Sr. Carolyne Balikuddembe is a new member of the CARITAS For Children team, working as our first Program Coordinator in Africa on the ground in Uganda. This week was her first week of training in Nkokonjeru, Uganda. Below is a bit of background information and reflections by Sister to help you get to know our new team member . We are so excited to work with her, and feel blessed to have her with us!
Sister, where did you grow up and what was your home-life like growing up?
I grew up in Nkokonjeru in Naziwanga village, close to where CARITAS For Children’s ministry is located in Central Uganda. As a child, the quality of life was okay. Unfortunately, however, when my dad retired as a teacher there was a bit of a struggle in our family because of his health. He was, and still is sickly. When he retired from teaching due to his health, he became a peasant farmer. He was getting only a little bit of money from the cash-crop we had, which was coffee, to pay for our school fees. The money wasn’t always enough for me and my nine brothers and sisters.
Was it a struggle obtaining school fees?
Yes, it was surely a struggle obtaining school fees while growing up. There was actually time when I paused a bit from 1999 – 2000 when I was in Senior 3 (Junior Year of High School). I had to stop my education for a bit because I did not have enough money for my school fees. I had to wait a year to continue with my education. Instead of going to school that year, I helped at home to cultivate the land with my parents. It was very hard for me not to be in school during this time.
How did you get back to school?
In the middle of 1999, there was a sister named Sr. Margaret Kubanze who suggested to my parents that I come and stay with the her and the other sisters at the convent. Though at first hesitant, my parents agreed to let me stay with them. Towards the end of the year 2000, the sisters took me to Urika Institute of Hotel Management for a course in catering. To make a long story short, eventually, I joined the Sancta Maria Primary Teacher’s College in Nkokonjeru for two years. After completing this course, I qualified as a Primary School Teacher.
Why did you decide to become a sister?
I wanted to serve God with no strings attached. All of us serve God, but as a sister, there are no external worldly attachments. I felt that I had the call to serve the poor. Having read the life of St. Francis and Mother Kevin, I gained the desire to work with poor people.
Why did you feel the call to serve the poor and children specifically?
Having grown up in a poor environment, I didn’t want other people to grow up in the same conditions as me. If given the opportunity to help impoverished people rise up and support themselves, I want to be able to do that. In regards to children, having trained as a teacher, I did my training in the lower primary level. I feel content whenever I am able to interact with these children. I always feel good to be with the young ones. I also love to teach them about God. I love to share stories about Jesus with the children.
What are you most looking forward to working with CARITAS For Children?
I look forward to uplifting the standard of life of the children in school and thereafter. I know after studies, with a good education, they will be able to get good jobs. Their lives will change, as well as the life of their families.
Looking back at your first week of training, what was your favorite part of the week?
Interacting with the children in the villages that needed sponsorship was my favorite part of the job this week. The way that they were answering my questions, and the stories that they were giving me. The children were lively and active. Their openness really reminded me that the children truly tell us the true Gospel.