ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

Henry’s story

Henry harvesting coffee cherries

{This is our first “Papa Nguvu” recipient, Henry Sserumaga. We have known Henry for several years now and we have always been impressed with his gentle good nature. He has always supported our work with Prossy and has never shown the jealousy or possessiveness that many of our Mamas’ husbands have exhibited. It was an easy decision for us to agree to support his own plan. Presented below is Andrew’s story in its original format. I have deliberately left it as he wrote it in order to give you a taste of the rhythms and voice of this man. –ed}

The Tale of Henry Sserumaga

We have known Henry for a while now, since 2013-2014. He is the husband and partner to Prossy Lumbuye our 1st Mama Nguvu partner. They have been married for more than 30yrs and have four children, two boys and two girls. I sat with him for about 2-3 hrs to listen to his story so that I could draw this final draft write-up for all of us who have known or at least have been reading about him for the last 2-3 years. 

An incredible man, a father and a husband. He is humble, dedicated and very hardworking. One of us described Henry as, “…a man who gives me faith in Ugandan men.”

At times we meet people, talk to them and we assume that we know them but it is incredible to listen to their life story of anyone. Listening gives you a new revelation and viewpoint. It will almost cause transformation within your mind and this achieves such a great respect for the person in ways more than one.

This is the Tale of Henry Sserumaga Lumbuye,

On the 28th of June 1958, Sserumaga Henry Lumbuye was born to Mr. Ssebowa Dodovik(o) and Mrs. Anna Namusisi both local farmers who have since passed to the next life. Born in  Bulemezi town, in a district called Luweero, in a village called Naluvule located on the Highway from Kampala to Gulu. Henry is the second child and the oldest boy of eight children, only five are still here. 

Henry spent a lot of time farming and animal grazing, especially cows as a young boy because of his family background. His father planted a lot of coffee, cotton and other foodstuffs that helped them go through life and school at large. 

Henry started school at about 6 years and he went to Naluvule Primary School. Schooling was a bit different at that time because they had only 4 classes before one could join Junior one and two. Today we have Nursery school or Kindergarten, Primary, Secondary and then whichever tertiary institution. Henry started school in about 1962 or 63 and his most memorable moment was the fact that they had grass-thatched classes. They didn’t have desks and pupils sat on the floor. The only thing between their bottoms and the floor was a specific type of grass called “Teete” pronounced as “tteh-te”. Only the teacher sat on a papyrus chair.

In 1986, Henry joined Junior 1 and 2 after his 4th year, in a place called Kasaala. He later transferred to Nakasongola district. He joins St. George’s College, Mukono for his secondary school finishing the highest level of Senior 4 at that time. At this point, it was 1971, and his father told him that he didn’t have any more money and Henry had to let his siblings study too. He completed a certificate in commercial subjects, including Accounts, Shorthand, Typing and English. At this point there were no computers so they used typewriters so for two years he pursued the above and he graduated. 

In about 1971-72, Henry started working because of this specific set of skills enrolling as a teacher of  Math (Pure Math) and English at a school called St. Kizito Senior Secondary School. He taught for about 2 years but eventually left because he was not paid regularly by the proprietor who was a Reverend.

He later joined The Automobile Association of East Africa as a clerk. This was the company or organization charged with the responsibility of issuing permits for cars moving and crossing the borders within East Africa. Henry worked as a clerk and permit issuer until the organization was dissolved during the Idd Amin era as president, in 1976. Idd Amin with his foreign policy suspended all Asian and white people from Government-Owned institutions. As a result the organization eventually closed. Ella Gomesi was the CEO of the organization at this point.

At this juncture in the interview, Henry talks about the gentleman called “Ella” Gomesi. He says that Gomesi was a Goer of some kind of Indian descent and his Father was also called Gomesi. His father was the first tailor to sew a local Baganda dress (Gomesi) that has become a traditional dress for most Baganda women during traditional marriages. It is a long dress that is usually made out of silky fabric but now due to trends and style, they use fabric with stones and shiny ornaments. 

Henry went back to his village after the organization closed but as luck had it for him, he was contacted by a friend and introduced to his first government job. Henry had no experience in this field but got the job anyway. In 1977, Henry was employed as a security supervisor for Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB). His work at the time included going to the police every morning to request policemen who worked as guards for the bank. He worked at the bank for more than 9 years and he got transferred a couple of times to Masaka and Kyotera throughout this time and eventually to his home district of Luweero. 

In 1986 shortly after the Museveni war, Henry went back home to Luweero. His home had been so dilapidated due to the overthrow war of Idd Amin. He had just returned from working in Masaka when he was transferred back to Luweero. Henry says the war broke up in a funny way saying he knew nothing of it until he woke up that morning and went to the Police Station to pick up the policemen. He was told no one was there yet and that he should go back later. When he went back, he was officially told no policeman was available because the Country was at war. He was advised along with others to go back home and not attempt to travel to Kampala. The rebels had taken over the city of Kampala.

