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The bomb that blasted off her leg ignited her will to succeed

By Vision Reporter

Added 8th March 2009 03:00 AM

ROSE Lukwago Barigayomwe remembers the day many say she was supposed to have died like it was only yesterday. It started like any other day.
Rose got onto Bulangiti Coach heading to Mbarara to check on her small business.

ROSE Lukwago Barigayomwe remembers the day many say she was supposed to have died like it was only yesterday. It started like any other day.
Rose got onto Bulangiti Coach heading to Mbarara to check on her small business.

By Carol Kezaabu

ROSE Lukwago Barigayomwe remembers the day many say she was supposed to have died like it was only yesterday. It started like any other day.
Rose got onto Bulangiti Coach heading to Mbarara to check on her small business.

She never imagined she would not make it there in one piece. That was more than a decade ago, in August 1998. Lukwago says she was tired that day. She had fallen asleep soon after sitting down in the bus.

The next thing she remembers is waking up to fierce flames and a huge cloud of smoke raging around her. She later learnt they were in Lyantonde and a bomb had gone off in the bus, right under her seat, ripping off part of her right leg. Everyone around her was dead.

“At the time, I had no idea my leg was missing. All I remember was this voice yelling at me to get out of the bus.”
Born to Mr and Mrs Lukwago of Matugga in September 1952, Rose was the fourth among five children.

She went to Kibuli Secondary School for O’Level and then Boroboro Teacher’s Training College where she got her teaching certificate.

She started teaching at Luweero Girls’ School but was transferred to Gayaza Junior School after two terms and she taught science and English until she got married to Richard Barigayomwe in 1977.

Her husband, a trade development officer, was soon transferred to Kisoro and they had to move. Lukwago started teaching at Seseme Primary School in Kisoro and when her husband was transferred to Kabale, she moved to Kigezi Lower School.

“We were always on the move. We never settled in one place for long,” says Lukwago.

In 1985, her husband was appointed a district leader in Kabale and they moved back there. They had three children by that time.

Lukwago says they were UPM (Uganda People’s Movement) supporters while many people in Kabale supported UPC (Uganda People’s congress.

This brought them some problems and she remembers waking up late in the night and having to run and hide with her husband because he was accused of taking a part in rebel activities. He was later transferred to Rakai and then Mubende.

During this time, she stayed at their home in Rubindi Kashari in Mbarara and they had another two children. They later moved to Arua and also Ntungamo.

Lukwago started a small business; a shop dealing in second-hand items like clothes, shoes, blankets, bed sheets to pass time and get some additional income for the family.

With a friend, she also opened a shop in Mbarara. “My husband lost his job suddenly in 1996 and things came to a standstill but I knew that God would see us through.

By that time, our first born was going to sit his Senior Six final exams. Things were not easy and I really struggled with those children.”

Luckily, Lukwago got the opportunity to take a short business training course with the Uganda Manufacturers’ Association. She also started working with Kim Interiors to get business experience.

By this time, her husband had moved to Kampala so the family moved to Kampala but her business was still in Mbarara so she had to travel back and forth and left the shop in the hands of a girl that she had trained.

It was during one of these trips that tragedy struck. “I have no idea how I managed to move but when I realised that there was no one to help me, I got up and moved away from the flames.

The woman next to me was screaming for her child but everybody else around me was dead while the majority of the people had escaped unharmed and were outside already.”

“The driver was watching me and he brought water to put out the fire. This is when I realised that I had no leg. A voice told me to continue moving and I dragged myself to the window calling for help and a man helped me off the bus.

I knew that God was in control and listened to that voice and walked out. My leg was badly crushed. The man tied my leg with his jacket and an ambulance from Mbarara Hospital came by and the gentleman who had helped me off the bus asked them to take me to Mbarara Hospital and even paid for the fuel.

I was conscious all this time and I was just wondering how we were going to pay for hospital expenses and who was going to look after me.

Luckily, a doctor friend of our family was at the gate of the hospital and he immediately took control. He called my husband and my sister who was working in Kampala and by the time I got out of the theatre, they had come to be with me.”

Lukwago was in hospital for two weeks and was transferred to Mulago Hospital where she stayed for another three months.

All this time, her family and friends were awesome. Lukwago says they never lacked anything. People gave them money, paid for their children’s education and there was food.

“But I kept wondering how I would make ends meet with one leg yet I had almost failed with two,” says Lukwago.
In 1999, Lukwago went to South Africa to stay with her brother, a doctor, so that she could get further treatment.

Her brother took care of all her expenses. She lived with her brother’s family for five months while she healed and waited to get an artificial limb.
“God is my inspiration and with the accident, I came even closer to Him.

He took control of the family when I was away and the children went to school and I never worried because I knew that he would help us through,” she says.

She bought her first sewing machine in South Africa with the help of her brother who knew that she loved tailoring. She started sewing and making curtains there.

When the time came to return home, she brought the machine along and a few fabrics she got from the friends she made in South Africa.

The artificial limb had been attached but she was still unable to use it and needed physiotherapy. She went back to Mulago and started learning how to walk again.

When she left Mulago later that year, she knew that she had to find a way to support the family and she decided to open this business at Avemar Shopping Centre.

“The rent was sh500,000 a month and I wondered how I would raise that money yet all our children were still in school and there was no way I could afford it.

My husband helped me with rent for three months and, in October 1999, I opened the shop with my one sewing machine and the encouragement of my husband.

I was the sole provider, feeding, dressing, school fees and even transport since some of the investments my husband had made had gone bad and he had to sell off our land and farm upcountry to offset the loans.”

My first customer gave me sh2,000 and I remember taking it all to church as my first seed offering.

Many people remember me because I was the first person here in Kiyembe to design curtains. People were making curtains already but I came with fresh ideas from South Africa and started making unique curtains. People started coming to me and many people with successful businesses today took clues from me.”

With time, Lukwago stopped using crutches and you cannot even notice her limp today. She started making bed bumpers, cushions, bedcovers, mosquito nets, tablemats and has many clients, inbcluding private individuals and entities hotels countrywide .

“I thank God for the courage he gave me. When I was sick, I never thought of dying and I would ask anyone who was crying why they were doing so.”

All her children and step children have finished school with the exception of the last born who is in A’level. They went to good schools and she has paid for them all.

“My husband eventually moved to the village and I was left to fend for the children on my own but with God everything was possible,” she says.

Her daughter Rebecca recently completed University and is working with her mother as she looks for a job.
“My mother means the world to me. She has really struggled for us. She is hardworking, God-fearing and an inspiration to the family,” says Rebecca.

Today, Lukwago has many clients and hopes to move to a bigger showroom soon. She has trained about eight young women. Dorothy Muwanguzi who has worked with her for three years says Lukwago is a good, Christian woman who treats them all well.

“She is fair, talented and helpful. I enjoy working for her.” Lukwago’s courage and strength is inspiring and she continues to praise the Lord for saving her and helping her to support her big family. ”

The bomb that blasted off her leg ignited her will to succeed

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