Read BOSCO staff member David Aliker’s story at here.
It was Friday morning; I sat restless in the staff room starring at the wall deep in thoughts and reflections about what life is all about. The bell goes but I could not hear even when other teachers are complaining of the time keeper hitting the bell so loud that makes a lot of noise.
A few minutes late a class prefect enters the staffroom standing next to me and calls out three times and am still lost in my imagination of life, suddenly a teacher calls out in a loud rude voice”Mr.Aliker, are you not going for your lesson?” its then that I realized that the prefect was calling me for my lesson, after yawning and feeling tired I got up and left for my lesson.
My topic was LIFE IN THE CHANGING SOCIETY, leaning by the window of my classroom I apologized to my students for having been late and they all laughed because it had turned into a habit for me to be late for my lessons and leave early.
Mid way through my lesson as I told my students about the hopeless situation of life in the camps in northern Uganda; where I come from compared to life in the city in central Uganda where there is relative peace, these only provoked arguments from my students about how peaceful Uganda is and how life is what you make it explained a student.
He went further and said “the people in northern Uganda are killing themselves like cockroaches and expect government to stop them!”
Then there was a mixture of frowning and laughter but because he was a good joker all the students ended up laughing, coincidentally he was my student and friend and my students knew I could withstand all forms of stigma.
Suddenly a tall dark gloomy faced student call Komakech (meaning am unlucky) stands up and leaves the class, I could see wrinkles of tears in his eyes so I didn’t stop him and I looked on as he left the class.Realising the problem, I stopped the discussion and began to dictate notes. I kept on hearing words soundly loud in my mind like “the truth is the first casualty of war”. Again I find my self leaving the class before time to attend to the one lost sheep as students kept on giggling and murmuring.From a distance he looked like he was praying, yet he also looked like one who was reflecting on an idea.
As I got closer he asked me to leave him alone and I didn’t hid to his idea. When I approached him and asked what the problem was he didn’t answer back, and then I switched to our local language and asked him what the problem was. He then retorted “Master, why are you pretending that you are with us in our suffering?”.” You are friends and an accomplish of those who castigate us, who call us names and those who hate us that’s why you never get offended of bad things said against us. “He retorted
I then told him I was sorry if I offended him in any way but insisted on asking what was wrong, after a minute he said he was praying to God to forgive those who forsake them. Again I asked “what is the problem?”“Don’t you know I am a former child soldier?” (this) was his response – “Teacher, look am not as handsome and acceptable as my fellow students because of the scars of the war which I can’t explain and don’t understand how I found myself in it .I wonder why there was no one to save me from this acts of violence, am not only physically ugly but mentally shattered because I hear their voices and see them in my dreams crying and asking for help from their persecutors. I am full of guilt, it pains me to see other children being loved and hugged yet I have never been hugged in life.”
I then asked him “do you believe in God?” He answered “some times I feel I have faith but at times I don’t see any sense in believing in God.” he answered” I wish I had died!”Before I could answer him, the bell went and he asked to leave promising me he would open up later.
The next day was one of my saddest moments as a teacher; he had escaped from school leaving behind a note for me that he had abandoned studies because he felt he could not make it. He left his properties behind and until today I have never seen him again.
There are lots of myths about his where about which tells us of his perspective of life.During my December holidays, I got an opportunity to do research in pader district. The research was a continuous one for three years assessing the poverty level of people in the satellite camps and ways of improving their livelihood and monitoring their progress.
The research required that we interview the poorest of the satellite camps.In one home we met a woman who looked old but could have been the fangs of poverty adjusting her age. A story is told of this very woman that she loved to pray and take care of her three grand children, yet records indicated she was not as old as she looked. That she loved to pray so much that one time she kept away from the church for one week and all realized her absence including the priest who asked for her in a sermon and no body could answer, only until the next prayer that the priest was told she refused to pray in church because she was too poor to hide her nudity in church so she preferred to remain home to look after her grandchildren,
later that day the offertory was dedicated to her to buy clothes.My two colleagues who didn’t know the local language introduced themselves and since I was the interpreter I introduced self last.
On hearing my name she looked on motionless and chuckled then asked her grand children to leave and go to play. She then started narrating how her only son and daughter in law died in the war and left her with those grand children, and how she had hoped he would take care of her in old age.