He arrived home in 1986 after the war. This new government reviewed his file and found that he was from Luweero that’s when they sent him back to develop his home district. Everyone had just returned from the bush because Luweero was one of the places that were most affected by the war in the famous Luweeo Triangle War. His parents had also just returned with barely anything on their backs. They asked him why he was there and he says that he had been transferred to Luweero. 

During his supervisory duties at the bank, he met Prossy working at her restaurant and she eventually becomes his wife until this date. She was serving food to her customers in a jolly mood when he saw her. Henry described her as “…jumping around” and he got interested. He respectfully called her and asked her about herself. He was surprised to know that Prossy was from that area. Henry was a formidable young man with a good government job and he was living in a large house rented for him by the government. 

He would ride his bicycle to and fro to work at the bank but return to see Prossy every day. He eventually dropped the house and started living with Prossy in her small one-roomed house. It was closer to his workplace too. They started their lives here and two years later, in about 1988, they give birth to a baby boy called Zaake (Zakaria). Immediately after his birth, Henry was transferred to a place called Kapeeka. 

Henry didn’t want to leave but he had signed up to work anywhere as a civil servant. Prossy’s business had picked up and everything was flying. They had started making friends and getting known around so he couldn’t go with her, therefore, he went alone. Kapeeka was not an easy place because people there were heavily armed so it was a bit scary but he had to work. Every weekend, he would ride his bicycle to his see little family after ensuring that all other employees knew their roles. 

The bank eventually collapsed because these armed fellas would take loans from the bank and never pay them back. These men had become farmers so they took loans to develop themselves whenever the officials went to collect, they would say that money was part of their compensation. When the organization closed, all workers were given options to choose where to go or to resign. This was about 1996 and technological advancement was at hand. They wanted people who knew computers so Henry gets phased out. They did not allow them to learn or be trained but rather they asked them to resign.

Henry resigned, started farming on his Coffee plantation and looked after the cows that had been handed down to him by his father. Prossy had moved closer to the city and was working in her restaurant in a place called Kawempe. She was renting a little house at about 1,500/- Uganda Shillings at the time. When Prossy heard about the job loss, she asked Henry to move to the city so they could work together at the restaurant. Henry wondered what his contribution would be but if you know Prossy, Henry wasn’t going to stay. He had only one option, to leave. 

They lived in Kawempe for a few months and Henry got a caretaker job and landscaping.  He was working for the City Council cleaning trenches. He was offered by one of their customers who used to eat at their restaurant and one day, he asked him if there is anything he could do. Henry explained to him that he could do anything. Although Henry got this job, he was irregularly paid. Later Henry is offered another job to work on his farm and took it. Henry was not paid much but this man gave them a place to live and garden. This is about the 2000s. 

This is about the time Erika meets Vicent and eventually meets the entire family. Henry appreciates all that ISEE has done for his entire family. We have worked with his family starting from the piggery farm, chickens and paper bag making. All these projects had a good and prosperous time while we engaged in them. 

Henry worked for this man for a long time but he didn’t pay or compensated him for all the work he did for him. He then sold the property on which Prossy and the kids were living and gives them just 1 million Uganda Shillings. The person who bought the property gave them another one million shillings to restart their lives. He also offered them transportation for them to go to wherever they were moving to. 

Luckily, they had this current plot they are living on so they restarted life. Using some of the timber and iron sheets from the old Mama Nguvu piggery project sty, they erected one room and Henry lives here with all the projects going on. He has taken over the responsibility to care for the pigs and garden after Prossy had to leave and go take care of her ill mother. The piggery process has been difficult because he had never done that, but he has since broken through this year and everything looks much better. He has erected a coop to start his project. 

cutting sugarcane

Through all these years, Henry and Prossy have had 4 children Zakaria, Hellen, Prossy and Vicent. They have four grandchildren, Zaake has three and then Prossy has one. They have cared for two or three more people including one called Kate, who we met in 2013. Kate is now a qualified teacher.

Ssebowa Henry Lumbuye is now living happily ever after on his little property in Bujuuko, Mityana Road. He is hardworking as always and he would have loved to be with his wife Prossy but after her mother’s demise, Prossy has had to move temporarily to her mothers’ plot. She is taking care of the property and grandchildren her mother left behind. Henry loves to farm and garden so every day he goes to the garden, works his craft and returns home. He thereafter feeds and  takes care of the pigs. He cooks for himself and we will be working on arranging that because that plank house “Coop” is designed for the chickens and smoke might not work well with the chickens.

Interview by,

Andrew Echel, Director of Programs ISEE Solutions Society

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