Lilian (above) attends Uganda Christian University, but her life of hardship threatened her dream of receiving a higher education.
It is mid-morning at Uganda Christian University. Small groups of students sit or lie dotted on the green grass, seemingly cut off from the cares and worries of the world. In contrast, Lilian sits in the cool, quiet university library, amazed that she is there at all. Lilian once believed that no one like her, with a life marked by hardship, could ever attain higher education.
Lilian, the eldest of five children, was 9 when her father passed away in 1995. The family had no income, and so the children were spread out among relatives. Living with her auntie was unbearable for Lilian, who was abused and beaten.
A year later Compassion stepped in and offered her hope through the Child Sponsorship Program. The family reunited and moved closer to the center, renting a one-room apartment in the nearby trading center. Things were better, but money and food were still scarce.
Embracing the Hard Road
In 2001, Lilian's mother's health began to deteriorate. Soon she was taken away for medical care, leaving the children alone. With no income, Lilian and her sister had to leave school and start working in a restaurant where they were paid in food. To keep up with her education, Lilian acquired class notes from a friend, that she and her sister read at home. Both girls were able to complete and pass the Primary Leaving Examinations.
The family moved closer to their mother. The two oldest girls were registered into secondary school, but proximity to their mother did not ease their situation. "Life became even worse, and our relatives mistreated us," Lilian says.
During her holidays Lilian managed to work odd jobs to help her family survive, buying food and clothing, and trying to pay fo the medical help her mother desperately needed. Because of her personal relationship with Christ, Lilian would not consider quick financial fixes that other girls resorted to, such as theft or prostitution.
Suddenly a Mom
At the age of 19, Lilian became mother to her siblings. Her mother passed away, and so did Lilian's dreams and ambitions.
Her only relief came from Compassion, though she was heartbroken when she graduated and had to leave her "family" behind.
"Compassion showed me love, though I was hated by relatives. I had people to run to, people who gave me hope, encouraged me, helped me to stand with my family. They made my real potential come out," she says.
A few months after she left the sponsorship program, Lilian was chosen for the Leadership Development Program. Lilian firmly believes that was God's intervention in her life. As a result, she takes on her studies with determination to be the best she can be in her field of study.
Unadorned and Determined
"I want to be a proactive social worker who advocates for the youth to sensitize them, teach them, train them before they mess up and get into problems instead of waiting for people to come to me when they already have problems," says Lilian.
And so in a university bustling with young men and women with the latest fashions, trendiest accessories and mobile phones, Lilian, simple and unadorned, stands out from the crowd, trusting the Lord to continue leading her way.
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