The Kireka slum in Kampala (Photo: Paolo Perego)

Uganda: "Here I can pour out my heart”

Following her mother’s murder when she was just 11, Debora was left alone with her little brother. Today she speaks of an encounter that changed her life, "that day, in the school’s kitchen."

My journey in CL began 4 years ago. Ever since that day, my life has never stayed the same. Before I joined the School of Community, a lot of things felt strange, made me sad and quiet. First of all, the memory of how my mom was murdered, how the thugs undressed and dumped her in a trench after hitting her head with iron bars, the doctors’ voices, her cry before she breathed her last, tormented me often, and it became hard for me to trust people. I also used to think that if my dad had not subjected my mom to domestic violence, she would have stayed home with us, she would not have met those murderers. She would be here seeing how fast we grow every day and it would make her happy. Mom died when I was 11; Joel my little brother, was only 6, so he did not understand what had happened.

Hard times came my way, but I did not know how to go through that. I had a caring stepmom but I needed a love that was more than that. I also did not like the way I looked, I also tried to do things like others did just to fit in and to please them, even when something was not good for me. In those moments, I longed for a presence of a friend who could stand the test of time, a friend who could remind me of love, someone who would tell me that they were with me in every moment and every day. Someone who would me that I was enough, someone who could conquer everything. So one day, while I was serving lunch, I met Rose in the kitchen. I used to hear about her through students but I had never had a chance to meet or talk to her. I thought she was only a mother to the students sponsored by AVSI.

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Meeting her in the school kitchen was a beautiful day that started changing a lot in my life. I remember that her first words were, “Who are you? I do not know you.” I started talking about myself and she replied back by telling me that “You have a value.” This was a new voice that provoked my heart. She went ahead and invited me to School of Community, a place where I felt loved and I felt that the other people were my friends. The first time I went there, I did not understand what was happening since they sung Italian songs, however, I felt so much peace. I felt at home, I felt that they were a family even though I did not understand anything. This encouraged me to come back again and again, because I felt a unique presence while with these friends that I have kept following until this day. This is a place that makes me certain of my infinite value that cannot be reduced. It makes me appreciate myself, it makes me free. Here I can pour out my heart when I am happy and sad, when I feel empty, in moments of confusion. I can lean on this friendship because it is not fake. Here, there is somebody to talk to, there is someone that chooses me all the time. Nothing compares to this beautiful friendship that I have met.

Debora, Kampala, Uganda