Widows’ Gardens Project (Uganda) Uganda 2019 Visit Report October 28, 2019
This is my fourth visit to the Widows’ Gardens Project and the third time a team has accompanied me. Ann, Diane, and Sylvie arrived in Uganda via KLM the night of Oct. 4th. I’ll refer to these fellow travellers as T3 in this report. The team carried donated used clothing, 50 re-usable sanitary kits for girls, and school supplies in their luggage which would later be distributed to widows’ families and Kigarama International School with the help of Elly and Jovanice, our hosts during the week-long visit to the Project. After overnighting in Mbarara we set out the next day for Rubingo to address and to interview 29 widows at a meeting organized by Perez, a contact who had played a major role in ACTS’ multi-year contribution to the community and who is well-known and trusted by Rubingo widows. Soon after arrival we set up four interview stations and completed the task in a couple of hours. Once we arrived at Iryango and settled in to Elly and Jovanice’s home, days of interviewing and home/field visits began. Elly and I met with three landowners who among them leased the Project plots (30 yds x 60 yds) for 100 widows. In each case, a local official (LC1 Chairperson) was on hand to sign, stamp, and ratify the lease agreements the landlords were signing. Each widow would receive the standard seeds and 3 plots for two growing seasons (1 year). As we had managed to cover all the original 361 widows organized in self-help groups in Iryango and Kikagati by the end of 2018, Elly had been authorized by Living Hope’s Board of Elders to introduce the Project to recently-formed widows groups in areas beyond the original boundaries. This year we interviewed 50 widows from Ruborogota and 50 widows from Kikagati II. These were groups we had met with in 2017, who had requested a place in the Project if and when the original target had been met. Adding the 29 Rubingo widows to the 100 and to the 361 from prior years, the number of widows served by the Project now sits at 490.
Days in the Villages: The widows greeted the team with singing and dancing everywhere we went to conduct interviews. At Ruborogota and Kikagati II, I engaged two translators (Fortunate, with 2-day stand-in Geoffrey, and Junias) to supplement Rose and Elly so that we could set up four stations simultaneously. In this way we worked our way gradually through the 100 waiting widows. T3 were taken by their interpreters to see a large number of widows’ gardens while Elly and I met with the landowners. Although they twice had to run for shelter from downpours, Diane, Ann, and Sylvie enjoyed the long walk thoroughly. The team visited several homes and offered assistance in various ways from their individual discretionary funds as needs were presented. Ann decided to provide school fees to one child, a rainwater catchment system for Kigarama PS, and about a dozen mattresses and bedding for Kigarama PS student boarders. In addition, the UPP sponsored several students.and the school also benefitted from a gift from Sylvia Dakin (“class of 2018”) enabling the installation of solar lighting for dormitories and one or two classrooms. We were invited to meet with widows from the first two intakes on one occasion at their request. This was a happy moment (no strings attached...no requests for further assistance) when they simply wanted to express their appreciation for the Project. On one afternoon, T3 visited a Roman Catholic Secondary School in Kabuyanda to distribute “days for girls” kits to 50 girls. These are re-usable sanitary kits created by Comox Valley women (part of an international network of women’s groups) designed to enable menstruating students to remain in class during their cycles. Only 50 kits were transported, and we noted the bitter disappointment on the faces of the dozen or more girls who were de-selected from the gathering. We determined to bring another 50 kits next year to that same school.
Conclusion: We felt the effect of LHC (and Bay, and St. Peter’s) prayer support day by day, for which I am extremely grateful. The importance of prayer on the home front cannot be overestimated. The decision of the Living Hope Board of Elders to allow the Project to continue after having reached our six-year target early has allowed us to provide food security assistance to an additional 129 widows in 2019. If fundraising in 2020 allows, we aim to add the remaining 38 Rubingo widows and 100 more from Ruborogota and Kikagati II. This would provide for a total of 628 by October 2020 and may be a natural place to stop increasing numbers and examine other ways of assisting and consolidating the food security status for these 628 widows in the Project’s sixth and final year. A team of 4 University of Utrecht interns who evaluated the Project for six weeks in July/August 2019 recommended additional assistance in the form of microcredit funds to widows’ groups. The widows reported to the interns that their status in the community had improved hugely. They were now able to afford soap and clothing as well as finally having control over their food supply. Some were able to send some children to school and purchase medicine to treat illnesses. They were now respected as self-supporting; no longer beggars. Thank you for the privilege of serving the widows of southwestern Uganda and the Living God who loves them in this truly impactful way.
Respectfully submitted, David Moore Volunteer Project Officer Widows’ Gardens Project Living Hope Church.
Edited by C. Bramhall, admin @ LH Church, Nov 18/19