In 2012, Sumayah Namuwenge was a Senior Six student at Gayaza High School when her mother, Halima Birungi Nuwagaba, was diagnosed with Kidney failure.
When the school administration learnt of this, it mobilised funds from other students and raised about Shs2.8m out of the required $25,000 (about Shs90m) needed for the transplant.
The other amount was raised by family members, relatives, friends and other well-wishers.
Fortunately, Nuwagaba was able to have the transplant that same year (2012) and is now fine.
This experience was a turning point in Namuwenge’s life as she came to the realisation that no man is an island. Once in a while, one will have to rely on others for help to sort out their problem. “My mother’s illness opened up my eyes on different things about life. I learnt that one’s money is never enough to handle a particular issue,” she says.
According to Namuwenge by Ugandan standards “my parents had money but it was not enough for the treatment and this is why we had to solicit from other people including students”.
“Never in life had I ever imagined that my family would be relying on other people to save my mother,” she says.
Birth of charity activities
The journey started in 2013 in Senior Six and later morphed into a charity organisation - Play For Charity (PFC).
The organisation uses sports events to mobilise both material and monetary aid to cater for the needs of the underprivileged in society.
“I zeroed onto using sports as a mobilisation tool because I was very active in a number of sports such as basketball,” she says.
At school, Namuwenge won a number of sports awards such as second runner up for sports lady of the year, 2012 and most valuable player in basketball.
The organisation is made up of 15 members, who are all former students of Gayaza High School and Namilyango College.
Using their savings and contributions from different partners including their parents, the group managed to pull off a sports gala in 2013.
“Since all of us can play sports, we facilitated the gala by participating in different activities such as basketball, football and rugby,” she says.
The team was able to collect both monetary and in-kind donations from the event. The aid was handed over to Nkokonjeru Providence Home in Buikwe District, a home for orphans, elderly, and persons with disabilities, among others. PFC has since held three other sports galas and a fundraising dinner all aimed at the same goal and have been able to fundraise more than Shs5m both in kind and in monetary.
Stephen Kawalya, 23, a member of the group, says there was a time when they hardly had money either for initiating or conducting charity themed activities.
“There was no money even for transport. We would walk from one organisation to another, looking for partners,” he says.
“There have been those tough moments but we never gave up,” says Christopher Ssebutinde, 24, another member of the group. However, their persistence has paid off bringing on board different partners such as Human Rights Initiative, Hearts Extended and Uganda Youth Network.
Their parents have also been instrumental in supporting the initiative.
The initiative, according to Namuwenge, has presented to her the real picture of life and she now knows that “not everyone is as fortunate as me and this has pushed me to do whatever I can to help.”
For Nuwagaba, it is a tale of a happy mother who feels proud of the work that her daughter is doing.
“Sumayah and her friends have managed to help a number of deprived people. I am happy that she has dedicated part of life to serve others,” she says.
A fresh graduate of Arts in Ethics and Human Rights from Makerere University, Namuwenge hopes to motivate youth as well as helping underprivileged people in society.
“Life is not all about going to the movies, drinking and attending parties. Once in a while, help those in need. It could be a visit to a needy home or helping someone with house chores. One does not have to be rich to help,” she says.
Namuwenge is currently a volunteer with Hearts Extended, an organisation that seeks to promote and protect the rights of disadvantaged women and children.
What others say
“Sumayah believes in social justice. She is one young person who has lived that belief through action. She is both a champion of change and a helper.”
Sheila Muwanga, deputy executive director, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative
“When I was still working at Uganda Youth Network in 2013, Sumayah and her group of friends visited the organisation. She opened up about her campaign towards helping less privileged people in society. She won me over since that time and today, I frequently help the team whenever I can through mentorship,”
Christopher Igune Okello, principal director at Kristofah Limited
“The first project I did with her involved mobilising funds and material to support elderly people at Nkokonjeru Providence Home. She inspires me because it is rare to find young people like Sumayah adding value to humanity.”
Elly Kasirye, project officer, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative