Wednesday, March 05, 2008


BETTY Nyaku, a resident of Ullepi sub-county in Arua, Uganda looks after 13orphans. Frank Mugabi tells us how she has managed to build one happy familyof people from different backgrounds In the thickets of Ullepi sub-county in Arua district stood a four-year-oldboy.

The grass so high and thick the boy could not see which direction totake. "I was young and I do not remember what happened, but I have been told thatI was found crying with swollen eyes.

The people who were taking care of me left me and disappeared in the thickets as we grazed cattle," says Ronald Candia. "I had thought that was the end of the world, but God sent Maama Betty Nyaku just in time to rescue me.

She took me to her place and made me one of herchildren. She gave me food, clothing and now education." Nyaku narrates: "I had gone to collect firewood. It all felt as if some invisible power was telling me to venture further into the bush and pick aspecially reserved gift for myself."

Suddenly, Nyaku heard a child crying. She says she first ignored it,thinking if truly it was a cry then that child had to be with an adult, who was collecting wood. "The cry persisted and, although I was frightened, Imoved closer. What I saw was shocking - a little boy of about four years, all by himself in the thickets. His eyes were swollen because of crying,"she says, adding that she picked the boy and, fortunately, when she took himhome, her husband welcomed the idea of keeping the child until a relativeturned up looking for him.

That was about 10 years ago. To date, no one has turned up looking for the boy. Instead, Nyaku, who is in her late 50s, has had the number of abandoned children and orphans in her custody increase.

This turned Nyaku from being a mere housewife into a woman who struggled to sustain her family and support needy children. She named the boy Ronald Candia (Candia is Lugbara word for 'in trouble'). Nyaku later learnt that Candia had actually been abandoned by his guardians who were normadic pastoralists from western Uganda. They had been in the area to graze cattle and when the dry season set in, they moved away. "I think I had become a burden to them. My parents had died and left me in their care. Because they moved from place to place, they found it difficultto take care of me," Candia says.

He says Nyaku took him to Kati Primary School, one of the best schools in the neighbourhood. He is now in S.2 at Ullepi Secondary School. Another boy Nyaku saved is Bosco Adriko, 23. "I was only 10 years old when my father died. After his death, things athome became bad and I decided to go away. I walked to Arua town where Istayed on the streets. It was there that Mama Betty found me and took me toher home."

Nyaku says she had gone to buy seeds when she saw a boy crying helplessly."I asked him what the matter was and he told me he was an orphan and had nowhere to go." More tragedy strikes In 2005, Nyaku lost her eldest son to AIDS.

As if that was not bad enoughthe deceased's wife disappeared, leaving her six children, five of whom werealready in school. Nyaku took them in. Today, Nyaku looks after 13 orphans. In 2006, her husband Michael Edoni, who is a retired teacher and partiall yblind, was crippled in a motor accident. This left Nyaku the solebread-winner for the family.

One happy family Nyaku's home is in the remote village of Muni in Arua district. "In thishomestead, all of us live in harmony as a real family. The boys have theirown house and the girls theirs," she says. Although they are in a rural setting, the children are provided with all thebasic necessities and none of them is left wanting.

Several granaries filled with different foodstuffs are found in the backyard, a sign of food security. "She is our mother. She gives us everything and treats us like her own children," one of the children says. Stuck, but pushing on Two of the orphans completed Senior Four, but they are still at home due tolack of fees.

Fiona Anguparu, another of the orphans who is in Primary Six at Kati Primary School is afraid her future could be bleak. "I may fail to join secondary school, like my brothers, because of lack o fschool fees. So, I might never realise my dream of becoming a universityprofessor," Anguparu says. Others share the same fears. A sack of cassava for fees Nyaku says her only source of livelihood has been a five-acre piece o ffarmland. "

We grow cassava, millet and groundnuts for sale. Part of the money goes into paying school fees and buying scholastic materials," she narrates. Sometimes, the school authorities allow Nyaku to settle school dues in kind.A 40-50kg sack of cassava flour is equivalent to one term's dues. The children also sell mangoes to raise school fees.

However, sometimes they are sent away from school due to lack of school fees, which has affected their performance. "We want to study so that we can have a better life and also be able to carefor those in need as Maama Nyaku has done for us," said Bosco Adriko.

In Ullepi sub-county Nyaku is known for her big heart. The sub-county chief,Elijah Matua, said orphans and vulnerable people are a big challenge to thelocal authorities. "We have been trying to cater for these groups of people in our budget, but the lack of resources has impeded our efforts to implement the plans," Matua noted.

He commended Nyaku for taking care of the orphans despite her minimal income. "It takes a big heart to love and share with the needy and Nyaku is a good example.

"Beverley Nambozo Sengiyunva
In charge of Communication and NetworkingThe East African Sub-regional Support Initiative for The Advancement ofWomen (EASSI)
Plot 87 Bukoto-Ntinda Road
P. O. BOX 24965,
Kampala Uganda
Tel: 256-414-285163, 285194
Fax: 256-414-285306E-mail: nambozo
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