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From the Street to Medical School; The Hustle of a Samaritan Student

As dusk fell, he says, his erstwhile rescuer got a call from the husband, who informed her that he would not have enough resources to look after the little boy. He says his sister told him to stay at the park and wait briefly till she comes back, but that was to be his first night on the streets of Kampala.
16 Oct 2020 15:09

Audio 4

At 12 years, Emma Wanyama was abandoned at the Kampala Old Taxi Park at dusk, for the night, starting a journey he had never imagined, yet one that has shaped his life, passion and calling.

Born in Bubutu, Namisindwa District in Eastern Uganda, to an average income home of a widowed mother, who failed to look after him and his siblings, sending them to their maternal grandparents.  By age 12, they were barely living as the granny was steadily running out of resources to feed many grandchildren.

But in what seemed an end to the suffering and a road to a new and better life, his elder sister picked him up to look for education and other services in Kampala, perhaps with a hope that her husband would be kind to help his little brother-in-law.   This was not to be.    

Wanyama says that he had carried all his luggage including bedsheets, and strangest of all, his father’s death certificate, but it was the sheets that would prove more important on that day.  

As dusk fell, he says, his erstwhile rescuer got a call from the husband, who informed her that he would not have enough resources to look after the little boy. He says his sister told him to stay at the park and wait briefly till she comes back, but that was to be his first night on the streets of Kampala.

On that night, he slept at the foot of a chair used by a private guard of a supermarket near the park. That is how he became a street child, living a destitute life that he never imagined.

//Cue in; I was just…

Cue out…a street-child then.”//  

A friendly gateman gave him a place to sleep on the veranda that night. But, he had to think of how to survive the next day, because he was now sure that he would not see her sister again. His new family and friends were now the street kids he found there.

Days, weeks and months went by and begging for survival became his routine. He was now moving around the streets eating leftovers. With a score of aggregate five from his Primary Leaving Examinations-PLE, fellow street kids kept reminding him that he belonged to the school.

This constant reminder challenged him to look for odd jobs until he settled at a construction site in Muyenga, a suburb of Kampala.  This is where one day he decided to bump into a 'rich man', who later proved to be a kind-hearted one; the pivot of his turning point.  

//Cue in; "So, one Saturday morning...

Cue out…I'm studying medicine.”//

Wanyama, now aged 24, is finalising his Bachelor's Degree in human medicine.  But while there, he remembered his street friends and decided to do something about their plight, hence the decision to form a charity; Pure Heart Foundation of Uganda.

Wanyama, who likes snow-white shirts, in contrast to his stint as a street child, says he went back to the streets for a completely different mission: to help street kids get an education. His foundation was supporting 859 children in various schools by the beginning of the year.

Unfortunately for him, he has now run out of funds, as the donor friends especially in Europe, were badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. His main worry, however, is the 81 candidates in senior four and senior six, who have to go back to school this week, at Seroma Christian High School in Mukono and Trinity Senior Academy in Bwebajja, Wakiso.

//Cue in; Generally, we’ve not…    

Cue out...had been aligned.”//     

He says he has talked to the two schools where the candidates are, but they also have assured him that they are even not sure of how they will run the schools due to the uncertainty about the revenues. He is worried that if they fail to go back to school, they could return to streets and drug abuse and other crimes.  

//Cue in; I went to…

Cue out..these basic requirements.//

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