On our recent trip to Uganda to prepare for our team’s mission trip next year, my husband and I were fortunate to learn more about Watoto’s Neighbourhood program and to meet four women currently in the program. We visited these women in their homes (a small room – about 2 x 2.5 m – which needed to sleep from 3 to 7 people), listened to their stories and prayed with them – such a privilege!
The women, many widows, had been identified as being very vulnerable in their communities. Their stories and situations of such despair and hopelessness were not something many of us would ever have to face or consider here in Australia. For some, the only solution or way forward they could see was death. But, through friends and the church, being brought into the program now gives them a future they never thought they would have.
Within the Neighbourhood program, the women spend two years involved in discipleship, counselling and are taught business and trade skills, as well as literacy for those who can’t read or write. One or two of their children are given the opportunity to attend one of the Watoto schools. This means a great deal to the women as they are not in a position to be able to afford to send their children to school. Gaining an education gives these families another window of hope for the future.
Watoto staff took us to meet the women. One was a graduate of the program and is now working for Watoto, giving back to these women what others gave to her. To see and hear where she had come from and where she was now, was such an amazing example of God’s grace and mercy.
On the recommendation from Watoto, my husband and I took some basic gifts of soap, flour, rice, oil, beans and sugar to each of the women. The Watoto staff explained to the women that they were gifts, not from Watoto, but from people who cared about them. The gifts were to show them love and encourage them in knowing that they are valued and that there are other people who love and care about them. These gifts were simple but meant so much to the four women.
Their stories – as with so many in this country – were challenging and confronting, yet they now have hope and are fighting for a better life for themselves and their children.
By Lyndal Mayer