She is only 24 years old and awaiting her graduation in software engineering from Makerere University, a course she completed in May this year. But the sheer selflessness with which Olivia Makabera Kiwuwa has devoted herself to changing and making a difference in the lives of so many deprived people in our community over the years, makes her stand out from the rest write Sebidde Kiryowa and Denis Nsubuga.
Through Kiwuwa Foundation, a community-based service organization, she co-founded with husband James Kiwuwa after the 2013 River Nyamwamba floods that affected over 25,000 people in Kasese district, she is championing sustainable social change & community development in Uganda. Kiwuwa is executive director of the outreach programme.
Since 2013 when she was only a second year student at university, her organization in partnership and with the help of Carrie Wagner, has championed several causes that have positively changed the lives of several people in different parts of Uganda.
Carrie Wagner is an American former volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Uganda (HFHU) for 15 years. HFHU is affiliated to Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI)), an ecumenical Christian ministry, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S.A), that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing.
“Following her experience in Uganda, especially in Kasese where she and husband worked, Wagner wrote a popular book titled Village Wisdom” about how people transfer village resources to create sustainability in Africa,” says Kiwuwa.
“Sales from this book were especially very vital in funding the first projects that we undertook in Kasese.
Kiwuwa foundation members speak to the pupils of St. John Bosco Namwabula Katosi
Projects she is working on
“Our projects are positioned to help transform the lives of children, youth, vulnerable women and the elderly in Uganda, “she says.
Under Kiwuuwa Apparel, Kiwuwa mobilizes previously unprofessional street tailors and school dropout girls and organizes professional training for them as well as industrial sewing equipment to help them produce high-end competitive products.
“This project is very instrumental in raising funds for other projects that we are undertaking in remote areas,” Kiwuwa says.
“Through friends in the US, we are able to export the finished products which are sold at fundraisers in the US to raise money for the various causes that we are undertaking,” she says.
Among these projects is the Early Childhood Development project which they are undertaking in a remote fishing village on the shores of Lake Victoria in Katosi, Mukono District.
“This village has been devastated by HIV/AIDS. There are so homes led by single parents, especially mothers. We are focusing on proper childhood development by training parents in best practices of child upbringing socially, physically and financially,” she says.
To make an impact, she says, they have taken over the only school in the area which has since been abandoned.
“With proceeds from the apparel project, we have taken St. John Bosco Namwabula Primary School. We are going to rebuild the school. We have started by reinstating teachers through volunteers,” she says.
The programme transforms vulnerable groups like women in places like Kasese into self-sustaining teams through arts and crafts.
“This is a new project we started in January this year. We recruit trainers to teach these women skills of making arts and crafts. We then market these products to tourists and abroad in order to raise money for them and other projects.
Through their Sanitary Napkins to Keep Girls in School project, they distribute free sanitary pads to girls.
“ Many of these girls have resorted to using grass, rags, pieces of old clothing, paper towels and tree-buck; thereby missing days without school in order for them to escape embarrassment,” Kiwuwa says.
Kiwuwa foundation provides porridge to the pupils of St John Bosco Namwabula Katosi so that they don't stay hungry during classes
We normally sell our items like baskets and apparels at fundraisings in the US. We have also managed to collect a good number of sanitary pads from well-wishers. However, it has been hard because US law requires us to register an organization in the US,” she says.
She says because of this, they are unable to ship a consignment of donated items including pads.
“This requires me to travel to the US soon to sort all of this out. We hope that by July next year all of this will be sorted out. We all also expecting a large number of volunteers to come with this consignment,” she says.
Birth of a vision
James Kiwuwa, her partner and now husband whom she met through school met Carrie Wagner at a conference he had gone to attend in North Carolina, USA.
“James already had and shared our vision of transforming vulnerable communities into self-sustaining ones with Carol. It so happened that she had done humanitarian work in Uganda for long and even written a book chronicling her experiences. She named Maliba village where she worked in Kasese as a good place to start and even gave him contacts,” Kiwuuwa narrates.
Coincidentally, that was in the wake of the devastating River Nyamwamba floods in Kasese. When the young couple toured the village, they were touched by the widespread destruction the floods had meted out on people’s lives and property that they were instantly moved into doing something to help.
However, they lacked the funds to do so. They then convinced Wagner to use proceeds from her the sale of her book to raise funds to help supplement government efforts in rebuilding the villages in Kasese. She obliged.
They formed and started Kiwuwa Foundation to channel their help.
“After rebuilding the bridges that had been swept away, it was time for emotional rehabilitation. We needed to heal the trauma. So we started up exchange programmes where children in North Carolina could write to those in Uganda to share experiences,” she says.
Kiwuwa and her colleagues during a meeting at St. John Bosco Namwabula primary school.
Kiwuwa’s heart did not start bleeding for the vulnerable in her community in 2013. In fact, it is a purpose by design, one would argue.
Born to Peter Lukera and Ruth Namukasa, Kiwuwa was raised in a poverty-stricken community of Kisoga, Mukono district.
“I was introduced to Compassion International in my primary two in 1999 through my local church, St. Andrews Anglican Church of Uganda. I got a chance for a couple in the United States, Andrew and Robin Green Cary, to sponsor my primary and secondary education up to the year 2010 when I completed high school,” she narrates.
She says was able to accept Jesus as her personal Lord and Saviour and Compassion natured her to grow her relationship with God.
In 2011, she was lucky to be selected among a group of students who were to be nurtured into servant leaders by Compassion International and the Leadership Development Program through which she chose a career and a sponsor, Judy Golz, for her university education.
“The time with my sponsor has taught me how to love and extend kindness to other people and Compassion, through Leadership Development, has availed me with a platform like the service opportunities and missions, which through which I can extend love to many people,” she says.
“The Leadership Development Program has natured me to pass on values to other people in need in all aspects of life, like helping other people discover unending grace.”
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Kiwuwa: the young lady devoted to uplift the deprived