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In Conversation with Susan Nambejja — Director, Malcolm Childrens’ Foundation (Humanist Charity)

2022-12-13

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/01/24

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you come into the world of the non-believing community in Uganda? What were some pivotal moments if you could recall those?

Susan Nambejja: I was volunteering with Humanist Association for Leadership Equity and Accountability [HALEA] in 2008 as a secretary. A charity based in Kampala Uganda with a teens empowerment project by then which focused on helping teenagers who get pregnant through forced marriages, rape and other bad acts, we would counsel them and later they are empowered to go back to school.

This was the same time I was pursuing a Bachelors degree at Makerere university. Being a humanist charity, I got to know much about humanism and embraced it.

Jacobsen: How does Ugandan religion influence political and socio-cultural life?

Nambejja: Religious leaders have influenced Ugandan political life since colonial times. Religious leaders have looked for different ways they can bring change in the government. While many religious leaders have actively or silently supported the incumbent regime, others took vocal public stands and fostered political action by expanding space for public debates.

In my view, I will say Religion limits people’s capacity from all different socio-cultural angles to make their own decisions, people are afraid of speaking their mind out in the name of maintaining the image of what the society depending on background they are raised from.

This includes failure to make even healthy related decision to save their lives. One will not take medicine for instance if he is HIV positive but rather collect money take to a pastor as offertory to receive a miracle working prayer. In the end, they lose their lives.

Jacobsen: If you could enlighten as to the more prominent thinkers and writers, and public intellectuals, in Uganda for those that do not know, who are those that lead the way in the non-religious movement?

Nambejja: Lindsey Kakunda an Atheist writer and was journalist/radio presenter with free thought kampala, James Onen also known as Fat boy with Sanyu Fm is a founder of free thought Kampala one of the first atheist organisations in Uganda Just to mention a few, however there are those that are non prominent but good atheists who are now known as good writers, thinkers in the non religious movement.

Bwambale Robert the director of Kasese Humanist Schools, and Kato Mukasa the founder and Executive Director of Humanist Association for Leadership Equity and accountability (HALEA) The two Bwambale and Kato contributed much are still fighting to their best in leading the way in the non religious movement.

Jacobsen: What have been some of your most difficult trials and tribulations in life? How have you overcome them? Were these in any way related to religious or lack thereof?

Nambejja: The death of my only child Baby Malcolm Mutebi on 10th February 2017 is the most difficult trial in life. Malcolm was diagnosed with a rare heart condition known as Truncus arterious type 1.

This where a baby is born with one vessel coming out of their heart instead of two. It leads to breathlessness, difficulty in feeding and failure to thrive. The doctors told us that without heart surgery, Malcolm would die.

We struggled going door to door and using the medis, desperately trying to raise money. Finally, through the help of humanist friends, we found a charity willing to pay for Malcolm’s operation and generous strangers across the world donated and enabled us to fly him to India. I couldn’t believe it, Malcolm’s life had been saved.

After a number of tests, Malcolm was taken for surgery, unfortunately the operation came too late and too much for his tiny heart to cope with. Malcolm died at 7am on 10th February 2017. Losing my son was very difficult.

Now, I have recovered from the immediate grieving process, I want to spend the rest of my life helping others. I want to help parents in their darkest hour. I Unlike in the West, children born with congenital disorders in Uganda are unable to get treatment because of poverty and a lack of medical facilities.

I set up Malcolm Childrens’ Foundation which aims at helping children with congenital diseases to get access to medical treatment they need at home, and where this isn’t possible, overseas. This includes heart problems like my son faced, but also helping children with sight, spinal and respiratory conditions.

In our first year of registration (2017) we managed to save lives of 8 patients. As humanists we have helped many people irrespective of where they come from, all over the world. I am concerned that if we don’t get children’s health right we will never have a healthy adult population in poor countries of the world. To me this is what it means to be Humanist.

Jacobsen: How can people become involved with and help the non-religious movement in Uganda?

Nambejja: People should join us in promoting different causes, if Humanists continue to support our causes, more people will get to know how good humanism is and embrace humanism through the activities we do, its through these activities that people ask us different questions and we give answers.

Jacobsen: Any final thoughts or feelings in conclusion?

Nambejja: I would like to appreciate each and everyone who helped us during the difficult time, and As the director and programmes coordinator of Malcolm Children’s Foundation, i would like to invite humanists across the world to join us in our fight to save little lives. Maybe you can offer ideas, introduce us to any contacts you may have, help us learn from others — any kind of support is warmly welcomed.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Susan.

Nambejja: You are most welcome, Jacobsen.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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