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Dublin: 3 °C Sunday 23 November, 2014

Opinion: I was a vulnerable girl when I came to Ireland, and I’m forever grateful to the loving friends I met

As an orphan in Uganda, I was faced with a lot of challenges growing up. But when I moved to Ireland my life changed: I felt safe.

Justine Nantale

I ARRIVED IN Ireland 11 years ago as a teenager. Being an orphan in Uganda, I was faced with a lot of challenges and I had a difficult life growing up, but when I moved to Ireland my life changed. I felt safe.

Living, studying and working in the Irish community has taught me that everyone has a story, I used to think that I was the only one facing hardships but I have come to realise that we are all in this journey of life together whether from different class, race or backgrounds.

In 2004, I met the most amazing people, Philip and Lydia, who are now more than friends, they’re like my brother and sister. A choir was formed as part of the Discovery project in a small church on George’s Street and St Thomas Church on Cathal Brugha Street in Dublin, mainly focusing on Gospel music. The Discovery Gospel Choir was born and I am proud to be a founding member of Ireland’s first intercultural choir.

Learning about other cultures

Back then, I was very shy and had no musical training but if someone gave me a microphone, I would just sing my heart out. I made friends with people who came from different backgrounds and cultures and it was very inspiring learning songs from different languages, rhythms, and styles.

I am now a mother to a beautiful four-year-old child; I am a singer and a teacher; I facilitate education workshops and cultural integration through music and traditional Ugandan dance. I have performed with various artists providing backing vocals including: a concert to mark Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland; with Foy Vance on ‘The Late, Late Show’; Dublin African Film Festival; Samantha Mumba on RTE; and with Sinéad O’Connor at the Meteor Ireland Awards.

Last year, in January 2013, I had the opportunity to launch my own singles, My African Dream and Life, recorded and produced in Kampala, Uganda, by Paddy Man from Audio One Studio. Since then, I have performed for developmental and charity organisations such as AFRI (Action from Ireland), Trócaire, Wezesha, and Akidwa. I was also recently honoured with a community service award by the Africa World Award ceremony.

I’m forever grateful to my loving friends

I have had a very good experience living in Ireland because of the people I have met – I wouldn’t be the Justine that people know today without those people. Arriving here in Ireland, I was a vulnerable young girl and I’m forever grateful to have the most patient, loving and generous friends I met when I just arrived. I call them my ‘’first loves’’.

I look forward to performing on the ‘Kwassa Kwassa’ main stage at Africa Day’s flagship event in Dublin on Sunday 25th May. My songs ‘African Dream’ and ‘Life’ are available to listen on YouTube and for purchase on bandcamp.com.

Justine Nantale is a singer and teacher.

Africa Day celebrations, supported by Irish Aid, are taking place nationwide this week and the national Africa Day flagship family festival takes place in Farmleigh Estate, Phoenix Park, Dublin 15, on Sunday 25 May from 11am to 6pm and is free of charge. Follow Africa Day on Facebook and Twitter @AfricaDay #AfricaDay. For more information visit www.africaday.ie.

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