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A Short Story About Honours and Heroes

The recent Queen’s birthday Honours’ List was announced in the press with its usual focus on entertainers and sports personalities recognised for their contributions to making us laugh and cheer. But it’s often more inspiring to read about those who have tirelessly volunteered in their local hospitals, youth groups or day centres and also gained recognition for their arguably more useful work. The honours system has long needed reform even before the corruption allegations that now besiege it, but it’s fair to say that the list contains many more of these local heroes than the high profile award winners always brought to our attention by a celebrity-obsessed media.

In Africa there is no honours system. The inspirational people supported by Advantage Africa work way beyond the reach of any kind of publicity or financial reward. For many, it is only their faith and empathy with those living in extreme poverty that motivates them. Jacqueline Nakyne is one such local hero in the community of Bombo, a small village in central Uganda where half of all the children have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS. Jacqui single-handedly runs a nursery school for up to 30 children in the village. The poverty there is so extreme that few of the children’s parents are able to pay the £3 per term fees. After Jacqui has bought stationery and equipment there is next to nothing available for her own salary. Jacqui’s love for the children in her care and the sheer resilience that comes from being a poor person in Africa drive her on. ‘Life in Bombo is always hard, but me and my friends here [the children] are just used to it’ she says.

Now, recognition and partnership with others are nurturing Jacqui’s hope for the future. school has When the mud-built nursery building started to collapse and became too dangerous for the kept me going children, the local council persuaded a businessman to temporarily provide one of his every day outbuildings rent free. More recently, support from Advantage Africa has enabled work to begin on a brand new nursery and primary school in Bombo - the first the village has ever since I heard about it.

Jacqui will never get an OBE, but I hope that her confidence will rise as more people recognise the value of her efforts. She and the children will soon have facilities to be proud of and Jacqui will have a regular salary to ensure her own family doesn’t go hungry. More children in Bombo will have the chance of an education and to be inspired
by her example, and some will be spared nearly ten miles of walking a day to reach their current place of learning.

When Nelson Mandela was asked ‘Who is your hero?’ he said: ‘My hero does not depend on the position a person occupies. My heroes are those simple men and women who have committed themselves to fighting poverty wherever that is to be found in the world… As long as there are such men and women, the world will continue to
be a better place to live in.’

Andrew Betts, Director

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