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 Hello again from the soggy North of Uganda!

This year, instead of drought, Northern Uganda is having PLENTY of rain.  The red dirt has become slippery mud, difficult to keep your footing in the villages.  Ground which was parched and without foliage is now head high in grasses and bushes, making driving in the villages a real challenge on paths meant for walking.

 

The highlights of this week were visits to 3 villages.  Rotary Club of Colville , of which Michelle and I are members, has a project in a village 2 ½ hours to the East of Lira, called Acuru.  We are using a grant to provide a drilled well, and both a bank of 5 latrines partially constructed but not completed by the Red Cross, and training in personal latrine construction.  

The original older porta-potties  provided by another charity were poorly situated and they’ve partially collapsed into the pit!  Acuru is the home village of Sam Okello a Rotarian from Lira.  They’ve been in a refugee camp for 30 years, to have relative safety from marauding cattle rustlers armed with guns from the neighboring tribe to the North, the Karamajong.  The rustlers have been disarmed over the last year so the villages are returning home.  Right now, the region has had significant flooding and root crops like Kasava are rotting in the ground.  For this project, I will return with the contractor for 4 days to ensure it is completed.  This village had a downtrodden and discouraged feel to it with unsmiling villagers giving us a long list of their problems, asking for help though there was evidence of previous projects such as water catching systems off the school roofs which had fallen into disrepair.  Hopefully, with spending those 4 days, staying with them in the village, I can encourage them to see that with God all things are possible, and that there is hope for their future.  They can rise above this in the unity of Christ, both with and without outside help.

 

Two other villages we visited, Okwallogabo and Alanyi had a whole different feel and story.   The first one is part of the “Adopt a Village” project from Rotary Club of Auburn, WA.  They have the benefit of a lot of funds helping to give them the tools, supplies and animals to raise their level of living.  The most comical moment of the week occurred in this village.  While dancing with the village ladies I got a little too exuberant, jumping and stomping and found myself with my slip down around my ankles!  Nothing to do but pick it up, throw it in the car and carry on, laughing along with the village women. 

Alanyi is the very first village I’ve seen which has taken it upon themselves to organize a village skills training program with their own volunteers teaching tailoring and garment cutting (with 1 machine for 10 students), block laying and concrete practice,  carpentry and joinery (with very few tools), pottery and ceramics, pottery painting and decoration (to get a better price for their pots at the market), bee keeping, agriculture, cooking, knitting and weaving, functional adult literacy, and welding/blacksmithing.  They’ll teach 2 hours a day, 2 days a week for 3 months, then classes will start over.  For very little in assistance to purchase a few tools, a wheelbarrow, paint, a sewing machine, and fabric, with God’s help they will be lifted up out of poverty as a village.  One family group, the extended family of Levi Abongo, a Lira Rotarian, has energized the whole village to believe they can rise up as a unified group to be victorious over their poverty.  It is heartening to see this happening, instead of waiting for a hand out before trying to help themselves.  Some of the funds from the Hands Across Nations Auction will be used toward getting them started with the most necessary tools, with Rotary possibly providing more assistance in the future. 

 

Saturday was the second graduation of the Hands Across Nations Women’s Tailoring School.  It was a grand affair with the 57 students, their teachers, former students and myself marching through town with music blaring from a huge sound system on a truck.  We made quite the splash!  Only one breakdown of the truck for about ½ hour – amazingly not one person showed any irritation with it – just part of life as it is.  The first group of mostly widows and orphans graduated last year with 6 months training.  There was a second group which graduated in January but didn’t have a graduation ceremony.  This graduating group started with over 100 students but lost almost half due to the inability of some students to pay even the $10 a month or they didn’t have any fabric to construct their projects.  The 2 large boxes of fabric donated from people there at home, brought this trip, will be extremely helpful for these poorest of the poor, as the school will allow them to purchase it for pennies.  This group of graduates were young girls, mostly school drop outs and often unwed mothers.  The school leaders, Esther and Rose, are big hearted visionaries with hearts for the disabled and poor, the ones that society has ignored and discounted.  They and the teachers often sacrificed their salaries this year to ensure the program continued.  As I saw the families and students, exuberantly celebrating as we handed them their certificates, I could see the joy and pride in having accomplished something no one expected them to do.  Their workmanship was surprisingly good to excellent and they had mastered 24 sewing skills and 8 types of garments.  It was the result of a few people who started with prayer to help the widows and orphans in their church and has expanded and been recognized as the only school of its type in the area.  They serve those no one else is willing to help.

It’s a humbling experience to see how God will multiply a simple start as we are faithful in following his direction.  Your prayers and support of these hard working servants of Christ are gratefully appreciated by all of us here.  They are praying for you as well.

Sharing the love of Christ,

Carolyn

Carolyn's Journal October 17, 2010

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