S S E M B A T Y A   S C H O L A R S H I P

Very rarely, if ever, do we meet someone and instantly know that he will have a profound impact on our lives. Everyone who has had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ssembatya John knows that he is the exception. He was our translator, our comedian, our friend, our mentor, and our father. John displayed a commitment to bettering the lives of everyone around him. He worked with Action in Africa for many years because he knew he could change the lives of hundreds of students, giving them opportunities he felt every Ugandan citizen deserved. For this reason, Action in Africa has created the Ssembatya Scholarship Fund, named after our dear friend. John always wanted us to give our students the ability to continue their education, and with the Ssembatya Scholarship Fund, we will be able to do just that, sending several students to university each year.

M E E T   P A D D Y

Starting first with his son, Kimbowa Paddy, this fund will pick one university student at a time to help see them all the way through achieving their diplomas. In December 2014, Paddy completed the first semester of his Civil Engineering diploma. We are honored to play a role in helping him accomplish his dreams.

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A   T R I B U T E   TO   U N C L E   J O H N

BY MICHAEL SCHWARTZ

Very rarely, if ever, do we meet someone and instantly know that he will have a profound impact on our lives. Everyone who has had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ssembatiya John knows that he is the exception.

John, as he was affectionately known by the Action in Africa team, is the type of person that you cannot truly understand without meeting—a character so unique that saying he is out of a movie doesn’t do him justice, as no screenwriter or author is creative enough to think up a protagonist like John. Still, I will do my best to describe John, and in doing so, detail the difference he has made both in my life and all of those close to him.

To call someone a genuinely good person is a simple thing—a phrase the gets tossed around fairly liberally—but true righteousness is hard to find. John constantly embodied this idea, as he demonstrated unparalleled compassion, kindness, and empathy on an every day basis. His primary concern had nothing to do with his own well-being, but rather focused on all of those close to him. He treated our entire team like his children, and he truly became our Ugandan father.

Today when I think back on John, certain images stand out. He had the brightest smile, and I honestly don’t know if that’s because he had extraordinarily white teeth or because he was smiling ALL of the time. I’m going to go with the latter. His eyes had a soft sternness, giving him a controlling presence when he directed our construction and a gentle sincerity when he asked how you were feeling. His laugh, a shrill, high-pitched shriek that faded into a deep chuckle, had put a smile on everyone’s face. And then of course, there’s the classic “whoo” that he would shout at the end of every speech (and there were many, as John was quite the talker). John would go up in front of a crowd of Ugandans and Americans and tell a story, transitioning between English and Lugandan. Each team he finished his Lugandan portion, all of the Africans would be rolling around laughing, and we were soon to join them after he delivered the English translation.

And man, could John weave a story. I’m telling you, if that man had tried to write a book, he could have been a best-seller. John really had a way with the word and a flare for the dramatic. You never quite knew what you were going to get, as his stories ranged from playing picking up basketball with famed Uganda dictator Idi Amin, and getting trapped in a hole for three days after a bike accident. Either way, he could captivate an audience.

But above all else, John displayed a commitment to bettering the lives of everyone around him. He worked with Action in Africa because he knew he could change the lives of hundreds of primary school students, giving them opportunities he felt every Ugandan citizen deserved. I can only strive to be like John in my own life, a task that will be nearly impossible. However, I am confident that even falling short will help me change the world, as John did more than that.

Now that John has passed, we can only look back on his life, and all of the incredible things that he has done, and smile. I may have lost my African father last week, but heaven gained quite the entertainer. His spirit will live on through all of us, as he we try to embody and mimic the incredible man that John was and continues to be in heaven.

For this reason, Action in Africa is creating the Ssembatya scholarship in his name, intended to raise money both to send his son, Ssembatya Paddy, a talented engineer, to university and give our students at St. Johnson’s Primary School the ability to apply for secondary school scholarships. John always wanted us to give all of our students the ability to continue their education, and with the Ssembatya scholarship program, we will do just that.

John’s passing has been very difficult on all of us, but goodness must come out of tragedy. This is a lesson that John taught me, and one that seems to make more sense now than ever before. He would be pleased to know that his death has led to the betterment of many Ugandan lives.
Now that John has left us, I can still hear his voice from across the table: "Michael, eat your Matoke." For you, John, Ill eat every last bite. I love and miss you, as does everyone at Action in Africa. May you rest in peace.