In January, 2013, I first encountered Jackson, an orphan from Kajo Keji who was severely disabled due to polio. When I first met Jackson in 2012 he was resorting to crawling to school 6kms there and back every day because his 3 wheeler chair had long since rusted. MAF was able to help fly the frame back to Kampala where we located funding and a way to refurbish the chair and then MAF donated the freight needed to fly the large chair back to Kajo Keji. We had only 30 minutes allocated on the ground to locate Jackson and give him the chair. The moment of those photos was a moment I will never forget. After Kajo Keji was largely evacuated due to wide scale militia attacks, it has weighed on my mind whether Jackson had made it out of Kajo Keji safely and wanted to find out his whereabouts. Knowing we were heading to one of the largest settlements in Uganda I finally was able to make contact with some South Sudanese pastors from Kajo Keji. They came back with the great news that they had found Jackson safely in Arua where his school had been relocated from Kajo Keji in January this year. With great joy we were reunited on Friday 22nd September. Jackson is studying to be a doctor and looked very dapper wearing a suit with very smart shoes compared to the flip flops we had last seen him wearing in 2013. He recounted how 12 armed Militia entered his school in Kajo Keji on 21st September 2016 and began shooting at their school at 11am while they were sitting an exam. “We had nowhere to run so decided to lie down. They were only 3 metres away shooting for up to 15 minutes and just a metre from Jackson 2 of his fellow students were killed. They robbed everything they could find, including the school bag that we had given Jackson in 2013. “The boy who was shot was right next to me. I couldn’t get my phone so I grabbed my wheelchair and went home. Mama Susan (Director of the Orphanage) prayed and counselled me” Jackson then went onto explain how he was brought 137kms from Kajo Keji in South Sudan safely to Arua in Uganda. “My wheelchair was tied behind a boda boda (motorbike taxi) with all my belongings tied onto the boda and me sitting on top of everything” Jackson completed the September exams they were sitting when the attack happened once he arrived in Arua in January.
Yet again, I am astonished by Jackson’s broad smile…one of the broadest I have ever encountered and his stunning attitude even after all he has been through. For most it would be enough to have just lost parents through
War, let alone managing the twisted spine he has from Polio without letting it hold him back…and now this latest trauma of seeing his fellow students killed. Yet he is determined to achieve his Masters and a Phd in medicine and continues to thank God for all of His faithfulness to him in his life! We’re so relieved to report that he is safe and excelling at his medical school in Uganda.
On the 15th December 2017, MAF was able to fly Jackson Mattais along with his student colleague, Mori Henry in LDR from Arua to Kajjansi for their first ever flight! This was an epic day for both Jackson and Mori Henry. One of Jackson’s long awaited dreams was to be able to fly. They were able to be interviewed by our videographers, the Hewes, while they visited Kampala for the weekend. While staying with the Vines in Kampala, they were both able to have an early Christmas dinner with us and also went to their first ever Carol’s by Candlelight service. Jackson had also asked if they could go to a local church service, so on Sunday morning we went to Rock of Age’s where both Jackson and Mori Henri danced throughout Rock’s hour of worship. I’m not sure how to describe Jackson dancing other to say that his enthusiasm and freedom challenges and stirs my comfort zone.
MAF’s journey with Jackson is continuing after first finding him in 2013 in Kajo Keji, then transporting his much beloved 3-wheeler chair. Now, 4 years later, finding him again and granting him the experience to fly high above the only world he’s known has been life-changing. I know Jackson’s story has inspired many with his positive attitude regardless of the difficulties he has faced since childhood. The reminder of his smile helps us resolve to have a stronger attitude about life. Thank you for praying for Jackson.
Jill Vine – MAF Communications