This past February 2010, I was able to make contact with Nancy in the northern Ugandan city of Gulu. I was walking through the center of town when I suddenly heard “Charlie”. She knew that I’d be in Gulu, but we had not yet made plans to meet. Over the next few days we were able to meet on several occasions. But the most moving was to go to her family compound outside of town. The compound was made up of about 5 major homes (mud huts). We met in her grandmother’s home. Nancy is the only family member who speaks English. The family speaks the local language of Lwo. We sat in the darkness of the hut, which was perfect for the gift I had brought her 2 year old daughter, a translucent rubber ball that flashed colors when bounced. In the darkness it seemed like magic. The ball mesmerized her daughter and the other children.
There is an obvious affection and devotion that Nancy has for her grandmother. As she sat in front of my camera talking to me, she had her arm around her grandmother.
We then took a walk to the rock quarry where they worked. Even at 96 years old, her grandmother using a walking stick manages to go to the quarry on a daily basis to break stones into smaller pieces with a hammer. I told Nancy that I was uncomfortable video taping the scene of very hard work that was going on by everyone whether very young or very old. I was afraid that management would be upset if they thought I was going to take pictures of the labor to cause them difficulty. So she went and brought the head-man to me. And even though he spoke no English, we both understood that I had permission to use the camera.
The point is: if it were not for this quarry, Nancy would never have been able to pay for a high school education. She was an exceptional student who received some financial aid, but never enough to cover all the costs. So the quarry was her means to prove herself worthy of a university scholarship and financial support from Children UP.
Later in my visit, Nancy’s grandmother wanted to thank me for what we had done for Nancy. I was brought to tears with her thank you: a jar of home-made peanut butter from their farm. It was all she had to give. Of all the gifts I have received in my life, this one touched me the most.
Later in my visit, I did visit Nancy in Kampala. She lives in a single room with her daughter and with a baby sitter. She has a small stove where she can cook a meal. It is a very happy household.
When she started at university she found a 17 year old young woman to take care of her child. In U.S. dollar equivalence, she pays her $15 a month. He talked with her and told her that since she had board and room while babysitting, she would help her prioritize her life. In talking with her, she found out that she would like to go to a hair-dressing school but could not afford it. Nancy pointed out that if she placed her $15 a month in the back, that at the end of 3 years, she would have enough money to further her education.
So besides doing extremely well at university, Nancy has helped another young woman and her daughter. She helps her grandmother as much as she can whenever she returns to Gulu. Nancy is nothing short of fantastic.