Saddens me each time I read fates befalling our neglected elderly. A couple of years ago I sat down in Ottawa with my Toronto nephew and a friend and the issue of our Acholi elderly arose. In fact, the majority of Uganda’s neglected elderly population should be classified as needy “orphans”. When you walk across one in the village he or she will play tough but deep in the eyes one can read abundant destitution and above all, loneliness. When I suggested a program in SAI (Str8talk Africa Initiatives) to plan for residential homes where we can convince them to move and be cared for in one of many such across Acholi my nephew said much as it was a good Western idea the fact was the Acholi elder doesnt is one who will never accept but that didnt stop us. We shelved the idea – for now.
In no time an organization called NUROWAS (Northern Uganda Relief Organization For War Affected Seniors) was formed by a prominent Acholi woman in the UK strictly for the neglected elderly. This organization has for the last few years given abundant support in numerous forms to the elderly of Acholi and growing each day in area coverage. NUROWAS recently participated at a health conference in LA.
Does the government of Uganda know of its existence? Yes. Has the government of Uganda requested to lend a helping hand in its works? No. A Nigerian Igbo saying goes “Ours is ours but mine is mine”. This is what it takes to deliver care in Uganda. Its a dog-eat-dog society in the motherland and we cant wait for God bcos he never comes when we need him the most.
I still intend to open a senior’s home for the elderly destitute in my immediate home area to start with in memory of my grannies. As my neph pointed out, the discouragement will come if and when they refuse to abandon their dilapidated shelters for a room with all the comfort they would never have imagined.
Its a workable idea – culture and pride permitting. In fact, we even joked about some of these elders meeting soulmates for the final lap of their lives and wedding in these homes – much to the joy and happiness of their clans, children and grandchildren at a time they would have expected ends to everything in their drowning elders’ lives.
I grew up with my grannies and these were the happiest days of my life. Listening to how they spoke about how they dated, the rivalries, and the eagle eyes of my grandma’s brothers fixated on the clandestine antics of the then young Spanner Boy at the Catholic mission in the 1900s that my grandfather was before becoming actual moto mechanic always made me believe my truest friends were only the elderly.
The elderly are also treasure libraries of unwritten history. My granma had special tattoos on specific parts of her body which she used to display with plenty of excitement and confidence. The tattoos were for kills she made in tribal wars with the Madi. Fact. The Acholi woman used to go for wars with her husband and should a husband spear an enemy its the wife to extinguish the enemy’s life with a blow of her little but lethal axe. Those were her kills.
When a young pretty girl walked into our yard to interview my old man on the historical background of Puranga Ginnery for her field work after being referred to him by the ginnery management, she didnt know what she was walking into. Her life was to change forever. Immediately my old man saw her, he told me his heart leaped into his mouth. Aa few days before I went home fir the hokidays I too didn’t kniw what awaited nme at home. To cut a long story short, that girl was to be my only daughter’s mother – courtesy of my old man. My baby girl is now in the middle of her nursing degree. The old man had set up a perfect scoring match and I didn’t disappoint him.
Its us to take care of the elderly in our communities bcos NO BODY and NO NGO will ever do the needful for them. My immediate elders are long gone but memories of them continue being relived in those elders alive in my home even tho they arent ny immediate relatives. That doesn’t matter.
One of the programs (we call them Initiatives) of SAI is the Bag To School (coined out of Back To School in the West). I have started on this initiative with two schools near me in Montreal. Students here like replacing their school essentials annually and for some they receive them in excess. Take for example, school bags. Many have more than one in their homes. What we call Mathematical Instruments at home are sold in dollar stores for a dollar. Many drop away their barely worn snickers or not worn at all. All theie school bags are waterproof.
Here is where SAI is coming in. We are arranging with mall owners to place in their premises huge garbage bins labeled for the purpose of people dropping in them school bags and school essentials including math sets and snickers which will ocassionally be offloaded at a temporary warehouse where volunteers from schools and my church will short and repackage them at random for shipment to Northern Uganda where students walk for miles to schools and many in the rains which ruin their books and all. The BTS initiatives aims at relieving them of these sad odyssey. My church is ready to ship the first container or containers.
Problem is what happens on the ground when they are received. I can’t leave my job to go manage its distribution and let alone we still haven’t planned on as to how they will be distributed. I should hope in a few years this initiative grows into schools all across Canada and beyond to address the most pressing element of student life in rural Africa.
we can do many things on our own initiatives without NRM participation and low-lifes like our Wellesley ‘frienemy’ who is always thinking in the negative to discourage us such as to live like he does. There is only one problem. We are not organized.
Gwokto La’Kitgum Via UAH forum