Nothing about Tracey Mirembe’s life prepares you for the harsh reality of her life story. She is beautiful, happily married, a mother of five gorgeous children, with a life that seems comfortable in the Kampala suburb of Luzira.
There is, however, a calmness and humility about her that does not quite fit in with the woman that lives this kind of life. There is no flamboyance or arrogance, just a down-to-earth woman who seems to be in touch with the realities of life. Then, there is her obsession with family.
From the first time you meet her, Mirembe talks about the family non-stop. She is so concerned about the wellbeing of families that she transformed her counselling consultancy into a non-governmental organisation (NGO) where anyone can walk in for free counselling.
“There is just no putting price to bringing a smile to someone’s face or changing a life,” she explains, telling of the youths that have returned to thank her for her guidance when they find their way in life after her delicate counsel, career guidance or behavioural change coaching. Those are the moments when she is thankful that she did not charge them for the help.
The counsellor emphasises that the real goal of her services is to see change at the family level, whether by changing a life at a time or intervening in whole families, that is her real passion. But why families? There are, after all, so many other problems plaguing the world that could use a counsellor’s ear.
“I chose this because of the importance of the family unit in society and to individuals. Calamities such as early pregnancies, depressions, and drugs are because of dysfunctional families. By tackling these problems, most people are only attempting to treat the symptoms. If we could have happy and united families, the world would be a beautiful place,” Mirembe says.
Alma Family Centre
In January 2014, Mirembe registered Alma Family Centre as a consultancy offering counselling, coaching and training service.
By April, she had made the decision to turn it into an NGO offering services to families, couples and individuals who needed free help.
“During those three months, I found that I could not bring myself to billing clients after a session where they came out happy.”
Her real turning point seems to have been a family conflict of about 40 members in which she was a mediator. “After everyone reconciled and was happy and it did not cross my mind to charge them, it occurred to me that maybe this was my calling this is how I was called to change lives, through counselling, training and coaching. I immediately set about transforming my business into an NGO,” recounts Mirembe, who holds a postgraduate diploma in counselling.
However, while on the surface Alma Family Centre was born from a desire to do something impactful that would cause real change in people’s lives, the choice to make these changes at family level was inspired by Mirembe’s personal experience.
A personal stake
“I have known what it felt like not to have family or a place you can call home and it is a sad and bad thing,” she says, her eyes glazing over.
Although she lacked nothing, Mirembe never knew her father and only met her mother when she was about five years old. She spent the better part of her life living among relatives, but circumstances always reminded her that she had nowhere she could really call home.
“I had everything but the important things – love and understanding. I often was reminded that I was a worthless nobody and at some point, I started to believe it. I grew up without the security that family gives and life was sad.”
By the time she was 17, she had tried all forms of escape
attempted suicide, drugs, run away from home and even worked in a bar to support herself. Nothing had filled the void or taken away the worthless feeling, until at 19, she discovered God.
With this discovery, came a new form of self-discovery and reassurance, and the hope that she could turn her life around.
“First, I realised I was not insignificant. I still had the opportunity to make life better, starting with making the right choices in life.”
Among these was the determination to marry the right man and at the right time, so that she could have that family she longed for. God granted her wish and delivered her prince charming, whom she prefers to call Honey.
“He is the best man in the world,” she says shyly. “I am truly happily married and I believe in the possibility of happy families.”
This is what she hopes she can deliver to other people about marriage and family – hope, faith and love – through her free services. For over a year now, the Centre has delivered on this dream.
“I knew that there were problems but at some point I got overwhelmed I get clients who refer others and my small office in Bugolobi cannot even hold us anymore,” she says. “My own finances and support from well-wishers are not enough anymore I need more help.”
Right now, Mirembe hopes to expand her premises, offering mobile counselling services, training more counsellors to help her, and spreading out in different areas.
She is aware that she will need more money, but she insists she cannot leave the people who need her help. So instead, she is soliciting for more funds and among her efforts is a fundraising dinner slated for December 17 at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel.
“It is a kind of launch for Alma Family Centre and I am hoping to catch the attention of affluent families so that they can know where to get help for their families too because they are as vulnerable as any other family,” she says.
About Alma Family Centre
Alma Family Centre helps to nurture, preserve and strengthen families, marriages, women, youth and children. It also seeks to restore love, hope and happiness and create proper visions among the youths through counselling, coaching, giving career guidance and training with supportive resources, messages and campaigns.
With offices at Bugolobi Mango Grove, Alma Family Centre welcomes anyone in need of these services.
The centre is currently organising a fundraising dinner slated for December 17 where it hopes to get more support and partners on board to help broaden their vision and extend services to more people around the country.
SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR