them had formerly been working in the stone quarry, breaking stones, she only had to find something that would both bring in some more money and also not wear them out since most were living with HIV. “I had seen a few of them making crafts, and since I knew that crafts had a market in Europe, I settled on introducing craft making as a business for Meeting Point,” Busingye says.
The women shared their craft-making skills among themselves, and a few volunteers from Europe also came and offered them some training. Tina Kabakunirwa, who has been with Meeting Point since 2004, recalls that the necklaces were just part of several other handcrafts that the women made, others including sweaters, mats among others. She says the ladies in fact still make other crafts alongside the necklaces, only that the necklaces sell most and have eventually become the flagbearer of all crafts they make.
The process of making the necklaces
The necklaces are made primarily from waste paper – all sorts including newspapers and magazines, among others. The process starts with making of beads, and here magazine pages are marked off and cut into long, thin triangles.
The triangles are then rolled around a needle and sealed with glue, creating an egg-shaped bead. The beads are then threaded onto a string and vanished to give them a glossy shine –the varnish taking two to three days to dry.
The women make their necklaces as individuals, mostly at home, each making her own unique and creative designs.
Then each presents their product to Meeting Point, which puts all the products together and looks for market for everything –most going overseas. However, each woman receives payment for her particular products as they sold.
How the necklaces have changed the women’s lives
Josephine Atimango, a member, says, “Necklace and bead-making has been a wonder for us. Many of us never used to have food at home, we used to toil for long hours in the quarries of Kireka to get something to survive on, but now we no longer need to do that.” SRC: Monitor