Community, Diaspora and Immigration

Karamojong folk: give them a chance

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For the last 3 years, I have spent Christmas day in Kisenyi, a slum in Kampala, hosting a party for over 700 children. These children originate from Karamoja and spend part of their days begging in the hot scorching sun on the streets of Kampala.

So offering these less privileged children a decent meal and a piece of clothing plus a pair of shoes/sandals once a year is not asking for much, is it? 

It all began 4 years ago when I read an article in the Monitor written by my niece Lulu Jemimah on the plight of the Karamojong babies begging on the streets of Kampala.

I was born in Uganda but had never heard or seen babies as young as 12 months begging on the streets.

That December 2008, I hosted the first Christmas party attended by over 700 children.  Having collected a tonne of clothes and shoes donated by my church and work colleagues, they all got something. 
Last year 2010, I collected lots more children’s clothes than the previous year, enough to go round in Kisenyi and managed to take some to Karamoja celebrating new year with the Karamojong.  The children in the village were excited as some of them had never seen a cuddly toy in their lives.

It’s not every day that one holds a party and gets 700 guests. It gives me such pleasure to be giving back to my country and making a difference. One would ask what I give to the UK; I pay my taxes!!!!

The Karamojong are a minority in Uganda and therefore they are looked down upon and discriminated against. Having lived away from my birthplace, (Uganda), and travelled to different parts of the world, I know exactly how being a minority feels. I relate with them.

I decided to take on the task of making a difference to Karamojong Street children and their families. We have embarked on training the Karamojong women in candle and bead making, setting up small businesses selling beans/maize, and most recently working with the whole community in the Napak district (Karamoja) by assisting with the planting of acres of cassava.  I have also encouraged the women to plant trees. This we have done both in Kampala (Mulago roundabout to Bwaise roundabout), by Kololo airstrip and in Karamoja. This is their way of giving back to the community.

I count my blessings as God has given me the opportunity to make a difference. I wouldn’t say that Iam an ambitious person, but I think I was in the right place at the right time to be able to do what I am doing for the Karamojong folk.
One of the best pieces of advice that I got years ago was,  ‘Surround yourself with people who are better than yourself’. I have a fantastic group of Trustees who have helped me achieve the charity’s objectives so far.

My personality and my skills and traits are probably the complete opposite of what you’d expect a leader to be. I don’t have degrees in international work and am not as ‘hard as nails’. My 9-5 job is as an Administrator with the UK Civil Aviation Authority.  I am extremely emotional and will easily burst into tears. But somehow or other, God has just used my real personality. Becoming a director of a charity wasn’t through my ambition, but for some reason, God seems to want me here.

I fundraise for my charity here in the UK by organising African dinners, cake sales, 10 K runs and watch out for the very first International Christmas Carols bonanza on the 10th December 2012.

There is nothing that you can’t do if you really want it badly enough. If you really are interested in something and you want to do it, then just go for it!!! There are always challenges but you’ve just got to keep trying the doors.

One might wonder why I do this. Some of my friends have even asked me why the Karamojong and not the other tribes. My answer to them is: “WHY NOT” or even “BECAUSE I CAN”!!!!!.

Surveys have been done saying that people who volunteer for selfless acts are often looked upon with suspicion, even disliked for ‘raising the bar’ for others.

I would like to share with you John Wesley’s view on good works:

  • Do all the good you can,
  • By all the means you can,
  • In all the ways you can,
  • In all the places you can,
  • At all the times you can,
  • To all the people you can,
  • As long as ever you can.

I hope you can join me and my Karamojong brothers and sisters to celebrate Christmas this year.

Maureen Mwagale
help the children by helping the families and the community www.kaana.org.uk 

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