Virtual Self Help

"The Best Way to Help Yourself,
is to Help Someone Else." -JSM

Communicate One on One with a Lifecoach

"An inspiring story of Vella from Lira, Uganda"
Copyright 2018 by Rev J Scott Martin

Vella lives 7 km from Lira in Uganda.
She survived the massacre of her family when she was 13 years old and being gang raped when she was 20. Her story of survival is inspiring.

Interview with Vella.
After the long trip, I was warmly welcomed by Vella to her house. We started the interview with a prayer led by vella after which I introduced myself to her and told her the purpose of my visit. Vella introduced herself as well.

I used the question and answer approach and below is our conversation.

Sandra: Tell me about yourself

Vella: My name is Okori Vella. I am the first born child and I have a sister and three brothers. My parents are late (deceased) and my home village is oguru in ber lira district. I am not married but I have a son and it is a long story. I rent this place and live her with my son, my cousin’s sons and daughter to one of the church members.

Sandra: what was life like before Lord's Resistance Army?

Vella: we lived happily with my parents and siblings doing the normal chores as the boys took care of our fathers’ herd of cattle

Sandra: could you please tell me what happened to your parents

Vella: it was one afternoon while I had gone to the well to collect water and my brothers had gone herding when we started hearing gun shots from the next village. We ignored it thinking it would not reach our village. But as we started moving back home, the sound was drawing closer to our village. I moved hurriedly back home but as I approached home, there was shouting coming from my compound. I was moving through our banana plantation and there was a woman hiding there who stopped me and asked me not to go home since the rebels had invaded our compound. I hid in the plantation with the woman as we watched what was happening in our compound. The rebels were asking my dad to move and go with them but he resisted, they got impatient with him and one of them got a panga and cut his neck……………(sobbing)…………………. My mother tried to fight them but her neck was cut too…….. I wanted to ran home and help my parents but the woman held me back and told me I would be killed if I went there. She held my hands and we started running towards town. We met a number of people along the way and I lost sight of the woman. I followed the others and we ended up in a camp in lira town where I spent the night. We were served porridge in the camp and I survived on hands outs and left over from people in the camp since only porridge wasn’t enough.

Sandra: How long did you stay in the camp and how did you leave?

Vella: I can’t remember the exact duration. Because I left the camp and started moving in the streets to beg for money and food because at times I would miss what was served in the camp and was always hungry. One day while begging, a car parked next to me and I went by the car to ask the man for some money to buy chapatti. The man did not give me the money but instead asked me why I was on the streets begging. I told him my story and he felt pity for me and asked me to go with him. We went to a hotel where I told him more about myself and he told me he was a pastor and asked me if I could go to Kampala with him and stay with his family. I accepted since I did not know the whereabouts of my siblings and we parents were dead. We left for kampala the next morning.

Sandra: What was life like with the pastor’s family?

Vella: the first week was ok. But after the pastor's wife made me a house help. I did all the house chores and looked after their little boy. The pastor promised to take me to school once the little boy was old enough to start school. When the boy was 4yrs, he was taken to kindergarten and I was enrolled at a school with reach out children’s ministry. The pastor's wife was not happy with the idea of her husband and I was always mistreated. She never appreciated anything I did, always made sure I do not have time to study but I never gave up because I loved school and the pastor also encouraged me. The pastor’s wife thought I would one day have a love affair with her husband and this always made her mistreat me. I joined secondary school and studied to senior four. I did not perform so well but the pastor did not give up on me and encouraged me to continue.
I joined A level in 2011 and that is when the pastor fell ill and dead. All my hope was gone and the wife to the pastor asked me to leave her house. i was only lucky when a meeting was held after the funeral and the friends and relatives to the pastor pleaded with her to allow me stay since there was no way i could go since the pastor brought me in when I was still very young. The pastor’s wife accepted and some money was collected for my school fees that saw me through one year. In my senior six, the pastor's wife did not want to pay for my school fees and I was always sent home for fees. I almost missed my final exams but I explained my situation to the director of the school who was so understanding and allowed me to sit for exams. During the holiday, the pastor’s wife sent me packing and said she was fed up of me staying at her house and since her husband is late I was no longer welcome. I left for lira with the help of my former classmate who took me to her mother since I did not know the way about of any of my relatives in lira.
While in lira I started looking for work to help me raise money for upkeep and one day while job hunting in town I met my cousin brother markswell who took me to his place. Life was so hard at my cousins’ home since his wife did not believe that we are cousins and thought I was her co. she mistreated me and called me all sorts of names and left my brother. We struggled with my cousin and I started making cakes that I learnt to bake from a man at the trading centre. The centre was not so safe at night so I made a kiosk from old iron sheets where I would make and sell cakes from and at times spend the night in when I could not walk back night I was gang raped by a group of men who knew that I slept in the kiosk. I conceived and contracted an STI. I wanted to abort the pregnancy but Maggie who was a friend to my cousin did not buy the idea and promised to help me rise the child. I took her word and delivered my boy Elisha through C-section. But things worsened when markswell got involved in an accident and was unconscious for three days. I had to go through his phone to ask for help from his friends since I did not have any money to take care of his hospital bills. That is when I got to know Maggie better. She helped pay for the bills and continued supporting us. After he was discharged, markwells wife got him arrested and charged him with child neglect since he was unable to help with the children’s fees. On his release he fled lira for kotido and has never returned leaving me with his three sons.

Sandra: how have you survived?

Vella: Before my cousin left for Kotido, he talked to Maggie and told her if she need to help him in any way then it should go through me. So once in a while Maggie sends me some money to help pay for rent and boy food for me and the boys. I also work in a small restaurant in the trading centre where I am paid 3000 shillings($1) every day. It helps me buy soap and at times food.

Sandra: you have been through a lot. What motivates you to keep living?

Vella: the women in church and those who live a round my village whose situations are worse than mine. Some whose lips were cut but God saved me from all that. My son also motivates me since I am his only family and he needs me for him to grow into a good man.

Sandra: what advice do you have for other people struggling with life?

Vella: never lose hope and stay strong in God. Only God can keep fighting for you even when everyone else has abandoned you. You should always wait on god to do things his way.

Sandra: thank you so much for your time and for sharing your story with me. i am so sorry for bringing back the memories. I know God is faithful and will keep watching over you.

Vella: Thank you so much for coming.

Vella prepared lunch for us and I closed in prayer before I left her house.

Update for Vella

Vella is now working for herself selling used clothing and shoes in the local market. She has moved to the town of Lira where she rents a two room house. Before she and her son and three orphans had to sleep in bar. Her income has increased from less tha one dollar a day to approximately five dollars a day. She call Rev Martin her adopted father and is in touch with him by chat most days.