Ritah Namwiza November 22, 2010Posted by Mike O in Charity, people.
In the last 25 years, I don’t think I’ve met someone who has impressed me as much as Ritah Namwiza. Pretty, incredibly competent, articulate in ways I wish I was, and wise far beyond her years. This young lady I met only briefly on my last trip, but have communicated with often before this trip. I call her ‘business partner’ because, if I were to ever start a business in Uganda, she would be my first hire as manager. But on this trip, she was more than that; she was my counselor and savior.
We met at Kiwanga in Kampala at Sister Rose’s memorial service (a later post on that); Ritah had agreed to escort me to Sabina in Rakai province (we Mzungus need to taken care of worse than small children there, I’m afraid). The bus park area was a nightmare because of a strike against the bus park fees and our bus was two hours late starting out, turning it into a 6 hour trip. For me, it seemed far shorter (and, for poor Ritah, probably a lot longer) because talking with Ritah about everything and anything turned out to be one of the most enjoyable intellectual experiences I’ve had in decades. There are few subject I could not bring up that Ritah could not speak to and speak well. I also realized how much forbearance the beautiful young lady had when two pastors sitting next to us marvelled at just how long I could talk!
Ritah had to return the next day and promised to meet me at the bus park. That location was an even bigger nightmare on my return and that nightmare was to prove costly. While struggling through the packed crowd, I fell a bit behind and got waylaid by a three-man pickpocket team that fortunately only got my camera (being left-handed and having most my valuables on that side kept it from being worse). But that camera had valuable video I hasn’t had a chance to offload and I was distraught.
Ritah immediately took control. She got me and my baggage to a safe spot behind some vendors, got on the phone to call in Esther for reinforcements, got to the police and got things underway. They got me back to Kiwanga and Ritah continued to work the issue and- believe it or not- got the camera back intact! Ended up essentially paying off some cops to actually do their jobs, but the $40 that cost was well worth it and considered an education expense. FUll Story later; bottom line, Ritah is a can-do, VERY resourceful young lady that cannot be denied. Here are my two saviors at Winnie’s graduation; good thing I’m old and pretty settled; a younger, freer man as impressed as I am with these two fine women would propose to either- or both!
Toward the end of my trip, I was carefully marshalling my money (staying at the orphanage, instead of a hotel) because I knew there was something I wanted to do. I had promised to buy lunch for all at a meeting of the group of great people Ritah has forming into a new and exciting organization called LEAD Africa, essentially orphans working together to help the next generation get out of the cycle of dependency. The meeting was about their constitution and I judged the group during that meeting; as I expected they were all exceptional. At the end of that meeting, I surprised them with a personal grant- of one million schillings! (about $480). That will be enough for the to sub-let an office, get some basic furnishings and file the paperwork to become a CBO (community-based organization). Whether the group succeeds or not in this form is not my biggest concern; I know the PEOPLE in this group can succeed, and my investment is with them. Ritah has an eye for the exceptional person and can bring them together.
I cannot praise Ritah enough, except to say that I have little doubt of her future success and that just a few people like her and Winnie can truly be the future of the entire country of Uganda. Wise, worldly, but compassionate and talented to the extreme. Ritah IS the future for an entire nation and I am proud and honored to call her dear friend.
The Mugisha Family November 20, 2010Posted by Mike O in Charity.
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Godfrey Mugisha is my new ‘son’ in Africa and he’s a fine young man; the brightest in class and amazingly well respected and liked in the village. (By ‘son’, I am his full sponsor and- like Winnie- I take this VERY seriously; I’ll back him as far as he can go, then make sure he becomes independent and self-sustaining. That’s what we do for our children.) I walked up the 2km to his mother and siblings home through really nice country (The father was seriously injured in a fall into a pit and later died years ago) . This is the entire family in front of their home:
The inside of the hut is so cramped (no more than 100 square feet), it is obvious that Godfrey had to move into the orphanage for one simple reason; there was literally no floor place for him to sleep! I take up so much space here, two of the kids stayed outside.
The mother was incredibly gracious; serving hot milk with sugar added. Very nutritious and filling. They keep the hut very neat and have these very attractive jars for storing their cows’ milk. Note the design has for using the cooling affect of the ground (or in this case, the dried mud platform). That dried mud is EXTREMELY hard with a high clay content.
Godfrey’s mother insisted on presenting gifts as well (I have been supportiGodfrey for almost a year, and included a little extra money every month for the family- not even $20; raising it by $15). She gave me a giant straw mat and two very nice straw bowls. The mat was too big for be to carry in luggage easily, but it was a perfect addition to the visitors hut, as seen here. Other charity workers will avoid cold feet in the morning, thanks to the generosity of an incredibly poor family with more dignity than one can imagine.
My goal; someday, raise $2,500 to build them a proper house on the 13 or so acres they own. If I can get that done, then Godfrey can live at home and this fine family can take care of their own (though I’ll still get him through school).