At the heart of my experience in Uganda is the experience of over 2,800 women living in the slums of Kampala, who have started a new life after meeting Rose Busingye — affectionately known as Auntie Rose. Auntie Rose is a nurse who like many others sought to medically assist the population of HIV-positive women fleeing violence in the North. Many of these women come from the Acholi tribe and this fact combined with their illness made them generally unwelcome in Kampala. Today one of the worst slums in the city is named the Acholi Quarter and it is just on the edge it that I met the women of Auntie Rose.
When Auntie Rose discovered that many of the HIV positive Acholi women were selling the medicine that could keep them alive, she wanted to understand why. She realized that these women lacked any concept of the fact that they are valuable — and so why bother with this life that has caused them so much pain? In her own words, Rose describes a different position in front of life: “I am not defined by my limits, but by my personal relationship with God who makes me and makes me as an infinite desire of Him.” She understands that she is infinitely valuable.
Rose founded Meeting Point International to affirm that these women also have value, they are loved, and they can be happy. And they are so happy! I went with a group of six or seven others to meet the women and about 100 of them welcomed us with shouts and (literally) carried us into Meeting Point, where they had prepared multiple songs and dances to express their joy and welcome us into it. Their traditional Acholi dances were beautiful and impossible to imitate, but incredible to be surrounded by. When they sang, I was especially moved by a song recounting the individual sufferings they have faced, but always returning to the refrain of “Rose Saved Me”. Life is still difficult, but as one woman shared she was “reborn—given a second life” when she met Rose and realized she was not worthless. That same woman kept repeating over and over “that is enough”.
Since its founding, Meeting Point International has grown to support the HIV affected men, women, and children (in particular the orphans) throughout the four slums of Kampala. From the starting point of friendship and belonging, Meeting Point has three main objectives: to assist those suffering from HIV/AIDS, to alleviate poverty, and to promote all levels of education. The Luigi Giussani Schools (where I spend much of my time) is a fruit of the work of Meeting Point and the desire of Rose’s women to have a school that shows their children that they have value too. Another focus of Meeting Point is supporting the small business ventures of the women. These are just a couple of the many ways Meeting Point has offered a community for growth.
The form of support is somehow secondary to the love and affirmation Auntie Rose relentlessly gives. The sufferings of “Rose’s women” are some of the most painful experiences I have ever heard — but they are happy. There is no explanation beyond the infinite, indescribable love of Another. To be frank, it makes no sense; there is no other way to justify their joy!
A recent grad from Boston College, I will be spending the next two months in Uganda seeing my studies of education, psychology and human development in action. I am lucky enough to be volunteering with and learning from the community of educators at the Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education (LGIHE). My days will consist of everything from classroom observation to educational research to exploring the culture of Uganda (and Kenya for a brief visit!). I would love for you to follow along for what I am sure will be a crazy beautiful summer!