This is the story of Alice Bamacungura, a sixty four year old woman with a passion for nurturing children.
Alice grew up in a single parent family in the Bushenyi District of Western Uganda. After her parents’ divorce she lived with her father until marrying Wilson and moving to the village of Busingiro (where I have been hearing the stories of local people during my visit to Uganda this week). She depends on the natural spring well that that I wrote about here).
Alice had five children, but two of her children died and her husband abandoned the family and went to live in Kampala in the 1980s. ‘He left us thirty years ago,’ she says, ‘and he never showed up again.’ In the years that followed Alice struggled with the loss of her children and with a serious illness but she was determined to earn enough money to raise her remaining children on her own. She tells me that she used to grow crops and when the crop was planted and growing she would go and dig in other people’s fields so that she would have enough income for her family. The house her husband had built fell down and so she started to work for others and to save money in the local SACCO. Eventually she earned enough money to build a small home and today she also has 2.5 acres of land.
Unfortunately when her children were young she could not raise enough money to pay for school fees and instead Alice taught them skills to help them to get a job. Her daughter, Scovia took a course in hairdressing and now runs her own hair salon. Her daughter, Jenessca is now a business woman, selling footwear in the local markets and her son, Dezi has become a well known local artist, singer and drummer.
However, this remarkable woman did not stop after raising her own children. Today she has five more children living with her that she looks after. Some of them are attending Ryamugwizi Primary School (the school being supported by the REAP Project). She tells me she has taken in these children because they have been abandoned and were not being looked after. She says, ‘Even at my age I still go to work in other people’s fields to make enough money to raise these children. Living a single life is not easy!’ After struggling to raising her own children alone Alice, at the age of sixty four, is still out in the fields digging the soil, to give other children a good start in life.
‘I have a passion for nurturing children,’ she says, ‘and children come and stay at my home’ She explains, ‘I didn’t get a chance to study or go to school, so I want to see children pass through school and get an education. Without skills and education, children cannot survive life.’
I ask Alice where her strength and resilience come from and she talks humbly about her faith in God. ‘God is the source of everything’, she says, ‘I cast all my burdens upon God.’
I ask Alice about her hopes for the future. She tells me that she wants to see the children she raises getting good qualifications and becoming a teacher or a nurse. She says she hopes the children she has raised will remember her and perhaps support her when she is elderly. She would like to have a proper door and windows in her house. ‘I pray that if I live long enough, God will allow me to finish my house with a metallic door and windows, and I will forget the bad experiences of the past.’
It was a privilege to meet Alice. Her hard work, resilience and faith and her love and commitment to children is truly inspiring. I hope she lives a long and happy life and that her hopes for the future will be realised.