Two paintings hang on the wall. One is of a sombre African child sitting cross legged with one of his hands inside an empty bowl. Next to it is a colourful acrylic painting of an antelope leaping through the air as it tries to escape the razor sharp teeth of its predator the Crocodile.
These paintings belong to Victor Daniel Balambye, a Fields of Life sponsored child with an easy smile and soft spoken voice. Victor’s paintings tell the story of his childhood, he says; “My paintings are inspired by my childhood. I remember that time when we had nothing to eat.”
Victor was born and raised in the slums of Entebbe, a major town on Lake Victoria in Central Uganda. His father was a fisherman and his mother was a vegetable vendor. “Life was very hard for us as we did not have a lot of money. Accessing basic needs like food and especially education was very difficult. So, when I turned seven years old, I started to do various things to help us survive.” Victor and his four siblings had to collect and sell fire wood, they collected water and also fished on Lake Victoria so that they could earn some money for food.
In 2004, while in primary two at New Life Centre in Entebbe, Victor was selected for sponsorship through Fields of Life and it was in primary school that his artistic talent began to develop.
“I used to write letters to my sponsors and I would include drawings to make the letter more colourful. My sponsor used to write back to me and tell me how good my drawings were, although it was cartoonish back then.” he adds with a chuckle.
When Victor joined secondary school at Grace High School, he did not understand how artistically talented he was and he became more interested in pursuing science subjects to become a doctor. “I had many friends who had a passion for art but since my parents wanted me to be a doctor, I didn’t enrol into art class. But, I kept drawing and after visiting the school art gallery I decided to share some of my pieces with the art teacher who started to encourage me. He believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
While in senior five, Victor followed his heart and majored in art. When the 2016 Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education results were released, Victor was not only the best overall student in his school but had also scored a distinction in art.
It was at this time that life dealt him some difficult blows. His mother passed away and his father went into a coma and was hospitalised. Victor recalls; “Since I am the only boy, I had to take on a lot of responsibility. I had to take care of my sisters and my dad because at that time, he was in coma. Life was very hard and my younger sisters had to drop out of school because we could not afford to pay their fees, but they have hope that if all goes well and God works out a way for me, I will put them back in school” he says sadly.
Amidst the challenges, Victor was still determined to improve his family’s situation and he enrolled at Michelangelo College of Creative Arts for a two-year Diploma in Art and Design. However, the course tuition was high and Victor was struggling to make the payments. That’s when the Fields of Life team re-connected with Victor and offered him sponsorship to complete his further education.
The college’s Academic Registrar, Matilda Nakimbugwe, says that Victor is now among the best performing students in the school and will qualify for a first class diploma if he keeps his grades up.
“After studies, I see myself having my own workshop and my own graphics company. I also have plans to make sure my sisters go back to school,” adds Victor, who has sold 50 of his paintings to-date.
“My paintings relate to my life, they relate to the journey I have made and surely up to this point, God has helped me. I believe that bad things won’t last for so long and the sun will shine on tomorrow,” he concludes.