Running out of Patience with Corruption.
Patience. I don’t know what comes to mind when you think of a lady called Patience. I would almost guarantee you don’t imagine the reality of Patience Namanya. But I’d like to introduce you to her – she’s astonishing.
Patience is a gently spoken woman with eyes that glisten as she talks and an inner strength belied by her slender frame. She is a woman who burns with a passion to end injustice, a woman who risks everything to see that happen.
But life for Patience began in Kyebando, a slum in Kampala, Uganda, mired in unemployment, alcoholism and malnutrition. In Patience’s own home, tragedy was relentless. Her father died of AIDS, the disease that would gradually take the lives of her mother and two of her younger siblings. While AIDS still ravaged her body, Patience’s mother enrolled her at Compassion’s Gayaza Road Child Development Centre.
After her mother died, the 12-year-old moved in with her aunt and uncle. Though Patience was able to stay at the Compassion centre, home life was grim. Every day she awoke at 4 a.m. to prepare meals, wash clothes and care for her younger cousins. She rarely went to bed before 1 a.m., and was regularly denied food. Keeping up with her studies was nearly impossible. Her grades began to fall.
She came home from school with a bad report card. She was failing literature, history, civics and math. Her teacher had scrawled a note at the bottom.
Patience can do better than this. Should please put in more effort.
Patience sat alone, ashamed. She ached for her parents. She was afraid of her abusive aunt. Who would she show this wrinkled piece of paper to?
She knew one person who would understand. One woman who would both challenge and comfort her. Patience picked up her pencil and began to write.
This year was not wonderful for me because of the problems I had. I lost my grandma and my mummy in the same year and month.
Terribly hard words for any 12-year-old to write, but Patience took great strength from the letters that made their way, across the ocean, to her sponsor Diane. She thanked God for the blessings even as her family endured death, disease and loss. In Diane, Patience found a provider and protector.
“She was always encouraging me to carry on. She told me that if I worked hard, there were better things. She told me that she was impressed by me. I always shared everything with her. She was and still is, my prayer partner and encourager.”
That encouragement and the support of her local church project helped Patience improve her failing grades, and she began to rise in the ranks at school. At 18 she was accepted into Compassion’s Leadership Development Programme and began attending University, where she studied social work and administration.
Initially, Patience wanted to give back to children whose lives reflected her own childhood and she led a Compassion project for two years, pioneering new lessons in sustainability and environmental health. Then she joined the army where she fought in Iraq. But eventually Patience grew indignant with the injustice she saw in the world. She had seen corruption all her life and she wanted to do something about it.
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