MUK MasterCard Foundation Scholars give back to needy

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MCF-MUK Scholars pose for a group photo with the vulnerable children at the Missionaries of the Poor (MOP) in Kisenyi. Courtesy photo

About 100 children converge in the dining hall adjacent to their dormitories, their faces beaming with smiles. The administrator, a medium-sized Catholic priest in white robes orders them to get orderly and they all keep quiet except the eight with special needs who continue mumbling.

Brother Roshan Beck Mop smiles at them; they smile back and stop mumbling. “Children, we have special guests today,” the priest of Indian descent says, as he turns and points at about 50 men and women, smartly dressed in green tee shirts, all standing in front of the hall. “Let us clap for our guests,” he orders and the smiling children clap in unison ‘chap-chap-chap chap-chap-chap chap’.

Brother Beck Mop then calls on the charity home’s ‘best singers’, pupils in lower primary, to sing for the guests from University. The kids opt for ‘awesome God’, singing wholeheartedly and thanking the Lord for the visitors who have helped out in cleaning their home and also taken time to counsel them. ‘Eh Makerere Oyee’! the visitors cheer back when the song ends.

The guests are Makerere university students and scholars under the MasterCard Foundation (MCF), a programme that helps the economically disadvantaged but bright children attain education. Every semester, the 95 students under their association meet and agree to visit one charity home and this semester they chose the Catholic funded Missionaries of the Poor (MOP) home in Kisenyi, near Kampala. Founded in 2000, MOP caters for over 200 disadvantaged people and provides medical services to the community: it is home to children with special needs, orphans, elderly and the needy.

Mr Bernard Butare, the MasterCard Foundation Public Relations Officer says they chose the Kisenyi MOP home because it helps very many needy people and their [MCF] efforts are aimed at motivating the disadvantaged.

“These students are given full scholarships funded by MasterCard Foundation. They are given the opportunity to be in school, if you have been given an opportunity you give back. This home has economically disadvantaged children, elderly and those with special needs. It’s a home that needs our help,” Mr Butare notes.

Meanwhile, somewhere seated in a group of five are girls raised, fed, clothed and educated by the Catholic brothers at MOP. After a brief interaction, it emerges only one of them knows her biological parents; the rest don’t even know a single blood relative! Some were brought in aged five and six but Elizabeth, now aged eleven, has no memory of when she arrived at the charity home. “I have spent my entire life here,” she says laughing.

Her colleagues Resty and Pauline say they want to be Air Hostesses; Justine wants to be a businesswoman, while Eve dreams of being a successful footballer. Their counterpart Restuta, who is silent throughout the interaction, only stares blankly.

“I don’t know,” she says when asked about her ambitions, before the rest of the girls giggle. Intriguingly however, it is this very reason that pushed the MasterCard Foundation scholars from MUK to visit MOP home in Kisenyi.

For one to be a beneficiary of the Master Card Foundation program, he or she must be bright, with leadership potential and commited to giving back to the community, traits that are exhibited in all students under the programme.

Mr Denis Galiku, the president of MasterCard Foundation scholars association observes that children growing up in charity homes face the challenge of identifying their ambitions in life and even those that identify them still face the task of how to achieve them.

“We came to motivate them; to tell them that you can achieve whatever you want to be in life no matter the conditions you live in. They share the same needs with us, the only difference is that theirs are special,” says Galiku, a second year student of Biomedical Laboratory Technology.

And, sweeping the MOP Kisenyi compound while taking off time to cater for a girl with special needs who lost her ability to talk and walks with a limp, Tabitha Lanyolo displays her compassion for those in need. MCF has instilled in Tabitha values she has no regrets about.  “I really feel happy when I put a smile on other people’s faces; we have put a smile on their faces,” she emphasizes.

And having read several articles about families and societies that treat children with multiple disabilities with contempt, Ms Lanyolo urges them to treat all children and people with special needs fairly.

“These are children too and we need to tell people that people with special needs are part of us,” she adds.

Geoffrey Ariong and Yatim Lubale are both scholars with humble backgrounds, who understand the value of giving back. If it was not for the MCF program, Ariong and Lubale confess they would never have set foot to university. “We get and also give part of the little we get to others. I was helped throughout my entire education and I know the power of giving back. They are disadvantaged, others have multiple disabilities while others are poor and they can’t access some services. The only way they can make it is if they are assisted,” says Lubale.

While some scholars like Macline Banaga, a quantitative chemistry student joined university with a few leadership skills others like her colleague Sandra Nalubega confess they had none.

“I have gained a lot; I had no leadership skills at all, no confidence but joining the MCF association has enabled me a lot. Our core is giving back; I give back every day,” Ms Nalubega, the newly elected minister of women affairs of Mary Stuart hall, says.

“Our biggest problems stem from administrative positions,” Ms Nalubega, who hopes to work in government one day and help in fighting corruption, stresses.

Her colleague Banaga, who admits to having had leadership skills, says she was motivated after the MCF scholars association elected her finance minister.

“That gave me morale; I have gained a lot form MasterCard and other than paying my tuition I am exposed,” Ms Banaga says.

Towards the end of their visit the girls from the MCF scholar program had a ‘girls only’ talk where they shared personal their experiences with all the female residents of MOP charity home.

This prompted Brother Roshan Beck Mop to observe that it is good for those from higher institutions of learning to visit and check on those in need.

“Associating with those in higher places makes them work hard to achieve in life,” he expressed.

And although the MCF visit ended, some of the scholars’ hearts stayed at the charity home, with Lisa Anenocan, a send year Journalism student saying she would visit again as an individual.

”It’s inspiring; I love children and its fun. I have to come back to this place,” Ms Anenocan says.

The MasterCard Foundation offers scholarships to academically bright but economically disadvantaged youth in Uganda, and so far over $20 million has been injected into the program through BRAC and Makerere University; the MCF-MUK partnership began in 2013 and will end in 2023.

Currently, 95 students have been enrolled while the programme expects to receive 200 more this year and another 290 will be received in 2017. MCF sponsorships entail tuition, a stipend, laptop, books, medical insurance and capacity building programmes.

Other than Makerere University, the MCF partners with Akasheshe and Kwame Nkurumah University in Ghana and the University of Cape town in South Africa.

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