In October, I had the opportunity to visit a new friend in Uganda. Although I landed at Entebbe International Airport, Uganda in the dark, I received a warm joyous welcome. My friend, Hope Nankunda and her cousin hugged me and soon took me towards the capital city, Kampala. The very next day I learned why she had such a passion to help girls. Hope is a Christian and her faith is very important to her.
Hope’s mother had to struggle because her father died early. She longed to learn and her mother did her best to keep her in school. But she had another daughter who could not stay at school. Hope saw how fortunate she was to go on to university and change her whole life. She loved her sister who has become a dressmaker, and she wanted to do something that would keep all girls in school. She saw the pitfalls of early marriage and babies at too young an age. I heartily agreed with her.
I was pleased when she took me to many schools. She visits them regularly in her capacity as a counsellor to girls through the charitable organization, she founded, called Raising Teens Uganda (RTU). As a mother of three girls, Hope’s vision is strong and very practical. I was soon shown how girls valued her visits for her advice about hygiene and relationships as well as education. To keep girls attending school every day, she hands out Afri-pads for use monthly. She has now given out over 1,600 pads and was spreading the word to many more girls. One motto she has is “Books, not Babies.” On the very first day, we both talked at a school about the value of education and how it gave us a better standard of living.
My own mother had come from a big family and had no choice but to leave school at 15. With her wisdom, she went into business and kept us in school and university. I wanted the girls to know I was a first-generation student to fulfil my education because I had a caring parent. They were interested and asked questions. It was rewarding to have such an attentive audience.
I also saw Christian and Muslim girls learning together; they appear to respect each other’s faith:
a Muslim Iman, a Sikh, a Roman Catholic and an Anglican minister gave students short talks and prayed for them at a school service. That was another lesson in interfaith harmony. In the first three days, I learned so much.
I also attended St Luke’s Anglican Church, where Hope’s family went. At the 9.30am service, about 1,000 people were present and of them, over 120 children came up to be blessed before going to Sunday school. The joy of singing happy praise songs with the church choir was contagious. The emphasis afterwards was on the Scriptures and on prayer with hymns in between. Outside, I found another welcome in tea and a samosa which was delicious. I discovered that the total parish membership was closer to 3,000 as there were 3 well-attended services each Sunday and cell groups met for Bible study and prayer in the week as well as visiting sick. And, I sensed their joy at being involved in helping each other. It was not surprising that my dear friend Hope has such a love for the Lord that she wants to help young people.
There is so much to tell that I will continue my blog on another day. I felt fortunate to see keen students in several schools. Some of the poorest people I have ever met, anxious to improve themselves for their children too, meet hope and her friend Charlotte for weekly talks. I enjoyed doing a singing action game with them.