“In my heart, there is a deep desire to help those in need. Many times, I have tried to help but I think I am yet to do my best. I need to move with this spirit and do it even on the national level,” shares, a soft-spoken Ritah Aliguma, 33, a freelance sports journalist at UBC TV.
Her small body size aids her agility because she moves about with ease as she reaches out to one of the children she takes care of. She gives the lanky boy two blue books, pens and some grab (deep fried hard corns and roasted groundnuts), before turning to a thirsty looking girl.
“Do you want some water?” she bends, well naturedly holding her by the head, as she looks straight into her eyes.
The girl nods in affirmation prompting Aliguma to dash to the box of water for a bottle that she hands to the girl whom I only get to know by one name, Monica.
Most parents who have gathered in Banda village, Acholi quarters in Kampala look at her with such admiration.
Never minding about a child’s background, all Aliguma has at heart is the never-ending list of plans she desires to fulfil for the children she is taking care of, many of whom she took from the streets and now have their future resting on her shoulders as the mother and breadwinner.
How she started
“When I was moving through Acholi slums sometime in 2017, I met a girl, Janet Ochen, who was hungry and weary. She was dirty and in a bad condition,” reminisces Aliguma as she dusts her black dress, which gathered dirt while she knelt down to help the children.
“Before I took Ochen, I had seen women engaged in stone quarrying. Walking with Ochen towards them, I introduced myself. After a chat with them, I discovered that I could do something to change their lives,” she recollects.
Aliguma was born on June 20, 1986, to Steven Magezi Nyakana and Nsungwa Nyakana. Her mother was one of the first nurses in Masindi District but unfortunately passed on in 2012. She comes from a family of five and she is the second born.
She attended Kabalega Primary School and Kijjura Infants Primary School, Kitala Primary School, Alianso Model School, Lubiri Secondary School and Uganda Institute of Business and Media Studies where she obtained a Diploma in Journalism in 2010.
“It is hard to tell but my mother’s death put the family into total depression. By nature, my mother loved young children so much that she adopted neglected children in our village,” Aliguma reminisces.
The founder of Rismiles Public Relations and Events Management Company says to carry on her mother’s legacy, she made up her mind to look after needy children in Acholi slums and plans to visit other areas in Uganda to extend the same help.
“Initially, I started by establishing slum football because by nature, I love sports. I was certain that these football games would unite the children. Thereafter, I introduced a feeding programme,” says Aliguma, who started her sports journalism career at Super FM in 2010 as a Luganda news anchor before she was chosen to represent Uganda as a young sports reporter in Shenzhen World University Games held in China in 2011.
By that time, playing football was the talk in Acholi slums and Aliguma, also a member of Uganda Sports Press Association (USPA), was frantically working on how to turn her idea into a huge project.
Before long, she got advice from local leaders who encouraged her to register as a Non-governmental organisation (NGO), which she did in 2017. With the help of her brother, Ivan Tugume, Saltry Lubega and Emmanuel Asimpson, Aliguma has been able to run her project which today also boasts of shoe and bookmaking as supplementary projects for those in need in Acholi slums.
She has also stationed a community library in Acholi, where different children meet and read books of their choice.
“I came up with Aliguma Foundation as my organisation. Though the resources needed were many, a number of well-wishers joined hands with me to ensure that we change the lives of people living in slums,” she shares.
Under Aliguma Foundation, she looks after 320 people of which 200 are children while 120 are women who need help in terms of finances and other material things such as clothes and food for their children.
Under the same programme, she pays school fees for 10 children with the help of NBS TV’s sports reporter Grace Mbabazi and FUFA marketing and communications department chairman, Rogers Byamukama. Most of these children attend Lubaga Martyrs Primary School.
Aliguma, has also introduced a health programme for women and children, and through this, they organise a monthly medical and health camp within the community where they also give out sanitary pads to the girls and mama kits to expectant mothers.
“I feel that my mother’s legacy of helping the needy is still on-going. I have to push it until God calls me home,” she says, adding: “I believe there has been tremendous change in the lives of the people in Acholi. We have seen teamwork and unity among community members improve, which gives us a reason to hope for better every day,” she says.
However, as she runs, the foundation, challenges are unavoidable. More importantly, they all rotate around the insufficient funds which sometimes deny her chances to meet the needs of needy children and women in Acholi slums.
“The unstable prices of some commodities such as soap, food and scholastic materials for the pupils have also been a hindrance,” she says.