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The Pursuit of Happiness

She smiles because she has known and felt the pain. She laughs a hearty laugh because she’s not new to sorrow. She is a champion ready to narrate the story of her life. This is a tale of a secondary school teacher who has lived amidst alcoholism for over three decades but made it out smiling with the love of her five children.

Suzan (not real name) was born in Kabale in 1963 as the last child of eight children. Despite his illiteracy, Susan’s father was one of the richest men in a 100 ft radius. He owned forests, land, plantations and the biggest asset of them all, an industrious mind which he fortunately transferred onto his children, one of the lucky ones being Suzan.

“It was a family of hard workers” she says. From her tone, you can tell her journey has been full of trials and tribulations. “In a time where female education was not as prioritized as male education, few of my sisters managed to go make it to school”. Her other sisters, she says lived the cliché that was a 16th century African woman.

Bare children, grow them and wait on their husbands. Suzan wanted none of this. She craved an independence that this life couldn’t offer her. She wanted to be educated and to bring her parents much joy and happiness. Only her father didn’t see it that way. School wasn’t her priority.

Through hardship and strain, she eventually made it to Makerere University, at a time of prestige and graduated with a degree of education in the year 1988. She left with her transcript and two babies. A boy and a girl. The joys of her life. She loved her man and above all, she loved her children.

She loved her job and her life was good. Despite having such, The world wasn’t. It was just all about being the target of so much hatred, jealousy and antagonism from relatives. For most did not appreciate the man she had brought home, and most of the others were jealous that she had not lived down to their expectations. . She was living the Kampala dream.

“I met Jim when i was eighteen years old in my final year of secondary school”. Susan narrates like a young lady in love.  “He taught literature and English. A very handsome man, brilliant, well-spoken and extremely chivalrous. Unlike the rest of the arrogant and intimidating teaching staff, Jim was kind, patient and excellent at his job which he executed with utmost passion”. Soon after she had finished her secondary education, their affair ensued. He was loving, he was kind and generous.

The most amazing person she had ever known. When she had their first child two years later, he was more hands on than even she was. He was perfect. He had no flaw… oh she was enchanted! Three years later she had another child, a boy. He was elated and life was beautiful. She worked hard, voluntarily counselling with TASO at Rubaga Hospital and at the same time, teaching Geography and History at Mengo Secondary School trying to make the perfect home for her husband and her two little angels. He worked even harder teaching and pursuing his higher education. They were not rich. Not even close. But they were happy.

“What began as an outburst of anger turned into a pattern of abuse”. She recalls. Suzan cannot clearly point out the day the sun set on her marital bliss, but the details are vivid in her mind. Sometime in the late 1990’s, all hell broke loose. What started out as a little insult and rude answer to an honest question turned to huge fight that lasted hours and sometimes days, to physical violence that involved shoving, hitting and more hitting. That wasn’t enough. Emotional violence ensued. Insults on her, insults on her fidelity. Torments on her background, her education, her physical appearance and everything she was. There were those days.

Where her precious Jim had been taken over by something else. She did not know what it was. She was in shock. After almost a decade of happiness, she had forgotten what it meant to be sad. She wept. Now she knew. And she was scared. Jim had developed an alter ego. Alcohol was the catalyst for his alter ego. And he was losing control over it.

Charming and angelic by day, violent, abusive and bitter by night. He would apologize. Make up for it. After all, even Paul was once Saul. She was quick to forgive. She knew the man she had married. He wasn’t this monster that would come out at night. She wept. She forgave. She forgot. Until the next time. He was sorry. She wept. She forgave She forgot. Until the next time.

Ten years later, several fights later, several threats of divorce later, several jobs, moves, embarrassments and tears, 3 children later, Suzan worked hard, she prided herself in being the best mother for her children, and even better wife for her husband. Jim worked hard too.

He was a perfect father. But that wasn’t enough for alcohol still had control of his mind. He drunk and lost his mind. He had good and bad days. His children, 3 daughters and 2 sons adored him. He adored them. He adored the bottle too. Suzan still wept.

Cause alcohol derailed each and every aspect of their lives. For a man of his means, they lacked development, they were merely getting by. But she couldn’t live like that. She made the decision to focus on her children and their livelihood. She wouldn’t let her husband’s inadequacies control their lives. She would live.

Loan after loan, she paid school fees, paid tuition and gave her children the best life she could. Jim worked hard, he provided as much as he was able to. And as far as the bottle took him. Suzan diligently created friendships with heads of schools, matrons and teachers so her children could live comfortably at school as she fought the battles at home. She supplemented their school education with her own. Coached in algebra and geography. Did homework and made sure her children were never lazy.

“Jim gave into alcohol completely and his body became a host of so many illnesses and he ailed so much that work became an option to him”. Suzan stated in a melancholic tone. But never once did she complain or pawn her children on other relatives like she had seen several people do over the years. On the few occasions that she felt defeated, she turned to God. Ignored the village gossip, the bitterness that years of verbal and emotional abuse had created and chose to live happily and raise happy children, despite the scars from their father.

