A tribute to Christine Lubwama (1949 – 2020), a Community Cornerstone

If you are about to give up your dreams due to life’s challenges, stop. Think about Christine Lubwama, who you probably knew as, “Musaawo.” 

If you are about to give up your dreams due to life’s challenges, stop.

Think about Christine Lubwama, who you probably knew as, “Musaawo.”  Christine founded the Eseri Clinic in Mukono, was an advocate of women and children’s health, a God-fearing woman of impeccable community service, died on 18th April 2020, aged 71.

Christine was born on 30th September 1949 in Bweza Ssese to Henry Wamala (RIP) of Nkima Clan and Dorothy Manjeri Namusoke Wamala (RIP), a year in history when the Apartheid became an official government policy in South Africa, and the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb. She was born into a world of unfairness and war that hardened her resilience to leave it a better place.

She did.

She is survived by six children – Stella Mirembe, Dr Linda Nabitaka Magumba, Jimmy Mayanja, Ethel Lubwama, Angella Kizito and Denis Ssempala, 15 grandchildren and four siblings – Catherine Senoga, Sunny Zirabamuzale, Eseza Nakirinya, Margaret Kanyali and  Edward Katumba Wamala.

Those who knew Christine say she was a community cornerstone. A woman of the people. Someone who believed and practised the popular Indian mantra, “help three people, and ask them to help other three people” for social transformation and empowerment. She was a woman of action, always going the extra mile to help out.

Driven to solve community challenges circa 1989, she established the first-ever women’s clinic in Mukono. She was passionate about maternal and child health and nutrition. At the time, there were limited quality services for health care, most women in Mukono used to go to traditional birth attendants until Musawo Eseri provided a better option. To date, the Eseri Clinic continues to create awareness about the safe delivery, adolescent, and women’s health. Isaac of Mukono District Health office, said that “Eseri Clinic always conformed to guidelines set by Ministry of Health, Mrs Christine Lubwama led the way in ensuring private sector learns to work within the public guidance and collaboration. She was one of the first private sector people to take up and offer free essential health services including immunization, HIV care and treatment family planning and although the clinic was profit making, these add ons were given free of charge just like a public health facility. At some point Mukono town had only two facilities, Mukono Dispensary with limited service and Mukono  COU Health Centre. Eseri clinic was the first private facility to offer  an alternative for women’s reproductive services especially for those who wished to have a different alternative.”

Christine’s early life was influenced by her big sister, Catherine, who took care of her. Her dad. And of course, her husband who introduced her to ignited her passion for business.

Christine started school at age six at Kasaka Girls School, Gomba with the support of her older sister, Catherine Senoga, a teacher in the same school at the time. Two years later, her sister was transferred to Mbale Primary School in the Mpigi district. They moved together. She then joined Kiira Girl’s School, and later Wandegeya Primary School, where she completed Standard 8.  Christine then got an opportunity to study Nursing at Mulago Nurse Training School where she successfully studied Midwifery.

Her first posting was to Mulago Referral Hospital, then Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, and later Nakasongola Hospital, and ended her full-time employment at Gulu Hospital, where she left to explore career opportunities in business and finance.

She always wanted to do more. To expand her horizons.

In 1974, she got an opportunity to study banking and accountancy at a college in Nairobi. She took it. Upon completion, she returned and got a job with the Cooperative Bank at the head office in Kampala, and later was posted at the bank’s branch in Kayunga.

True to the saying, ‘good luck is when preparedness meets opportunity, Christine always remained prepared for opportunities. The ability to put on hold her Midwifery career, to take up a new challenge in accountancy and banking training is something interesting about her outlook on life. And it is a good lesson for many young people to learn about letting go for some time, to explore new things, to gain perspectives through exposure to progress.  Indeed, her new training opened new doors, and would later prove critical for her new role as Founder and Managing Director of a clinic.

