“Thank you. I’m Charles Wamimbi, my third name is Eric. I am a secondary teacher in fine arts and I want to pursue masters in HR. My wife finished her masters, and it is only proper that I get my masters in HR because my wife did hers in business. We are blessed with 3 children. I love them because I missed that first love of a father. I have been raised with at least one from my father’s side. I have one sibling from my father’s side. My dad told her that she was the only woman in his life. When mama was pregnant with me she found out there was another wife with two children already. So at giving birth, she said that was the end of the story with my father. At three months, she took me to my dad’s place because she was not getting help. Her home people were not welcoming to her not settling down with my dad. She realized that if she was to get any help from her people, then she had to get rid of me. My mother, when she took me there, she came back and brought me to her place because she was missing me. At about 5 or 6, my dad now comes claiming to have me
to take me back to where he comes from. We come from the eastern part of Uganda, but it is all very bad. You are going to visit it. My home district is the next after Esther’s. Yeah so my dad took me there, but unfortunately he took me, he again traveled to the U.S. and left me with the step mother. Now step mother could not take me to school so while my siblings are going to school, I was left home hunting birds instead of going to school. So it was the December holidays, my mother comes to check on her son. I was in rags, and I was not studying not so much. She took me back to Jinja. I do not know if you passed Jinja? So that is our home district. We came back and from then on, she was the one taking care of my school fees, my upkeep. My dad could not because he came back and he heard that I was picked away and the reasons I was not studying, and he was guilty. So he gave up on his responsibility as a dad. I approached P7, and I started missing something. 'Who is my dad? Where is my dad?'
"Mama settled down with another man, and I had siblings. She was this unlucky women. Even that particular man, he was a drunkard and forever beating her up. So they separated. She came with a third man, and it was the same story. She said, 'I think I should just take care of my children.' Out of all three, none of them was responsible to pay fees for us or upkeep, something like that. In P7, I became tough on her. I wanted to know my real dad. As a boy, it is just natural that there is that attachment that a boy has with a dad. “It is your dad that you want to know?” I said, “yes, where?” She said, “I’ll take you there.” So she takes me. My dad looked impressive, and I was sure he cares for me. I told Mama, “I think I am going to study from this side. I am not coming back that side anymore.” What I faced with the stepmother was terrible. It was very very bad. I only spent there 1 year, and I gave up. I had to come back to Mama and tell her, “I have known my dad, but I think I cannot stay outside.” My siblings were not cooperative. I was a stranger in my daddy’s home. I couldn’t really fit in well. Come senior 2, she is taking care of everything. Senior 3, she was taking care of us. With mama, there are 6 others;
there are 7. At the time, she was working with a very good bank, that is Bank of Uganda. She was getting some very good money. At the time, they were trying to trench, and she was among the staff that was trenched. She lost her job, but she got some small token of appreciation. It was that that she bought land to use. I had some business skills. At the time, I had reached senior 4 and I told her I wanted to take care of the chickens. They are those birds that lay eggs. She said, “How would you build a structure for the chickens?” I told her if I can get just .5, that is 500,000, that was a lot of money back then. With 500 she gave me, I was able to put up a structure, bring some birds, and started making some good money in Senior 4. These young ones were looking at us, Mama and me, for school fees. I had taken up the role of a man. Mama, the little money she had saved had gone down. I payed her the 500 because I had such a big number of birds. She said, “Oh no, don’t pay me. Instead, put that money back. I also want to do the same business you are doing, and somehow we started rearing chickens. It became the family business.
So when I was supposed to be in Senior 5, I got somebody to take care of those birds. I went to school, but I knew things were not working as well. It was a boarding school, so every time I made sure I had permission to come check on the project. Then it came to Senior 6, and the people were not responsible, so we made a loss. I think it is one of the factors that made me perform poorly. I didn’t perform so well. I should have been called by the government for sponsorship and I failed. I passed, but I didn’t get sponsorship. In my vacation, I brought up another project packing yogurt. With rearing chickens, I was also making yogurt to make sure these young ones are getting education. So we did it, and it was good. Then the time came I had to join university, and again it was
bad too. It was struggling. It was not easy because at one time, I had to confront dad and tell him, “You know what, you are my father. They tell me that, and you also confessed, ‘it is true, you are my son.’ We are having a rough time at home. Mama doesn’t have a job. It is really hard. Can you do something? He tells me, ‘You know what, if you want me to do something then during holidays you are supposed to come and spend it with me here. You do not expect me to give you the money when you are that far. So because the first time I tested and failed and he saw that I could not handle anymore, I let go. I said, ‘If it is about coming there so I could get money, I would rather stay and gamble.” So, my life has been through that.”
Charles hosted me for a few days between my working at a summer camp and living with the Honourable Macho. He lives in Seeta with his wife Madam Esther, who got her masters in business while starting her organization which supports students all over Uganda. I met Charles the night I arrived at Madam Esther’s camp in Uganda. At that camp I met Lillian and Sawiya.
“At school, we wake up at 4AM. Someone sounds the alarm for you to get up, but I wake up 15 minutes early so I can get dressed and get my books and go when everyone else wakes up. Then I goto morning preps until 6AM. This is morning personal revision to give you extra time for a subject. After morning preps, we have breakfast for 45 minutes, and from 6:45 to 8:00 we can do our homework. At 8AM, we begin class, so I have 2 classes and then a double class. A double class is two periods in a row with the same teacher. On Tuesdays, my double class is a cooking lesson.
