Reviews & Profiles
Giving hope to child sacrifice victims
Posted Monday, September 23 2013 at 00:00
Moved by the atrocities he saw during the war in the north brought about by the LRA and hearing about sad child sacrifice stories, Peter Ssewakiryanga decided to build a home to help the families of those who have both lost and recovered their children.
The hall was pin-drop silent. The only audible sounds were the footsteps of the lean bearded man making it to the podium. “I speak for Fausia, a four-year-old girl who on March 18, 2005, was killed and whose liver and tongue were mutilated, leaving her in a pool of her own dear blood. I speak for the eight-year-old Margaret, whose tongue and leg were, on the 5th of July 2006, mutilated, leaving her lifeless. I speak for Hope Nakilijja…”
He went on and on, giving faces, names dates and figures to the inhumane crime. To say the atmosphere of Victoria ballroom was sombre is sheer understatement. Every guest, at least those I noticed around me, clasped their seats in horror. His speech was speckled with the grisly details of ritualistic child murder that humane eyes would not bare to witness.
I got to meet the lean speaker after the event and got his name – Peter Ssewakiryanga, head of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries. That and his business card were all I was to get from him that busy Friday night.
The very next week, most attempts to get to him proved futile. But after what seemed like forever, he actually called (very unusual of sources) and duly set an appointment. I was to meet him at the Kyampisi Offices in Kyanja, a city suburb. On getting there, I was fooled by the playful shouting of children just returned from school and the chattering of a monkey, a caged one. I felt at home.
When he returned from his errands, he welcomed and sat me down to a couch on his front porch. But before we could even start the interview, children in their sports uniforms came running to embrace him. “This is Malaika… this is Allan…” he introduced them to me. After the pleasantries, the interview would begin.
Ssewakiryanga is a 30-year-old single man with an adopted daughter, five year old Malaika Ssewakiryanga. He is the Pastor of Kyampisi Community Church, a church that he has pastored for the last five years and the founder of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, a children’s outreach. All this begged the question, why and how did a man come to have such great love for children?
A charitable beginning
As a child, Ssewakiryanga never had the fortune of a normal child raising.
“I was born to Elias Kyewalabye, who at the time was too young and was unable to take care of my mother and me. This left my mother, Anna Nabirye with no choice but to place me in the care of my maternal grandparents, John Keya and Beatrice Nabwami who already had their hands full with 20 other children.”
Peter and his cousins had to scrape by as their grandparents could hardly make ends meet. “We learnt to share everything from small portions of food to clothing and beddings, which were made out of mere reed,” he recalled, adding, “We had to help our old ones with the garden, which taught us hard work.”
In 2003, the then 20 year old Ssewakiryanga volunteered to give assistance to the children in the war-torn area of Gulu. “With a couple of friends, we offered to gather clothes, food and medical items for the children in Kyope Camp, one of the Internally Displaced Camps. We partnered with Julius Oyet, a pastor who shared our cause.”
While at the camp, Ssewakiryanga saw many torturous things done to already emaciated children. “The pain I visualised then is more than enough to last me a lifetime, yet, unfortunately, it was only the beginning.” He holds to one incidence, which seemed to have a gruesome grasp on his memory.
“We entered into a hut, in which we saw a widow with a four-year-old son, whose guts had spilled out owing to a bullet shot into his stomach during LRA-UPDF cross fire. She told us she was waiting for him (the child) to die. I couldn’t help but weep.”
With the car they came with, they rushed the boy to Lacor hospital. “However, little could be done there so we brought him to Mulago hospital, where an operation was done. Unfortunately, it was too late to restore him fully and a day later, we lost him.”
It was in this sorrow that Ssewakiryanga got his epiphany. “I made it my life’s mission to put a smile on the faces of little ones who had witnessed and gone through unspeakable suffering.” Even when the war ceased, Ssewakiryanga’s mission was far from over.
Kyampisi childcare begins
“After the war, God led me to the community of Kyampisi in Mukono District, about 24 kilometres from the city. It was a community filled with abject poverty, backwardness and riven by witchcraft.” He described his first visit as “one that gave me an instant connection with the place”. It was there that, with a group of friends, he started hosting charity Christmas parties for children.