Allan and Maggie Ssemugenyi October 2016. London, ON, Canada

On the morning of March 24th, 2002 (15 years ago today) my wife and I found ourselves standing outside the Washington-Dulles Airport. We had made it to America against all odds; we were now standing on American soil. A huge answer to prayer.

All along I had been envisioning this to be a moment of glowing gratitude for answered prayers, a triumphant victory for our entire family. However, I found myself sick with confusion and indescribable agony. The reason? I had left (at least temporarily) our children behind in Uganda.

I was now safe in the USA, while our 1, 5, 8 and 12 year old children were left to fend for themselves back in Uganda, in a land with a history of not always protecting its own. It is where I had left my little ones with someone I had known for only a few short days.

The Ssemugenyi family together again in Canada. Circa 2006.

My wife, Maggie and I had no time to think about our decision to leave for America. More on that later.

Maggie and I first applied for the American travel Visa on the prior Thursday. Maggie was granted a visa but I was denied. However, I still needed to leave the country immediately.

I decided (albeit illogical) to reapply for a U.S. visa. The chances of succeeding were slim. I waited patiently at the U.S. Embassy and at the very last moment before closing, my name was called. I was granted my visa to the USA!

We boarded our jet and off we went to America. When the pilot announced that we were about to land, a harrowing feeling came over me, my heart was now in my throat. I knew that even though we both had U.S. visa’s in hand, we could still be denied entrance to the USA.

While standing in the U.S. customs line I witnessed several people being taken aside for further screening. My anxieties skyrocketed. As I approached the customs booth, my heartbeat grew wild. I felt my entire body shaking, but I tried to control myself as I hastily handed my passport to the agent. After a few short questions, I was on the other side of the booth. I was in the United States of America. I was permitted entry into the land of the free, but was I free?

After collecting our bags, I came to the stark realization that we had made it into the United States of America, at the cost of abandoning our children leaving them to fend for themselves. A mixed range of emotions and thoughts made my head spin. I was intoxicated with confusion.

Our journey had begun. We had safely made it out of Uganda. Little did I know that it would take years before we would see our children again.

Why did we leave? What happened to our children? And how did we end up in Canada to start an organization called “Childlife Network International”.

More to follow.


CNI, March 25, 2017 12:01 am