Nalongo Nantongo is from the village of Byerima where Sr. Maria grew up. She is the grandmother of seven children from several different families who now live with her. Her granddaughter's names are Nankya Shakirah, Nakibuuka Ratifah, Nanyonjo Rashida, Nambajjo Mega, Nalugga Hanifah and Nabulime Shati, who are nine, eight, nine, eight, eight and four years old respectively. She also has a grandson Kaddu Herman who is six. Several of Nalongo's own children have died of AIDS and she is struggling to care for their children who have no where else to go. Nalongo and Namuli are working together and decided to share a pigsty so both families appear together in our photos.
This is what I would like donors to know about me. I was born and raised in Uganda in Rakai district. I came from a family of thirteen children – six girls and seven boys. As part of the rule in my family, girls were expected to cook and to take care of the house chores and to get married. When I turned sixteen, my parents decided that I should get married since I was not going to school. They also wanted to use some of the money they got from dowries to send my brothers to school and to buy things they needed at home. This was true for my sisters also, they got married at the age I got married and their husbands had to pay dowries to my father. We all got married in the same village. I did not know anything going on in different parts of the world since I had not traveled to any place. I was blessed with a family of fourteen children. Four died between the ages of one year and two years. Ten survived and married wives and also had children.
About fifteen years ago, I lost three children in one year and they had all died of AIDS. The following year I lost another child and all left at least three children. After a year and half I lost two more children but in different months. My heart was pierced with great sorrow. The children had nowhere to go except to come to my house since I was their grandmother. I also lost my husband. Last year my son died and left five children. I had to bring them to live with me since they were too young to live in the house by themselves and their mother had also died. Every day I struggle to take care of these children, to buy them clothes, scholastic materials, and to buy them medication when they fall sick. Besides, I also have high blood pressure which I think I got from the anxiety I had after I lost my children. I have two children of my own who are still alive but their health is not good. I am worried that if they died before me I am going to have to take care of more children. I also have three other children who were abandoned by their mother after she discovered that she was HIV positive and did not have enough support.
I am very grateful to my donors for helping me get a pigsty because I believe that the money I will get from this project will help me take care of the needs of these children. I am a very hardworking woman. I believe in the well-being of all children and adults. I hope these children can achieve better education so that they can live better lives and also learn to protect themselves from getting HIV/AIDS. I believe education is the only way that they will be able to live longer and better lives.
Currently, these children attend a government funded school which is based on a very poor foundation. My hope is to work hard so that I can send at least two of these children to better schools where they can get better education. In the future they can help their siblings after I die since I do not know how long I am going to live. I do not want these children to die young simply because they do not have enough education. I need them to be able to learn life skills and to better take care of their future families when they get married. God bless all those who have made a difference in my family’s life.
During my free time I like to weave baskets and mats and this is how I get some money to buy simple things for the family. I am a peasant farmer. I grow the food I feed my family and I also teach my grandchildren how to grow food that we eat. Every day when they come back from school they know after eating they have to come and find me in the garden where I show them the work for that day.