Anita Kobusingye established Lighthouse Children’s Home, a home to 12 orphans. The home, situated in Nyagatare in the Eastern Province, provides a warm and loving environment for former street children that were living in poverty in nearby Nyagatare villages.
Kobusingye was born in Uganda on March 23, 1989. Her mother died after giving birth to her and her father died in 1990 during the liberation struggle. She has given hope for a bright future to these 12 children who call her mummy. “I grew up an orphan and life was hard in the orphanage that at some point, I resorted to living on the streets of Kampala. I know what it means to truly be in need. I never got to know my mother, her name or her tribe. I don’t know anything about her, even now. It was in 2003 that I was connected to my paternal grandparents,” Kobusingye explains.
She also says that the idea of starting up a home to take care of street children and orphans was launched in 2008 while in senior five when she was just 19 years old.
“At times God lets us pass through certain situations so that we can become witnesses. As a person who grew up as a homeless child for some time, I felt I needed to give love to the homeless children. It was the best way to heal my wounds. I always felt like I had never been loved, so it was time for me to love someone and feel loved,” Kobusingye narrates.
She started befriending children around Cornerstone Leadership Academy whose parents lived in absolute poverty. She used to collect food from school in buckets to feed these children.
“Each time I came to Kigali for holidays, I used to go to former Nyanza dumping site to interact with street children. Each time I was with these children, I felt transformed. I felt I had a reason to be grateful. I had to win their trust. I would get them clean clothes and get their dirty ones and wash them. While doing this I felt I had a sense of belonging, hence finding my true self,” she discloses.
The 24-year-old says the founding of Lighthouse Children’s Home as an idea was put into practice during a ‘Vision Conference Leaders’ in which Kobusingye participated while she was still a student at Cornerstone Leadership Academy.
“It’s during the Vision Conference that I introduced these homeless children to people and everyone in the conference was touched. This is when I adopted some of the children that are at Lighthouse today. I didn’t adopt them legally but I welcomed them to my home which I didn’t have at the time since I was staying with my grandmother. Some pastor at the conference offered a house and then other people started offering other necessities like mattresses. And that’s how Lighthouse came to life and blessings have come flowing in.”
She adds, “I have never asked for money from anyone but people just come to us and say I’m willing to give you this and that and friends have also helped me a lot. Today, Lighthouse gives these children more than love, care and a home to live; I and the caretakers demonstrate to these children the love of Jesus in a tangible way. I believe we can save one another. To whom much is given much is required. As a former street kid myself, I understand the love these precious little ones need.”
Some of the children at Lighthouse have distant relatives but others are totally alone with no relatives at all. The children have four caretakers and the youngest of the children is five years old.
“Some of these children with distant relatives get time to spend holidays with them but when they come back they are not well cared for. But I do this always so that these children stay connected to their relatives. Today my grandmother encourages me in whatever I do and that is a great connection. She calls me an angel and that I remind her of my father. I’m happy now,” Kobusingye reveals.
Sadly, a month ago, 12-year- old Keila Uwase, one of the children at Lighthouse Children Home, died after battling cancer for close to three months. In memory of her, her new found brothers and sisters donated all her belongings to a home of children with disabilities.
“It was a trying time but we had to tell the children the sad news and also console them. We had to teach them that giving back is important. So we had to get Keila ‘s belongings and her money and donated them to other children in need and I feel it was the best way to honour Keila,” Kobusingye explains in an emotional tone.
Kobusingye attributes the person she is today to the encouraging words she received while at Cornerstone Leadership Academy and also the book ‘Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren which has inspired her.
“It’s at Cornerstone Leadership Academy that I first felt loved my whole life. I always felt like I was never loved. I was always depressed and I isolated myself. I believed that people are bad but the discipleship lessons and words of encouragement I attained totally changed me as well as the love and care I was given by my fellow students, teachers and everyone at Cornerstone. I will say they were able to break my ‘stone heart’ and I learnt how to love,” Kobusingye says.
She adds, “People do not know that words are powerful. My teachers used to tell me I was awesome, courageous and intelligent. It was such an encouragement and it made me realise the potential I had. I felt special and that’s when I discovered that there was something really great in me. I learnt that I’m not a mistake in this world. I discovered that its does not matter that I’m an orphan with a difficult past but I believe that something good can come out of that,”
The blissful Kobusingye adds that she attended Mbarara Seventh Day Adventists Primary school before actually coming to Rwanda in 2003.
“It may seem unrealistic but I paid my school fees from senior one to senior three. At the time, I was a poet and I used to write poems and little stories. I also participated in school plays and represented my school. I won prizes and money and my school was so proud of me. At one time in senior two during the third term, the headmaster let me attend school without paying fees because I was the best student in my class,” Kobusingye remembers.
She continues, “I attended secondary school at Alliance High School Nyacyonga for my O’ Level and later secured a scholarship after my senior three at Corner Stone Leadership Academy. I didn’t pass my senior three to the best of my ability so my hope was thin. I was at home when I heard about Corner Stone Leadership Academy on the radio.”
Cornerstone Leadership Academy (CLA) Rwanda which was opened in 2007 is a secondary boarding school in Rwamagana, in the Eastern Province. Advanced level education is offered for free to students that pass their interview.
“I am lucky because most of my education has been sponsored. I’m currently on full scholarship at the Harding University, Arkansas in the United States of America where I’m pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing thanks to the help offered by Lynda Weir and Amanda Weir.”Kobusingye reveals.
She always comes back during summer holidays but she is also in close contact with the children on phone.
“I know that true religion as a Christian is to help orphans and widows. I now feel loved and I have a sense of belonging. I’m happy about my children, it’s breathtaking when these children call me mummy and I’m more motivated to take care of them because I have been blessed. I’m taking care of the 12 children now so that one day they will be a blessing to someone else. ,” Kobusingye reveals.
As a child she always wanted to become a politician but that has changed because she is passionate about a career in nursing..
“I took on nursing because it’s the best way to meet people on a more personal level,” she concludes.
She saved our lives – Sarah Makunde
Sarah Mukunde is the eldest child at Lighthouse Children’s home and she is currently in Primary Six.
“I’m a student at Good Foundation Centre for Education and I’m happy that I’m a candidate. When I grow up I want to become an Ambassador for Rwanda,” Mukunde explains.
The 13-year-old also reveals that she is grateful for having Kobusingye in her life.
“I always pray for her that as our mother may she be blessed because she has changed our lives. I love her so much and I thank God that she saved our lives. I was living a meaningless life but today I go to school and I have a home and a family thanks to her,” Mukunde expresses.
She adds, “As a candidate, at home they let me revise more and I only help my brothers and sisters with washing clothes or cleaning the house on weekends and I also play with them.”
She also reveals how she spends her third term holidays with her paternal relatives.
“I spend my long holidays with my uncle and aunt though during this time I miss my family at Lighthouse. I also want to thank our aunties at Lighthouse who love and take care of us when mummy Anita is away,” Mukunde reveals.
Children are getting a great foundation for a bright future – Sylvia Uwambaye
Sylvia Uwambaye is a caretaker of the children at Lighthouse and she is also a Student at Mutara Polytechinique.
“I was a student at Cornerstone Leadership Academy when Kobusingye started this initiative. I offered to help her because I felt her work with these children was divine. I’m happy that these children are getting a great foundation for a bright future,” Uwambaye explains.
She adds, “As someone involved with them everyday, I will say they will turn out to be great people. They love one another as a family. I’m inspired and motivated by these children’s dreams for the future. Although we as their caretakers have never been mothers, the mentorship we attained at Cornerstone Leadership Academy has helped us nurture these children.”