This story was written by Moses Tumuheki Nkundabanyanga, Agnes’s only surviving son who is a very close friend of the Gem Studio’s founder, Matt. Her story is being shared with her permission and consent. She says she wants people to find inspiration from her story and know that there is no challenge we are incapable of overcoming.
“Agnus Ngoma Nkundabanyanga, my mother, was born in Uganda sometime in the 1950’s. She says she went to school only once, as in one day, and never was able to go back. In those days only boy children were allowed to go to school, so her brothers were the only ones in her family that got any formal education. Unfortunately, they all died in the Rwandan Genocide in 1992. She was married when she was about 15 years old, after she met with my dad when he was in Uganda to sell some merchandise. She is my dad's third wife and the last woman he married. She has given birth to 6 children, but only 2 are alive today. The others passed away due to unknown illnesses, we never had enough money to go to the hospital so we do not know for sure their causes of death. I am her youngest born son and I have one sister who is younger than me. She now has five grandchildren, two from me and three from my sister. My mom says she loves traveling to new areas and meeting new people. Her favorite foods are posho, milk, beans, and sweet potatoes.
She has worked nonstop her whole entire life to care for me and my family. She paid for my education by digging in the fields, working from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm for between 2,000 to 3,000 shillings a day (around .75 cents). She lived in a mud, grass thatched structure which was always leaking. Every time it would rain, which is most days in Uganda, my older sister would carry me to some corner of the house where it was not dripping. Before I was born, there was major conflict between my family, my father’s two other wives, and their families. They hated my mom because she was Rwandan, and also because my father had left them to mainly stay with my mom. They grew jealous and attacked my mother, chasing her away. She left all of us behind and walked to Rwanda on foot with no food or money. She walked a distance of about 300km for about two and a half days, but she came back to us after about a week ready to face whoever was against her to make sure she raised us. Upon returning to Uganda she had many physically violent confrontations with my dad and my step-brothers, but she was determined to stay with us no matter what. It was amidst these fights that we lost my two sisters and one brother who I was never able to meet. The situation in our home was very tense from about 1973 to about 1994 when I was five years old. I didn't personally see much of this, but have learned of these hardships from the stories she has told me. My dad got in a car accident, fell off of a bike, and had another accident where he fell down off a short cliff which weakened him and he died about four years afterward. He left us with nothing except the land our grass-thatched mud house was standing in the middle of my brothers’ big chunks of land. That is where our house still is with not enough space.
All my life growing up, my mum fulfilled the roles of mother, father, and brother for me. She always told me that I was her only hope and that I would need to provide and care for her one day. She always told me I will prove to her that her returning back to Uganda and all the suffering that followed was worth it. She always told me I am the one to change our family’s nasty story. She taught me that I should not use all the pain and suffering that was done to my family for revenge, but that I should not to forget our past either. Despite all of the evil things that were done to us, we should still work to unite my father's family and forgive everyone who wronged us. She has always reminded me of this from about age seven up to now.
It has a long and sad story, but we thank God I've been able to turn it round and restore some peace and cut off much of the nasty hate.
My mom and my sister both sacrificed so much of their lives for mine and that's why I try to live for them. My mom was unable to afford school fees for both my sister and I to attend school due to her meager funds from working in the fields. My mother could only afford one child to school and my sister sacrificed her opportunity to gain an education, a sacrifice I will always be indebted to her for making. My sister also joined her in that struggle to fund my education and I am forever grateful for that. I knew school was my only chance to make something of my life, so I studied extremely hard. All day and all night I made sure to be at the top of my class. I ended up getting a scholarship with Compassion International, a charity organization that helped me pay for my education until I finished school. This set me on path that has led to working getting a good job, and eventually working with Matt and One Heart One Mind to build the school we now operate for many children just like me.
My mother always told me that there are so many children and women around the
world who share the same story as ours, but no one cares to help or hold their hand and bring out the good God has planted in them. She urged me to be that person to bless their lives and give them a chance to shine in any capacity I can. Indeed she made me realise that its hard to change the whole world but its quite easy to change someone's world.
For anyone who has read this story, or is considering helping us celebrate my mother by purchasing one of these rings. I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and thank you for loving her!”