My journey to Ireland began with a scholarship from Irish Aid to undertake a postgraduate taught Masters Degree in education at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick in 2018. The wonderful year of friendship in Limerick provided me with an ideal space to deepen my reflection about my life, my teaching, and the contribution I wanted to make in the world. I also discovered mindfulness during this period, and so, after graduating, I decided to enrol at University College Dublin to undertake a degree in mindfulness interventions.
I was born and raised in a small town of Katwe Kabatoro, Kasese district, in Western Uganda, on the southern shores of Lake Edward. I have six siblings: four living back in Uganda, one in Norway and the youngest in Dubai. My dad passed away when I was only seven, so my mum raised us with support from her family and friends. She later passed away in 2005 at a tender age (God bless their souls). Luckily enough, opportunities followed for me to attend university and pursue a career in teaching at King’s College Budo, in Uganda, for eight years before arriving in Ireland.
I was very lucky to get a part-time job as a carer at a private care facility that helped me meet the costs of my postgraduate studies. My first day at this part-time job was also the day I fell deeply in love with it. I was not lucky enough to get to know my grandparents because they all passed away before I was born or when I was very young. This part-time job presented me with the opportunity to have “grandparents” who did not know me from childhood, but came to love me so much, trust me, pray for me, bless me, call me by my name, and smile at my smile with so much warmth. They showed me all kinds of affection here in this foreign country that I am only beginning to get used to.
This part-time job was granted on the condition that I started the QQI course. So, the scholarship advert by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) inviting migrant women to take part in a QQI course was timely. The course in Health Care Support is funded by the European Social Fund Gender Equality Fund, under its Women’s Entrepreneurship funding Stream 2020-2022. This opportunity has introduced me to a vital ‘community of practice’, including peers who understand my working conditions, and tutors (Margaret and Allison) who are both experts and empathetic. This opportunity has meant the world to me.
In care home settings we can live a great paradox as migrant women employees. We dedicate long hours of intimate, compassionate, and caring work for the most vulnerable people in Irish society while we, ourselves, can be exposed to the underside of Ireland’s commercial and employment practices.
What we care givers would give for a life of reciprocity!
The greatest support – as always – is connection and the solidarity of others. I am surrounded by circles of support, ranging from the MRCI staff (especially Linda Keitasha who is constantly in touch and following up on our progress); tutors who are flexible, gentle and understanding; friends I have made amongst the staff at the care centre; my new friends in Ireland and friends at home, the students and staff on the mindfulness course at UCD, my colleagues in the Sanctuary Runners Limerick and Sanctuary Runners and now those with whom I have begun to share so much on the QQI course.
I am excited and looking forward to all the well-paying and emotionally, spiritually and physically rewarding work opportunities that await me as a qualified carer such as being part of Ireland’s first Great Care Co-op recently launched alongside other opportunities that arise from being a qualified mindfulness and secondary school teacher.
I’ve always known, and I am even more convinced now, that we rarely learn what is worth learning in isolation from others; education for liberation is always a joint enterprise. This is particularly true for migrant women who face challenges and who can benefit most from acts of solidarity.
Thank you, MRCI, and keep up this project.
Finally, the treasure of my Catholic faith, too, informs everything I do. For that I thank my beloved mother, Gertrude Katusabe Amooti, who continues to live out her gentle vision for me in my heart.
By Jidah Judith Kisembo