So, back in 2009, a guy named Mubiru Bazirios emailed me— that’s ‘Basilios’ in Greek, or ‘Basil’ in English, but luGanda speakers tend to spell phonetically and have trouble with r’s and l’s, like the Japanese. The grandfather after whom he’s named was a son of Uganda’s very first Orthodox priest, and a priest himself. I understand that he’d been poisoned a few years before i arrived— I never did find out why, but it seemed especially unfortunate, the way people always talked about him. He’d even been to seminary in Russia, which is very unusual since the African church is so closely tied to Greece. Wished i could have met him.
But as i said, “our” Bazirios, the grandson, wrote in 2009:
—”am in 11th grade, in the sciences track…. I need to continue my studies. Now sir you are my saviour because i have searched from all the corners of the country and you are my last destination. Sir, please find my request worthy because i need to be a good man in future, and i beg you on my knees because the situation is worst than usual. If you consider it, i shall do my best to make you happy.”
Heartbreaking— but still— he makes you smile a bit, doesn’t he?
Well, unfortunately, we didn’t have the funds, and so Bazirios dropped out with only two years of high school to go. If the money were there, he could still go back even now— 30-year-old high school students are not so uncommon in Uganda— but what I didn’t know at the time was that, nine years earlier (2000), at age 15, he’d already gotten a wife, and that by the time he wrote they’d already had 4 kids. So failing to finish school was a serious setback for more than just himself. Still, what could we do.
But Bazirios is a cheerful fellow, despite his struggles. He likes to write songs and sing, and when he discovered me on Facebook, he took to trying out whatever random Greek phrases he’d pick up from the occasional visitor. Not always… successfully….
Well, about a year after that 2009 email, his brother Jonah disappeared. They traced him to to Ssese Island in Lake Victoria, where the locals told them that, as strangers there often do, he probably ended up getting sacrificed to the local gods. They never found any evidence, even with the police on the case, but that’s how he became responsible for Naluta Thecla, Jonah’s daughter.
You remember Thecla. About a year ago, a teacher knocked a little girl so hard, she dislocated her eyeball. We made an emergency appeal, and a couple of you stepped forward very generously and saved her eye. That girl was Thecla. I can’t remember whether I’ve already shown you her picture or not, but here she is, a real cutie:
Since 2009, Bazirios and his wife have had two more kids, so together with Thecla and sometimes Jonah’s son Mugumbya Jeremia (though he lives mainly with his mom), Bazirios now has 7 or 8 kids take care of. He also has to provide for his mom, who is severely diabetic, and his three siblings, Lukia, George, and Stavros. About George, more in a moment.
Let’s pause, though, for a little math break:
Bazirios has 6 kids of his own, 2 from Jonah, 3 younger siblings, his mother, his wife, and himself to take care of— that’s FOURTEEN people!! And— need we point out?— Uganda’s urban job market isn’t terribly kind to unskilled laborers, who comprise about 80% of the population.
But the story doesn’t begin or end there; far from it! I don’t want to make this email too long, so i’ll put the rest of his backstory (it’s really something!) here — but to tell you about the past couple of months, i’ll have to give you a couple of the highlights:
When Bazirios was a little boy, his father started beating his wife and 6 kids so bad that the mother took the kids and ran away. “We survived on cooked pawpaws [papaya], beging, picking eats from rubbish, snitching and steal the food from neighbours’ kids as they were eating, our mom could also beg for us to live”, he wrote.
But in 2013, times got so bad that they went back to his father to beg for help. Annoyed at the potential competition for her husband’s modest resources, his father’s new wife drove a nail into his brother Ssendija George’s head and swore she’d come after the rest of them as well. They fled. George survived, but he can’t do any heavy lifting; he could work in an office, but he’d need some training before he could get a job. That’s why Bazirios is still supporting him, though he’s 18.
So then last August:
—”KALIMERA SIR! MY BROTHER KIZITO MAKARIOS MARTIN, DIED AT NIGHT, BURRIAL IS TOMOROW 2: 00PM, AT THE HOME OF THE LATE REV FR BAZIRIOS NSUBUGA TANA AT MASANAFU, BUKULUGI ZONE. PRAY FOR HIM”
Did i know this Makarios? I knew one Makarios but i didn’t know if he was the same guy.
—”He looks just like me. You never surfaced him before. But he was killed by the [second wife] my aunts brought for our father. She bewitched him.”
Africans in general have a great fear of witchcraft. I don’t believe all the stories, but I don’t disbelieve some of them. So I can’t say much about “bewitching”. But after she pounded a nail into George’s head, I can see why Bazirios might think she was a witch. Anyway, he hinted that he needed help with the funeral expenses, so I told Mambo, our Program Manager in Uganda, to give him 100,000 UgX (about $30) to help out. That’s a lot of money in Uganda, but nowhere near what a funeral costs.
A few days later:
—”WE BURIED HIM ON SUNDAY, WHICH BIBLE VERSE CAN I READ ALWAYS FOR HIM?”
I told him, “We usually read the Book of Psalms.”
—”Thank you sir. All the psalms? I have to take care and educate all his 4 children, its all my responsibility. but i feel amuch load. Mr Mambo gave me 100k [$30] and iam going to give it to the 4 orphan’s school fees. Thanks alot, God-father, good night sir.”
Did Bazirios just say he now has FOUR MORE kids from Makarios, in addition to the FOURTEENpeople he ALREADY HAS TO TAKE CARE OF???
And he’s *UNEMPLOYED*!!
As I said, he’s usually pretty cheerful and in fact he complains so little that i got the whole picture only very recently. But his latest message was unexpectedly poignant:
—”So due to all, GOD sent me to your side. But why is it me with no job, academic document, condemned to surface all the probs and responsibilities? Coz now, i have to be with all these kids by all meanz, go to sch, eat, and medical. Can i say that GOD is punishing me / making me be a man at my sufering stuation?”
Mmm. Man. What would Jesus do?!
—Well, despite having a degree in theology, i have no idea what Jesus would do, but Bazirios and I got to discussing employment. Specifically, a vegetable shop. Eventually:
—”I found a good place suitable for the seling the stuffs, it can sell coz there are many peaple [there].
So ok, dear friends, I think we’ve found a way to help Bazirios and his family write new chapter— one where hope dawns like a star in a very dark cave. (Had to say that, it’s Christmas!)
If we can get Bazirios and his wife set up in a little vegetable shop (my friend Joel Ssali also suggests a popcorn machine, which is a great idea), they can live there and take care of all their kids and siblings and mother (who by the way was just evicted). *We’ve already rented the shop*— but we need about $500 in startup capital.
And that’s for just ONE of our many projects!
Would you like to lend us a hand? Whatever you contribute will go directly to Mubiru’s family or to any other project you specify. And you will seriously be helping some real people in real need!