WHAT DO THESE ORPHANS DREAM OF ?
The loss still clings to them like woodsmoke on clothes. They are the double orphans of Kanungu District, ten minutes from Bwindi National Park in South Western Uganda, the home of the famous mountain gorillas. Those beautiful rolling pristine hills have buried parents, to mean they’ve buried the hearts of their children. Most of them don’t remember their parents - tea farmers who belonged to Kayonza Growers Tea Factory - who died when they were very young. They recall fragments, shards of their parents; a remote smell, an obscure touch, far-away laughter behind a wall, a face washed out with time. Some carry tattered photos, folded in worn wallets, little tombs of memory. Others have stories from relatives. Most have nothing. But they all unequivocally understand loss. It bleeds in them.
Kayonza Growers Factory sends some of these double orphans to school under their Double Orphans Bursary Scheme established in 2005 and has since sent 260 children to school. The scheme is funded by Fairtrade premiums.
We asked some of these beneficiaries to let us in into their dreams.
VICTOR AMUTHEREIRE, 25, Nurse Burandami village, southern ward.
East Kanungu town council. Father died when he was four in 1999. Mom died the next year. “I don’t recall what killed my father but I know he died at home, in the house.” He says. What he remembers of his father is him taking him to the shamba and him copying what he was doing with the small hoe that he had made for him. He was light in complexion and tall, always blocking the sun. “I have photos of my mom and him. She was skinny, long limbs. I remember the smell of her cooking.”
“My father died in the house. He didn’t die in a health facility because we were poor. I studied nursing to help poor people not die in their houses. Nobody deserves to die like that. I want to be able to change someone's life and to change their destiny. What else is there in life if not service to the less fortunate?"
DINAH NDYANUHAKI, 28, Midwife Kanungu, district.
Her mom fell ill and died when she was three years old. Father followed two years later. “I don’t remember them, I was too young. I wish I had some memory of my mom, but sometimes something will remind me of her, something weird, like the sound of a dropping spoon.” Her mom was the second wife. They were nine kids and she’s the second last born. “I remember my father to be very old, he was 95 years when he died. I think he might have had a beard.”
"Where I grew up children died frequently. Disease and death were never too far away. The diseases were always something that could be treated but since families didn’t have access to health care, they resorted to herbs as treatment. They treated everything with herbs and people, mostly children, died as a result.” “I’m a midwife because I don’t want to see another child die. I want to bring life and preserve it. Children shouldn’t die from simple ailments. I did midwifery to make a change. I want to leave something behind, especially in my village. I want to eventually put up a hospital where my people can be saved.”
JOSHUA, 23, Maintenance Assistant
His father was a high school teacher by day, tea farmer by passion. He died when he was six. Road accident. Mom died when he was 19-years. Mental illness. She withered like a seedling without water. “He loved my mom, I saw how he showed his love by providing for her and us and so when he died, she couldn’t hold it together.” He remembers her, but mostly, he remembers her deteriorated in health.
“I want to get a national diploma, then secure a job which will help me save some capital for starting a business. Then I will start an orphanage for kids who have lost their parents and have no one to help. If it weren’t for the help of others, I wouldn’t have been where I am.” Great misfortune might have visited these young boys and girls but now they are on a path paved with great purpose and determination. Their dreams are the bright lighthouse that continues to illuminate this journey as more of them are rescued from despair by the Fairtrade premiums.