My story “Apio Dorah”
My name is Apio Dorah. I was born in the early years of 1980, in a small village near the town of Nebbi District in Uganda. Nebbi District is just over 300kms from Kampala capital city. I was born to Mr Sylvester and Mrs Anna, a peasant couple that raised me along with my 10 Siblings. Of the 11 children that my parents had, I come as number 10. Like many families, mine too was a family that survived on subsistence farming. For us life was about waking up and going to the garden and fishing at the River Nile where we caught all sorts of fish big and small. The West Nile is commonly known for dried fish which was a way of preserving the fish for the dry and famine seasons. The fish was caught in large numbers then salted and dried under the sun. The other technique involves smoking directly over fire but the most commonly used one was sun drying because the North of Uganda is generally a hot place.
I currently live with my husband and our 7 children. I carry 4 children with him and the one that I had before this relationship. My husband came with 2 other children which brings the total to 7 children. Raising them has been both interesting and hard sometimes but I am happy to have them. I hope I can fulfil my dreams for them. I desire for them to be educated more than I got. I have no career profession because I didn’t go to school but I am a cook and I own a little restaurant here in Kitezi just outside Kampala City. We also live about 800 meters from the restaurant, so I don’t have to spend money to come to work and then also my children study just around the corner.
My educational background is not that interesting because whereas many children in Uganda would start school at 3-4yrs, I started school when I was 7yrs old. I studied in the village and I stopped in primary five because my parents could not afford to continue paying my school fees. Like most girl children, I stayed and worked at home doing home chores until I turned about 19 years old when I moved to Nebbi town to get a job. I got a job as a waiter at one of the restaurants in town called Public Perception which closed about a year after I joined them. I had to find another job in another place, luckily I was able to get a hotel that hired me soon after. I worked there for about 3 years until I met a boy, who later became my boyfriend and he made me pregnant soon after. After having the baby we tried to live together but we failed to make it so we separated.
I had to move on with life because I had left my previous job at the hotel. I have always loved cooking so I went back to the hotel and managed to secure myself the job yet again. I worked for a few years until I moved to Kampala in 2007. After my move to Kampala, I got a job in a place called Kisementi, Kamwokya working with some Indians. I worked with them for about a year until 2008 when I met with the father of my children. I later got pregnant when I was living with him for my second child and I became a complete house wife.
Right about the time I met my husband, his job was doing really well so he bought a small piece of land and started building a small house. But as fate had it, it was not long until my husband’s job took a turn to the south and he stopped working. Life became so hard that we actually failed to even afford a meal at home. This was a time of despair and tribulation for us, I was forced into thinking a lot more but I had no plan until mid 2018 when I started a business selling fresh foods.
This is when I met ISEE Solutions through a local Pastor called Ronald Mubiru who had come to preach at our church. During his sermon, he talked about the Mama Nguvu Program, handed out about 10 application forms and I was the lucky one who managed to go through the whole process and got a business. My proposal was selling agricultural produce like Irish, sweet potatoes and plantain. I did this for about 2-3 months and I got challenges with suppliers and transportation. I then started to buy the potatoes and cassava direct from the gardens and before long this too became difficult because the gardens became hard to find.
The final blow came from my landlord who I had hired from the stall and took it back saying she needed the space for something she needed to do. Life became hard a bit as I failed to get a proper location for the business. I incidentally used up all the money in home duties hence losing all the capital I had. The pandemic period soon hit and things didn’t get any better and my husband was also locked down in another district so it became incredibly hard for us to survive. Luckily during this season Andrew kept checking on us and certainly sent us money which I used to buy food through this season and for this I want to say “Thank you ISEE Solutions, I don’t know what my family would be without you.”
Soon after the lockdown was lifted, ISEE Solutions helped me to get this new place where I have opened up a new restaurant. This place is more secure and the building is more permanent than what I had before. I was also given a fridge and this helps me to sell my customers cold drinks and I make more money. I love and enjoy cooking, so each time I come to work I am happy to see how far I have come.
My future goal is of course to own a bigger restaurant and cook better food with more space. Right now I cook from just outside the restaurant and sometimes it is hard to cook because I have no shelter so the sun shines on me directly. I failed to complete my studies because my parents could not afford it and I have worked extra hard to be where I am now. In that case I don’t want my children to go through the same because their generation is more difficult especially for the uneducated.
I have been lucky that since the start of my business even without my husbands’ help because his job has never stabilized, I have been able to pay my children’s school fees. This is one of the blessings I have had with my business. The schools also give me a benefit of doubt that I will pay because they know I have a business. This was very hard before I got a business. Food at home is not a problem anymore so I have happier kids and “..life is not miserable.”
One of my challenges has been that business sometimes goes up and down during certain seasons. The other thing is that school is really expensive so I sometimes can’t pay it at once but then I pay in installments. Slowly people like me are able to pay school fees for our kids.
I would like to pass my sincere gratitude to ISEE Solutions for giving me a second chance that probably I didn’t deserve. “…I don’t know what I would be doing right now if it was not for the second chance.” Andrew kept calling me and following me up to my home, constantly asking me, “What next?” It was as though he didn’t want to give up on me. I then remembered that cooking has always been my passion so I asked him if I could get another opportunity but he said “..I don’t know. Please try!” A few weeks later he asked me to look for a house and I got this well located room by the main road. When I saw it something in my heart told me, this is it.
Of course after getting it, it was not a smooth ride because I have had challenges ranging from low sales, power related issues and many others but the secret has been not to give up. We have to chase our dreams until we catch them.
This is what I want to encourage my fellow Mamas to not stop fighting even when it is tough in business. We can’t afford to let our kids down because our husbands have left us or even just lost their jobs.
Thank you ISEE Solutions for the opportunity. I will always be grateful to you all who have supported us especially for the Covid lockdown support when most of us did not have a source of income or work. Thank you so much.
This is my short story.