This post was written by Miriam Egwalu, a member of the Ugandan diaspora in Vancouver.
My story started when I went to Uganda in March, 2009 after my Mom passed away. During the burial and afterwards, I noticed that there were more women than men. Most of the women were either very old or very young single mothers. The men were also very old or very young. I later realized that most of the men had been killed in the 25 year war that had ravished Northern Uganda and that the others had moved to towns and cities to try and find work, leaving behind wives to take care of the kids and grandparents.
When I interviewed one of the older ladies, she informed me that most of the women get no support from their husbands who have moved to cities and some are widowed with numerous children to support. She was one of the widowed. She was left with 6 kids to take care of. Her oldest daughter was not going to school because she needed her to help in the garden and other chores. The other 5 kids were being supported by a charity organization in order for them to go to school.
I asked her what I could do to help her be self-sufficient. She informed me that since she was now old, she could not do farm work like the younger women, and asked for 200,000 Ugandan shillings (an equivalent to $100.00 Canadian) so that she could open a store. I gave her the 100 dollars and went back to Canada.
I returned to Uganda last March with my 12 year old daughter to see how my Dad was doing and also to attend my mom’s last funeral rights. I was amazed at how much the 100 dollars I left had helped this lady. She had a small stall by the road side and was busy selling small grocery items. She was also now renting a sewing machine and was earning money as a seamstress.
My daughter, who had never been to Africa before, wanted to see how kids her age were living and the schools they went to. She asked me why kids were going to school with ripped school uniforms and no shoes on. I told her that they could not afford new uniforms, so she immediately pulled out $25.00 Canadian dollars and offered it to the girl she had seen with a ripped uniform. She promised the head teacher that when she returned to Canada, she would baby-sit and walk dogs in order to help more kids get school Uniforms.
When we arrived back here, we started saving money for kids who did not have school uniforms. I felt so good be doing something that my young daughter noticed and vowed to address. Today, we have managed to dress over 20 kids with school uniforms and thereby helped them stay in school.
I am planning to go back to Uganda this year in April and see how the project is proceeding. My goal is to help all the kids who cannot afford school uniforms to be dressed up and go to school because, although there is free elementary education in Uganda, no kid is allowed in class without a uniform and this is the main thing that makes kids drop out of school. Most of these kids live with aging grandparents or single mothers who have no way of getting any income.
I also plan to help one woman a year start some money generating project in order for her take care of her children.
I appeal to all who can help to join me in this project of dressing kids with school uniforms so that they can get the basic education needed by all.
Miriam can be reached at moballim2000[at] yahoo[dot]ca.