Thank you to all who read my story about becoming a middle school science teacher. We ‘celebrated’ our final day of school on Tuesday by participating in an all-school chapel on Google Meet and then having shepherd’s pie (the girl’s favorite) for dinner. We are working to make the best of our being in Uganda for the summer. As I write this, we should be spending a few days in Athens on our way to the States. Instead, yesterday we met with a new group of friends for craft and gymnastics classes. The girls enjoyed being together with friends and I was able to talk to other moms. We all commiserated about how our plans had changed and what the future looked like. It was a time of sadness and hope.
This is supposed to be a blog about what comes next for Walk In Love. The short answer is, we are figuring it out. We were able to get back into the office with our social worker and office manager last Wednesday. We made a plan about distributing food to the families that were already enrolled in our program. Before the lockdown, we had done home visits with most of our families and had identified those whose needs were dire. So many of our families are destitute. They are homeless refugees with many kids and no income. Yesterday we were able to distribute rice, beans, porridge and soap to 23 families. We estimate that this will assist well over 100 people.
If you wonder why you see our office manager Latisha in all the pictures, the reason is that she is also our translator. Latisha is a refugee from Congo herself and speaks English, French, Swahili, and Kinyarwanda (her mother was from Rwanda.) Also, we have written permission from each family to use their pictures and info. It is important to us to use the stories of families with dignity and consent.
The lockdown prevented even the most basic of movement, so for these families that meant no daily wage. The government did provide food to our community, however they only supplied ½ to ¼ of the amount per refugee family as non-refugee. At the beginning of the lockdown in March, distributing food was prohibited for reasons of social distancing. These restrictions have been relaxed, but to be safe we met with the village chairman to get his approval. The chairman consented provided only one family came at a time, we wore masks and gloves and washed hands upon entering. The logistics are complicated. The risk is high. Just yesterday there was a video circulating of the police arresting people at gunpoint if they were not wearing masks in the city.
It is difficult to know how to distribute the food wisely. There are thousands of people in our community that are hungry. How do we say “yes” to one family and “no” to another? We have a very limited budget right now. Last night in my quiet time I was reading in Mark where Jesus fed the multitude. Here is what I read:
“Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.’
But Jesus said, ‘You feed them.’
‘With what?’ they asked. ‘We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!’ (Mark 6:36-37)
These words haunt me. “YOU FEED THEM!” With what? I prayed that He would multiply our beans and rice. Remember when I told you that I am working as a teacher? The VAST majority of my income is in the form of free tuition. The rest is going here. God has blessed us in maintaining our level of support. We are committing the (tiny bit) of money I am make teaching to this project. I feel it deeply when the disciples said we would have to work months to feed all these people.
Along with the food, we distributed school work packets. Homework packets were actually the first thing families asked for when they saw us. If you are a refugee with nothing but hope, you truly believe that education is the only way to a better future. We are hoping that soon the teacher will be able to move around in the community and meet with students in their homes.
Finally, we are in the beginning stages of initiating a program to do income-generating projects with families. This basically means providing business training, a startup grant, ongoing education, and monitoring as a family attempts to start their own income-generating business. This was one of our long-term goals that we are now moving forward. Even before the lockdown, we had started discussing the need for doing income generating activities. So many of these families are much more than poor. They cannot pay rent or buy food every day. When we opened the preschool, the same system that we used in Tanzania where families were able to pay monthly, was not feasible. Right now we are gathering resources and talking to others who have had success in this area, as it is a new venture for us personally.
The work in Tanzania will need its own blog. We are meeting with the country director (Aubree) on the 25th to make plans for how to move forward there. There was only a token lockdown in Tanzania. The schools and daycare centers did shut down, but that was the extent of the quarantine efforts for that country. They announced that all schools will reopen on June 29th. The Miasha Matters project has been able to continue without interruption.
Day by day we move forward. This year feels like a forest fire, consuming and forcing renewal. I know God is calling each of us to stand strong in our own sphere. I have watched as so many of you have risen up. May we support each other, grieve with each other, and emerge stronger.