LIKE OTHER PEOPLE
On Friday 17 October, Christine graduated from the Ndejje University Business School in Kampala. She threw her mortar board graduation hat into the air in sheer relief and unbridled joy at finally earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Earning a degree after three years of hard work is certainly an event of note. However, Christine is a second generation street child. She was born on the streets of Kampala, to a mother who already lived on the streets. The sidewalk dust and dirt of Uganda’s capital city was her makeshift home.
When her mother died, Christine was just 7 years old. Although she was the youngest, she took charge of her siblings – a twin brother and an older sister – who were both lame.
During the day she would beg from passers-by to feed the family. At the end of the day, they would sit on a street curb like so many birds on a wire. The unspoken questions hung in the air. “What shall we eat? Where will we sleep safely?” Should they look for a shop’s doorway on Buganda Road or on Burton Road? There was no way of guessing where the gangs of violent, adolescent thugs would be operating on any given night.
She soon grew despondent with this existence. When asked what her most cherished ambition was, she answered without hesitation – “I want to be like other people.”
To follow this seemingly simple ambition, at the age of 7, she decided that the escape route from her street life was to get an education. During school vacations, she begged as usual but saved as much as she could.
When the start of the school term was imminent she returned to her native village of Burondoga, in the Mokono District in Eastern Uganda. She begged and bartered and battled her way into primary school. At the end of term she returned to Kampala to beg and to save for the next school term.
Rita Nkemba, Director of Dwelling Places met the 9-year old Christine on the streets. She took Christine and her siblings into the Dwelling Places street child rescue program. Christine was put through school by this organisation – but she had higher ambitions. She wanted a university education. She registered for a degree course without knowing how she would pay for it. She was simply confident that “God will provide for me.”
For her first year, an anonymous sponsor paid her university fees. Towards the end of her first year, she successfully applied for a job with Feed a Million Mouths Uganda. For the final two years of her course, she worked fulltime with the company, as a Sales Executive, and pursued her studies at the same time.
She has earned her degree. She holds down a very demanding job. She has made a giant stride forward to fulfilling the ambition that burnt in her from the age of 7 – to be like other people.
Please join me in congratulating Christine on her achievement. If you want to send your congratulations to her directly you can reach her at Christine@fammi.org