Pat Kokura returned from her mission in Mbarara in 2018, but her heart remains in Uganda.
Kokura spent 20 years building Oaks of Righteousness, a home for boys abandoned on the streets in Mbarara. Now in her early 80s, the Port Alberni woman lives at Fir Park Village seniors’ home, but she is still emotionally invested in the home she helped build half a world away.
Oaks of Righteousness rescues boys abandoned in the streets of Mbarara, Uganda. Some of them have run away from their families, where they are forced into labour on the land. The youngest child Kokura ever rescued was five years old.
She still keeps in touch with the first boy she ever brought into the home and off the streets, Kahonaho.
She remembers another boy, Keith, who came to them barefoot. “When he came (in 2000) he came without shoes. He said ‘tell Muzungu (Kokura) I want shoes.’” Keith is now a university graduate.
“They are only given life to work on the land,” she said. She made it her mission to rescue the ones she could. “If nobody does it, nobody does it,” she said. “Nobody cares; there’s too many.”
When she came home in 2018, at the age of 80, Kokura knew it was time. Oaks of Righteousness is a rough-built series of buildings on an acreage in Mbarara, and she was having difficulty getting around. Her living quarters were a bit of distance away from both the kitchen and toilet facilities.
Moving home was a tough transition, she admits. She moved into the basement of a small home, her place sparse—but her own. Then she moved into Fir Park Village, where she paints watercolour paintings and pines to be outdoors. She keeps in touch with Herbert Natuhwera, who took over running the home, via computer.
When Kokura left, there was a dispute about the border between the property she purchased for Oaks of Righteousness and a neighbour. It’s not uncommon in Uganda, she says matter-of-factly. They were able to put up a fence on one side, effectively shutting down the land dispute. However, the other side now requires a fence to keep feisty neighbours away and hippos out of the garden.
(Yes, you read that correctly: they have a problem with hippopotamuses coming up from the nearby river and getting into the spinach garden.)
The property is also in dire need of a water tower to help keep the modest garden irrigated, and the pigs hydrated. The quality of the water from the river is frightening, she says.
The water tower will cost $1,200 but enable the home to retain 10,000 litres of rainwater collected from the main building’s roof. A fence is estimated at $1,500.
Kokura has raised thousands of dollars over the years for Oaks of Righteousness, and has received support from Jericho Road Church over the years. Now her role is to raise awareness. She is hoping others will step in to help Natuhwera and the boys from the street.
Anyone wishing to donate to the home may send a cheque to Into All the World at 201B-727 Woolwich St., Guelph, Ont. NIH 3Z2. For more information on the project or to donate online, go to www.iatw.ca/missionaries/natuhwera. You can designate donations to go to Oaks of Righteousness from there.
— Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor. She has followed Kokura’s story for 15 years.