Tireless Father Antonios
Through the efforts of Father Antonios Mutyaba and his wife Charitini, poor and orphaned children in improverished Luweero Uganda have access to education, medical care, food and shelter. But even remote Luweero can't escape the clutches of the global financial crisis, with dwindling private contributions and escalating commodity prices creating a shaky future for these children
Leaving Kampala's chaotic streets and the usual bustle of cars and moto taxis, brick houses give way to thatched huts and then brambles. Dwarf trees and giant grasses flank the road, stretching to a horizon broken by small hills. On both sides of the tarmac, mud huts are clustered together while wisps of smoke drift through thatched roofs from cooking fires. Women walk along the verge of the road with baskets and water jars on their heads followed by barefoot children that carry their younger siblings on their backs. After approximately 75 kilometres driving down tarmac until it turns into dirt, you arrive in Luweero district, one of the most impoverished areas in Uganda.
Life is tough in Luweero. Unemployment in the district is as high as 80 per cent and most people cannot ensure a daily meal. Children are forced to drop out of school because their parents fail to pay school fees. Many babies and toddlers die before the age of five from preventable diseases as there is no clean water and no adequate health services.
Yet, in this forgotten place in Africa, a man has dedicated his life to create a better future for hundreds of poor children. Father Antonios Mutyaba, together with his wife Charitini, and with the support of the Orthodox Diocese of Kampala, is working hard to provide a chance in life for the children in Luweero. Although Father Antonios was born in Uganda, he moved to Greece in 1980. He has studied Agronomy at the University of Athens and he joined the Seminary of St Mathew in Chania, where he was ordained priest with the blessing of His Eminence Amphilochius. In 2004, he returned to Uganda with his wife Charitini and four of their five children. The family settled in Wakiso, a small town of 50,000 people in the outskirts of Kampala.
For the last five years, Father Antonios gets up daily at 5.00 am to visit the destitute villages in Luweero. Thanks to private donations from Greece, he is managing three boarding schools that provide education, medical care, food and shelter to more than 1200 poor and orphaned children, instilling hope and dignity in their lives. In this difficult task, he has the help of Charitini who is trying to support the families of the children by teaching their mothers and sisters sewing and weaving in order to generate a small income for their communities. In the schools of Aghios Antonios, Aghios Demetrios and Aghia Triada, children dressed in bright pink and blue uniforms welcome you with a big smile. They are either orphans or come from extremely poor families where even daily food was a luxury. For those children, the work of Father Antonios is their only chance for a better life. Yet, their future is still far from reassured. The financial crisis has hit Uganda driving the already vulnerable population to the extreme. At the same time it has also hit Greece very hard, bringing private donations to the schools to a halt. The food crisis, the sky rocketing prices in all basic commodities and the cost of fuel and transportation, have impacted the functioning of the schools.
Father Antonios struggles to provide food for the children and ensure their education. He had to restrict the daily food to beans and corn porridge, as this was the only way to offer at least two meals per day for the children. He is trying to organize a small farm hoping to purchase some chickens and a few cows so he can provide eggs and milk at the schools. He also hopes that he will soon find the necessary money to drill a bore hole so that the community and the schools can have access to clean water. It takes less than 20 dollars a month to send a child to school and ensure access to health care, books, clothes and a daily meal. All those things that in our western world we take for granted, in Uganda is a luxury that very few people can afford. In a country where extreme poverty affects more than half of the population and where children die from preventable diseases and lack of clean water, the work of Father Antonios is just a drop in the ocean. Even if Uganda seems to be too far from our western life style, we have a chance to show compassion and engender solidarity. At the end of the day what actually matters is not what we have, but what we give.
For more information about Father Antonios and to support his work, you can directly contact him at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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