3 years ago, Hasifah Basirika, walked from Buwenge Town Council in Jinja district to Kampala. On reaching, Kabalagala, she couldn’t walk any more. She stopped and called for help.
Basirika embarked on the draining journey after months of tapping media ads of Middle East Consultants Limited (MECL), a labor exporting company, looking for youths to work abroad.
After series of communication with MECL Managing Director Gordon Mugyenyi, and the company’s Recruitment Officer, Godfrey Kyarimpa, she decided to travel to their offices in Muyenga, seeking an opportunity for her daughter to try her luck overseas.
When she reached Kabalagala and couldn’t proceed, she picked the phone again, called Mugyenyi, who asked Kyarimpa to go and pick her.
And the rest was Middle East history.
Her daughter Halima Nantongo was taken to Dubai, and the company met all the costs.
Recounting the day she trekked to Kampala, Basirika, in a video interview said, “I went to Middle East, when I had nothing. I talked to Mugyenyi and Kyarimpa. I didn’t even know Kampala. Kyarimpa kept on directing me. I had discovered about Middle East from radio announcements.”
Mugyenyi a few weeks ago visited the family in Buwenge-Bwase, Buwenge Town Council, Kagoma County in Jinja district, where the parents and siblings narrated how the family has gained from Nantongo’s work in the Middle East.
She is been in Dubai for the last 2 years.
One of the major achievements of Nantongo, at least from what the mum, dad and two siblings said during an interview, has been returning hope to the family.
All of them collectively say, “We were in serious poverty”, and the mum now affirms, “Where I was is no longer where I am. The difference is so big.”
Having seen the good side of working in Dubai, after collecting some money, Nantongo arranged and got money to fund her sister Sharifah Nakafero, who now works in Qatar.
Nantongo has also bought a piece of land, where she plans to construct a school. It measures 98ft by 500 ft.
It was bought at Shs8m.
Currently, the land is being used to rear cattle, and gardens with various crops have also been set up.
But to meet her goal of constructing a school, Nantongo needs more Shs9m to buy more land which will help her access the main road.
To this, Gordon Mugyenyi provided Shs4m, reducing Nantongo’s costs to Shs5m.
Relatives speak out
Siraj Kafeero appreciated the Recruiting Ageny for taking his two daughters, and went on to urge fellow parents to bring their children to MECL so that they can join the rest looking to a better a life in the Middle East.
“We thank Middle East Consulants for taking our children. We were in serious poverty, but we are now gradually climbing the socio-economic ladder. Nantongo is now able to pay school fees for her 4 siblings,” he said.
“I call upon other parents to take their children to Muyenga – where the offices of Middle East are located.”
Hasifah Basilika, a sister to Nantongo and in senior five at Kasawo Islamic Senior Secondary School, says: “I thank Middle East Consultants for the chance they have given to our family. If our sisters hadn’t gone, our parents no longer had money to pay for our fees.”
On allegations that children working in Middle East are mistreated, Nantongo’s mum, said: “If they were being abused, I wouldn’t send more children there.”
She continues to wonder, “Am I the one who would accept to sacrifice my children?”
She asked all parents to bring their children to MECL so that they can go work, and help the community “survive poverty”.
Abdul Kafeero, a brother to Nantongo, in senior 2 at the same school as the sister is also “happy that her sisters went abroad, and they have managed to raise money to pay for them school fees.”
Mugyenyi, speaking in Buwenge on his visit, asked the resident to send him 30 youths, aged between 22 and 35, with passports, and he will “provide the rest that is required.”
“The offer will be on first come first served basis,” he said. “No one will get you out of poverty, unless you rise to fight it.”
The MECL director also told a local named Ali Kinyigiza that was he going to take his three children at no cost.
Turning to Nantongo’s parents, he lauded them for spending their children’s money well.
“I am happy that you have managed to use your children’s money well, and bought for them land. It is why we keep on visiting families to check on these projects,” he said.
“We want these people to go abroad, and on returning, they become influential people in society.”
And to prevent parents from wasting their children’s money, the company has also set up a policy, where an agreement is signed so that in case a parent misuses a child’s money, they “face the law.”
He reiterated his call to Ugandans to ensure their children work with Ministry of Gender and Labour-registered companies – they are 71.
“We are working so hard to fight human trafficking,” he said.