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A New ‘Family’ Member: Godfrey Mugisha February 22, 2009

Posted by Mike O in Charity, family.
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Now that Irene and Faridah are through secondary school, I had a little bandwidth to pick up another.  This time I worked directly though Children of Uganda and their monthly donation program.  I requested a Primary boy this time, because I need to mix things up a bit.  I was fortunate enough to draw Godfrey Mugisha, a young man who- according to Peter, the Sabine library manager– has been the top of his class since the first day he walked in the door.  I fully expect I have another college education to pay for in my future.

Godfrey’s family situation is tough.  Rather than being the typical orphan from AIDs, his father was seriously injured in a fall many years ago, was unable to work and finally passed on in 2007.  His mother and 7 siblings had to sell their cattle (cattle being a strictly man’s business in Uganda; both societal and practical, as cattle theft must be an issue.).  They bought a small tract of land and struggle to survive.  I’ll be helping his family where I can, so Godfrey can focus on school.

A new, long-term adventure and commtiment for me; I haven’t regretted one yet.  I look forward to getting to Africa and meeting Godfrey and his family.


A Video of My ‘Niece’, Sandra March 8, 2008

Posted by Mike O in family.

The poor young lady has gone through a fair amount of hospitalization lately; complications (minor) after they took a clot out of her brain months after a pedestrian accident.

Update: The last hospitalization seemed to take care of a transient problem with dehydration.  Lat I talk to her, she had been fine for quite awhile and was concentrating on studies, as she should. 

 But does she look good in this video from before!

She looks too good!  I can also attest to something else from personal experience, but fortunately I’m old enough and ‘comfortable’ enough that the damage was minimal:  A big hug from Sandra delivered to any male with a functional endocrine system will drop said male’s IQ to match his age for hours.

Maybe I need to include this message I sent prior to the PAM Awards (the East Africa Grammys).  She didn’t win, but even being nominated was an honor.


Faridah, Winnie’s long-time Helper July 24, 2007

Posted by Mike O in family, people.
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Faridahs. story is interesting. All through secondary school, Faridah had made it her job to be my Winnie’s assistant and was just phenomenal at it. When I met her in 2005, she was extremely quiet and shy, though very bright. She worked with Winnie during a two-day laptop training class I had with them and Faridah was a little quicker on the uptake than even Winnie. We were together for several days and I don’t think I got 20 words out of her.

A couple days after the training, it was time to take Winnie back to school. She called to ask Faridah if we could pick her up to take her at the same time; only then did Faridah break the news to Winnie that she didn’t have enough money to return to school! He dad is a Boda-Boda driver (motorcycle taxi) and hadn’t raised quite half what was needed. All those days with the big Mzungu and she didn’t even ask for herself.

Of course, I covered the difference and we picked her up to go with us. We stopped by to meet her Dad, who was very appreciative (he wasn’t 40 yet, but looked in his 60s; a hard life). Since then, I have committed to being her Da’s ‘pertner’ in her education and I will say, he keeps coming through with what he can. He’s an honorable man.

This visit with Faridah was great. She is more outspoken and confident, with a boyfriend I didn’t get a chance to meet. She even asked for- and naturally got- one of my suitcases and one of my torches. She wants to be a nurse and would be a real natural at it; I’ll see her through secondary for another year or so. .

