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Mukwasibwe's story
Saturday, 27 March 2010 Written by Mukwasibwe Valeriano

Mukwasibwe ValerianoMukwasibwe Valeriano

I am Mukwasibwe Valeriano, a married father of two children – a boy and a girl. My mother had six children; we are five brothers and one sister who is the youngest. Actually, we are not full brothers and sister – they are my half brothers and sister. We have the same mother but not the same fathers. To be more precise – the five of them have the same father and he is alive, while mine is not – my father died twelve years ago. I found this out through researching and trying to find him. I was successful in locating him, but sadly, I have never really known my father.

He left my mother when I was born in 1977. This was in southern Uganda in the locality of Kabale. The first two years of my life I lived with my mother. She later married and when she went to live with her new husband, she left me with my grandmother and grandfather.

I learned years after, that my father had come and wanted to take me with him. However, my mother would not allow this. She refused him and so I remained with my grandmother and grandfather. Soon, looking for more fertile land, we all moved to Mbarara. I stayed there until 1987 when my mother came for me and took me back to Kabale where I enrolled in school and lived with her new family. When I was supposed to start third grade, my stepfather suddenly decided that I could no longer stay with them and my mother had no other choice, but to again send me to my grandmother.

I was a good student and my grandmother really tried to ensure that I continued my education but she could not get enough money to pay for all my expenses. I succeeded in finishing the first five grades of primary school but things just didn’t work out. Financially we simply could not afford it.  I begged my mother and grandmother to try to contact my real father. They flatly refused, but I was persistent and I told them that I intended to ask some of my older neighbours about him and to reach him in this way. Finally my mother agreed to take me to him. Unfortunately there was little use of it. When we arrived, my father was already ill and on his deathbed, and only my aunt, who was looking after him, was able to understand what he was saying. He said that it was too late now; that he had wanted me as a child and that now I should not expect any help from him.

And so my last hope faded too. There was no other way, so after grade five, I stopped my education and began taking my neighbours cows to pasture and earning 1500 Ugandan shillings a month - about 3 dollars. This lasted about a year and then I began to dig sand and work as a bricklayer, for 250 UGS per day. This was a better paid job than the first one, but it brought me almost to the edge of disaster. To endure the physical strain, but also to overcome disappointment and depression I began to use drugs.

I stopped after a few years when my aunty took pity on me and invited me to come and live with her and her husband. It was really nice of her; they were caring and good to me. They employed me as a gardener although I was not qualified for the job. Along with this I had free food and board and they still paid me 30 USD a month.

After four months, following their advice, I purchased a bicycle with which I rode to the nearby town of Mbarara, and there I sold bananas. I would buy five crates at 2000 Ugandan shillings each and then sell them for 3000, paying 400 UGS tax. I did this for six months, until one day, when during a visit, a friend of my aunty told us about a school, the “Saint Francis Centre” in Mbarara which trained young people in the tailoring craft. We all agreed that I should try and enrol. I went even though I was told that they accept only girls. Luckily for me I was accepted!

I will never forget this time! I bought a new, better bicycle and every day I rode 30 km to school and back. I was overjoyed even though not everything went smoothly. I had difficulties due to little prior knowledge; uncompleted primary school and little knowledge of English language. It is because of this that my first two years of school took three years. But throughout this whole time I watched the mechanic who came to the school and helped him fix the sewing machines. I was interested in this and it was a challenge, so I learned quite a bit about this too.

IBy 1998, I was no longer a student; I became an employee of the school “Saint Francis Family Helper Project” in Mbarara, Uganda! Seven years later I received another amazing opportunity – I went to England for additional education in the repair of machines, through the Saint Francis Project and Padri Vjeko School from Rwanda. For a month and a half I enjoyed myself with my hosts Mini and John O’Neal while at the same time I was studying my craft. This truly helped me so that, now, I maintain all the machines in two schools – ours in Uganda and one at Padri Vjeko School in Rwanda.

During the same time my private life also took a turn for the better. I was married in 2002 and a year later my son was born whom we named Muhangi Jessy (Muhangi in our language means “the Creator”). In 2006, I bought some land and began to build a house. Just in time for it to be finished, our second child arrived - a daughter Ayebare Precious. Ayebare, when translated, means “Thank you”.

And Thank you to all who have helped me take the right path and ensure a beautiful future for myself and my family.

Edited by: Valerie. K. Ken

 
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