Tindyebwa Agaba Wise, now 33, is a humanitarian who is going to start working with a specialist arm of the Metropolitan Police, helping other refugees.
When people perform an act of compassion, they don't know for sure if it will help the person it is directed towards. They don't know the impact of their help on the individual or the impact that person would have upon the world. British actress Emma Thompson and her actor-husband Greg Wise were also unaware of what their loving gesture towards a former child soldier would mean. There are many who believe in paying the kindness they received forward, and turns out that so does their adopted child.
Dame Emma Thompson, 61, and Greg Wise, 54, welcomed a former child soldier from Rwanda in 2003, when he was just 16. Tindyebwa Agaba Wise, now 33, is a humanitarian who is going to start working with a specialist arm of the Metropolitan Police, helping other refugees.
Wise, of Sense and Sensibility fame, told Mirror that he and Thompson are proud of their "remarkable son" who works in war zones across the world. "Tindy is just about to start a job there and he’s doing some very interesting things for them – an adjunct of the work he was doing in war zones. Helping struggling people, working with victims of trafficking, and radicalization… that kind of thing. It’s a very rewarding thing to have happened," he added.
Tindy was nine when his biological father died of AIDS in Rwanda, and 12 years old, when he, his mother, and three sisters were kidnapped. He and his family were separated and that's the last time he saw them. It is assumed that worse fate befell them than Tindy. He remembers reaching a prison camp where he lived for three years. He was meant to be brainwashed and trained as a child soldier there. When he turned 16, Tindy ran away with the help of a charity worker at Care International. He was able to take a flight to London, where he claimed asylum.
Life was not easy for him after reaching London either. He was homeless and slept on the streets around London’s Trafalgar Square. A few months later, he met Thompson at a Refugee Council event, where she offered to help him. He was doubtful and suspicious of her initially.
"I wondered, 'What does she want?'" Tindy admitted. He was used to being taken advantage of by unfamiliar adults but when Thompson and Wise invited him to Christmas dinner, he accepted. Then, he was given a room to stay in. He was also asked to stay the weekend, which turned into weeks.
"Family is the centre of everything for me," Thompson told the Guardian. "But family is about connection, not necessarily about blood ties. It's about extended family – and extending family."
After his difficult childhood, the help Thompson provided him by welcoming him into her family saved his life. He graduated with two degrees and speaks eight languages now. At age 23, he was a postgraduate student in London with his own flat, but visited home on weekends, just like any other young adult with a loving family.
Thompson is a mom to daughter Gaia, a miracle child born via IVF when she was in her 40s. Thompson says that motherhood has grounded her. She gave birth without drugs and can't imagine anyone would choose to have a cesarean. "Even now, when things are bad I go back and I remember the birth process. I can transport myself back to that moment when Gaia was born – it's like a well from which I draw strength," she added.
She went through more IVF rounds as she wanted a bigger family but it failed. "I grew up in an incredibly happy family, but it was damaged by this physical trauma," said she, referencing the death of her young father and a beloved uncle. "I couldn't have more children, and that was hard; but perhaps if I had [had more], I'd have missed out on this extra act of mothering that I've had with Tindy. Because there was space in my life for him, and I don't think there would have been space if I'd had another young child around," she said.
In 2010, Thompson and Wise had said that even though they haven't officially adopted him, "The important thing, though, is that he is in our life and we are his family, and that's an absolute truth."