Angela Thorne and her family recently spent two weeks in Uganda on a Tearfund Go placement. While seeing the amazing impact that local Tearfund Partner WATSAN is making in local communities, they also saw the difference their placement had on their own family unit.
Deciding to use their time off to volunteer as a family was a big decision for Angela, her husband Ben and their five kids, but it’s one she doesn’t regret. “The fact it all worked out was quite miraculous really - we really felt that God had opened that up for us. It was a massive thing to do but it’s something I would recommend to any Christian family.”
Living and working alongside Tearfund partner WATSAN, they say how the organisation are working with rural communities in Uganda to ensure that everyone has access to a safe toilet. But volunteering also provided an opportunity for Angela and Ben to build foundations with their kids that will last a lifetime - quite literally!
“While visiting one school, we got involved in lifting some stones to lay the foundations for a new toilet block. It was really cool because as soon as our boys starting to lift the stone loads of the kids came running over wanting to help - there was a chain that started with the local children and our children moving the stones along the line. Everyone was laughing and having a great time, which was really fun!”
As well as the physical foundations that the family built on placement, Angela describes how their time overseas also laid foundations for their children’s understanding of the world around them.
“They really enjoyed the relationships with the local people. It was life changing for our kids to be surrounded by a different culture and environment. Seeing the different scenery and seeing how other people live was massively impacting for them.”
On their placement Angela and her family saw first-hand how access to safe toilet facilities can change lives, particularly for women and girls. Every month thousands of young women across the world face staying at home simply because they can’t access a toilet. Angela explained how, in Uganda, WATSAN is addressing the problem and restoring dignity to female pupils.
‘During our placement we visited a local school where WATSAN were building toilets for the staff and children. When we were there they were working on a cubicle specifically for the girls to wash in, during their periods. To have privacy for these girls – that’s massive; and to give them self respect and honour. For them to be looked after in that way is really significant.’
As well as the impact this project is making, Angela and her family saw how the WATSAN staff themselves are modeling change and hope to the pupils.
‘There were a couple of women on the WATSAN team who came with us. One staff member, Olivius, who was in her early 20s, was with us on the day we visited the school. That was really powerful for the local community – to see a young woman from their culture working for WATSAN alongside our team, advising on projects from a woman’s perspective is really significant.’
As well as providing practical sanitation solutions for young girls across rural Uganda, WATSAN also run projects like rainwater harvesting systems, sustainable sanitation systems (such as composting toilets) and vital hygiene education.
‘The reality is that many people we met had relatives who had died from diseases like cholera,’ says Angela. ‘It’s a real eye opener that, for many people, their water source is simply a hole in the ground. We saw there was a lack of awareness of the link between hygiene and disease; so the work that WATSAN does is essential.’
By providing safe water systems and toilets across rural Uganda, WATSAN is doing more than just fighting a statistic. Safe sanitation protects health, it combats inequality and provides people with dignity.
‘Water is essential for life, that’s how significant the projects that WATSAN run are. It’s just impossible to put a value on it.’
Learn how you can support Tearfund partners whilst building foundations for your family through volunteering with Tearfund Go.