By Andrew Masinde
Feeling constantly sickly had bothered me for years. I always wondered what went wrong until the day I was diagnosed with HIV. From then, I decided that unless I loved myself first, I would never have found true love.
Worse still, it took me years to trust my parents again. Scovia Nalwanga was born with HIV, but her parents did not disclose her status to her.
“When I was aged seven, I started falling sick almost every day, and wondered why. One day, at school, we were subjected to a mandatory HIV test, and it was then that I discovered I was HIV-positive.
That was the worst day of my life, and the beginning of my troubles,” Nalwanga confesses. “The head teacher forced me to disclose my status to the entire school, and because I feared the subsequent stigma and rejection, I quit school.
“One morning, while at the neighbour’s home, I watched the Mama Nambi Show on TV, where Nambi talked about how she was helping children infected and affected by HIV.
I told my father to take me there, and that was my turning point,” Nalwanga narrates.
Hope for the hopeless
Nalwanga is now in S.6. Together with her father, she is being supported by the Nambi Children Initiative Kampala.
The organisation supports vulnerable children in the slums by getting them into good schools, paying their fees and providing them with basic needs.
How the NGO started
“I lived in Kifumbira slum in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb, and saw children being mistreated. Some were defiled and others abandoned by their own parents.
One day, I met a young girl who had been abandoned by her parents, crying. I took her to my home, and that marked the beginning of my organisation. In 2006, few friends joined me to give me help,” Nambi says.
Nambi’s organisation has supported more than 232 pupils, among them Bob Sengendo, 11, who is blind. Sengendo says his parents had given up on him, but in 2011, his friend told him about Nambi and he set out to look for her.
“Nambi told me I would have a better life, and indeed there is hope. She got me a school where the teachers treat all students equally.
She pays my school fees and gives me the basic needs. In future I want to be a counsellor so that I can help the helpless,” the P.2 pupil says.
In addition to getting the children into school, Nambi also solicits for funds to take care of them. She visits them regularly to ensure they are taken care of. “I love children and when I see someone mistreating a child, I get hurt. I source funds to ensure that the children get a meaningful life,” Nambi says.
Nambi’s organisation also provides soft loans to the poor and advises the recipients on how to use the money.
In addition, the organization offers counselling services to people living with HIV. “I appeal to the Government to come up with new laws to penalise people who abuse children because the current laws are weak,” she says.
“Many people think that people living with HIV are useless, but they, too, have a life and they need to be taken care of. My shows are meant to restore hope in the hopeless, especially people living with HIV and the underprivileged.
The shows also teach society not to discriminate against children with disabilities because these children have a right to be taken care of,” she says.
Ambassadors come on board
On October 4, Nambi held a charity function to raise funds to support underprivileged, orphaned and children with disabilities. The function, which was part of the celebrations to mark Uganda’s independence golden jubilee, was attended by ambassadors from different African countries.
Led by Maigen Okanga, the Kenyan high commissioner, the envoys visited Zone I in Bwaise and donated sh10m to orphans and less privileged children in nursery and primary school, under the care of St. Kizito Parish.
Receiving the cheque, Zacharia Okurut, the head teacher, lauded the envoys for their generosity and pledged to use the money to pay school fees and buy basic requirements for the children.
The ambassadors; Sayid Dahir of Somalia; Degefe Bula of Ethiopia; Walter Ajogbor of Nigeria, and Jean Bosco Barege of Burundi, commended Nambi for the initiative and pledged more support.
The function started in Bwaise, a slum located about 3km north of Kampala, with a large number of underprivileged and HIV positive children, and will roll out to other slums.