KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
They say behind every successful organization, there’s a lady.
Or at least – they should say that.
For KIHEFO, that lady is none other than Kyampeire Carol. She’s been at the heart of the organization since 2007, and pushing the organization forward in her role as a talented, dedicated leader since 2008. Carol is KIHEFO’s Programs Coordinator and “the boss” of a forty-plus staff and volunteer team, which is no easy task. For that, she’s been given many a nickname by her playful, ever laughing staff, including “The Iron Lady.”
Why Iron Lady? The KIHEFO Family knows – you don’t disappoint Carol. She’s an intelligent, driven, creative and highly principled leader, and she expects a lot from everyone, no matter their age, gender, or role within the organization. She’s tough.
But she’s only tough because she has to be. Because there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the ground in southwestern Uganda. And because of who she is, Carol wants to be at the heart of it. The truth is, even if you sit down and talk with Carol for fifteen minutes, she’ll let you into her heart. She’s a passionate and compassionate human being who, truly, at the end of the day (and many, many long days) she loves what she does, and she loves being a part of KIHEFO. And she wants to tell you about it.
Carol’s Humbled, Inspired Beginnings – Girl Education to Social Work Intern
Carol grew up in southwestern Uganda. She describes herself as a real Mukiga woman. Mukiga kabisa. The real deal, basically. Carol was raised in the village of Maheru, Nyarurambi, Mparo of the Kabale District. Her parents died when she was five years old, and so she and her brother and sisters were raised by her grandmother, who, Carol gratefully recalled, “recognized the importance of giving girls an education.”
Today Carol’s inspiration draws from the role her grandmother played in her life.
“She told me that I could be anything I wanted to in the world…I did so well in school just because of her,” Carol said, smiling from the warm memory of her grandmother.
After completing secondary school, Carol had the opportunity to travel to Kampala and embark upon a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Social Administration. Initially, she had considered studying law, but as the date drew closer to make a decision, her heart told her that law “wouldn’t give her the joy she wanted” and so she decided to study social work at Kampala International University.
In 2007, Carol returned to Kabale where she was placed with KIHEFO to complete a three-month internship as part of her social work studies. Carol had formerly met Dr. Geoffrey Anguyo, Executive Director, as a patient at the Kigongi Clinic, but now she began to work closely under his mentorship and approach to providing services.
Carol began working at the KIHEFO HIV/Aids Clinic as a counselor, offering people who were diagnosed and living HIV+ with social and emotional support. She vividly remembered one of the cases from her internship that both challenged and inspired her.
Carol described receiving a patient who was a woman in her fifties who had come to the Kigongi Clinic because she was convinced she had malaria. The woman had been battling various illnesses for many years, and had been to the hospital and many other clinics, though no one could solve the problem of her ongoing poor health. Carol persuaded the woman to be tested for HIV. In all of her hospital visits, the woman had never been tested before. She agreed.
Carol remembered feeling a great nervousness before sharing with the woman her results. She had tested positive.
“As an intern, having to give a positive result…you have to start the counseling afresh…and get her background. Was she married, raped? Where was the source?”
The woman slowly began sharing her story with Carol. She had been forced by her parents to marry a man when she was twenty-five years old. The man begun to drink a lot, and beat her to the point that she ran away from home. She was gang-raped by a group of men, and eventually returned to her parent’s home. She never married again.
“That situation really shocked me,” Carol expressed, “I asked her – how long has she been falling sick? Seven years…I was really touched. [It taught me] how domestic violence can bring HIV into the home, and today I see many of those cases.”
Carol supported the woman to go onto drug-treatment, and remembered how relieved the woman was that she finally, after so many years, knew the root cause of her sickness.
“She told me,” Carol fondly recalled, “‘I will live to remember you.’”
Back to KIHEFO – Becoming an Administrative Leader
Inspired by her experiences as an intern at KIHEFO, Carol finished her dissertation on “the role of NGOs [to support] people living with HIV” but not before her phone began to ring and ring…and ring. Who was on the other line? It was Dr. Anguyo, wondering when she’d finally graduate and come back to volunteer with KIHEFO.
Graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree, and having lived for three years in Kampala, Carol could’ve stayed on longer in the city and landed a paid non-profit job. But being “independent-minded” and drawn to the heart of KIHEFO’s approach and work, Carol agreed to take Dr. Anguyo up on his offer, and packed her bags for Kabale.
While Carol had previously worked as a counselor during her internship, when she returned to KIHEFO, Dr. Anguyo tasked her with administrative responsibilities.
As an administrator, Carol really found her niche.
“[At first] I was a person growing on trial. But Dr. Geoffrey really gave me the skills, and I learned that I [could] sit down and find a problem and immediately find a solution when I didn’t expect it,” Carol explained with a big grin.
In 2009, KIHEFO partnered with Change for Children Association, a Canadian-based organization, and received funding for an Agro-Innovation Project in villages surrounding Kabale. Carol was appointed the Program Coordinator and began to work closely under KIHEFO’s unique model to partner with ngozi village groups.
“The model we use here is not used anywhere else,” Carol stressed, “KIHEFO is a program, and others have projects. We deal with communities and groups already rooted in the community. They will always be in the communities…whereas [other organizations] “create” groups and when the funding ends, the groups also die.”
Every time you visit the field, you experience something new. This is Carol’s mantra, and she admits, over the past six years, she’s learned a lot from people in the villages.
“The people are genuine. They want to give back in whatever way they can – with food and dance. I love our culture – we’re warm and welcoming.”
A Multi-Talented Woman Working for Change
Apart from her work as the Programs Coordinator, Carol is a busy lady in the community with other work and volunteer commitments. She works with the District Network for People Living with HIV as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, and also serves as the Volunteer Coordinator of the Kabale Civil Society Forum. Additionally, Carol volunteers as the President Elect of the ROTARACT Kabale Club.
“I find I’m really multi-focused…one day you’re doing government related work, the next you’re doing HIV counseling, or organizing dental camps!” Carol laughed.
“But I really love it – at the end of it all, you reach to the people, you tell them what’s happening and you see that people are really benefitting. Somewhere [all the work] is connected, it’s hectic…but I really love the work!”
Growing with KIHEFO – The Past, Present and Future
In 2008, when Carol agreed to come volunteer with KIHEFO, she never could’ve imagined that today she’d still be working with the organization. Over the years, she’s seen many changes and improvements in the stream-lining of processes at KIHEFO. She’s met many international volunteers who have come to KIHEFO to learn from their unique approach. And she’s been inspired by all the progress made.
She has a lot of hope for the future in southwestern Uganda.
“I want us to reach a time where it’s a [collective] responsibility to improve our lives,” Carol explained, “today you see all the work load is left to women. Women caring for the children, digging, looking for clothes…I want a community where men are involved as much as women. I look forward to that community.”
Carol truly is an advocate voice for women and children in southwestern Uganda.
Come September 2013, Carol is flying to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to share more of her stories about working with KIHEFO in Uganda with Change for Children’s community of schools, volunteers, community groups, churches and organizations.
Carol looks forward to her future of working closely with the big, eclectic ‘KIHEFO Family’ to make a difference in her community and beyond.
“Everything I do is relevant. Doing something with a passion, it’s what I’m doing. I just love every bit of the work that I do…and I wouldn’t sell it off for anything.”
So don’t be fooled by the name – Iron Lady.
Carol Kyampeire, Programs Coordinator at KIHEFO, is all heart and all passion.
Thanks to Carol for her inspiring work! Safe travels to Canada!
To learn more about KIHEFO, and how you can become involved – please visit our website – click here.