20 January 2013

Uganda: Love Opens the Eyes of the Kintus

Some believe in love at first sight. For David Kintu, 46, and Rosemary Namukwaya, 25, both blind, it was a matter of the heart.

"I met him in 1997 while we were both students at Blind but Able project in Mengo, a city suburb. Although we could not see each other, the love between us reached our hearts," Namukwaya says.

"David's kindness and his faith in Christ always impressed me," she added. For instance when one was sad or happy the other would sense immediately, the couple revealed.

Before Kintu and Namukwaya's affection developed into intimacy, they separated for some years. Like a couple destined to live together, they again got in touch through phone.

During that long separation, Namukwaya met another man, with whom she got a son. Sadly, he died under mysterious circumstances.

Today, the couple lives in Nakyelongosa, Kakiri, 23 miles on Hoima Road, with their 10-year-old son.

Namukwaya's blindness

Namukwaya was born blind 25 years ago in Nakyelira, Namutamba in Mityana district.

The only blind child in the family of ten, Namukwaya's fate was almost sealed during infancy as she lost her mother, rendering her childhood very challenging.

"Being a blind child in a family of so many children without a mother to take care of you was a difficult experience for me," Namukwaya explains, adding that her superstitious father tried to seek help from traditional healers.

She remembers as a young girl, on several occasions, her father took her to witchdoctors who claimed her daughter's blindness was a result of witchcraft.

By nine, Namukwaya was tired of drinking local herbs and moving to various witchdoctors without any breakthrough.

"I accepted my condition and advised my father to spare the money he was spending on witchdoctors," she reveals.

Her father, who she says was of medium build, according the strength in his arms, was not happy with his daughter's decision.

That day, he handcuffed his blind daughter and punished her severely, for questioning his efforts of trying to reclaim her sight. She, however, found her way to the village chairman who untied her and later summoned a village meeting to resolve the matter.

"In the village meeting, the elders unanimously agreed that my father respects my decision. From that time, he disowned me and sent me away from his home," she recalls.

Thank God, Blind but Able Project in Mengo welcomed her. While there, she was equipped with various life skills meant for the physically impaired people. It was then that destiny brought her to Kintu, who unlike Namukwaya, became blind at 10 years.

Kintu's blindness

What is perhaps the saddest and darkest twist of David's story of blindness is that he was born normal in a family of five children, one girl and four boys.

Kintu had a fairly happy childhood, until one day, when an incident occurred to him while returning home from school. He says a voice led him to look upwards in the blazing sun that damaged his sight.

"I felt like there was a voice calling on me to look upwards. When I met one of our neighbours, he cautioned me against what I was doing, but I just laughed it off. By the time, I reached home, I could not see," he explains.

Though he believes he had a direct hand in the loss of his sight, he refuses to indulge in self-pity.

He went through primary, before joining Blind but Able Project, where he was also equipped with life skills. Like the saying, love is blind, David felt that he was attracted to a girl, 21 years younger than him.

Their Love affair

"Time came when I felt I needed to marry, but I knew no woman would want to marry me. My heart drifted back to Namukwaya, who seemed to have feelings for me," he explains.

By that time, Namukwaya was miles away in Kikyusa, Mubende district.

Through a friend, he was able to connect with her via telephone.

"When I expressed my feelings over the phone, she said she would like to talk about it when we meet. When I proposed to her, she said yes. My heart was filled with happiness."

She says she opted for someone with the same physical disability because she wanted a man who would understand her challenges.

One and half years since the couple agreed to spend the rest of their lives together, they are now planning a wedding. They hope to hold it at St. Paul's Cathedral, Namirembe.

However, in the midst of their anticipated wedding, many challenges lie ahead.

Namukwaya's music

Namukwaya says the strongest test for their relationship is limited finances. The couple often depends on handouts from the church community. Proceeds from Namukwaya's gospel music also supplement's their needs.

She says she has been turned away from some churches when she expressed interest in singing for them. But that has not bogged her down.

She has three songs to her name, one of which, Kampulugumye Essala (Let me pray fervently), won her an award in the Luwero Gospel Music Awards three years ago.

A few years ago, Namukwaya's only son fell sick and lost a lot of weight. She says what made the situation more tragic was the way she was ridiculed by those she hoped to stand with her.

"As my son's health condition deteriorated, some of my close friends advised me to take him to a witchdoctor and yet they knew that I am a firm believer in God. It was during that difficult situation that I resolved to immerse myself in prayer; God answered me by healing my son," she said.

Later, she felt inspired to document her experience in a gospel song, which spurred her to stardom.

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