As a bank employee, she learned about the rural farmer’s scheme set up by the bank to support farmers in value addition. With the support of her husband, she resigned her role to avoid potential conflict of interest, then applied and was enrolled on the scheme which contributed to her success as a businesswoman trading majorly in coffee, one of the key crops funded under the scheme and also Uganda’s flagship foreign exchange earner.

For some reason, she remained restless. What does not change, does not grow to its full potential. And the fact that the coffee business was not doing fine to her expectations, Midwifery is where her heart was. Increasing cases of maternal death and similar health problems in the community attracted her back to health services.

In 1989, Christine returned to her first profession of Midwifery by opening a private domiciliary clinic in Mukono, ESERI Clinic, where she has been working as the Managing Director, till her demise.

Mrs Lubwama always found time for community service.

She was a member of several community organisations including the Christian Women Federation, Mukono Charity Development Group, Uganda Private Midwives Association and St. Datsun Church of Uganda, which she generously contributed towards its building. Thanks to her community service and impact, in 2019 she received special recognition from USAID for promoting reproductive health, and another from Uganda Virus Research Institute for consistency in the fight against HIV in 2017; and from Safe Care Uganda for promoting Women’s Health in 2016.

Last days

Family and friends had just celebrated a thanksgiving mass in December 2019. The late was very insistent on having a thanksgiving. Christine talked passionately about her brainchild, Eseri Clinic, to be well run to continue providing essential care to the community.  This passionate appeal led to the birth of the Eseri Women’s Initiative, which is held every quarter to create awareness about women health, and Eseri Hearts and Hands, which provides free services like medical checkups and counselling during open days to members of the community.

General Katumba Wamala, the younger brother of the late, remembers the late as someone who completed whatever she started. He said:

“My late sister was older than me by about eight years. I did not have an opportunity to experience childhood playtime with her. She taught me several practical life lessons especially house choirs, academics, and discipline when I lived with her in Bukomero during one of the school holidays. She was about 18 years, and I was in P.4 by then, 10 or 11 years. She was disciplined. She loved books and schoolwork was a priority. Later, I escorted her to Nakasongola, and again went under her wings when she was working with the cooperative bank.

Our parents had nine children. And I would say we were born in clusters of three, in terms of our birth dates. The first three (two sisters and a brother) were very close because they were born next to each up and grew up together. Then the middle set of three also was close. We were the last cluster of three.

For us, we were both lucky and unlucky. By the time we began school, the first cluster was graduating and took care of us. Each one of them picked one of us to educate and mentor.  That is how Christine ended up with our firstborn, the teacher. And I ended up with my brother. During our primary school, our parents were old people also being cared for by our other elder brothers and sisters. That is the benefit of parenting.  The first two sisters and a brother were very close. And then another group, which also grew together. However, for us in the third cluster, our big sisters and brother took us separate ways.

She loved our parents.

christine Lubwama with Sister at Tony Sendi her nephew’s wedding

Three people influenced her a lot. Her Dad. Her Husband. And our elder sister, the teacher. Our father was a hardworking man. She learned a lot from him. Mr Lubwama, the father of her children, was an enterprising man. He inculcated in her the business mind. Originally, she was satisfied with what she was doing in the bank. But her husband made her change her outlook. And thanks to her focus and winning attitude, she turned out to be a serious businesswoman.

Christine loved making friends. I stayed with her after my senior four and then during my senior six holidays when she was still working with a bank in Kayunga. I found her with really great friends – those who genuinely support each other, make merry and are happy around each other. Though not an outgoing person, she had great friends.

“Bisajiko” was her first nickname while she worked in a government hospital, and later when she began Eseri clinic, they nicknamed her “Musaawo”. She got exposed to many businesspeople and started a business. When her coffee business experienced challenges, she the started Eseri clinic.

The happiest moment was when the family got together. She also loved her children. Much as she was a tough lady, the tough mother love. She loved her children not to go astray to ensure the children remained in line.

Christine was a go-getter. If she wanted to do something, she did all she could to get it. Her determination was infectious. She would focus on the issue at hand until she got it to its logical conclusion.

