They have been raped, they have caught HIV, they have lived through the war. But now they have found the will to live again. Here is their storyThe women of the Meeting Point of Kireka (Uganda) come back to life Photo
Stories of women in Uganda. They have been raped, they have caught HIV, they have lived through the war. But now they have found the will to live again. Because, as the founder of the Kireka Meeting Point discovered, healing the body is not enough. Here is their story. – PhotoBella Hadid on the catwalk with the 'spray dress', the dress sprayed on the body Bella Hadid on the catwalk with the 'spray dress', the dress sprayed on the body
HE WAS ONLY EXPECTING DEATH - Ketty is 42 years old, has a round face, an infinite scar on her leg and a story that takes her breath away: kidnapped by rebels in her village in Northern Uganda, she was raped, contracted HIV, lost a child. They forced her to eat human flesh and do horrible things, so as not to be killed. When she managed to escape to Kampala, the capital, her body was covered in sores and a patch of burnt skin instead of hair: «In the bush ( bush , ed) they made me walk with a brazier on my head and the stuff that was cooking in the pot». She no longer expected anything from life. Only death.
Now she is there dancing and laughing and welcoming guests arriving at the Meeting Point in Kireka, one of the slums ( shanty town , ed) poorer than a very poor city, singing « Now I’m free », now I am free. Next to her are Agnes, Teddy, Lilian. And dozens, hundreds of other women, almost all Acholi (a people of South Sudan) and almost all with a similar story. A good half have HIV. Many make a living breaking stones in a quarry, or selling papier-mâché necklaces, wet and pressed into colored beads.
HAPPY FOR THEIR NEW LIFE - Still, they dance and sing. And they are happy. The next day I see them doing aerobics. Now that Covid has let go, they have started playing football again and taking trips on Lake Victoria, crammed into beat-up minibuses 'to see the beauty of the sunsets'. They are the same women who have set up savings groups and mini cooperatives. They founded two schools – beautiful ones – for their children. They made a collection to send 1,000 euros to war-ravaged Ukrainians. You look at them, and you get a thousand questions: where does this strength come from? How can you be happy even like this?
THE TURNING POINT: CARE OF THE BODY IS NOT ENOUGH - It was to seek an answer that he was born Your names are written in heaven (bur). It is a journey into the world of these women and into the life of another woman: the one who allowed them to come back to life. Her name is Rose Busingye, she is 54 years old, she is a nurse. She is responsible for Meeting Point International, an association that helps more than 5,000 people in Kampala. She was born thirty years ago, when Rose started going to look for AIDS patients in the slums. But she has deeper roots, she comes from her meeting with Pietro Tiboni, a Comboni missionary, and then with Don Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion and Liberation. It is he who makes her discover a faith 'that has to do with every aspect of life'. 'Many others had told me that God became flesh, but not in that way.' Rose's story began like this. She is studying to be a nurse. You join the Memores Domini, the consecrated laity of CL. She dedicates herself to AIDS patients when the emergency explodes in Africa. Around her, little by little, an important reality is born. But it's not a linear story. In the mid-nineties, she goes into crisis. The Meeting Point is efficient, it works. Still, something is wrong. «I gave medicines to the sick, I came back the next day and found them in the trash. I said to myself: it is impossible. That pill is to save your life. Because?'. The turning point came there. When Fr Giussani asked her to drop everything and come to Italy. Rose stayed there for six months. He, already old and sick, went to see her as soon as he could. “We talked. He told me about himself and his experience with her. He didn't do anything else.' But they are not the words of that priest: it is he, his world of looking, of doing. To enjoy life.
NEW AWARENESS – From those six months Rose came out without instructions for use, but with a new awareness. Of himself, and of the other. The value of the person, therefore. Not confined to sermons or speeches, but witnessed, embodied.
It seems nothing, yet it is from this discovery for itself that 'Rose's women' are broken down, with the immeasurable strength that only women can have. And that's where everything exploded from: the Meeting Point, the medicines, the meetings, the cooperatives, the English and hygiene courses... The schools, which wanted them 'so that our children are educated the way you are educating us' (Rose had plans to make a hospital, but put her plans aside and went with them). And much more: in the book there are dozens of stories and facts that forced me too to rethink many things as I saw them happen.
Examples? What it means to help development: projects and funding are essential (important NGOs like AVSI collaborate with Rose), but if they don't help people grow, they don't change anything. Or, how decisive education is, at school, and outside. Or, again, because the Church can only exist 'outgoing', as Pope Bergoglio repeats.
In the end, however, Rose's story made me see one thing above all: a faith lived in this way can set one free. Even in the slums of Kampala.