At 1PM, we have lunch for 45 minutes. After lunch, we go back to class until 4:40. We have 2 more classes, and at 4:40 we have time to bathe or fetch water before tea time at 5PM. At 6, we have supper for 45 minutes, and by 7PM you must be in class again for the teacher to begin preps. We finish preps at 11PM. If you are finished with your work and you have your books ready for the next day and you have fetched water, then you can go to sleep by 11:15, but some have not finished and they go to sleep sometimes at midnight.”
Lillian was explaining her secondary school schedule to me, and then Sawiya told me about her life before she started school.
“Our life is much better now because we have hope and we live here and we will change our families lives. We lost our fathers to rebels. Never sleep without your clothes because if the rebels come, then you will have to run naked and find a bush to hide in. A gust of wind could come in my village and it would make you run because it might be a rebel. My sister was out one night, and she saw a piece of wood. It was big on the ground close by, and she screamed, ‘Rebel! He is trying to get me!’ My father came
running. He took a sword and hit it, but he saw that it was only wood. He thought someone was coming for his daughter. The rebels got him though. He worked crushing coal, and he went to the bush to relieve himself, and they got him. I have not seen him since. I think our backgrounds make us stronger. We should not be afraid of what is ahead because we need to keep chasing our dreams. Persevere when things get difficult.”
Madam Esther facilitates the sponsorship of these girls getting out of troubled environments and into programs where they receive sponsorship to get their education. WhileI was in Mawero, a village in the district of Busia where they speak Icheso, I interviewed Madam Esther’s father, Emmanuel. At 69 years old with most of his vision gone, Emmanuel stared out of the window and spoke quite slowly.
“You are married? Not yet. There are some in university who are married. I was married for 43 years, but my wife, she died in 2011. By the time I got married, I was 19. I grew upas an orphan. My father died when I was about 5 years old, so the church members looked after me. My father was not a Christian; he did not even go to school. The church members educated me up to S6, and I became a teacher. I was a teacher for 33 years. My grandfather told me the story of my father. When he died, he was a hunter. He hunted wild animals, and he died from sleeping sickness. When I was young he took care of me, and I was the eldest. We are four children. I studied through secondary school before
taking a course to get a certificate to teach primary school. I was very poor so I could not go to university. I got married before I became a teacher. I had seven children and they are all teachers. I taught my children to be very disciplined about their behavior, to be good citizens. They never had problems. Behavior was the thing. I used the Bible. Took them to church. Used prayers. I was a good example. I was a Christian so they followed my example, and that is why you have found they are very humble. Everything was good. I never did anything bad. Everything was easy. I did not find any problem up to now. With money, there was no problem.”
Before I met Emmanuel, Madam Esther also told me about her experience with her father.
“My father had problems with alcohol. He would drink and drink. If you wanted to meet him, it would have to be early in the morning. After 7AM, if you wanted to meet, you need to wait until the next day. At one point, I was very young, I do not remember, but my mother
packed her things to go and leave us. He was violent, but she decided to stay with us. My father today is a changed man though. He has stayed away from alcohol, and he counsels others. He used to have problems, but now he is good.”
Madam Esther’s camp is where I was introduced me to Honorable Macho, who's son attended the camp. He is a member of parliament and represents the Busia district, where he offered to host me and introduce me to people to interview. He started an organization called Shine Outreach, which has opened a teacher’s college and provides financial support for widows with small business. The common language in Busia is Somia, so Mashala translated as I interviewed Ceclia, Naigaga, Rukia (pronounced Lukia), Taaka, and Mariam. They are widows connected to Shine Outreach to support the growth of their small agriculture businesses, where they sell food they either grow or buy.
“She is saying that she lost her husband, but currently she is the one battling to see that the children eat, they’re educated, they’re provided with basic needs. But during the time, she was with her husband life was smooth. When the husband was still alive, he was providing all the basic needs. But now she is facing rough to provide basic needs, the children, like education, clothing, shelter. She has even grandchildren. Because after the husband died, left her with the children, and those children grew up and now she has grandchildren. When the husband was still alive, he was educating the children. He was providing all the basic needs. When the husband was alive they knew where they were staying, but when the husband passed on even currently where they are staying they are renting. They are facing renting payments, providing basic needs for the food, education medical care. They have failed to educate the children to next level of education. Most of them stop in primary. They are just at home. When they reach O-level, that is senior 4, to go
to institution or university or where, they cancel. Even to take a child for a course, there is a problem. The father was the one paying school fees. The father was teaching them morals. They are saying the father used to call their children, sit with them, talk with them, counsel them how to behave when in society. Though the father is not there, they are still putting in the system. Some of them have small scale businesses to sell tomatoes, food stuff, but their sons and daughters are at home. They are carrying out the business, and the little money they get from there that is the money they use to buy food. So, that shows that they teach their children morals, teach them to be trustworthy. The little they get from there is what they use in their family. They are from different homes. So, her husband has a special way of providing their needs. He even provided for some help to the in-laws, especially her father. That is for her. The next husband would help her father. There was a time he was ill, and the husband paid for his hospital and for other basic needs.”
I was getting on my flight out of Uganda when my friend, Jess from Westminster, sent me a message asking, “How do you feel about it over there?” I was uncertain when I arrived whether I would connect with anyone or even come back to Uganda to see these people again. Now, I have begun planning how I will raise money so I can return to Uganda next August for Madam Esther’sVOACO camp. I need to return because I want to see how my new friends continue to grow into their opportunities and reconnect with them.
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