Coronavirus pandemic has reshaped me into a better person
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/04/coronavirus-pandemic-has-reshaped-me-into-a-better-person/
By John Semakula
When governments in Europe and the United States came-up with altruistic measures to help their citizens during the Coronavirus lockdown, in Uganda, we were left to fend for ourselves.
Despite the fact that the majority of Ugandans live hand to mouth and expected help from government during the lockdown, a selected few received food items. Many communities, including mine were forced to mobilise ourselves to help the most vulnerable like the elderly, the poor and children in child-headed families. This experience has reshaped my personality and worldview.
For a video showing food distribution in Uganda, click here
Before the lockdown, I did not care much about community. If I had food on my table, I was mindless about the needy in the community; someone always did that job anyway.
However, the lockdown has molded me into a better person. I have learned to share with others and be keen about what goes on in my community. When the government of Uganda declared a partial lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 17, I plunged into thoughts about how my family would go through it. I stay with seven relatives in Mukono town, central Uganda.
Although I am a salaried employee at Uganda Christian University, the lockdown was abrupt and yet the situation required that I should help close family members whose incomes were affected by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Some of them operated casual businesses that had to close.
However, as I was still lost in thought, wondering what to do, I received a call from my father in the village offering us food from his garden. This has turned out to be our lifeline. Whenever we run out of food, I send a motorist to collect from my dad.
This kindness from my father has helped not only my siblings and me but also some of my neighbors. My siblings and I had to share the little we get from dad and the meager monetary resources I had saved up before the lockdown. My father has taught me an invaluable lesson in adulthood and I had to reciprocate his kindness.
I have also seen hundreds of other Ugandans donate food, cash and other critical items to the coronavirus national taskforce that was set up by the government to receive financial and food aid from members of the public for distribution to the most vulnerable. This was uncommon before the outbreak of the pandemic. I have discovered that Ugandans are a good people and that if we had been helping one another before, we would have been a better society.
I have also had to help several of my neighbors who need small cash handouts to feed and support their families in other ways during the lockdown.
On Tuesday April 14, a father of six including a pair of twins came to me at 8 p.m. to ask for a loan of $6. He said, “…if you do not help me out today, my family will go without food for the next three days…” I was forced to surrender part of my week’s small budget to him.
Within less than a week, on April 19, another neighbor, who had a patient at a nearby hospital, also asked me for a favor of sh40, 000 ($12) to transfer him for specialised treatment to another facility. I gave it to him out of sympathy. Before the Coronavirus pandemic, he worked in Kame Valley Market in Mukono town and like other traders, the lockdown has rendered him helpless.
Although markets are allowed to operate, only those trading in food items are allowed to work, the rest of traders like my neighbor, have to close. That is how my life has changed during the lockdown. But I thank God who has been merciful to my family because we are still alive when thousands of others around the world have succumbed to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, since the University where I work shut down on March 17, I have been operating from home, preparing for the reopening and the next semester. I am also going through students’ research proposals and internship reports. In addition, I am taking this time to come up with and bounce off different COVID-19 related research ideas with colleagues; hopefully we will have a research paper at the end of the year.
I see light at the end of the tunnel.
But the Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown have taught me a lot of lessons in life that will remain fresh on my memory until death. I have never seen people the world-over suffer and die at this rate. I also have learned that in Africa we survive by the mercy of God. I will continue to exalt Him as the most supreme.
John Semakula is the supervisor of The Standard newspaper under the Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication at Uganda Christian University (UCU). He is a UCU graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Masters of Arts in Journalism and Media Studies.
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