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Katwe, Kampala, UgandaScenery

The Pearl of Africa is the name given to Uganda; green, fertile and nestling on the shores of Lake Victoria somewhere in the middle and to the East of the African continent.  It is about the size of England and Wales put together, and is desperately poor (Idi Amin made sure of that) with over 35% of its people living on less than £1 per day, subsisting in slums, with 195,000 of their infants (less than five years old) dying every year – that is one every three minutes. 

Katwe looking southOne of the poorest slums is Katwe, an area within the capital city of Kampala.  Faced with such circumstances, you would probably forgive them the feelings of resentment, anger, despair that we see in poor areas of the UK or other Western countries, after all their situation is many times worse.  You could probably understand hate, jealousy, and even violent crime under such circumstances.  But you wouldn’t perhaps be prepared for love, respect, friendship and dignity – for hope, and for determination.  You wouldn’t perhaps be prepared for a people who despite the direst of circumstances know that Jesus is real, that He loves them, and that He stands with them, shoulder to shoulder and upholds them with His promises. 

Women washing near sewerThese are wonderful people. They live, as whole families, in small mud rooms, beside an open sewer, in dirt, and yet they are clean and as smart as their circumstances will allow.  They are diligent and helpful.  And they don’t want charity, they want jobs, they want enough money to buy the essentials and send their children to school (even though they know that will cost them over half their income).  They want investment and training so that they can earn a basic living wage, or failing that they just want someone to send their children to school so that their children at least can work their way out of the slums.  That is where the Mzungu come in Infant school in Katwe(Mzungu, literally ghost, is the local name for a white person).  That is where they have faith in Jesus, that He will lead their Christian brothers to help provide them the start they need.  They have the hope that we trust in Jesus’ teaching and promises as much as they do.  They know that if Jesus is as real to us as He is to them, then help will surely come – how could it be otherwise? 

Four of us went out to meet the poor, to see their ideas and their fledgling businesses, to understand what they needed to make them work.  We went to Kampala, Jinja, Masaka and Rakai.  We met tailors, brickmakers, biscuit Brick makingbakers, vegetable sellers, cake makers, farmers, teachers and cleaners – many of them pastors who worked in areas too poor to support them, who needed to feed themselves and who wanted to create some basic employment for their people.  We listened to their problems, heard their needs for start-up capital, and discovered the gaps in their understanding about business – and everywhere we were greeted with respect and enthusiasm. 

It is for them, and people like them, that the training materials on this site have been developed.  Uganda is a land of faith and hope where each day brings the opportunity to place another layer of bricks as they build relentlessly, step by step toward their dreams, whether that dream is a replacement for the church that is falling down, or a school that is just enough together to abandon the shed next door. 

We recognise that what we are doing is actually only a drop in the ocean.  After all there are 10 million desperately poor in Uganda; there are many times that in Africa as a whole; and at best we might help a few hundred or so?  What about the rest?  We don’t know. 

But what we do know is that Jesus has promised us we will meet with Him some time soon, and when we do, He will place us either on His right or on His left, and we will then hear Him say the words of Matthew 25:31-46.  We hope and pray that we are standing on His right.