Love Really Does Change Everything
We pulled up to the gate of Fort Portal International Nursing School in a four-wheel drive Toyota van that took us on a safari and also served as our means of transportation to the local market. After signing in, the gate was opened and we were allowed on school grounds.
We filed out of the van and took in the scenery around us. I turned around three hundred and sixty degrees and saw multiple three-story buildings with walkways open to the outside. On those walkways were students dressed in seafoam green uniforms with petite white hats atop their heads, hugging their books firmly as the walked at a fast pace to their next class. Another direction and my eyes were met with a halfway constructed building that would eventually serve as a hospital. In the middle of the campus was a large grass area that housed interactions resembling what you would expect to see on any school’s quad—friends greeting each other with hugs, the sound of laughter, and students camped under shaded areas studying.
Preoccupied with the scenery before me, I turned back into the interactions of my group and found that everyone’s eyes were fixed in a specific direction. My eyes followed suit and I quickly realized what their focus was set on—Jane.
She walked over to our group with poise in her step and a beaming countenance. Extending her arms, she greeted those she knew with a warm embrace. She proceeded to introduce herself to the rest of us with a smile, handshake, and a diplomatic exchange of names. Giving us a peek into her day to day life, she led us through the halls of her school and her classrooms.
There was such a feeling of determination and ambition in the air. I would have stayed at the school all day to keep taking this in if I could have, but alas, Jane had to hurry back off to her studies. We said our goodbyes and returned to the RUJA compound.
That next weekend Jane came home from school to visit the family. The only difference from our first interaction to the second was that she was not wearing her seafoam green uniform. She was dressed in a vibrant pink top, jeans and bold earrings. Her dignified and warm countenance, however, remained the same. We sat together under the shade of a tree, and she gave me the honor of hearing her story.
“I believe that more great things will happen—that my dreams will come true. Because I wasn’t expecting this, but now I know that with God everything is possible.”
These are the words of a twenty-two-year-old woman whose life is marked by radical hope. In Jane’s story, these words articulate the magnitude of her life’s unexpected plot twist. They capture the abandonment of a story limited by impossible circumstances in exchange for the life she is now living—one that is brimming over with endless possibilities and big dreams.
As I listened to Jane, I was blown away that these chapters were apart of her story. The girl sitting across from me sharing all of this was radiant with hope, beaming from ear to ear, and en route to becoming a registered midwife. The glimpses I got into her world right now were so drastically different from what she was describing, it was a challenge to reconcile that this history belonged to her.
“I can’t believe I’m the one studying these courses...studying nursing. Back home I passed through a hard situation, but I thank God that when I came here my life changed.”
A little over five years ago, Jane was living in a village with her mother in the northern part of Uganda called Kitomba. The weight of caring for six children was placed on Jane’s mother as her father was out of the picture. Left with no other option than to take on two major roles—caretaker and provider—Jane’s mother was given a task that any person would struggle with.
“My mom had to do everything. She would struggle trying to pay for our school fees. She just didn’t have the capacity. Sometimes we would starve and get chased out of school. But we kept praying and showing up for school anyways.”
Around 2013 Jane’s mother was too sick to care for Jane and her younger sister, Betty. With no family and nowhere to go, they were left to fend for themselves. They were in an impossible situation that left them hungry, out of school, and desperate for hope. It was at this unnerving and vulnerable time that Jane and Betty’s story took a turn for the miraculous.
Robert and Milly (RUJA’s Ugandan directors) were made aware of Jane and Betty’s situation. Life was becoming increasingly hard and the streets were no safe place for two young girls. RUJA worked closely alongside local authorities and the girls’ mother to move them in RUJA’s care and get them back in school and pursuing their dreams.
Five years have passed since this magnificent plot twist occurred. Since then Jane has been able to complete primary school and continue on in her education to pursue her dream of becoming a midwife. Now her days are filled with the things she loves most—her courses, friendship, volleyball, and studying. Just two semesters from now Jane will graduate from Fort Portal International Nursing School as a midwife. After this she intends to work in a hospital, supporting mothers during one of the most vulnerable moments of their life.
Wrap your head around that—a life completely transformed and a woman fully empowered to live out her dreams and step into all that heaven destined for her. Impossibilities made possible, dreams turned into a reality, and hope fulfilled—all because of love. It happens one life and one story at a time. In the end, love really does change everything.
P.S. The girls regularly visit their mother in the hospital and take her meals and tea.
Amie Ahrns is the Fund Development Manager at Expansion International. Passionate about stories and the people behind them, Amie joined us on our most recent trip to sit down with and hear the stories of our Ugandan brothers and sisters. In her free time she loves reading, playing volleyball at the park, drinking coffee and planting flowers.