Gaba, Uganda As a child, Jackie Nakabugo spent her days in the hot sun, lugging buckets of coal to the market to sell. Gray dust mixed with her sweat, leaving a trail of dark smudges on the tattered blanket on which she and her mother would spread the coal. As the sun rose higher, they'd call out to shoppers, trying to empty the rusted buckets. At the end of the day, an empty bucket meant a few handfuls of rice. A full bucket meant going to bed hungry. Again.
Jackie had been helping her mother collect and sell coal since she was 9. That was when her father died, his body decimated by AIDS. That same year, Jackie's family was forced out of their home by an uncle, a common practice in Uganda, where women and children have few rights.
"When (my father) died I remember the situation in the home started changing," Jackie recalls. "He loved me so much and I loved him and yet here came death. Our father passed away, leaving my mother. And then there was no money in the home & It was terrible."
Change for the Better
Life grew steadily worse for the Nakabugo family, now homeless and living on about U.S.36 cents a day. Jackie and her siblings battled malaria and malnutrition, and Jackie often wondered who would be next to join their father. But in 1993, when Jackie was 11, Gaba Community Church formed a partnership with Compassion International. That partnership would be the catalyst for change in Jackie's life.
As one of the first registered children at the Gaba Child Development Center (UG 501), Jackie received immediate benefits of health care, education and food. But Jackie was battling more than physical poverty. Life had left her feeling hopeless, believing she was nothing.
A Time of Healing
Church members and center staff saw Jackie's pain and spent hours praying with her, demonstrating the love of Christ to this lost, broken child. Slowly, the healing began, both in Jackie's life and in the lives of her family members. One by one, Jackie and her siblings accepted Christ. Jackie became a leader at her church and excelled in school. As a teen, she led Bible studies for her peers. She was at the center whenever it was open, taking advantage of the tutors and using the computers and books there.
When Jackie was a senior in high school she was accepted into Compassion Uganda's Leadership Development Program. She attended Uganda Christian University and studied communication arts. But even as she excelled, she never forgot where she came from or the faith and dedication that drove her. She often traveled home to Gaba, volunteering at the Compassion-assisted child development center on school breaks.
A Voice for Children
Now 25, Jackie has dedicated her life to be a voice for children in poverty. She has spoken at dozens of Compassion events across the globe. More than 1,000 sponsorships have been generated from Jackie's efforts.
"When I look at myself, (I remember how) we were treated very harshly&" she says. "I see a lot of injustice (in Uganda), especially toward the women and children in my community. I want to be in a position to be an advocate for these people, the underprivileged, to fight for a better future for them to be in a position to champion against injustice with the authorities."
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