My last moment with her

The last moment was when she was in the hospital. The time I was able to be with her alone, was when she started getting sick. Of course, her worry was always her children. She was always stressed about how she could ensure her children love each other and work together. And this was from the fact that for us in our family, we loved one another a lot. She always worried about her children bonding, loving one another, and working together.

She always told me my brother help my children be together. Let them work together. If we believe in people resting in real peace, the children should stay together, love each other. That is what she wished for them. If they do that, they will make her soul rest in peace.

As a family we miss her. Even some of our children, remember her for being a disciplinarian who is good in life. Love without discipline is destructive. May her soul rest in peace.”

Margaret Kanyali, a sister to late Christine, said:

“I cried so much when you passed away and it still pains me because you never told me why you had called me. I tried to call you, to joke, but you could not open your mouth anymore. I still remember that look on your face. I miss you every moment when I want to take a phone to call you. We did not grow together. We saw each other in our teen ages, and we became real, real friends.

You were a very hard-working woman and very persistent when you started something, you made sure you saw it through.  I learned from you that ‘when you do decide to do something and do it well, your efforts are rewarded.’ I remember we discussed and agreed that if you came to Nairobi, I would sponsor your banking and accountancy course. Though you were pregnant, you accepted the challenge and endured the Nairobi weather and graduated. When again you decided to go back to nursing, you started small but made a great name for Eseri Clinic. With your hands and love, you made many mothers in Mukono smile as they saw their newborn babies. My sister, you were a very caring person and a counsellor. Since you left us, it has been very hard to bear, going places without you, but what counsels me is that I know you are in a better place. Rest in peace my sister, my friend.”

Many other people had a lot to say about the late. Ethel Florence Namazzi said:

Mrs Christine Lubwama lived an exemplary life that was very transparent. A life of self-denial for the good of others, a very loving mother to her family, generous to everybody and always ready and willing to serve others. Her life was greatly admired by many.

She was not just a friend to me, but a mentor, sister, counsellor, and a mother to so many, even to my children. When I read Romans 6:8, which says, “if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” Mrs Lubwama was a woman of God and rested in Jesus Christ. I am sure she went to be near Him in heaven.

It is therefore my prayer that all her children may walk in her footsteps with love, kindness, and unity. I am very sure we are going to meet in the new life with her. Revelations 21:4; “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” We sorely miss you.

And the Kizitos: Alfred, Milly, Alfridah and Andrea, said:

“Despite the depth of our grief, there is virtue and honour when we pause to remember the life of a mother to all of us, Mrs Christine Lubwama.

She was a cornerstone of her community, her daily acts of kindness, love, and willingness to help left a void when she departed. Her legacy will live on within our hearts who knew her as a family lady, indeed, Mrs Christine loved and treasured her family and community. She continues to be dearly missed.”

Sula Lutaaya said:

“When my back was against the wall, I remember where I could go, the one who helped me again as she helped me before, went out of her way to let me know that am never alone.

You taught me how to be weak. You taught me how to be strong. Taught me not to accept defeat – I go all out or be gone. But it is not the same in the streets now that you have gone, you are now in heaven on the throne exactly where you belong… I know you are watching over us and since you left, I have wished for someone like you Mum. Will always appreciate you Mum because there is no one like you. Will always remember you right.

Thanks for raising me to be the man I am today.”

 

Her death

The late was diagnosed with multiple myeloma – a cancer of the bone marrow in July 2018. She received chemotherapy in Uganda and later in India, where she travelled twice.   Her candle burned out on 18th April 2020, at 20:55. As it is written in the Bible, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my race, I have kept the faith.” 2Timothy 4:7.

“Nwanye okulwana okulungi, olugendo ndutuusizza, okukkiriza nkukuumye.” Timoseewo Eky’okubiri 4:7.

Christine Lubwama kept her faith to the last breath.

May Her Soul Rest in Eternal Peace.

[Mrs Christine Lubwama]

[The Blood drive is an annual event Eseri clinic runs to commemorate Christine’s birthday- it was her brain child].

By Mr. Mustapha Barnabas Mugisa

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