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Close Encounters with a Refugee

Summary & Comment: Jacquelin Neun tells this story of a refugee needing the very basics for living. Betty Nkalubo had been the chief librarian at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, and on a course off the African continent at the time of one of the coups. They became friends over some years. One day she came to the United Church of Zambia with a refugee friend who had 6 month old child. " She had been told we were returning to Canada shortly. Neither of them had any hope of returning to family in Uganda. Would we take the baby and raise him as our own in Canada? Neither the adoption laws of the country nor time were on our side and we had to say we couldnít do it." Read Bettyís letter at end. JKoppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.Ē - Ex. 22:21

Author: Jacqueline Neun Date Written: 1 September 2015
Primary Category: Youth & Children Document Origin: author
Secondary Category: Economic Justice Source URL: http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=27834
Key Words: Zambia, refugee, Betty, destitution, begging

African Charter Article #18: The State will protect the family as the natural unit and basis of society; the rights of women, children, the aged, and the disabled will be protected. (Click for full text...)



Printable Version

www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=27834

Betty Nkalubo came to the head office of the United Church of Zambia one day in 1987 and asked to see the person in charge.† I have no idea how long she was left waiting in the tiny entrance hall that served as a reception area.† But I do know she would have had the choice to sit on the sofa or a stuffed chair, neither of which had any cushions.

As some point, she was taken to the office of the Rev. Joel Chisanga, General Secretary.† She handed him a letter as she was so traumatized she was unable to talk about her situation.† He immediately called me into his office, and gave me her letter.† [I still have it and have attached a copy to this story.]† I took her to our house, which was on the Synod compound, and while we had a cup of tea, she was able to tell me her story.

She had been the chief librarian at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, and on a course off the African continent at the time of one of the coups.†

Unable to return to home and family, she fled to Zambia and was put into a Refugee Camp for Mozambicans close to the city of Lusaka.† As a Ugandan, she was not made welcome; her back had multiple scars and cuts on it, the result of beatings in that camp.

Her plan was to find work and rent a place where she could live in safety.† I asked what she needed, expecting to be asked for a large sum of money.† I was wrong.

That day, I gave her a pot, plate, cup, knife, fork, and spoon, plus K10 (Kwatcha).† She would not take more.† During the next year, Betty frequently came to have tea with us on a Saturday afternoon - but never asked for anything other than our friendship.

My husband was able to find her a position teaching English in one of our church secondary schools, but only until a Zambian came along to claim the job.† Those were the rules in Zambia and we couldnít change them.† Betty eventually found herself an office job in Lusaka.

About three months before we left Zambia to return home to Canada, Betty came for afternoon tea and brought a Ugandan friend with her.† The second woman carried the most beautiful 6-month-old baby boy on her back.† As was the custom, he was immediately placed on my knee while we talked.†

After I had served tea and cookies, Betty got to the real point of her visit that day.† She had been told we were returning to Canada shortly.† Was that correct?† Neither of them had any hope of returning to family in Uganda.† Would we take the baby and raise him as our own in Canada?†

Zambia had rules about adoption and this was a baby with a living Ugandan mother.† Neither the laws of the country nor time were on our side and we had to say we couldnít do it.

Iíve often thought about that sweet little baby.† Is he alive?† Was he another victim of HIV/AIDS?† Where is he now?† I still pray for him each day.

Jacqueline D. Neun

Kelowna, April 2012

********************************

Betty's letter.

PLEA FOR DONATIONS††

One does not have to be in shabby rags to show that she is a beggar , or in tatters to show that she is needy. As you see me I am actually a beggar and I am in desperate need. I am seeking assistance of cash or in kind to begin a home. I have no mattress, no plate, no cup, no saucepan, no stove, no basin, not a knife, not a fork, not even a spoon, no broom, no chair, no bed, no lantern, not even a mere mat. On top of that I donít have a single relative in Zambia. Thatís why I am begging and soliciting for assistance from Good Samaritans. Seeking for a loan is out because I donít have any assets in this country to enable me to do so.

††††††††† At one time I had a large three bedroomed house and a husband like anybody else but problems in my country forced me to flee from it and come this far thousands of miles away. UNHCR has given me all the assistance it can possibly give, but still I have not been able to start a home.† I am begging for donations. I cannot take up to stealing, neither can I go into prostitution. I have a future to line up to so I feel obliged to lead a decent life. I am convinced begging is not a crime and it is honest.

††††††††† I prefer to beg in writing because when I try telling my story verbally I choke with tears before I finish it. I am desperate. Assist me however little your offer is.†

Betty Nkalubo

Printable Version

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s) and not do necessarily reflect the views of the AfricaFiles' editors and network members. They are included in our material as a reflection of a diversity of views and a variety of issues. Material written specifically for AfricaFiles may be edited for length, clarity or inaccuracies.

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