When Eria Sekayombya, a visually impaired 22-year-old refers to his younger brother Charles Ssendi as his mother, father and guardian – all wrapped in one, the statement is ambiguous at first thought.
I’m aware the two boys are orphans but it takes the intervention of Sekayombya himself, with an explanation, for his remark to be clear; “Mum neither showed us our relatives nor our ancestral village.
We do not know our “people” and their whereabouts. We are abandoned on this Island – Gayaza - Buwaya on Lake Victoria. When she died, I was only left with my young brother. He is the one taking care of me.”
As he relays more about the desire to meet his relatives, Sekayombya’s tone loses its sharpness. It becomes low and sad. Using his fingers, he swiftly wipes away tears that have started falling from his moist eyes.
His 18-year-old brother, who is silent all this while, steadily stares at the writer like he would pay an arm and a leg if he could get them round their plight.
Both are seated on a rickety and “tired” three by six feet bed which they inherited from their deceased mum. It squeaks after any movement. Clean but old utensils sit at the foot of it.
Their current home is a small one-room affair. The floor is not cemented and the walls are made of bricks that are not plastered. The two boys have been living in it since last February.
They are not sure they will be around by the end of the year.
“Sometimes we fail to raise the Shs10,000 for rent. We have defaulted for some months. But the landlord is at times lenient,” says Sekayombya, as he randomly plants his hand on my knee presumably to establish how far I’m seated from him.
However, even if Sekayombya’s prayer to be reunited with his relatives was answered, the 22- year-old would never see them. He would only touch them, feel them, hear their voices and note their odour. He is blind.
How they got where they are
According to the residents of Gayaza- Buwaya Island, the boys’ mother Betty Nakyazze arrived on the Island around 2001. They say it is typical for people to come to the Island, from everywhere, to earn from fishing and selling fish. Nakyazze was among this lot.
She pitched camp at a place called Luwangala. Sekayombya was nine years old, at the time. He recalls, hazily, that they arrived at the Island after his dad’s death. “Our father’s name was Matiya.
He had been sick for a long time. We were living in Wakiso, then. There was a man called Ssalongo who used to visit dad. We had some neighbours. Brian, one of their children was a good friend of mine,” he narrates.
Their new home on the Island had been offered to their mother by a Good Samaritan. Sekayombya says, the house was in the middle of a graveyard, and people occasionally came by to bury their loved ones. Their mother sold dry fish to earn a living.
“Around 2007, our mother sat us down and informed us that she was our father and mother,” he says adding: “As young boys we could not ponder about that.
However, we had never had a relative visiting us. Mum had never introduced anyone to us as a relative. Still, at that age, it was not something worth worrying about.
So we had also never asked her about our relatives. Maybe we only knew her friends on the Island,” he adds.
In November 2013, their mother travelled to Mpigi for a friend’s burial. On her way back, the car she had boarded, was involved in an accident and she was one of the lot that died on spot.
After her burial, reality set in -- the two boys’ attention was brought to the fact that they did not know any of their relatives. Matters were made worse when the Good Samaritan threw them out of the house he had given to their mother.
“He told us that he had given the house to our mother but not us. We were thus evicted, mercilessly,” he states.
They sought temporary shelter at some of their mother’s friends. Some of these were not as receptive as they had anticipated. So early this year, they decided to rent a room.
Life without sight
Sekayombya was not born visually impaired. His sight was fine until the age of seven. “My sight became blurred after a long illness. Consequently, one eye was removed. Months later the other eye also became affected until it completely became blind,” he says while pointing at his eyes.
Their mother believed education was the best thing for her visually impaired son.
So, she enrolled him at Salama School for the Blind in Mukono, despite the financial hardships that never seemed to let go of their home. “She always stressed that education would enable me overcome the challenges that my blindness may present later in life.
At some point, my young brother had to stay out of school for a year because she could not sustain both of us in school.
When he sought an explanation, mum informed him that I would not be a burden to him (my young brother) if I am educated,” he says, nudging his nose to check his emotions. Unfortunately, he was unable to complete school.
He dropped out in Primary Six after his mother declared inability to afford school fees. His brother too dropped out at primary five.
The 22-year-old believes his life would have been much better if he had completed school. “I would not be waiting for my brother to fend for me,” he mumbles.
Ssendi washes and dries fishing nets to earn a living. The money he earns is spent on foodstuffs and rent. “On a good day, I earn Shs2,000. This is what we use for basic needs and rent,” the young brother quips.
Looking beyond disability
While Ssendi is away, Sekayombya takes care of their home. He sweeps, mops and does laundry. However, he rarely moves out. If he does, it is only around the neighbourhood. He has to wait for Ssendi, who also serves as his guide to destinations of his choice.
He dreads the rainy season. “I fall a lot during the rainy season because the ground is slippery. I have numerous wounds from the many falls,” he says. He bursts into fits of laughter when I ask him the last time he lost his way, and answers: “It is just a week ago.
Ssendi had delayed to return yet I wanted to go to a friend’s to listen to a commentary of a soccer match. Somehow, I lost my way but to my relief, a stranger guided me back home. I often get lost especially when the destination is not a familiar one.”
His passion and the future
Sekayombya loves soccer. He becomes animated when asked to mention his favourite player and football club. “I like Messi. I love the way he dribbles. However, Arsenal is my beloved club. I like all the players especially Theo Walcott,” he states. Has he ever seen Messi?
He answers in the negative and quickly adds that when he listens to the live soccer commentary on radio, he visualises what is taking place. At the peak of his love for soccer, he becomes depressed because of his handicap.
He says there are times when a soccer match
“sounds” so lively that he decries being visually impaired and unable to watch. “Such depressing moments come and pass,” he says. Music is his other passion. Sekayombya desires to learn how to play a keyboard in order to produce his own music.
At 22 years, one would expect him to assume he is too old to resume school.
He dismisses this. He says he has not lost hope of returning to school. “This is a dream but I have no doubt that it will come to pass,” he says. The two lads hope to get fishing nets, embark on fishing and use the proceeds from the venture to enrol in school. They have also embarked on a search for their relatives through Dembe FM.
I have known these boys for more than 10 years. First, I knew their deceased mother. They emulated her ways. She was a well mannered lady. In an era where young men are doing drugs, spending time in video halls and eloping, these two boys have stayed away from that. However, we all do not know their relatives. No one has ever come to me searching for them. You see many people come to this Island to earn through fishing. So we rarely take the effort to know who is the other’s relatives.
JOHN KAGGWA, CHAIRMAN
The two boys are well behaved and they love each other. I think Sendi was God sent to take care and guide his brother Sekayombya. The former will set aside what ever he is doing to make sure that his brother is fine. Life is not easy, but the little they have enjoyed has been a result of their good manners. This is what urges people to donate to them.
ROSE NAKATO, NEIGHBOUR