Community, Diaspora and Immigration

At just 23 she is changing lives

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When I meet Justine Nameere at the Serena Hotel gardens in Kampala, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, she is just from seeing off a group of well-wishers headed to Masaka to visit Mary Kabiito. Kabiito is a mother of seven, four of them disabled.

On Life Stories, a real-life show on NTV hosted by Nameere, Kabiito revealed that rather than wallow in her misery, she had decided to start a school to look after other disabled children. And the show has changed her life totally as she doesn’t have to shoulder the burden unaided anymore.

Sympathisers who met her through that show have since reached out to render support, such as the ones Nameere had just seen off. And such has fast become the identity of the Life Stories documentary; it brings such stories as Kabiito’s to our screens, giving us a chance to reach out and help relieve their burdens. Some stories are inspiring, others enlightening, and others, most of them, emotional.

23-year-old Nameere has come to be known as the face of this show. She has been able to do what few would achieve at her age; impacting on the society and also helping people appreciate life. Deservedly so, because this show is also this Makerere University third year law student’s brain child.

Deriving from her own life
On how she came up with the idea of life stories, she says: “I am a big fan of documentaries and I identify a lot with emotional television. I grew up watching a lot of Oprah Winfrey as a child and I also love reality shows so much because they inspired me a lot,” she reveals, adding, “I grew up in a loving and caring family that demonstrated to us how life should be.”

She remembers her parents as being very strict, but kind and friendly. However, death took away her mother when she was just 12, which as much family information she is willing to give away. Maybe including the fact that she grew up with many brothers.

Anyway, she recalls a time after her mother’s death during her teenage years when she lost faith in life, but with her family’s support, she survived it all.

Growing up in Masaka, where her parents worked in the public service, and Kampala, where they had businesses, exposed Nameere to the suffering and harsh lives some people had to endure. “I have met a lot of people struggling with addictions; others reduced to their death beds, but I chose to have faith in life. I also always thought such exposure would be inspiring and get people to reflect on their own lives,” she says.

It is with that background that she came up with an idea of starting up a reality television show where different people can share and inspire others with their stories.

Getting the show rolling
Catherine Mwangi, the production manager at NTV, seemed to be the only one to quickly see the potential of the idea, which Nameere says was conceived and developed in her first year at Law school. Where other TV officials gave empty promises or asked to “discuss the issue over coffee”, Mwangi was instantly impressed and saw the show on screen by October last year.

Life Stories show premiered on NTV with Major General Pecos Kuteesa and his wife. It has since featured many more people among who are the late Nobel Mayombos’ widow, sharing on coping after her husband’s death.

It has also recently been extended from its initial 24 minutes to a full hour, and along with this, its popularity. And Nameere has honoured the viewers’ appreciation of the idea, diversifying her guests from rape cases to a former minister who has been reduced to a wheelchair and suffered abandonment by all he once called friends.

Life Stories has not spared Justine either
On the story that has been the most popular with her viewers, she says: “We get a lot of feedback from the public for different shows, so it’s hard to point out the best show.”

And how has it changed Nameere herself? “Meeting these people has heavily impacted on the person I am today, I have learnt to be more compassionate,” she explains. She has started an NGO, Voice of the Pearl Foundation, to attend to people with severe health problems. She also hopes to extend assistance to some of the people who appear on her show.

One cannot help but wonder where she gets these people from and how she gets most of them to talk, Nameere reveals: “I meet different people with powerful stories each time I travel for a shoot or some of them are introduced to us through our reporters in the different areas.” She is also quick to add that it is not always as easy as it seems on the show getting some people to open up to the world.

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