So I am excited about what the next thirty years could bring, especially with the involvement and the initiative of young people.
Reverend Canon Gideon Byamugisha is an Anglican priest in Uganda who spearheads a Faith Inspired Organization outside of Kampala called “Friends Of Canon Gideon Foundation (FOCAGIFO) that runs a youth training vocational Institute . Byamugisha also co-founded the African Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Personally Affected HIV and AIDS ‘ANERELA’
MG: What would help you to boost your projects?
GB: I work with young people. I really have this passion of ensuring that they get (the young people) holistic education, integrated training in skills, and all-round accompaniment, so that they can graduate when they have health competence, spiritual empowerment, gai and gainful skills for productive employment[…] I also work to contribute to bring about socio-economic, spiritual and educational environments that promote their t health and wellbeing – especially public health and population health. Health is not just a personal good. It is also a public good. There are aspects of our health that are not within our control.
As such; good health is not only a result of what we do or not do at personal level. It is also what is done or not done to us and for us in our human environment. So, what would really boost my programs now are in three areas :
- One is the technical support to generate evidence. For example, we have graduated 1608 students up-to-date. We need well researched evidence and verifiable indicators to help us know that there was change, there was impact, and that they are living a better life (compared to those youths who are not graduates of the same training package).
- We also need technical support in writing proposals, in stimulating partnerships, and strengthening local community collaboration with the institute, and so forth.
- The other area is finance. Certainly, you need money to get good teachers, good trainers, but also to subsidize the education of young people who can’t afford. And the last one is the infrastructure. It’s a lot of money, but there are people that can give things in-kind to support the program. I need prayer also, from people who pray, because we know prayers bring miracles.
What recommendation would you give to the youth?
The recommendation really is, first of all, to believe in themselves. Not to be intimidated by what people say about them. I think what God says about young people is more important than what society talks about them. So self-esteem and self-belief, that bring about that level of faith and hope to know that tomorrow can be better than what it is now. And- youths should work together in terms of collaboration, networking and alliance building. Like this youth training and youth empowerment ministry, I’m doing with teams at the Friends of Canon Gideon Foundation; I would really want many young people to be involved in leadership, in governance, in planning, and in evaluating the programs, activities and projects. So, young people’s leadership is critical, in almost everything, because that ensures that we don’t scratch where it’s not hurting. But if young people are involved, then they can help us to really focus on the real problem.
Can you share with us your vision of the world for the next thirty years?
Oh, in the next thirty years my vision for the world is a great one. I see strong t collaborations and the partnerships between Ahimsa and many others who are interested in making good health contagious !!! Within the next thirty years I see a mass social movement of young people, young adults and seniors, who have been educated and trained and have graduated with six characteristics: they are health competent in many areas. They are spiritually empowered not to do things that can harm others. They are trained in technological skills and are innovative and creative in things they do. They are productively employed rather than being unemployed or underemployed. – That means. They can put food on the table, they can pay for their health bills and they can educate their children well without being limited by household poverty. I see people who are more sensitive to the social challenges, social injustices and the social inequity that people go through that either cause ill health or make ill-health worse. I see more people and more graduates, who are more involved in protecting the environment and who care deeply about the ecology and the ecosystems that help form, sustain and enhance life. In thirty years’ time we would have achieved a lot on consolidating sustainable security, heath, peace, prosperity and functional unity among and within the States that make Up the African Union. So, I am excited about what the next thirty years could bring, especially with the involvement and leadership initiative of young people.
What is the influence of faith in the health area for you?
I think faith in my part has played a very big role in, first of all, shaping my life, informing my hope and embodying my courage. My faith has helped me to know that even though I’m passing through life, health and ministry challenges; I’m not facing them alone because I have belief in God- Emmanuel. God Emmanuel means God with us. So, if you have a faith that says whatever challenge comes your way, your God is with you in the challenge; then you fight better, you have more resilience and you anticipate miracles in terms of what you are doing. So, faith is very important in knowing that when we do what we can; our God does what we can’t! Also my personal and ecclesiastical faith is important in helping me to know that that same God, who provides me with miracles, through friends, through good professionals and through good mentors; that same God is and should be available to others. So, not only do I look at myself and become satisfied with what miracles God has given me in health, education and in life in general; I also want that those types of miracles (and even better), to be accessible to many other people, many other families and many other communities an especially in those countries and regions that are struggling with issues of inequity. In such countries and regions; those persons and families that have much, have a lot. And those that have little are really too poor. I think my faith says no!!!!! That is not good. It is not Fair and It’s not just, and it is not godly! If we are all created in the image of God, if we are created with equal dignity, then all of us should enjoy all these things that bring us health, well-being and peace.
MG: When did you decide that you should create Friends of Canon Gideon Foundation?
GB: I lost my wife to a sudden pneumonia in 1991 and shortly after that, six months to be exact, medical professionals and family relatives who knew something I did not know by then about pneumonias and HIV told me that my wife had actually died of an AIDS-related illness, so I went for HIV testing. And when I tested the counseling professionals told me I was HIV positive. And of course at that time in 1992 there was a lot of stigma, a lot of shame. And there was a lot of fear about dying quickly. So, I opened up. I opened up to people because I wanted to fight AIDS and change attitudes. And when I opened up to people, many of my friends and family and church communities responded by creating a fellowship of prayer, care and support we called Friends of Gideon Fellowship(FOGIFE) . So, it was not a foundation from the start. Rather; it was a fellowship- friends of Gideon fellowship- which was set up to give me prayer, give me support, and help me with positive living. But later on in 2003, it was registered as Friends of Canon Gideon Foundation, which now works to improve the lives of young people through the FOCAGIFO Hope Institute for Transformational Leadership, through the Hope University Building Project and also through the Hope Social Enterprise to give young people: jobs and incomes, but also internship opportunities to grow their business skills and the leadership values and other life competencies to knowhow to plan their future well.