The story of Freda Byaburakirya

It’s coming to 5pm when we arrive at Freda Byaburakirya’s home. She is not expecting us. Our lead guide of Nyaka Foundation, one Mr Ngabirano insists we should meet her.

Freda’s home sits in the quiet green enveloped with trees as you drive downhill from the premises of Nyaka Foundation. She has been there for as long as she can remember.

The little brown spots on the roof can only tell how long the house has been around. As you drive through the gate you cannot fail but notice the attention given to the green littre free compound mowed to the dot. Later, Freda tells me, she cleans the compound herself.

The hedge by the side of the house is neatly manicured hosting various clans of beautiful flowers. Upon hearing the sound of our van driving in, Freda steps out to welcome us. What a jolly lady she is!

It had been raining the greater part of the afternoon at Kambuga, the home of Nyaka Foundation and Freda’s as well. Having been running around for the whole day, we could not afford, at all, to enter Freda’s house with our mudded shoes, so we asked to sit by her red cemented veranda.

Freda Byaburakirya is 76 years old. A former primary school teacher, she is a mother and grandmother to many. She holds a distinguished position in her village following the achievements under her sleeve.

She began teaching in 1967, in Kanungu and taught for over 30 years before her first retirement in 1998.

In 2003, she was contacted by one of her former pupils, Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, to help establish a primary school for the many orphans within the Nyakagyezi community in Kambuga, to which she consented.

They began.

On 3rd January 2003, the school was opened. They had only two classrooms and 25 children. The children had been hand picked. The two classrooms acted as everything. They hosted the classes and also acted as office space. Freda was the head teacher, bursar, administrator and teacher. She worked along with one Innocent Agaba.

The two were able to lay a foundation for the school. Their biggest challenge was to first identify who of the orphaned children needed help first and fast.

“That was a very big challenge,” she emphasises, slapping her hand on the chair.

She adds, ” There were very many helpless children that we didn’t know where to start. Some were child led families that really needed urgent help.”

In the meantime, Jackson was based in the USA where he mobilized funds. Whatever he would get, he sent it to Nyaka. Then, like now, Nyaka School provided a free service to the children. From meals, clothing, scholastics and school dues, everything was and is provided by the school.

And because of that, the school can only take in only 30 children per year.

With the years that followed, starting from 2004, the school added a classroom to accommodate those who had graduated to that level.

In 2007, Freda retired from teaching for the last time. She had set the standard of what she wanted to be known for at the Nyaka School. But she was not yet about going home to rest.

There was work to do with the grannies. Most of the children who came to Nyaka stayed with their grannies, fellow helpless souls that had resigned on life. There was no hope and they struggled for survival themselves. “Their poverty stunk!” She exclaims.

She began a group of the elderly called “Mukaaka”. The group was to unite the grannies that took care of the children who attended Nyaka School but with time, they realised that the community had more vulnerable grannies who were only surviving.

They opened the doors to them.

The grannies were taught to weave baskets among other handicraft. Nyaka Foundation took it upon itself to find a market for these products in the diaspora. Today, their products can also be found at the coffee cafe at the community library still at Nyaka.

The numbers have grown to produce over 146 Mukaaka group members looking after 284 orphans around Kanungu.

The Mukaakas began their own saving group and it has made them wonders. From their own savings, they have been able to buy blankets, mattresses, 3 plastic chairs and some other home items. This is money that they never thought they would ever make themselves.

But above it all, they found hope. The Mukaaka groups built families that these old grannies lacked. They got like minded people with whom they shared similar challenges; of orphaned children and biting poverty. Today they are living, happy and glad for this new arm of life. Mukaaka groups open up for women above 47 years of age.

Freda tells all this story with passion. In 2014, she also retired from Mukaaka work. Today she sits at home to tend her farm.

“I’m grateful to God. I’ve seen the hand of God work among his people; lifting them from nothing to something.”

She is grateful to God Twesigye Jackson Kaguri for having chosen to serve his people. She is also grateful to the partners of Nyaka Foundation who have been able to stand with them.

Freda was ordained a Canon by Kinkizi Diocese for her outstanding work in serving her people. A classroom block has also been named after her at the Nyaka Vocational Secondary School.

“When I recall how helpless and hopeless  the children we began out with were and seeing them wearing neckties today, I give glory to God. Mukama Nimurungi!”

Written in 2016

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