From a glimpse, Hajara Namuyanja comes off like any other young humanitarian youth filled with dreams and ambitions ahead of her. This is depicted in her works of impacting street children and women. One would think the stories about her are of someone much older wielding a big office with enough resources at their disposal which is not the case.
When Namuyanja explains her journey and works with the street children, women and the communities you would be surprised how she used her childhood traumatic experiences to come up with impressive changes in people’s lives even in her teenage years.
When we reached out to do this interview, she was busy since her work schedule and the children are always demanding and took much of her time.
Regardless of the circumstances and the fears people have about COVID and fear of catching the virus from infected people in the destitution communities that Namuyanja serves in, her persistence and passion drive her to check on the various women and engage them in talks to empower them.
It is inadequate to define Namuyanja’s works by only basing on the street children programs because her scope of works is diverse and reaches out to every gender. Her humility makes it easy for the children, elderly to relate with her and feel comfortable to be in the space of a young serving dedicated lady who never stops to find solutions for uplifting people.
According to her, a calling can never be exhausting because it always reminds her of God’s purpose for what she is supposed to do, why she is living.
Speaking to Namuyanja made us understand that not all heroes wear caps for what they do and her emphasis on not needing an office for her works because to her, an office is any place where there is a street child and any person in need of help regardless of the age.
Namuyanja indeed portrays hope for a better Uganda where many youth can do their best to give back and change the lives of so many children and think of what is possible for others.
The change maker sees potential and good in every child and presents them an opportunity whenever there is, she does not care what they look like, how they smell or how scary they could look.
Some we looked at were much taller than her and could easily come off as intimidating figures but she never minded any of this and engaged the children in talks and associated freely with them to make them feel free.
In most of her programs she reaches out to these vulnerable groups of people with essentials like food, health and hygiene sensitization materials. She also speaks to the young people in her community about the negative impacts of drug abuse on their lives and their community as a whole.
How she impacts
Namuyanja believes she hasn’t done enough of what she is destined to do on earth and she believes God is still using her for the greater good of his work.
She draws her inspiration from her late grandmother and Deborah. Because of these two, she explains that she has been able to do her best and be of service to others, attributes she got from them.
“I learnt to be a servant from them. They taught me how to respect and honor God’s calling. Deborah and my grandmother instilled in me virtues of hard work, resilience and compassion,” she says.
At 27 years, Namuyanja has had quite a number of achievements such as rehabilitation, educating children, character and discipline development, reintegrate and resettling children, awareness and advocacy.
She has also worked to ensure sanitation in the communities, renovated and constructed a room for a family in dire state, contributing on many children school fees, educating and sensitizing woman, feeding programs, medical programs among other things.
“Since 2010, I have been able to rehabilitate many children that have been victims of sexual abuse, street children, family disintegration and those in dire medical conditions. I have done this through providing a safe area for the kids to feel at home, have nice clothing, timely meals, tutors and grooming them religiously,” she shares.
It is amazing to see how Namuyanja goes about her outreach program. She gathers the children from the different places they hide, has to run after a few young kids who seem to enjoy the running, organizes them and they start to shower as they wash their clothes.
Namuyanja says she can never take anything for granted because she understands what it feels like being poor, lack what to eat and the loathing of feeling unloved and much of work is basically an inspiration from her late grandmother and her very best friend.
She shares that many of these children are looking for a safe home, a family and have the same questions or dreams like those living with their families since they want to know that they are heard, validated, cared for and more so love without the bureaucracy and attachments of them being held hostage as the streets have done to them.
“My wish would be to take all of them off the street at once but it is not an easy venture. The outreach programs are gates for me to meet many children every day. These children’s stories never leave me the same as each is always characterized with pain and so much poverty and fear that is unexplainable. They all require one thing which is love and care.”
Watching Namuyanja perform her voluntary responsibilities triggered a number of questions for us to ask, especially the challenges she has to face on a daily basis and still stay focused.
She shares that the resettlement plans tend to fail due to lack of parents involvement, death of children, limited funds/sponsors, state bureaucracy and corruption. The different misconceptions that street children cannot reform also continue to hinder her everyday work.
“Demands grow every day and the belief by many that for one to do charity they must have millions and millions of money tends to complicate my work. Misunderstandings and misconceptions about the works, at times the response and actions taken during programs can be misinterpreted on a larger view as something else yet it is in the line to shape children.”
She added that many policies regarding the matters of children can be unfavorable at times and make so many processes harder.
Namuyanja shares that she accepted that the responsibility God put before her is His work and it is bigger than the problems and the challenges that come with the work so she obeys God to lead her everywhere so her persistence comes from a spiritual point of view.
“The cultural difference because many of these children come from different backgrounds and this often hinders the work as every child needs specialty in terms of handling and understanding other cultures. It is very demanding to have them under the same umbrella.”
Namuyanja says she doesnt know how she will be remembered because in this world of so many disassociations, one is never sure how works like hers could be perceived by many others.
“I am fully aware that everything that God has enabled me to do has been by His Grace and giving me the constant awareness of being truthful in whatever I put my hands on through the different programs I have served. I would say the things I would like people to remember of me is how I cared about so many even when I didn’t have much and could not give much,” she says.
Namuyanja adds that she wants to be thought of as a person who didn’t care about gathering children just for the sake of having them around for pictures and leisure rather cared to see that they are seen for something in terms of educating them and nurturing their talents.
She shares that she just doesn’t want to leave a mark and she is also not sure she will even be remembered but she would like to be remembered as a servant of God who has served street children and women in the various communities by impacting change, disciplining, educating and lifting the quality of lives especially for the street children who are the most marginalized.
“My life has been about impacting the different lives of people with the little that I could even though it was never enough at times due to many needs of the people. Much of the works I have done since I was 12 years have not been the easiest but the work I have done so far and what I hope to continue to do is basically to be an educator and disciplinarian. ”
She adds: “It is great joy to see the capacity of the street children and women when fully provided with the right resources. This allows them to grow and thrive which in the due course benefit an entire community. I convey warm regards and appreciation to anyone in the world who is doing something to change, inspire, advocate and promote other individuals’ especially the children. It is humbling to serve every single day for me and allow God to use me.”