Specioza, whom we call Special, could have never imagined she would be living and working where she is now. Last September, she made one of the toughest decisions of her life.
Located in Isingiro district of Southwestern Uganda, Nakivale Refugee Settlement is home to families and individuals who come from Uganda’s neighboring countries such as Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and those in the Horn of Africa. These are all individuals who have been affected by war and political instability in their homelands.
Nakivale operates in partnership with a Uganda-based education training institute and is financed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Together they oversee, protect, and monitor ongoing refugee projects in Isingiro district. The project helps educate refugees on issues such as environmental maintenance through the planting of trees. They also provide solar lamps, help connect electricity for the settlement, and distribute briquettes to be used for cooking to discourage the practice of deforestation.
Despite her fears, being called on to work in Isingiro was like a dream come true for Special. She has a deep passion for helping people who are trying to rebuild their lives.
“At first my biggest worry was moving to a distant place which is about five hours away from Kampala, where I was living at the time,” Special says. “Then, I thought about the foreign languages and unfamiliar cultural differences. To be honest, it frightened me but it did not stop me from trying.”
“When I started working at the refugee settlement, I was a fields monitor. Part of my job was to distribute briquettes and educate people on how to manage their environment. Most of them were women and were quite vulnerable.”
Today, Special works as the Assistant Finance and Administration Officer. Her job is to manage finances and logistics, as well as ensuring accountability for the project’s resources.
Her experience working at Nakivale has helped Special appreciate the opportunities she grew up with. Having a loving, caring family and a quality education was something many of those she served have never known.
As Special looks at her new job and her passion for helping, she reflects on what has helped shape that passion.
At the age of nine, Special joined the African Children’s Choir and toured with both Choir 17 and 20.
“When I first joined the Choir I didn’t realize what a once in a lifetime opportunity I had received,” she recalls, “While at the Choir Training Academy, I enjoyed singing, playing, and most important of all studying. My mother was the happiest person on planet earth because she knew she did not have to worry about my education.”
After successfully completing her primary and secondary level education, Special chose to join Makerere University Business School to pursue her dream of working in finance. In 2014, Special graduated with a degree in accounting. With a sense of accomplishment, Special acknowledged that graduating university was one of her highest achievements.
“Knowing that I had made my parents and Music for Life proud was the proudest moment of my life.”
As she celebrated this important milestone, Special was given the opportunity to be a chaperone with the 43rd African Children’s Choir. Taking on the responsibility of caring for 18 precious boys and girls helped shape her into the confident, authentic leader that she is today.
With the Choir, she traveled across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, which brought back memories of her time traveling with the Choir as a child.
“My heart glowed when I watched the children develop both physically and mentally. Seeing them learn new things at a young age, reminded me of how far God has brought me, for I was once like them.”
“Through Music for Life sponsorship, I know they will be able to gain a quality education, which will empower them to become the future leaders of their country. I cannot wait to see what great things the future holds for my babies,” she shared emotionally.
After a year of traveling with the Choir, Special wanted to give back to her country through service to vulnerable and hurting populations. At the start of 2017, she was transferred to Nsamizi Training Institute-UNHCR Project, where she now works as the Assistant Finance and Administration Officer.
“I love every bit of my work,” Special shares. “God has greatly blessed me. My hope is to make my workplace better by exhibiting virtues such as honesty and transparency so that those I am working for can fulfill their mission of helping the helpless.”