31 December 2012

Uganda: He Turned His Pain Into Other Orphans' Dreams

Out on Mpererwe Road, almost half-a-mile to Kitezi trading centre, children are singing and rehearsing in preparation for the Sunday service presentation the following day.

The children belong to Kumbaya Childcare Foundation. They are singing a song, Gyonjigye wala with 26-year-old Pastor Robert Ssenfuma leading them.

But just a few years ago most of these children were in different homes, living as orphans or foster children. Ssenfuma, who was orphaned at 16, decided to turn his personal pain into ministry. He has since changed the lives of over 40 children.

"I think God wanted to channel my experience into a blessing for others," he says. Years ago, at the age of 16 when his father died suddenly, he lost his childhood innocence.

"I became an adult and I had to take care of eight siblings and our elderly mother," he says. At first he thought that hisfamily would come in to help them, but once, after they had spent four days without anything to eat, he knew that he had to take matters into his own hands.

He dropped out of school and started looking for ways to make ends meet for his siblings. It was a daily battle for survival until he discovered his true calling in singing.

He says: "Singing was my childhood passion, but now God wanted to take it to another level using my personal experience. I felt that I needed to bring in other children who had also experienced the loss of a loved one."

With God leading him, he started looking for orphaned children. In 2006, he assembled a worship band of five children, which he called the Children Guide Choir. In 2008, he changed the name to Kumbaya Children Child Care to provide spiritual discipleship as well as providing for the physical needs of orphaned children.

Today, he says, some of the children he started with have grown into big girls and boys, but most importantly some of those children have been able to realise their musical dreams.

"My mission is to show children the way of life," he says, "and to get them an education and nurture their dreams in singing."

It has worked. One of the girls whom he started with, Joan Najjemba, who is now 16 and in S4 has just released her first album, Bulilwenkusinza, which has inspired others to follow suit.

Ssenfuma's ministry gets finances through singing in various churches and also gets support from well-wishers. "When we started singing in churches people of good heart took notice of us. Those who were moved started asking how I look after the children.

Soon some started helping us," he recalls. He places the children in foster homes under the strict supervision of a Christian tutor, preferably a woman with a mother's instinct. He has homes in Entebbe, Mpererwe, Kitezi and Luwero and plans to construct a big orphanage centre in the near future.

Ssenfuma hopes to see the children are transformed into responsible Christians. He remembers when two girls told him they were worried about having no inheritance.

"To dispel their fears I took them to Luwero, where I own 12 acres of land and apportioned them an acre each as their inheritance," he says. One of the girls, Blessed Nyanyonjo, 14, says: "Before I came in here, my future looked bleak after the death of my parents.

There was no one to take care of me and my siblings until Uncle Robert came into my life." "I look at them as my little children and for that reason I have made the sacrifice not to get married until some of them come of age and so they can take over the responsibility from me."

The matron of the children in the orphanage, Faith Nanfuka, who is in her early 30s, says: "I do not have any moments of emptiness and loneliness. God has blessed me with many children to look after and I know when the time comes, He will bless me with a wonderful husband but as for now, the children are all I have," she says.

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