This time, I was traveling on behalf of World Renew, visiting our community development partner there, the Church of Uganda, in particular the Diocese of Northern Uganda and Ajulu Archdeaconry. I was very excited to meet the community members and staff of our partner organization and to learn more about effective community mobilization in an area that had long been war territory.
On the five-hour drive on good roads north out of Kampala, I marveled at this country endowed with so much beauty. As we stopped to see Karuma Falls, I was reminded of Romans 1:20 -"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” [NASB]
When you see beauty like this, you are forced to believe that the creator God is real and lives. I pray that people who will continue to travel this way will see and hear God through this experience of His creation. As I look at these falls, I have a bittersweet feeling. The government is planning to construct a hydroelectric dam here and I am worried that all this beauty may disappear and that we will not be caring effectively for God’s creation. On the other hand, the electricity will enable more people to attend school, help hospitals function, and allow businesses to thrive.
We traveled to Ajulu to meet our partner staff. We are told that Ajulu was once the center of rebel activities and that most people had left for the safety of the internally-displaced peoples’ camps. Today, they are returning and resettling. World Renew and the Dioceses of Northern Uganda decided to pilot two community mobilization approaches there and, depending on the results, roll out and expand the most effective programs.
In Pawel Parish, the community had already organized in village saving and loans groups practicing conservation agriculture. Seeking to work through existing structures, World Renew and the Dioceses took on these groups formed by another entity. In Kal Parish, World Renew and the Dioceses started self-help groups from scratch.
The difference is evident from the first meeting with the groups. In one group, the community has undergone more spiritual growth and formation, better development; there is community ownership of the programs and they are more self-reliant. The group names too are very interesting. In Pawel Parish, we met with Can Pe Wat (Poverty is not my friend), Binonga wii (Find/get me), and Peny wii (Ask your head). In Kal Parish, the self-help group names were Lubanga miyo (God gives), Lubanga ber (God is good), and Ribe-ber (Unity is good). Although the Dioceses and World Renew are going to continue working in both parishes, we have decided to use the self-help group methodology when opening up new program sites.
In Pawel, Teladwong Village, we visited the conservation agriculture plot belonging to Can Pe Wat, a registered village savings and loans group of 30 members, 7 men and 23 women. Since their establishment five years ago, they have been able to save their funds in a safe place, learn the importance of saving, access loans, and provide support to each other in times of trouble. All the members participate in agriculture for subsistence or business. At the group plot (pictured at right), they practice conservation agriculture by minimizing soil tillage, intercropping cassava and maize, and covering the soil with garden residue. They still struggle with growing land conflicts, erratic rains and increasingly unpredictable seasons, post-harvest handling, and accessing good markets for their produce. All members report that they have been able to take loans to educate their children, pay medical bills, and invest in small businesses.
In Pasal village, we visited Auma Corstine and Florence Okeya, members of the Lubanga miyo (God gives) self-help group. The self-help groups here were started about two years ago. Members have undergone training in identifying and prioritizing their problems, identifying locally available resources, and leading in their own development. They also participate in village savings and loan activities allowing them many of the same opportunities as the groups in Pawel.
Auma owns a small retail shop which serves the whole village. After joining the self-help group, she received training and took out her first loan of 20,000 shillings (5 USD), enough for 2 packets of flour which she used to bake chapati. After paying off that loan, she then borrowed 50,000 shilling (13 USD), allowing her to bake even more. At the time of our visit, Auma was servicing a 500,000 (135 USD) loan and her chapati business continues to grow.
Florence has recently returned to Pasal after her husband’s retirement. Like many other members of her group, Florence started borrowing money to trade in dry cassava, taking and paying back three different loans. With a bigger loan of 500,000 shillings (135 USD), Florence bought a pig, while still maintaining her cassava business. This April, the pig had 8 piglets which Florence will sell for 50,000 shillings each, keeping the mother for future litters. Her next goal is to buy a cow and she is sure she will make that happen.
The Dioceses of Northern Uganda and World Renew hope to see more of these stories of transformation, healing, and restoration in this region to the glory of God.
Thank you for your participation in bringing transformation to these children of God.
- The Lord has been very good to us. Gladson has continued pastoring the church while supporting me day to day. Cynthia has completed her first degree and has had the opportunity to do two months of internship with World Vision in Arua. She is also in the process of interviewing for employment. Please continue praying for her that this goes well and she is able to secure a job. Last weekend we were able to visit Winnie at school and she is doing very well.
- In April and May I traveled to North America and had the opportunity to visit and speak in many more churches and to many foundations. It was very encouraging to see so many people interested in and wanting to support the work we do. I met Bruce Dykstra, who had an interesting story to tell — he received this drum from refugees from Uganda in 1974 and was eagerly waiting for me so that I would receive the drum and bring it home!
- June and July are an interesting time of the year for me. In June our financial year comes to an end; we close out activities and begin planning implementation of activities for the next year. June 30 is also the end of my biological year because July 1 is my birthday! I visited Fort Patico in Gulu to celebrate a successful year accomplished and started out the new year at a staff spiritual retreat with the World Renew Uganda team in Malindi Kenya.
World Renew East Africa