Rose, The Dancer July 24, 2007

Posted by Mike O in family, people.
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Rose Kokokumbya is another of my ‘girls’ that I support more from a communication standpoint than financially. She has been an active member of the Tour (a music and dance fund-raiser that comes to the U.S. for Children of Uganda) for years. She is an exceptional dancer and singer and a real joy to just hang around with. When the Tour was here, I treated them to lunch at Chipotles and some time at our local park; they needed to unwind at the end of the Tour. Rose was the only kid who has seen my home; she and the Sabine director Debra went with me to pick something up there. I talk to Rose on the phone frequently; cell phones are not allowed at her school, but she sneaks me calls at night. Rose is having to adjust to some degree to some organizational changes; in the past, the Tour kids were given resources and privileges significantly above those of the other orphans and the Children of Uganda can no longer do that to the same degree. She has put on a bit of weight since the last Tour; she wasn’t much of a fan of American food and maybe over compensated when she got home.
We went to see Rose at her school; when she came to the office from the call, she stood right beside me not recognizing me (beard and 80 less pounds). I almost didn’t recognize her with the hood of her sweatshirt up, plus the extra bit of weight. She joined us for the weekend; Winnie and she did a ‘sleepover’ at Visitor’s Village, the Bed and Breakfast I stay at when I can afford to. The girls yakked until 2am; typical. She came down with a bad case of malaria and I saw her the next weekend at the orphanages; very sick, as much from the medication as the disease. She scared me a bit that way; I’m glad she recovered quickly. She took to wearing my watch, so I ended up leaving it with her of something of a birthday present (I was pretty broke by then).

Sir Charles July 24, 2007

Posted by Mike O in family, kids, people.
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Charles Mugarura I met on my first trip to Sabine, A nice young man, very interested in music; he ended up with my MP3 player most of the time. He always went out of his way to be helpful; I nicknamed him ‘Sir Charles’.
Charles was a surprise on my second visit after 2 years; he’d gained at least 9 inches in height and was by far one of the biggest kids. Still very much a ‘country boy’, though, and that’s part of his charm. He seems to have done very well; he’s the school’s librarian. Like Irene, I didn’t get to spend enough time with him. Next time I go back (it definitely will be for a school break), I’ll get him to come to Kampala and let him stay at Visitor’s village for a weekend. That would be a real treat for him. I need to make sure his school is covered, even though I can’t help. I specifically brought a cheap MP3 player so I could leave it with him; he was very touched.

Irene Birungi July 23, 2007

Posted by Mike O in family, people.
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Irene is another one of my nieces that has, over the past couple of years, gone through and passed out of the ‘teenage ornery’ phase. She’s the only one of my girls I have yelled at both on the phone and via email for being a troublemaker. Irene is the probably the brightest of the lot academically, but with a stubborn and impulsive streak. But I gather she is getting the latter attributes under control and will go far with her brainpower, if given the opportunity.

Irene certainly shocked me this last trip and I wish I’d had more time to spend with her. But she was in school and I only got about an hour. They called the whole group of Sabine girls to the office, not letting them know about our visit. Irene was the first and only one of my kids to recognize the slimmer, bearded version of me; she hit me with a solid tackle of a hug, nearly taking me off my feet. When I got out of that, I noticed her name on her school uniform; ‘Irene Openshaw’. She had no idea when I’d be coming by, so it was not done solely for my benefit. Very touching, especially since- while being a moral supporter of hers- I am not her sponsor. But her sponsor does not communicate with her and my ‘personal touch’ (including an occasional verbal swat on the behind) apparently meant a lot to her.

She is currently ranked second at a very tough Catholic school and I am very proud, though undeserving, of her carrying the Openshaw name. I got her a little cash and arranged art supplies for her; and met her art teachers who were impressed with her natural ability. She switched over to being interested in business and seems to have settled down; I really think she’s going places and will help when I can.

Sandra, my Favorite Niece July 22, 2007

Posted by Mike O in family, people.

Sandra Karagirwa, Gordon Nicol’s marvelous daughter and my favorite niece: where to even begin. She is beautiful, graceful, talented (with a voice to charm angels) and sweet; Gordon has himself one fantastic girl. Her horrific past, as a young survivor of the Rwandan genocide, also tempered her character; but it did not slay the stunningly beautiful butterfly that is her soul.

I am of an ideal age to deal with her: old enough to keep the brain functioning and the relationship proper, but still not so that I cannot appreciate her beauty and truly innocent affection she so readily gives. I spent quite a bit of time with her; I am very concerned, because she is trying to hang onto her morals in a music industry that will do everything it can to strip those morals away.   But the young lady is very strong and she assures us she can handle it.  She is in college, studying journalism and I expect to see her on TV some day. 

