Angela recently returned from spending six months volunteering at Living Hope in Kampala and Gulu. She shares her story: “While I had done several short-term missions trips over the last ten years, I had always wanted to do something longer. So when my life circumstances changed, it seemed a perfect opportunity to finally fulfil this long-time dream.
Watoto had already made a big impact on my life from the time I had first watched the children’s choir perform about 12 years ago. They were not only amazing performers but inspiring young people filled with life and hope despite their heartbreaking life stories. I remember one little girl speaking about being so hungry that she would eat dust. And yet they offered only hope and joy. This performance stirred my heart and was literally life-changing for me- and from that moment I was Africa bound. It awakened something inside of me, ignited a passion in me for poverty and injustice in the world and started me on a journey that at times has brought me completely undone.
The following year I travelled to Uganda with my family and a construction team from my church, to build a small dwelling that would house 8 Watoto orphans and their new ‘mother’. I always hoped to return to meet the family that lived in this house (which I was able to do this trip…but that’s another story). This and other subsequent trips to several developing countries showed me the reality of life for much of the world’s population. Nothing can really prepare you for that because when those statistics of poverty that we regularly hear become real people- real women, real children- when you hold their hands and look into their eyes- your life can never be the same.
But these trips also showed me ways that the desperate circumstances of so many, can and is, being changed by organisations like Watoto (and by people like you and me). So here I was, all those years later, on my way to Uganda once again, but this time for six months. And while most volunteers go to care for the many abandoned, discarded or tragically orphaned babies and toddlers that live in the babies home in the beautiful Suubi village, I felt called to another area of Watoto’s amazing vision- Living Hope.
Living Hope works to restore dignity to the vulnerable women of Uganda, coming alongside to “embrace, empower and equip” them, giving them life skills and tools to rebuild their families and communities. As a feminist and having been involved for years in a ministry that aimed to restore value and worth to women and girls in Australia, Living Hope seemed like a perfect fit for me, although I was not sure exactly what I would be able to offer these women that came from such a different background and culture. But women are women, regardless of where we live and I like to believe that there was more to bind us together than to separate us…and I loved them from the first moment. It was humbling and a little overwhelming to be told that I was an answer to prayer.
They had apparently been praying for someone to come with a design background and I was there to design new products that these amazing, talented and courageous women would make as part of the income generating ministry provided by Living Hope. I worked on new designs for the 2017 and 2018 line- jewellery, bags and stuffed animals…focusing mostly on jewellery. While it did take me a little while to settle in, find my feet and understand what was needed (and to get used to the unique challenges of doing this work in a developing country where you can’t just go down the road to buy what you need…or even order it online), it’s was a lot of fun and extremely satisfying to create for a cause I am passionate about- empowering women…helping to give them hope and a future…helping them to be able to stay healthy and feed their children. I felt overwhelmed and so, so blessed to have been able to be a part of their restoration. I certainly hope and pray to return in the future.”