At just 20 years old, she heads a household of ten that includes her two-year-old son, her younger siblings, and young members of her husband’s family.
In South Sudan, Gloria lived on a compound with her mother-in-law; her husband worked in Lumbek and was away most of the time, returning once in a while to see them. When Gloria’s mother-in-law was killed in an ambush on the way home from a business trip to Uganda, Gloria was unable to make direct contact with her husband. She found herself the unexpected leader of the family, forced to make decisions on behalf of all the people on their compound. Fearing another attack or that she or others might be coerced into joining the different factions fighting in South Sudan, Gloria decided to flee to Uganda. She knew she needed food for the family and other social services that she would not get if she remained in South Sudan.
Mobilized by Gloria, the entire household started walking to Uganda, arriving after many days in Bidibidi on October 17, 2016 where, upon arrival at the reception center, she was given a jerry can for carrying water, a basin, soap, food, and a tarpaulin to make a shelter. No one asked her for any payment and Gloria was grateful to God for this small mercy and the safe traveling that had brought them to it.
World Renew Uganda and local partner Here Is Life partnered with TearFund Australia in the emergency phase of the South Sudanese refugee crisis to construct 770 communal pit latrines and bath shelters and carry out health promotion among the refugee community quickly growing in Bidibidi. This partnership then joined forces with TearFund Switzerland to construct 780 household latrines for people with special needs as well as train 39 refugee leaders in Trauma Healing and Peace Building to help their fellow community members process and deal with the trauma they had been through.
Gloria and her family are beneficiaries of these programs. They had access to the communal latrines and bath shelters and later, because Gloria is a young woman with many dependents, support in the construction of a household pit latrine.
Gloria realizes that it will take some time before peace is restored in South Sudan. She has resolved to make a life in Uganda and to build a permanent house. She has been able to build a permanent hut for shelter and will be relocating there as soon as she has a door fixed. With no jobs in the camp, Gloria has made her own. She takes on casual work like doing laundry for people in the camp and gathering rocks to sell to people doing construction, and has started a small business selling silver fish to increase her income. Gloria has also reconnected with her husband. They are able to talk once a month using a Red Cross radio and once in a while he sends funds to support the family.
Gloria has also joined level two primary education, an adult learning program equivalent to primary seven in the Ugandan education system. She goes to school in the afternoon hours, taking care of domestic chores in the morning. She has also registered all the family members in school. They do not pay school fees, but need uniforms, books, and pens, another expense Gloria must manage.
Gloria has found a spiritual community in the Anglican Church where she worships every Sunday. Former reception centers like the one that offered Gloria the jerry can and other household supplies now function as churches on Sunday, classrooms during the week, and community meeting places on the weekend. Having a church community in the settlement has helped Gloria heal emotionally. Trauma healing-focused Bible studies and going to church every Sunday have helped her to forgive her mother-in-law’s murderers for whom she had built up so much anger and hatred. Gloria is hopeful that life will continue getting better and that there is a bright future for herself, her family, and the many other refugees in the settlement.
Listening to Gloria Desire Kajima’s story helped me realize how important it is to show love and mercy in even small ways — like providing a jerry can, basin, soap or food without expecting anything in return. As God’s arms and feet in the communities where we work, we should continue to express the love of God to our neighbors through every possible means.
I am reminded of God’s faithfulness and the fact that his mercies are new every morning by this passage in Lamentations 3:22-24: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’”. There is no situation that is too complicated for God to resolve or heal. We should be encouraged to look for the new things that God is going to do.
- We are grateful to God for giving us good health and using many of you to provide the resources we need in this work. I have now been in this role for one year and five months. I am beginning to find my feet and not feel so new. My husband Gladson and our children have continued to provide a very strong support system. Our children are doing well in school. Cynthia will be finishing her undergraduate degree this year in May. Winnie is in form three and has another year before sitting for another major exam. We continue to experience joy and a sense of purpose in this role. The Lord has blessed our turkey farm; they continue to multiply!
- I have just returned from a three week exchange learning tour to the Asia Ministry Team, where I was able to visit and learn from the work done in the rural and urban parts of Bangladesh. I had the privilege of lighting a candle on International Womens Day (March 8) in solidarity with all those at the forefront of fighting for justice for women and equal rights and got a gift from a community member.
- And finally, now and for the next few weeks, I will be in North America for my connections tour. I will visit some churches and foundations that support our work in East Africa, where I will speak of the Lord’s goodness to us and how he has used the ministry team to change many people’s stories.
World Renew East Africa