If you ask Akol Wilbrod what life was like a few years ago, he sums it up succinctly: ‘Very bad.’
His family, based in Atutur, eastern Uganda, used to be in dire poverty, scraping a living through subsistence farming and earning a meagre 200,000 shillings a year (about £50).
It simply wasn’t enough for Akol, his wife Grace and their five children: ‘Life was very hard,’ recalls Akol.
Tearfund has helped them break free from this grim existence – but we haven’t given them any food or money.
What we’ve given the family is a new outlook, one not defined by the limitations imposed by poverty. Through our partner, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG), we’ve helped them reassess their God-given resources.
Bible studies have played their part in this mind-set change.
Akol explained, ‘We saw how Jesus fed the 5,000 with fish and loaves. He used what the disciples brought to him and multiplied it. This study helped us use the resources we have around us, and we trusted that God would help us by multiplying what we had.
‘The training awakened me to the resources around me. I saw we had land and water from the rain as well as ourselves, so agriculture was a way we could help ourselves.’
Having identified this, PAG arranged more specific agricultural training: ‘We were taught that the soil in our part of Uganda was perfect for growing oranges. Having gone through the training I sold a bull I owned to buy 100 orange tree seedlings.
‘I now have 300 trees which I can harvest and last year I earned 2.7 million shillings (about £650) by selling the fruit. This has enabled me to send my daughter to university. I have also been able to buy seven cows, pigs and chickens.’
Plans to build a new permanent home have now been realised and Akol is looking to educate all his children: ‘It would have been hard to educate them before this training as I didn’t have the idea of going from subsistence farming to commercial farming. In the future I want to collect rainwater from my roof so that I can water my trees in times of drought.
‘I’m very happy now as we can provide for our family, we are without stress. Our health has improved as we can eat the fruit from our trees and buy additional food giving us a varied diet. I’ve also started making cassava chips and started selling them at schools.’
There are hundreds of amazing examples in Uganda where local churches have truly grasped their call to work with their communities to bring them out of material, social and spiritual povertyTim Raby, Tearfund Country Representative for Uganda
Such stories are common among poor communities in Uganda where Tearfund partners are enabling people to fulfil their potential.
Since 2008, 270 churches across Uganda have been involved in this transformative work. Recent research shows that when community members benefit from such projects there is a 50 per cent lower incidence of hunger; 34 per cent lower incidence of childhood diarrhoea and 18 per cent higher incidence of safe sanitation.
Tim Raby, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Uganda, said, ‘There are hundreds of amazing examples in Uganda where local churches have truly grasped their call to work with their communities to bring them out of material, social and spiritual poverty.’
A little history ...
Tearfund has worked in Uganda since the late 1970s and has 13 partners there tackling poverty. Here are some examples of their work:
ACET has been at the forefront of the church’s response to HIV and AIDS for over 20 years and currently operates projects in three parts of the country. Work includes helping people who were displaced by the 20 year conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Kitgum region. It provides HIV education, counselling and testing, and helps people living with, and affected by, HIV to set up savings groups and small businesses.
COBAP (Community Based AIDS Programme) works in five slum communities in Kampala. Dozens of community members have been trained as peer educators, community nurses, counsellors and childcare workers. COBAP also provides grants to people living with HIV to set up small businesses – and works with medical services to improve access to treatment and testing.
Among remote and mountainous villages in western Uganda, the Kigezi Diocese of the Anglican Church of Uganda is improving water and sanitation for 25,000 people every year. Community members are trained to maintain and repair water facilities and to provide labour and materials for their construction, ensuring the project is sustainable.