Like all of the people DCI works with, Mercy has a unique story to tell, but they all share a similar desire for change. Mercy is a twenty year old mother of three in Petete, in Palisa District, in the far eastern side of the country. The language in this area is Lugwere, which is not related in any way to her own language from Arua, in far northwestern Uganda. So Mercy is an outsider and finds it difficult to communicate with people in her new community.
Mercy calls her life story “My Misery”, which begins at the age of eight. She told us, “I thought it would be so fun when my aunt picked me up from Arua to spend the holidays at her house. But everything changed when her twins were born. My aunt’s real plan was to keep me as a babysitter and not allow me to go to school. She kept telling my mother that she was sending me to school, but it was a lie. It was traumatic for me as a child to have to take care of two other children. Finally after a year I ran back home to my mother.”
When Mercy got home, at the age of ten, she was sent to the class with six year olds because she had missed too much school. She felt so ashamed and frustrated and soon gave up on school. At the same time, her mother had begun shouting at her, insulting her, and violently beating her. Mercy says, “As she was a single mother, my mom would turn her stress and anger towards me.” Mercy ended up running away to Kaboko, near the boarders with South Sudan and Congo, where she was taken in by a gang of prostitutes, who gave her food and a place to sleep in exchange for house chores. Mercy says, “I washed their clothes, organized the house, and cooked for them; they protected me as their own, but still it felt very weird, that they were prostitutes.” It was here that Mercy learned to speak some English from the women who dealt with their international customers, and from watching endless Nigerian movies. But she was still not in school, and learned nothing about reading and writing.
After two years in the brothel, Mercy had grown and now had more personal needs to pay for, so she had to find paid work as a housemaid; but even though she worked all night and day, was denied food, and often beaten, yet she never got paid. Finally she ran back home, but soon her mother was shouting and beating her again. In her distress, Mercy met a man from far away who was a school teacher in town. They got pregnant, and Mercy’s mother threw her out. In desperation, Mercy tracked down the man who was now back at his hometown, and she gathered her last coins to find him in Palisa, a very long journey alone. Now they live together and have three children, but he gives no time to teach her the life skills she so desperately wants, to give her security and a chance to be productive, as well as to ensure that her children do well in school. Other women from her husband’s tribe mock her, saying that she will probably lose her man to more educated women.
One day Mercy overheard women at the evening prayer meeting talking about DCI’s adult literacy class coming to their village. She jumped at the chance! With reading and writing, she could help her children learn. She would be able to read the Bible on her own and learn to interpret it. She could gain the respect of her new community and family.
Mercy begins class this month at the church in Petete, where she is among several dozen, mostly women like her, who are eager for the chance to finally succeed at something and to take charge of their futures. Mercy is typical of many of our literacy students. Life doesn’t seem to have been fair to them. But we can give them another chance to get ahead and to take ownership of their lives. By offering people like Mercy an education, we help to stop a cycle which has been going on for generations and we set people free to become the productive citizens we believe God wants them to be.
DCI has nine new literacy classes already going, two more beginning this month, and nine more waiting for financial support to begin. One by one, we are raising funds to get these classes started, to change the futures of many families in Uganda.