I crossed paths with the second Eleanor or Erina as she was popularly called, when I got married to her nephew, Christopher, in February 1981. She was from the Tooro Kingdom on foothills of the famous Rwenzori Mountains- Mountains of the Moon, Africa’s third highest mountain. She came from a big family of twenty one children.
They all welcomed me into the family with open arms. Aunt Erina visited us often and we got to know each other at a deeper level. She had been a nurse for over fifty years, having been trained by none other than Dr. Albert Cook: the founder of the school of Midwifery and Nursing at Mengo hospital, Kampala. She had raised five children with her Kenyan husband, John Wainaina. She had many things going on in her life but her husband and children always came first. She was the heart of the home.
For most of her working life, she was stationed in Jinja barracks, eastern Uganda. Jinja is 80 kilometres from Kampala, the capital city. By then, Jinja had developed into the industrial town of Uganda and many people had migrated there to work in the factories. As expected, many of Erina’s relatives were among these migrant workers. She helped them settle in and up today, members of the second generation live in Jinja. A number still live in Aunt Erina’s rental houses. One good thing common to both Aunt Erina and her husband were their good hearts and spirits. Together they raised many children on top of their biological five. I remember among these was a Karamajong boy coming from one of the remotest areas of Uganda. He went on to excel in his studies and ended up in USA.
All the time she was in Jinja she helped people especially the women to take care of their health and to improve their social welfare. She taught the women how to make handicrafts- beadwork, needle work and crocheting for their own use and for sale to increase family incomes. She did all this with a cheerful heart and with the support of her husband. She was always calm, smiling and on the lookout for opportunities to help the needy. She never maimed those she helped for she ensured that she empowered them to help themselves. She restored their confidence and dignity. This stands out as the key element of her great legacy. She also had some business sense; she built shops and rental houses in Jinja and Makerere and a small bakery in Njeru near Jinja.
My favourite author: Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese- American artist, poet and writer said that: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.’’
She gave of her time, talents, skills, knowledge and money.
She finally retired to her home in Parklands, Nairobi, Kenya and opened it up to her big Ugandan family and friends, and from 1993 she opened it for her brothers and sisters of the Gospel Assembly church.She remained the glue of her big family until she died on the 24 the August 2017. We all celebrated her long, rich, fulfilled life while our eyes were being opened fully to what we could do to carry on her legacy.
Erina my father’s sister and Erina from the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains in Tooro had a lot in common :
They treated everyone around them as they would themselves have wanted to be treated.
They respected themselves and were able to win respect from others.
They both gave without taking the receivers’ dignity away.
All they were able to do emerged organically and easily from who they were: simple women, passionate, compassionate, and hardworking and with big hearts.
They gave cheerfully and joy was their reward. For those of us who believe in the Bible, this is what Jesus Christ himself talked about when he said: “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.’’
They are still giving from their graves for they empowered their children and grandchildren, friends to develop an attitude of gratitude and a positive attitude about life to sustain them for life.
Taking my children as an example; they had the rare privilege at a tender age to be around both Erinas. They learned something from these two role models. They may not have been attentive when listening to them but they watched them go out to do good for others. The sixth verse of the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Proverbs in the Bible says : “Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their lives.”
In a country like mine where people are driven by desires and are controlled by money, the young generation needs more Erinas as role models. They will teach them that we depend on each other and will motivate them to do better and to want to give more.
May this post inspire you to use whatever you have to make a difference wherever you are.
Thank you for reading this post. I would like to hear about your experiences with people who have big hearts and high spirits.