Mr. Celestin MBARATO is a father to five children.
When he came to Uganda as a refugee together with his family, he knew no English though a teacher back in Congo. It was not easy to interact with the Anglophones. So, he sent his children to our Maisha Bora Learning Centre and this is their story.
Justine Mbarato, Grace Mbarato, John Scott, John Man Mbarato and their dad Mr. Celestine Mbarato. The little girl is his grand daughter.
Our mother was a Human Rights Activist who worked to defend women’s rights in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Death threats perpetrated against our family created a situation of grave insecurity for us and so we fled to Uganda in 2017.
When we arrived in Kampala, we had a lot of difficulties with the language because the Ugandan people speak Kiganda and their English language is very different from our country. If you do not master one of these two languages, the price you pay for food and items at the market is usually higher.
We did not have access to studies or the ability to register in the schools in our area given our inability to speak the language.
Adapting to the rhythm of the country was not easy for us. That's why our mother gave herself the courage to inquire everywhere to find an English learning centre.
Everywhere she was told the amount to pay per month to be admitted to the training centre but we had no money to pay.
One day our mother met a Rwandan lady, who informed them about the free English course at MAISHA BORA Learning Centre, her children were also learning English there.
Mum came back home happy informed us of the good news. After giving us the information, my sister Yvette, my brother Scott and I, John, along with our two bigger sisters decided to start learning English at the MAISHA BORA Centre in September 2017.
The following Sunday, 24th September 2017 after coming back from church, Dad gave us a little money to go and get books and pens at the shop for the five of us.
We arrived at Maisha Bora and met new faces who were also Congolese, Burundians, some Ugandans, Tanzanians and others who were Rwandese. We also met our nice teacher Denis, who welcomed us very well. We introduced ourselves to the classmates then our teacher took our names and registered us in his book and we began the course.
We found that it a very nice place, and we loved our teacher a lot because he knows our language and that made him able to explain anything or any word which we were not understanding in English. He was funny with all students and he loved to make us happy in the classroom every time.
So after our first day, we started going to the centre every day punctually and regularly. Day by day we met new friends who were advancing in English and who used to explain to us some difficult words after class. When they’re not able to explain, our teacher Denis explained instead.
At home after school, we used to practice together what we learned that day and that made us progress in learning English.
After a while, we began talking a little English which helped us buy somethings we wanted at the shop, market, butchery etc.
We soon told our parents that we could also start teaching them at home what we were learning at school, and they agreed. So we gave our parents a lesson every evening at 4p.m.
Scott and I had started to supervise them and our two big sisters at home. “However this evening lessons did not make them speak English fluently; they all got tired and gave up the lessons!” Scott exclaimed.
But Dad kept reading some translated English books from home such as English-French dictionary and Swahili-English translated books. That’s how he gained a few words of greetings.
We kept going to learn at Maisha Bora and we were learning more and more every day. The people were very nice to us, we were comfortable whenever we were there.
After few months, we improved in our speaking and decided to start going to all levels including 3rd level which started at 12p.m to 2p.m. Soon we did the test of all levels and then we got accredited in speaking English.
Now when Dad heard us talking and discussing with each other in English, and especially when we talked with our friends and neighbours he was getting jealous! When some officers came for a problem with our water, or rubbish at home and the men spoke to Dad in English, he always felt uncomfortable and it also encouraged him to learn.
The three of us used to invite Dad to come and learn at the Centre but he used to say that it’s very far and that he cannot learn with his kids at the same place. Months and months passed.
Being very embarrassed about our continued progress in English, one Monday in January 2019, he announced that he would also start studying at Maisha Bora and we were very proud of that news. He asked Scott to get ready and take the road with him to the Centre. And that’s how he started.
Dad also began going punctually and regularly to the Centre, and he also loved the teacher because he’s a very good explainer. The teacher and other students treated him properly and respectfully and he really loved that. He was always doing his homework and we helped him also at home giving him meanings to some difficult words.
Today, after 3 months of study, Mr. Celestine Mbarato, my dad, can express himself in English and he’s now speaking for himself when he goes shopping. He even helps mum with some English lessons.
And that’s how we invited dad to English lessons at Maisha Bora which means ‘for a better life'. In truth, it was the training we had at Maisha Bora that made us bring our dad to the centre too, for a better life.
The story as narrated by John (Jean) Mutamba Mbarato.
From left to right: Justine Mbarato (red-white dress ). Bernadette Ntumba & Celestin Mbarato (Father and Mother), Divine Mbarato (little girl), Kashindi Mbarato (red dress next to little girl), Jean de Dieu Mbarato (black T-shirt), Jean Mutamba Mbarato (blue& white T-shirt ).
In 2015 Steve and I met a gentleman at an event in Sydney. Now an Australian citizen, he was also originally a refugee from one of the many African nations that have experienced years of war and hardship. Like many from his homeland he has a remarkable, sad and courageous story of how he came to be in Australia.
When we met, he asked us to sponsor a child but Steve and I felt so moved by his story and the plight of refugees that we felt could do more. Most people in Uganda speak English and it is vital if you are going to find good work. After much discussion we decided to open an adult learning centre close to Kampala, Uganda to give refugees a better chance of finding work so that they could support their own families and pay for their children's school fees.
But how were we to do this all the way from Australia?
We were introduced to two of his good friends who were living as refugees in Uganda - Alain and Claude. We employed them both as coordinators and their job was to help us open and run this new learning centre. Alain and Claude became integral to our work in Uganda, being our heart and soul on the ground there.
In April 2016, I decided to travel alone to Uganda in order to be able meet Alain and Claude and the local community, and get a better sense of the challenges that our team were facing in setting up our centre.
I fell in love with the people I met and Claude and Alain. For people who have lost so much and endured endless years of hardship their hearts were full of love.
The aim of this trip was to find a venue for our learning centre, so we took all means of transport to travel around Kampala to find the best location. In the first two days of travelling in the local 'taxi' vans with 18 others, my kidneys were bruised with the jostling from lack of suspension and the numerous pot holes. When I finally succumbed to taking a taxi motorbike (a Boda Boda), the poor driver was on strict instructions to not go fast (or I would dig my nails into his arms). 10 people die per day on Kampala roads due to motorbike accidents, so it was only the desperation of not wanting to sit in hours of traffic again that pushed me to ride. The driver followed my instruction so well that we looked odd travelling the motorway at 30kms per hour. I finally had to say to him "it's ok you can go a little faster".
The laughs that Alain, Claude and I had together were true belly laughs!
I was also invited to attend the church service that Alain and Claude attended. It was my first time attending a Pentecostal Born Again service. As a non-religious person, I was uncomfortable at first but their warmth and joy in their singing helped me relax. To see people who had lost everything give thanks to God because they were alive was humbling.
Singing at the Burundian community church service
The day before I was due to leave the country we finally found a large house to rent that would be suitable for our learning centre, so we began the tough negotiations. I had already learnt that whenever I tried to buy something the price would go up because I am a western woman. I became used to asking "Is this the local price or the western woman price?" But we managed to agree on a rental fee that was fair and we set about completing the rental agreement. However, the agent did not have Power of Attorney and so no legal authority to sign the papers, and the owner was overseas. We were stuck and I had a plane to catch. The search for our location was to continue.
About Majestic's Foundation
Majestic's Foundation - Maisha Bora - is funded by the full 50% of Liana and Steve's share of the profits generated from Majestic Kilimanjaro Treks & Safaris. In fact, Steve and Liana take no income for their work in the business either.
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