In the midst of so much poverty and suffering, corruption and violence in Uganda, there is also so much goodness, which gives hope and inspiration.
Let me tell you about some of these “little, insignificant, ordinary” people from Teso (in north eastern Uganda) who are making a difference in their own families and communities on a voluntary basis, with little or no money or resources. I am inspired by these people and privileged to know them.
There are two groups of people who particularly struggle to survive in Uganda, especially in the poorer regions of northern and eastern Uganda. These include the elderly who don’t have families to support them and are often caring for orphans. The other group are the young people. There are very few employment opportunities, even for qualified youth. But there are so many children who drop out of school because of lack of school fees, often with little or no literacy and numeracy skills. Lacking any skills, they suffer low morale and often get into petty crime.
Jeniffer, who is married and lives away from home, was so shocked by the poor facilities, poverty and neglect when she returned home for a visit that she decided to stand for election as an MP so that she can do something to transform her community. She won the nomination and is likely to win in the Parliamentary Elections next week.
Robert was visited by four old women who asked for his help as they had no families and were struggling on their own. They were sleeping in huts on sacks on the ground, with no mosquito nets or blankets. Robert gave them two of his own and set about finding help for the others. Rita, who comes from western Uganda and has lived most of her life in the UK, has set up a fundraising programme with Denis to help desperate old people in Teso.
Joseph had a well paid job in Kampala with an international charity. He left it to return to Teso and use his savings to set up a model farm to provide training for unemployed youth to gain new skills and the ability to start their own agricultural businesses at home. James has done a similar thing, giving up his work as a reputable builder to develop alternative technologies and set up a skills training centre for young people who have dropped out of education.
After getting an IT degree, Joel set up a small business which was destroyed when thieves broke in and stole all his equipment. Devastated, he returned to his village. He picked himself up and started to train local unemployed youth in various skills (including soap-making, brick-laying and tailoring), selling his bicycle and other personal items to rent some teaching rooms and give a small allowance to some volunteer teachers. He has now done some training in entrepreneurism and with help from some youth is making 20,000 bricks to build a small training centre.
Emmanuel and Edgar are very talented artists. Unable to make a living from art, they use their skills for the benefit of others. Edgar produces powerful pictures which denounce the abuse of women. Emmanuel also focusses on women in his pictures and paints beautiful murals on school and church walls as well as working with children who have severe learning disabilities.
Agnes, who came from a very deprived background, has become a leading fashion designer and seamstress in Kampala and is now training women from various African countries who live in refugee camps in Kampala. Using her income, she has now set up a tailoring school in her home village in Teso for young women who have dropped out of school with no skills.
Clare has a daughter who suffers from sickle cell anaemia, an extremely painful life-limiting genetic disease which is fairly common in Africa and requires careful management with frequent hospital admissions and blood transfusions, treatment which is difficult to find in Teso and beyond the means of most families. Clare has committed herself to learning as much as possible about the disease and alternative treatments. She now travels around on a bicycle sharing her knowledge, supporting families with “sickler” children and running a weekly clinic, even though she has no money or resources.
Robert rescued a girl in her early 20s who was being beaten by her father for refusing to marry a man he had found for her, wanting a dowry to support his drinking habit. Milfred had for years dreamed of becoming a nurse but kept dropping out of school when her father failed to pay her fees. Robert mobilised help for her and got her into nursing school. She is now a qualified nurse with an excellent reputation for her dedication.
Lucy lost both her parents but was sponsored through secondary school and college to become an accountant. But married, with two young children and living away from Teso, she didn’t have a job. She wanted to give something back in return for her sponsored education. Her husband allowed her to return to Teso with her children so that she could work as a volunteer at James’s training centre, using her skills to set up an accounts system with good record keeping and budgetting.
Two Karimojong took the great risk of approaching James to ask for his forgiveness for killing his father some years before. The normal response would have been for the family to kill them or at least demand reparation. James did neither but forgave them unconditionally.
These are just a few of the many people I know in Teso who inspire me and give hope for the future with their generous dedication to helping others even when they have little or nothing themselves. There are many others I know who are volunteering and sharing their skills and knowledge. Pray for them all and for those whom they help, and for more to follow their example. May they be strengthened in unity and love, in generosity and sharing, and in giving support and encouragement to others.
May such goodness spread like wildfire throughout Uganda bringing transformation especially for the weak and vulnerable who have no voice.
God bless Uganda.
Guard her people,
Guide her rulers,
And give her peace.