Now she sits at home on her freshly mowed lawn, surrounded by books and papers to grade, with nothing in the air but the sound of birds, content and elated. Blissful like she was 30 years ago. Her children, all graduated, some married and some parents too. She spends her days mostly alone, in her vegetable garden looking forward to those days her children come around to visit.

“I have no regrets in life because am now a victor”. Susan says with a smile of a champion. “My beautiful babies have all grown into respectable men and women. Even when i was down, i never gave up because i knew suffering was temporary. I  go to church every Sunday to thank the good Lord for how far he He has brought me. I still work hard teaching thrice a week at Kitante Hill School and keeping my home as homely and comfortable for me and my children when they do come back home to visit me.”

Profiles

How This Group of Young Men is Creating Employment Through Art and Craft

BY MARVIN MUTYABA

A group of 6 youths in Makindye has embarked on a life changing journey, turning their passions and skills into a profitable business.

After attending a crafts exhibition at the National Theatre in 2015, these friends were inspired by the attractive crafts on display to start their own workshop making and selling crafts.

“We talked to Mr. Muwembo, the craftsman who was showcasing his work. He offered to give us training as we worked for him. His workshop was in Kanyanya so we used to come from Makindye every day to Kanyanya. It took us over a year to master how wood craft is done,” said Mark.

While at this apprenticeship, these young men started making their own pieces which they sold, using the profit to purchase their own equipment.

“We had a strategy. Every month we had to buy equipment. After a year, we had developed skills and were able to start our own workshop,” said Malakai, one of the proprietors of the workshop. “To start any business, it needs commitment, passion, and ready to take risks, consistency and involvement.”

In 2016, these committed youth started their workshop on a small piece of land given to them by Malakai’s father at Lukuli, Nanganda.

“After two months, KCCA came and demolished our workshop saying that they wanted only built up structures on the main road. Even all our equipment and materials were taken. We went back to zero and all our savings had been used to buy these things,” narrates Mark. “We visited KCCA offices several times trying to see if we could recover the materials. We had lost wood, vanish, paints and tools like small axes, carving tools, pry bars, clamps, hammers and marking tools. We never got any back so we gave up on them”

As a result, their work was put on a standstill for some time. This was a very big set back to their dream of building a very big craft shop. Their next challenge was getting another location.

“Towards the end of 2016, KCCA advertised a funding opportunity for the youths who had business ideas and also those that had running businesses. We wrote a proposal but this took a while and we never not get any feedback.”

Desperate for capital to start over, they sought loans from their parents to no luck. Only Abdul’s parents supported them with a small loan that wasn’t sufficient to cover the cost of materials and new equipment.

“During that time, there was a road construction project. we asked for jobs and worked there for 6 months. We saved all our money and rented a small piece of land where we put up a workshop. This time it was not on the main road.  We started working again and lucky enough, we had market from our time at Muwembo”s workshop,” narrates Mark.

Malakai working on one of the pieces in the workshop

Due to their hard work, these six young men have managed to create jobs and employ more eleven young people who distribute and take on other tasks like filing, shaping, chiseling, painting among others. The group is constructing a workshop and a showroom on the main road in Lukuli. By next year, they believe, the workshop will be done.

“Basing on the current situation in the country, we are able to earn a living and also employ other people,” says Abdul.

When asked about their goals, this inseparable team wants to have at least 100 employees by the end of next year and also start exporting their craft. They encourage their fellow Ugandans to follow their passion and find a way of earning from it.

*This is a guest post by MARVIN MUTYABA, a student at Makerere University Business School, currently pursuing a Business Administration in his second year. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, skills development and fitness. 

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Profiles

How Kasule Is Changing The Lives Of Children Of Prisoners One By One

BY SHANINE AHIMBISIBWE

Jimmy Kasule Chan is a 29-year-old man who has dedicated his life to supporting the children of prisoners in Uganda. With over sixteen children from twelve families in his programme today, he is working towards his vision of a prosperous future for the children of Ugandan prisoners.

Kasule (Right) does homework with one of the children in the programme

His desire to change the lives of prisoner’s children was awakened in 2012 when he was wrongfully detained at the Harare remand centre in Zimbabwe for six months.

My friend had told me to go with him to South Africa for work. When we got there, things were very tight and we decided to come back home after two weeks with some electronics for sale. We thought this could be our business. On our way, we had to go through Harare but we did not have some stamps in our passports. Because Uganda does not have an embassy in Zimbabwe, we had gone through the Tanzanian embassy but the people at the border could not understand this. We were taken to Interpol and on getting there, we were arrested for Border Jump. We were detained in Harare remand centre for 6 months without having any real contact with anyone. There were 12 Ugandans in total” he narrated. “My wife was seven months pregnant at that time and I kept thinking, what if I never go back to Uganda? Who will help my child? I resolved to help children of prisoners if I ever got out of this prison.”

Jimmy described his time as a prisoner in a foreign country as horrific and inhumane, with poor feeding and little to no medical care.

