Meet Tom. Tom is an integral part of our ministry here in Uganda. Tom wears many hats; he manages the compound (our yard), he is security during the day, he mans the gate and feeds and manages all of our guard dogs. There is not a person that gets through the gates without going through Tom first. Even if you are a frequent visitor, you have to go through Tom.
One of the best things about Tom is his smile. Those of you who have met Tom know that you cannot help but be affected by his contagious smile.
Tom is 19 years old and comes from a village up north past Gulu called Adak. Back home in his village, Tom owns a plot of land and owns two cows and two goats, you will see later how important these goats are. Tom came to know the Lord at a young age. He told me he was saved at a young age, around P3, which is around 3rd grade. He came to know Jesus through always going to church with his mother.
We all have a story to tell and Tom is no different. For two days I have had the pleasure of sitting down with Tom to hear his story. I have always respected Tom and his work ethic, but after sitting with him for the last two days I have a much greater appreciation and admiration for Tom. His story is one of struggle and perseverance.
Tom completed his studies through senior level 4, which would be the equivalent of finishing High School in America. Getting to that level was quiet an accomplishment. At an early age Tom was required to help dig in the garden each morning. His day would start at 5am when his mother would wake him to come help dig in the garden. Yes, I said 5am, I do not function at 5am much less be ready to dig in the garden. That is hard work. He would have to dig with the hoe to get the ground ready for planting, after planting they would have to keep the weeds away. He would dig in the garden until 9am and then rush and get cleaned up and ready for school. After his studies at school he would come home and help dig in the garden again. When it came time during the 3rdand final term of Primary 7, Tom was forced to miss 3 weeks of school because of caring for the beans. It was nearing time for the beans to be harvested and they needed extra care and attention, so school became secondary to caring for the garden. It was school or survival. Due to this 3-week absence Tom became very worried about passing his end of the year exams. Tom was ready to give up and stop his schooling, however Tom’s brother convinced him to prepare for the exams and to continue on with schooling. His brother convinced him he was struggling so much with school, not because he was not smart enough, but because he had to work so hard at home. Tom was able to pass his exams and was eligible to continue on to Senior 1.
Raising the fees to go to school is a constant struggle for many here in Uganda. Tom worked hard and had a plan in place to pay for each term. To pay school fees for the first term Tom used money he had earned by selling the things he raised in the garden by digging during the holidays. By this point Tom had acquired two goats, these goats started producing babies, he was able to sell the babies and make enough money to pay for his second term. The third term was always the biggest struggle, but he was able to raise enough money by selling the beans he had planted during the first term holidays. Tom said, “By senior 2 I had tasted the goodness of my education and wanted to stay.” By his hard work and planning he was able to raise enough money to stay in school.
During his time in school his fellow students elected Tom as a Prefect during S3. As a Prefect he was a representative of the students. It was during this time that the students wanted to go on strike. They were frustrated with the teachers and the way things were happening at school. Tom was able to sit down as a representative of the students with the teachers and they were able to reach a compromise, the strike was cancelled.
After completing his exams for Senior 4, Tom was again struggling and worried about the results of his exams. Before the results came in, he got a call from his cousin Apio informing him of a job in Jinja. Since Tom doubted his exam scores, he decided to come to Jinja and begin working. When the exam results came in, Tom had passed! This meant he could go on to the Advanced level for two years, start working as a primary teacher or go onto other levels of courses to prepare him for the work world.