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Kamuli, Uganda: An Impressive Legacy

More than 400 beneficiaries of Father Wijnand Huys’ generosity met recently at St Joseph Mary Rubaga Catholic Parish in Kamuli, to celebrate his philanthropy and charity.

Maureen Nakatudde tells of the celebration.

Fr Wijnand was a Dutch priest in Kamuli district, who helped and supported many orphans and vulnerable children in the community in the 1970s and 1980s.

He also worked in Entebbe and Jinja until he left the country in 2016.

The 77-year-old is now a lecturer at Anselm University, Mill Hill missionaries, in Rome.

The beneficiaries of Fr Wijnand’s charity came from all over Uganda, while others were from the diaspora.

They met to network and found a new Savings and Credit Co-operative Organisation (SACCO) for self-help and development.

The beneficiaries had Mass, speeches, played music and a sumptuous lunch.

John Steven Dhizaala, who was a teacher and an administrator at the parish then, said Fr Wijnand began charity with 10 needy children. With time, he ended up with more than 80 living with him at the parish, while others commuted from their homes.

“One thing remains clear: Fr Wijnand helped in shaping the future of the children by encouraging them to stay in school,” Dhizaala said.

He added that the union of Fr Wijnand’s beneficiaries was important because it helps members to stay updated on each other’s lives and also forge a way for the future.

“We want to see those who need help among us.

“We would also like to write proposals and get grants where we can support children in the community with school fees. We also wish to support their parents with projects that can help them out of poverty,” he said.

Kamuli Municipality north division LC3 chairperson Robert Mujjumbire said Fr Wijnand loved sports and music. With such passion, he attracted many youth whom he encouraged to stay in school.

NURTURING TALENT

Fr Wijnand founded the Kamuli Mission Brass Band, which helped to expose the children to different parts of the nation. Mujumbire said it was, especially evident in Obote II’s regime.

“We were always at state functions. Fr Wijnand would give us an allowance whenever income was generated after the band was hired,” he added.

Some children travelled to Kenya and Rwanda because of the band. When Fr Wijnand left, the band attracted Christian Children Education Fund for the orphans.

Joseph Polytechnic School, Kamuli. The developments were meant to skill the youth in vocational programmes such as carpentry.

Ronald Simbwa, a music director from Massachusetts, US, said he also benefited from the priest.

“When I came from Masindi to live with my aunt, who was a teacher at Rubaga Boys’ Primary School, Kamuli, in the 1980s, Fr Wijnand immediately noticed my interest in music and he nurtured it,” Simbwa said.

GENEROSiTY

Rev. Mugabo Deogratias Bisangwa from Lugazi Diocese, Kiwanga, who was the main celebrant, said he was a product of Fr Wijnand’s generosity.

“He started to nurture my music gift and also pay my school fees in 1976 when in I was in Primary Two, until I became a priest in 1997,” he said.

NURTURiNG LEGACY

Mugabo intimated that Fr Wijnand brought children together to further his legacy. He appealed to members to sponsor a child in need, especially in education.

“The best gift you can give a child is education because you would have opened doors for their future,” he said.

In Kampala, Huys-Link, a non-governmental organisation, was founded to commemorate and promote Fr Wijnand’s good works.

Mugabo said the charity has helped to sponsor more than 1,000 children with school fees.

In Jinja, the Phoebe Education Fund (PEFO), has helped not only to pay school fees for orphans, but also to care of the elderly.

PEFO founder Justine Ojambo said the celebrations were to ensure that Fr Wijnand’s legacy lives on, by creating a brass band in each district of Uganda.

“Since Fr Wijnand attracted young people through music, it was imperative that we use this same vehicle to help young people return and keep in school, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic PERIOD,” Ojambo said.

WHY SACCO?

Ojambo said the SACCO was to help members to save and advance the works of Father Wijnand’s beneficiaries through project initiatives. These are expected to bring in money to sustain other activities.

WHO WAS FR WiJNAND?

Mugabo recalls that Fr Wijnand came to Kamuli when Rubaga church had a few people, but within a short time, it was full.

“He had genuine love, empathy and care for every child. It was no wonder that many youth were drawn to him,” Mugabo said.

Joseph Kigenyi, a businessman in Kampala, said as a priest, Fr Wijnand welcomed all children.

“I recall we used to flock his house while we were dirty with jiggers. Fr Wijnand never expelled us — he instead encouraged us to feel comfortable in his house while we watched cartoons on TV,” he said.

John Ekapu, a consultant of human rights and institutional development in Kampala also has fond memories of the priest’s generosity.

“In the 1980s, I was in Soroti and there was a political insurgency. Fr Wijnand urged my aunt, who was a teacher at Rubaga Boys, Kamuli, to ensure that I was at the parish.”

Fr Wijnand took over the expenses of Ekapu’s education until he completed.

Ekapu said he would have dropped out of school like many of the children in his region, due to the political insurgency at the time.

A LEGACY LIVING ON

Samuel Kadhume, a musician, singer and trumpet player in the US, said he got in touch with the priest when he was eight years old in 1983. He joined his brass band because he wanted to stay in school.

“I did not know that music would be my source of income in the future,” he said.

Kadhume has been playing with the Galaxy Band, US since 2000.

He also played for three years with Wakaka Band and then Afrigo Band for five years until he got an opportunity to go to the UK.

Kadhume advised the youth to take their education seriously, by seizing every opportunity because they can never know where it will lead them.

Source: Sunday Vision

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