19-year-old Mutabazi is all too familiar with tragedy. “My mother died two months after I was born,” he explains in a deep, sombre tone. "Shortly after, my father was poisoned by a neighbour.”
These two tragic events changed the course of Mutabazi’s life. “We moved from home to home,” he describes. “We first landed in an orphanage and then went in different directions. Since I was the youngest, I ended up at my uncle’s house.”
Mutabazi was separated from his siblings. Even when the living conditions at his uncle’s home became increasingly difficult, he had no one to turn to for help.
“My uncle was struggling to support his large family so I ended up working as a houseboy and delayed joining school. I became weak and malnourished because of the laborious work and inadequate food. I withdrew from people.”
When Mutabazi was invited to stay with his grandparents, he had high hopes of things improving. “But joining school conflicted with my grandfather’s wish for me to be a herds boy,” he explains. “I moved from place to place in search of pasture and water for the animals, missing school and playing with my friends.”
Mutabazi’s poor school attendance affected his performance. His confidence was dented: his grades were low and he ended up studying with children who were younger and smaller than him. Mutabazi carried a heavy weight of injustice over his fragile shoulder. He progressively grew more secluded and distressed.
Social worker Nyakaisiki Grace can still vividly remember him arriving at Maranyundo Student Centre, run by the Anglican Church in Kabarore. “He was a small, quiet and withdrawn boy who came from a very poor home,” she reflects. “When his grandmother brought him to the [Compassion] project, we learnt a lot about his difficult childhood. As an orphaned child, Mutabazi faced neglect and didn’t receive all the love and care he needed.”
Because of his sponsor's support, the project was able to provide Mutabazi with school supplies, food and clothes. Nyakaisiki visited him at home to give him support; she spoke with his guardians and encouraged him to study.
But sadly Mutabazi continued to face opposition from his grandfather who repeatedly threatened to take him out of school. In contrast, Mutabazi was so grateful for the project community which gave him an environment where he could thrive: He found a mentor and friend in his sponsor, counsellors in his teachers, and a spiritual father in Pastor Daniel Mutangana.
“I always shared my life with my sponsor through letters, and I always looked forward to hearing from him. He enquired about my progress, and prayed for my family,” recalls Mutabazi pulling out a stash of cherished letters and photos.
But the situation back home was hard to deal with.
When Mutabazi completed his primary school education and expressed his desire to further his education, his grandfather made good his long-standing threat.
“My grandfather wasn’t amused. As I ate, he grabbed the plate of food from my hands, and kicked me out of the house,” Mutabazi describes.
“I can remember thinking, why did my parents leave me when I was so little? And what had I done to deserve this?” Yet, in the midst of his pain, Mutabazi said a timely prayer which he says changed the course of his life. “Although I was disappointed and angry, I thanked God for all the people he’d brought me thus far and I dedicated my life to God and asked him to be my guide.”
Mutabazi was 16 years old when he made a firm commitment to follow Jesus, and it surprised him how much he was able to deal with the pain and hurt from the past.
Practical support followed as well. The project swung into action and found him a place at a college where he could stay and complete his vocational course in automobile mechanics. A gift from his sponsor enabled him to purchase a parcel of land near the project. And in 2015, as he turned 18, Mutabazi was among 21 young people who benefitted from a house construction RESPOND Initiative for highly vulnerable children.
“It was great to have my own place, and I thank my sponsor and the project for showing love in this way. Even though I’ve never met my sponsor, I’m very thankful and indebted to him. I feel like my own man now,” states Mutabazi.
Mutabazi rests on a mattress laid on the floor of his newly constructed, four-roomed mud and brick house and wonders how different his life could have turned out. “I could’ve been an orphaned street child, a drug addict, maybe even a robber. But I’m closer to God more than ever. The project is my family and I’m thankful for all their support.
It’s a wonderful feeling to have a place I can call home.”
This Compassion Sunday, share with your church and find a sponsor for a child living in desperate poverty. By doing so, you’ll link them with a Compassion project run by their local church.
Here, no matter what their background, they’ll find a project family they can rely on. They’ll be given access to a safe haven where they’re free to be a child. They’ll be given a place they can call home.
Join us this Compassion Sunday