WATOTO MOM: ANNET KABONESA
Annet Kabonesa is a mother in Watoto’s Laminadera Village in Gulu, northern Uganda. She lives in House 39 in this vibrant village.
The free spirited and loving lady joined Watoto in 2011 under dire conditions. At the age of 11, she lost her mother, the only relative she had ever known. Her mother told Annet that her father was a rebel in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“My mother did not know any of my father’s relatives and since all her relatives had passed away in the war, I did not meet any,” Annet recalls.
The death of her mother forced her to look for a job and, at that tender age, she began working as a waitress in a hotel in Jinja – 72 km east of Kampala.
After three years of working as a waitress, 14-year-old Annet eloped with a fishmonger in Jinja. A few months into their relationship, her ‘husband’ started to abuse her physically. She was beaten everyday for years. In addition, he invited other women into their home in the presence of her and her children.
In November 2010 they moved to Gulu to start trading their fish in South Sudan. In the same year, she found out that she was HIV+ during an antenatal check up.
“When I told him (my husband) that I was HIV+, he called me ignorant. He then told me that he had been on ARVs for more than a year already,” Annet recalls sadly.
A few weeks later, he abandoned her in her pregnant state, with their three other children. She was left alone, without support from anyone.
Annet tried everyway she could to make ends meet. She washed clothes, dug holes for people and cooked for others. Soon, she was evicted from her home as she failed to make the rental payments.
She had no other options. So she reverted to sleeping on a verandah with her children. They literally lived on a verandah for a month before a neighbour looked kindly on them.
Annet remembers the pain of seeing her children sleeping on this cold floor with the night sky as their shelter. They went to bed hungry nearly every night. She contemplated suicide many times and resented God for allowing this to happen to her.
“One night I had a dream that seemed so real to me. In the dream, I was talking to a lady who was old and weary, but noticeably happy. She told me that I was carrying a heavy load and that I needed to hand it over to God. I told her that God had forgotten about my children and I. The lady responded by telling me her story and how she had overcome by her faith in Christ.”
In the morning Annet told her neighbour about the dream and asked if she had received Jesus Christ as personal saviour. The neighbour told her to forgive her husband and start praying and fasting. As she was pregnant, Annet opted for prayer only as she started praying with her neighbour everyday.
After three months of staying in the neighbour’s kitchen and eating left over food from her daily collections, Annet decided to go and look for help from people around Gulu town. This is when she discovered Watoto.
I approached the gateman and, to my surprise, I was warmly welcomed. I was referred to the Living Hope Centre and they even called a boda-boda (Ugandan motorcycle) to transport me there, at their expense. I was so embarrassed by the condition that I was in.”
Over lunch, Annet narrated her story to Prossy, who was in a similar situation herself. That day, she was immediately given a new dress to change into. The one she was wearing was tattered.
“I was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity I was being shown by all these strangers. For the first time in a long time I smiled and felt loved again. They also told me that they would take care of all my medical including the birth of my new baby,” says Annet.
Since Annet had no one else to take care of her other three children while she was in labour, they were taken to Watoto’s Laminadera Village. After giving birth, Annet was offered a job as a caretaker at Hope Senior School in this same village.
Unfortunately, due to serious health complications, her baby passed away after a year.
In July 2012, Annet applied for the role of house mother in the village.
“I am so grateful to Living Hope and Watoto for all that I am today, I never thought I would see the day any of my children would go to school or that I would ever smile or be happy again. I have been given the opportunity to be a mother to 8 amazing children and I love them. “I look back at the times I cried and suffered on those streets and realise that God really loves me. He protected my children and I while throughout the hardship. And He was faithful to see us through it all.”
At just 29 years old, Annet has grown into a strong and loving mother to eight children, including her three biological children in Watoto’s Laminadera Village.
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