Men in Africa get a bad rap. There are many negative stereotypes that float around media that causes this. One might assume that the reason I rarely, if ever, ran into the father’s of the households I called my homes along my journey is because they are off gallivanting around or just traveling so much for business. The latter is somewhat true to an extent for the fathers I met, but their business is not about making money. Their business is being a father to more than just their own families. Their business is supporting other people’s families.
Bienvenue is the principal at the Amizero school. He works to make sure there are always supplies and the children have sponsors. He has 50 children counting on him at the school for not only local, but also international support. Just like a proud father, he brags about the children. He takes their photos and videos capturing their accomplishments throughout the school year all to share with the school’s supporters. He refers to the sponsors as his (and the children’s) international family. But, Ben has more than these children to think about. He has his own child in Australia living with his wife who is studying at a University there. At night Ben often spoke with me about how much he misses his family. They speak on the phone everyday, but it is not the same as being able to hold the ones you love. I could tell during our conversations how much it hurt him to be so far removed from his wife and child. But, in the mornings when we arrived at school, his focus turns to the children and his positive attitude while working with them never falters.
Peter runs URCSF. Most of the work that has to be done is done in rural villages surrounding Masaka. He spends the better part of his week visiting the various projects in those rural communities. There is the community farm to run, smaller local farms to be checked in on, wells to be built, farm animal loans to be handled and investors to be shown around. While Peter has help in Masaka. I have observed if he is not there to check in, the work sometimes just does not get done.
Peter does his best to be everywhere for everyone, but he has a family and more work to do in Kampala. This is about a 4+ hour drive away from the farm he stays at during the week. Monday mornings he leaves Kampala for Masaka and Thursday night or Friday morning he makes the journey back to spend the weekend with his family. I had the chance to spend time with both his family in Kamapala and the families he supports in Masaka. Both are always sad to see him leave, but his two young daughters are by far the most vocal about it. Peter works hard at spending as much time with his daughters on the weekends as possible. If he has to go out and run even a small errand, he will work it so they can join him by tacking on a trip to the playground or the mall. And, even to the most boring errands or meetings, the girls jump at the chance to come along with their dad.
Both of these fathers are dedicated to their children, but their dedication to their cause pulls them away from family on a regular basis. It is difficult to imagine how hard it is for Peter to leave his daughters every week, and for Ben to not stay longer in Australia on his visits. But, it would be even harder to imagine where these causes would be without these two extraordinary fathers. Their sacrifices mean huge successes to the local town, the families in those towns and especially the futures for the children.
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers (and surrogate fathers) out there that sacrifice bits and pieces of their lives for the children out there.