It was terrible. The food was the worst and sometimes not cooked properly in fact, people used to get sick all the time. One Ugandan died from a stomach infection. We used to eat something called “Chingwa”, that tasted like spoilt bread. Winter was the worst because we were given these thin blankets and no mattress.”

With the tireless help of his wife, jimmy was released from Harare remand centre in 2012 and on getting back to Uganda, the first thing he did was to get a job that would give him the funds to support these children.

A friend introduced me to a gentleman who gave me his car for business. I used to transport people most especially tourists and pay him UGX 300,000 every week. I got a very nice client called Mona, who I found out was the president of Children of prisoners, Sweden. After she left, I sent her an email asking for a meeting and she agreed to meet me. I told her about my vision and she seemed very excited about it. She was happy to meet someone who shared her vision.”

A few months later, Mona asked Jimmy to visit one of the children her organization sponsored, Chrispus, at his school.

When I visited him, he was excited that a stranger could come to see him. I kept visiting him on Visiting Days. He told me about his father who had been serving a long sentence in Luzira. I went to visit him and I asked him to introduce me to other people in the prison who I could talk to. I met people who would directed me to their families now my wife and I go to visit them and take for them some things.”

For four years now, Jimmy has conducted monthly visits to families of prisoners and has taken on the guardianship of Chrispus, who he regards as his first born. He also hosts an annual Christmas party for the children where he invites other children from the neighbourhood to make merry and meet father Christmas.

At one of the children’s Christmas parties Kasule has hosted

Jimmy believes that children, more so whose parents have been imprisoned, need to be loved and cared for so they do not find the need to commit any crimes and end up in prisons as well.

Would you like to support children of prisoners or volunteer on family visits? Please call/text Jimmy on 0774739500 or send him an email at jimmykasule@gmail.com

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Profiles

Turning Rubbish into Money In The Fight Against Unemployment

BY: MARVIN MUTYABA

Meet Calvin Matovu, a twenty-five-year old graduate from Makerere University who recycles wastes and rubbish into charcoal.

After attaining a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental science in 2013, Calvin searched for a job in vain. His life started becoming difficult as he had no source of income and he found it senseless to finish university and sit at idly at home.

In the struggle to fight unemployment, Calvin harnessed the idea of collecting wastes and rubbish from the community with his friends, to make some money.

“I asked myself, all this waste we collect and KCCA burns, can’t we reproduce a product out of it?’ Basing on my knowledge from campus, I came up with the idea of recycling wastes into charcoal.” Says Calvin at his factory in Erisa zone, Kyebando.

He set his plan in motion by gathering jobless youths in his community to create employment for themselves. Calvin and his team of seven started reusing wastes, especially organic wastes from agricultural products for example peelings from matooke. These are mixed with ash, clay, carbon and water to make a final product.

“At first we did not have market because people were already using charcoal from firewood with no clue about charcoal from wastes.” He says.

The idea of reusing garbage to make charcoal seems so unrealistic until he breaks down the process through which waste can be made useful and environment friendly.

“The raw materials include banana peelings, paper, clay, cow dung, cassava flour basing on your income level for example one can use clay or cow dung or cassava flour. The machines used are: a charring drum, crushing machine and a stick briquette machine. Peelings are collected and dried then sorted and grinded. Then they are burnt and put into the charring drum. The binder, which can be either  cassava porridge, clay or cow dung is added to the wastes mix and the mixture is then poured into the briquette machine. the last step is to dry the briquettes to produce charcoal. This is done in the drying rack.”

Calvin’s workmate sieving the raw material in the workshop

Calvin and his team have faced a number of challenges but this has not stopped them from going further.

“In the beginning, we used our hands to mould the charcoal which was very tiresome and it left our hands spoilt with dead skin in the palms. Our quality also wasn’t that good. The market too was very low but we never gave up.”

“Use what surrounds you” is a common saying that we often do not give attention too, but instead, we keep asking our leaders for help yet what’s surrounds us can be very useful in our daily life.

Basic principles of Physics state that “Effort + Load  = Work done.” Calvin’s hard work and desire to see his brilliant idea boom led him to overcome all the challenges that he and his team met. After months of several dynamics, critics and mental exhaustion, the season ended and he harvested fruits from his tree. Schools and some small companies started making orders for his charcoal. He has since received support from KCCA in form of a a manual machine that ended the hands era.

The briquettes are laid out to dry in the drying rack

Calvin Matovu now he employs twenty young people from his own community in Kyebando. The charcoal briquettes they manufacture cost UGX 1500 and last for over seven hours, which minimizes the daily costs also reducing demand for firewood.

“Anyone can do this anywhere at any time.” He says in conclusion. “Every person should base on talent at least 50% of their daily economic activities.”

The finished products. Briquettes ready to be sold.

This is a guest post by MARVIN MUTYABA, a student at Makerere University Business School, currently pursuing a Business Administration in his second year. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, skills development and fitness. 

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