When you meet Drani James for the first time, you would imagine that he hardly speaks a word. On greeting him, be sure to get a smile. He is indeed soft spoken, very humble and down to earth.
Behind that humble smile is a lot to tell, a lot that he has been through at a very young age; but all crowned with a smile, that says “I have beaten the odds”
James hails from Arua in northern Uganda and he is the first born in a family of four children; he is an orphan with only a mother. Apart from James, his other three siblings have not had a chance to go to school.
James was first introduced to Emmaus Foundation (EF) by a friend he met in school – Bishop Cipriano Kihangire Senior Secondary School (BCKSSS) where he had been enrolled for Uganda’s Advanced Level of Education (2010 – 2012), courtesy of his maternal uncle. At that time, James was living a life that nobody would ever wish for, a life he was never proud to reveal to anyone, not even his closest friends; none the less the classmates/friends soon noticed something not right about him from the clothes he wore, looking hungry and out of energy most of the time etc. These signs prompted the few he regarded as genuine friends to intervene. They helped by introducing him to Fr. John Scalabrini (RIP), the founder of Emmaus Foundation (EF), as a charity case. They actually wrote a letter on his behalf seeking for school fees sponsorship and some form of help for upkeep.
James, who had finished his Ordinary Level studies from the countryside aided by a struggling widow, was taken to Kampala by the aforesaid uncle who promised to sponsor the young man for his Advanced Level studies. Unfortunately, the promise didn’t come to pass. On his arrival into the city where he knew no one and the only relative he had was the same uncle who immediately abandoned him in an unfinished house in Kasokoso Zone 3 – one of the impoverished city suburbs of Kampala and not far away from the EF head office; with no food, no bed and absolutely nothing. The child was dumped there to “live” and worse still, alone.
“… the first thought that came to my mind was, I must go back home, but how… I have not a single cent, not even energy…no food…” the poor boy narrates the story of how he panicked. In the meantime he depended on his friends for survival. He left the unfinished house where he had been dumped and like many homeless kids, the 19 year old at the time opted to sleep in a church near his school (St. James Catholic Parish Bbiina). At this point he realized that he needed to suck it up and face hardship head-on. He didn’t ever contact his mother about how situations played out the moment he stepped out of home “to pursue further studies”; he equally forbade his close friends never to contact his mother to reveal how he was suffering. His concern was
“…the moment she ever finds out, it would tear her apart emotionally…she has sacrificed so much for me already”, the achiever narrates painfully.
His request came through from Emmaus Foundation for sponsorship and upkeep. Lacking nothing, he worked very hard and finished his education. Anyone who heard of this young man’s story was amazed because amidst his plight, he was determined to pursue one of the most prestigious subject combinations: Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics (PCB/M); James worked extremely hard and scored 23 points – the kind of mark that is only achieved by the best. Indeed he was one of the best students of the year. His hard work opened a door for more blessings. The government of Uganda offered to sponsor his five-year long University course: Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST); with literally everything else he ever wanted paid for. At this point, he lacked nothing.
As we speak, James Drani, now a professional medical doctor, graduated in October, 2017.
When he was asked about his future prospects, James is very optimistic of a brighter future that he has never dreamed of. He hopes to work diligently around his field of study. He also hopes to do charity work.
He advises the vulnerable children, who are facing situations similar to his, to never give up. He also advises that it is very important to forgive those who have wronged us, so that there will be no hindrances to excelling and attaining God given destinies. He forgave his uncle. Emmaus Foundation kept helping him and for the last seven years, James calls Emmaus Foundation home.