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Returning to my African Home
Thursday, 30 October 2008 Written by Jackline Nahwera

Jackie s obiteljiMy name is Jackline Nahwera Ken. I was born in Uganda in a family of three, me being the fourth. I also have some half-brothers and half-sisters. My mother died when I was still very young but my older brother, Moses, and my father, who was elderly and sick, took care of my brothers and me until I was five. I was later cared for by a child sponsorship program at St. Francis Family Helper Project, started by an Irish woman, Mary Moran. Mary’s brother and niece in Ireland sponsored me from Primary to High School. While going to school I was sometimes living with Mary but under the guardianship of Valerie Kae Ken whom I had met when she came to work as a volunteer at St. Francis Tailoring School. Having no mother and being cared by these two wonderful women, it felt like I had two mothers.

Jackie and ValerieAlthough I was living a different life from what most children in Africa live, I never forgot who I was. I met friar Ivica Peric, a Croatian Franciscan who then became another part of my new family. Whenever Valerie or Mary were not around, Ivica took care of me in the Ugandan village of Rushooka where he was taking care of orphaned children. So, Rushooka soon became a new home for me; whenever school ended I went there for the holidays. Spending time with Ivica in Rushooka, I learned different things about life. Later Ivica was transferred to Kivumu in Rwanda and then Rwanda became another home to me. Each time I would go to visit him there, I learned a little more about the history of the people of Rwanda and realized how lucky and different my life was from most of the children my age. On the other hand, I watched Ivica change the lives of many people and I realized that life is what you make it when you have opportunities and that is what he was doing… giving them the opportunities to improve their lives. My life had turned into a dream that I did not want to end. But as we all know, old dreams end and new ones begin.

Jackie with Ivica in KivumuMy old life ended and my new life began when my father died while I was in primary six. Just before he died, he gave full permission to Valerie Kae Ken to adopt me and become my mother. So, in May of 2006, my Mum and I left Africa and went to start a new life in Canada. It was not the easiest thing to do since I was leaving all I had ever known behind including Mary and members of my family, but, with the support of the people in my life I was able to make the best choice. Now living with Valerie in Canada, I have started a new life with a new family. Like I said before, at the beginning, it was not easy since I was new to everything but as time went on, I adapted to the new life. School was totally different from what I had grown up with. In Canada, I discovered I had more opportunities to try out different things in terms of education and I also discovered the local library.

In most African countries, you cannot find libraries in the towns and cities and they are not even found in many schools. So I was very excited after discovering this new place full of books! The library in our community in Calgary soon became my passion and I started doing different volunteer positions there. I’ve come to love the Library so much that I sometimes wish I worked there full-time.

Two years have now passed since I first came to Canada. I became a Canadian citizen in June, 2008 and in August my Mum and I went back to Africa for a summer holiday… a holiday that was full of surprises and a little work but mostly of love. I visited all kinds of people I knew in Uganda and then I went to Rwanda where I was doing a most exciting job. I was helping to organize a library for the CFJ Padri Vjeko School.

Jackie at the library

Even though the school does not have nearly enough books and it is nothing like the libraries in Canada, I did my best to make a library for them. I wrote the information about the books on a computer and then I put labels on the books and sorted them into categories for the library.

Sometimes when I was working on this project it saddened me because of what I saw in this African country compared to what we have in Canada. My school in Canada has so many supplies that are provided for each student and most times these books are not always put into good use by students who take it all for granted. I then look at the students in this school who don’t have enough books to even use as a resource for their studies. I worked for two weeks fixing the books and recording how many the school has and I am still surprised at how few they have. So, here is an idea! If anyone has any books on Tailoring, Wood-working or Brick-laying, we could really use them here in Kivumu at CFJ Padri Vjeko School.  You can send them to

CFJ Padri Vjeko, c/o Ivica Peric
P.O. Box 70, Gitarama
Rwanda, Africa

I would be very happy if next time I go to the school, I have even more work to do to sort out all the books! This was a great summer for me and I often think about my experiences now that my Mum and I are back with our family in Canada and I am back in my school with all my friends.

Father Vjeko Center

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