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Just surviving isn’t enough – Tearfund

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Photo credit: Kieran Dodds/Tearfund

Sara Guy
Media officer, Tearfund

In a series of five features to mark Mother’s Day on March 18, Sara Guy from Tearfund presents a feature of case studies of mothers from around the world.

The third is on Uganda.

Grace Imeu from Uganda is a widow: her husband died five years ago, leaving her to raise eight children on her own.

Grace lives in a village called Ogongora in Eastern Uganda. In 2003, during the civil war, most residents fled from advancing militia leaders.

After two years of living in camps, they returned  to find their homes destroyed and their crops, cattle and other livestock gone.

Many Ugandans work as small-scale farmers and struggle to grow enough to feed their households. Fluctuating global prices of cash crops only add to their problems.

The effects of climate change are increased droughts and flooding. Not only do these have an impact on farmers, they also have a knock-on effect on malaria and water-borne diseases.

When Grace and her family came back to Ogongora they had precious little. Then her husband died of malaria and their life became even more difficult.

There were times when they only had enough food for one meal a day and had to forage for wild vegetables. Her children were malnourished, often ill.

One of Tearfund’s partners, a local church in the area, had started to offer practical help to the community.

Understandably, Grace had many questions and little faith at this time: “I kept asking ‘Why me, God?’ I felt like God had rejected me. My life was confused. I didn’t go to church.”

At 40 years of age, Grace undertook some farming training run by the church. She learnt techniques to help her get a better harvest – for instance, which crops to plant at certain times of year.

Putting her new-found skills to use, Grace planted three plots of cassava (a starchy root vegetable that is a staple in Uganda) and green-grams (also known as mung beans).

Now they have enough food for three meals a day, which means that her children are happier, healthier and can go to school regularly.

Life has definitely improved for Grace and her family but times can still be tough. Although they are much healthier than they were, her children do still get sick and she then needs money for medicine. Or new books and uniforms for school.

Dan, Grace’s son, would like to be a driver or a teacher, as they are well paid. But Grace still worries about earning enough money for all her children to finish school.

Grace has hopes and dreams for her children: “I want my children to finish their education. This will give them a better future and I will feel like my husband is still alive.”

Rather than handouts and food parcels, the approach in Ogongora is to empower communities to use the resources they already have to bring about change. One of the most powerful resources, if not the most powerful, is the people living in the community.

Mobilising the community is seen as the key to achieving truly sustainable transformation in villages like Ogongora. Transformation that has real meaning for people like Grace and her children.

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