 Update: Welcome, Gatewaypundit readers (one of my favorite reads).. Sandra was nominated for a PAM Award (the East Africa equivelent of a Grammy) as Best Rwandan Artist.  While she did not win, it is still a great honor for someone so new to the music industry (and I don’t doubt her high moral character might have been an issue.)   Pretty good revenge on those monsters responsible for the Rwandan geneocide.  They not only failed to kill her, she has flourished despite their atrocities.

Update: Some of her videos: NDISHUSHU YAWE , nyina wumuntu

Update2: 12/19/07  The cause of Sandra’s recurring severe headaches, which she’s had for several months after she was stuck as a pedestrian in a traffic accident, has finally be found.  A blood clot in her brain; they surgically removed it yesterday.  Gordon and I (as well of her many friends) are all spending a bunch of time talking to God these days on her behalf. 

Here is a picture for the males in Sandra’s world.  Those that don’t know Africa don’t realize how male dominated it is in certain regards and dangerous for women alone. If giving some male with the wrong intentions a moment of pause that a crazed Mzungu may come looking for him, all well and good. Because this is the Mzungu they could end up meeting if they do any of my girls real harm.

Introducing my daughter Winnie July 22, 2007

Posted by Mike O in family, people.

Describing my daughter Winnie would take too long to make for a readable posting. Much of her story you can read at her old site (recently moved), but I’ll just stay with the bare facts for a start.

Nazziwa Winnifred was born November 28, 1986 to a farmer mother and a fishmonger father. She developed polio early in life, resulting in the loss of her ability to walk. Her father also passed on when she was young and her family (one sister, three brothers) lived in extreme poverty. Such conditions break the spirit and the will of all but a few; for those few, it tempers them into nearly unbreakable steel. My Winnie is one of those few.

I was introduced to Winnie in 2003 by Gordon Nicol, who had a brief interview he had videotaped with her on his trip in December ’02. She had ‘fallen through the cracks’ as it were and was unsupported for school. One brief viewing of this young outspoken girl in her chair and I was hooked. I am honored that she thinks of me as Dad; I tell her a fishmonger watching from above made sure I got sent in as a ‘sub’. I will say that it is of more benefit to me than I could ever be to Winnie. I cannot be more proud of her will, accomplishments, leadership, practicality, strength, and kindness than if they were my own. I will just leave you with my notes from my latest (June, ’07) visit with her:

My time with my daughter Winnie was far greater this time and very enjoyable. Other than the practical stuff of getting things underway to get her in college and get her a new wheelchair, the rest was a lot of father-daughter bonding. She spent several nights at Visitor’s Village (one night with Rose) and we just generally had more time for yakking. She is remarkable and I am very proud to be her Dad.

The big surprise was here boyfriend Joel; I wasn’t even supposed to know about him, but Farida ratted him out. I did the ‘Dad thing’ of meeting the potential son-in-law (and I am convinced that there are some real, if distant intentions on the part of both Joel and Winnie in that regard). I give my tentative approval to Joel; Winnie has been dating him for nearly a year and is very picky, so I’m not surprised anyone she puts up with for a year is a winner. My one disappointment is that I got only a single picture of Joel, though it’s a pretty good one with a smug-looking Winnie.

(July 17th, ’07)
Just got word from Uganda; Winnie’s older sister just passed on; meningitis and other things. Really sad; Joel called and I talked briefly with both her and him; how I wish I could be there! Winnie could barely talk; Lord, let her feel the hug I send her and know I’m with her now in her moments of sorrow.
I never met her sister, but I believe she has 3 kids and was a widow.

Later, I found out Winnie essentially cried for a solid day over her sister; Joel stuck it out all the way through. He’s a real champ; I guess I can figure on him as presumptive son-in-law and glad of it. Wish I had resources to help him financially (he once asked about help with books). Winnie has settled down now; her sister left a will and the daughter (15) is WInnie’s charge. Good choice; the boys went to the father’s family, as is right. I’ll be sure Winnie can handle this.