Now she could not dig but collect fire wood for survival and that her son was also called ALIKER.It really touched me so much that I offered her the only money I was paid for the survey, my colleagues were also moved and offered her 20000 or 10 US $ each making 60000or 30 US $ .
In disbelieve she could not remember when she last held such money, she asked me to offer my hands for blessings from our ancestors and spat on it asking them to give me back in plenty and so did my colleagues, after hesitating because they were from different cultures and didn’t have faith.
That evening I went to our place of abode hungry and kept awake in the night reflecting on my latest experiences tears kept rolling from my eyes yet I felt great fulfillment in serving those in need and all I received was gratitude.
Here, I had come face to face with the effects of the 20 year old war on my people. Then I remembered my student and how he felt that day during my lesson. I then realized that in life there is pain that words may not describe but experience can make you appreciate their affection.
As I reflected on my students pain sleep caught up and I woke up with one resolution. QUIT TEACHING AND COME HOME TO SERVE MY PEOPLE
Opportunity strikes for those who are awake. I resigned from my teaching job on 3rd January 2007; I left the city very skeptical if what I was doing was the best. I imagined the nice people in the city, the quality social life in the city, opportunities but in all this I had faith in my conscience.
April 23rd 2007 I got an opportunity to serve Invisible Children as a volunteer; this was one of my greatest moments, joining a reputable organization with an educational background.
The motivation was so much that in four months I had got two promotions, from Education assistant to Education officer. Just as all seem to be fun with a pending visit to my childhood dream, visiting America my conscience called “what is your sense of purpose?
I adapted really well to my new found values that seemed exciting with great people and great works, most interesting was that all this was being done by young people. I then realized fulfillment is one virtue you can’t lie about and it can never be compromised with life’s favours.
My interest was with the people communicating with the suffering people and getting feedback, directly associating my self with them and here I was in a an enclosed office where you sign a form to see me doing desk work, you comfortably communicate in the white man’s language with all your guest or forever facing a computer for the rest of the day.
Yet every time I had opportunity to move out I paid a visit to my mentor Fr.Joseph to listen to his opinion about the suffering of the people and the role of a few educated locals like us especially young cadres with strong Christian upbringings on how to bring social change in our society and he always moved me.
He spoke passionately about a BOSCO project I took long to conceptualise;and why it was important to give our people an opportunity to generate information from their experiences and share them with the world, the importance of communication in the post war erra.
We often agreed and even hoped one day we could do something about it.Finally one day, under the mango tree Fr.Joseph requested me that as a product of the church it was imperative that I gave back to the church through service to BOSCO.
He had told me of my father’s role in the church and knowing him for more than a decade I had never turned him done nor doubted him yet faced with the challenges of a new organization compared to an established reputable organization made it a difficult decision.
Reluctantly I accepted without giving it serious thought. Again he placed the request to me to get on board, my worry was my small family and how it could affect us but eventually I told him” am not certain of the future, but since I have never doubted you in the last one decade, I will take it up without any more thoughts but with faith in his credibility” He only retorted “come and be lead by an old man for you to make the difference.”
Many times we are called to realize our dreams but we abscond because of fear of the unknown. We walk the path of realizing our dreams innocently and ignorantly but if there is any thing that will never break our hearts, it’s our conscience.
In BOSCO, I met a silently humorous team of work mates so respectful in thought and ways, so dependable in private and public, a true manifestation of my teachers common saying “simplicity signifies the magnanimity of the soul,” great personalities yet so simple in their ways, with a cutting edge sense of freedom and responsibility, a team of wise men never acknowledged by the community yet consulted often by the publics most intelligent brains and above all the team is a family making our fraternity a great home to live in.
This is the home of my fulfillment where virtues and values in all you do is a priority, where am directly in touch with my people both in prayer and at work, where satisfaction is not only got from earthly pleasures but ideals one stands counted for.
I feel so privileged amongst my peers to be engaged by my church at this hour in my life. Not forgetting the honor to serve an organization committed to a new concept in our generation of providing communication and information technology to foster social and economic development and peace building in rural communities using a collaborative web based approach.
I thank all those who have made it possible for me to be part of the BOSCO fraternity, I promise to give it unwinding service to the best of my ability and at all times, I further ask God to bless my action in serving humanity through BOSCO.