A Development Project for Apac
Lois Pollock writes about the Trust's latest plans
Much of the Trust's recent work, especially during the pandemic, has been essentially short term, helping poverty stricken families survive, but in the long term just handing out food or money only breeds dependency and does not enable communities to find solutions to their own problems.
Money and skills are better used to establish viable programs in communities that will result in lasting change. I have therefore been in discussion for some months now with friend Dr Alfred Omo, a highly skilled heart surgeon in Kampala with a private clinic there which he uses to support his small private hospital in his home district of Apac in northern Uganda, and with several other colleagues on the ground in Uganda about trying to tackle some of the food insecurity issues that the pandemic has shown up so clearly. (Alfred is on the extreme left in the photo, Lois on the extreme right, with some Apac locals.)
In one small village in Apac district, where Alfred already has community links and contacts, I am going to attempt a different approach to getting the community to support itself. Preparatory work is already in hand and I am planning a trip of about 2-3 months as early as possible in 2021.
It is an ambitious goal as I will be working in a district that is enormously deprived and has been for more than twenty years - as a consequence of war, political insurrection leading to migration and abandonment of land, and tribalism amongst other things.
Basic practical deprivation is widespread: a preliminary survey conducted on the ground by David, the Trust's agent in Kampala, has confirmed the lack of pit latrines for many of the villagers and a lack of all resources and knowledge of how to improve the ways of farming the small areas of land they may have. The youth who remain in the area (many have gone to the cities in search of work) lack education and employment - a chronic problem. There are limited health resources available and most of the villagers cannot afford either to travel to a clinic or to pay for treatment.
With my many years of experience working in Uganda and across so many diverse communities, I believe it is possible to help committed groups to make changes that can dramatically improve their lives.
It will be essential to “carry” the village members with us on this journey and for them to know right from the outset that money will be very limited and accessible only after the community itself has worked on plans to deal with some of the immediate problems. (The photo shows Lois working with local people on a previous trip.)
We will tackle the basic problems first: health and nutrition; establishing small savings groups to provide for health care and small savings groups to provide for small business start-ups and for communal care from within the community for the less able members. This will, for example, demand of local young people that they dig vegetable gardens by their homes for older people who have no supportive family, or dig much-needed pit latrines.
In return the unemployed youth will themselves learn a lot about different ways of planting and rotating crops. That aspect will be taught by Gilli, an Agriculture and Business Studies student who has been supported by the Trust for several years. He will come from his home in Moyo, a small town close to the border with Sudan, to do training and practical work with local unemployed people in Apac. They will learn how to make tip-taps to provide water for hand washing right outside the newly dug latrines and they will learn how to carry on the sack gardening that has already been taught during pandemic by David.
Two unemployed young people, Mercy and Allen, whom the Trust has helped train in shoe making, will be asked to get a group of peers around them and to teach them the skills that they have learned. The Trust has bought a sewing machine and some other essential equipment to help get this going. They will establish a peer support group and find ways of setting up their own small savings scheme to carry on buying materials to grow the shoe making business.
Another local qualified person will provide some co-teaching with myself on basic hygiene and nutrition and hopefully we will work with the community to improve their diet. This will be supported by Dr Omo.
These are some of my ideas but everything must be worded and agreed in focus groups within the actual community and that is where I shall begin once I get to the village.
Of course this project does not come in at a zero budget! My work will of course be unpaid but we shall need to pay a fair wage plus all his expenses to David, our Ugandan representative who, besides provide transport from Kampala and locally, will make his own contribution to the work: he is an excellent communicator and has worked with me in communities all over Uganda over the past decade or more. The photo shows him teaching sack gardening during 2020.
The minumum budget to cover the initial stages of this project will be £4,000. This will provide funds to purchase some of the equipment that will undoubtedly be required. That may seem a small sum but in Uganda even small sums can go a long way!
I am planning to return to Uganda in the spring of 2021 - later than I had hoped owing to Covid, which may of course yet interfere with my plans - so my fingers are crossed!
Please help the Trust raise the neessary funds! See here for details of how you can make a difference!
Lois on a previous trip with locals including poultry ...
... and getting down to work.