Mutima Outreach, Uganda
Mel's Story (March 2020)
For the past 18 months I have been involved with a project in Entebbe, Uganda. I first heard about it through the shared experiences of Yvonne and Johanna Trigg in 2018. As I listened to their stories, I realised more and more that my emotions were becoming quite physical. There was a fire burning within me telling me this was something I could do.
I asked God that if this was what he wanted me to do, then he must please open doors for me. I prayed the same prayer for about 2 weeks without any feeling or conviction. It was at this point that I decided to change my prayer. I decided to step out in faith and commence planning my trip to Entebbe through International Volunteering HQ. I asked God that if this was not what he wanted for me, then he must "close all doors”.
All my plans ran like clockwork. There was my confirmation! I signed up for Women’s Empowerment. I had no idea what I would be doing, but thought, "Well, I can cook, I have an allotment, I can sew and I can take an electric sewing machine out with me." I was truly in Gods hands.
Mutima Outreach is totally reliant on donations and volunteers who visit women in the neighbourhood affected by HIV/Aids . The aim is to provide food packages, help with health and medication, and to aid awareness of sanitation. They are also invited to Mutima, which is a kind of drop-in on the grounds of Victors Church. Here they meet to learn different skills i.e. sewing, basket-making, cooking, juicing, and participating in the kitchen garden project.
So my first trip involved working alongside Nicole, teaching the ladies how to sew and use a sewing machine . My machine was a great asset as they only had one very old treadle machine that actually worked. The plan was to set them up with their own sewing business which they would then manage themselves. This has now been achieved. They are producing, and selling, their scrunchies globally, which can be ordered through a website set up by Nicole https://www.prakasaco.com.
For the last week of my 3-week stay I organised a garden project for them in the church grounds , where harvesting would not only provide for them, but could also create an income through selling to neighbouring stalls and small businesses. In this same week another volunteer arrived from the UK, Fiona, who travelled out to teach business skills for women wanting to start up their own projects.
Although much was achieved on this trip I didn’t feel this was my only reason for visiting. Deep down I was being pulled towards doing more out in the field. God was guiding me to outreach and, of course, this is a never-ending need. I had been right: this was absolutely where God wanted me to be, which was confirmed on my second visit while working further alongside Pastor Lilian and being hosted by her and her family.
As it turned out, the only other volunteer on the WE project was Nicole from Canada - a professional tailor. Coincidence?? No, of course not! And this was the beginning of the Scrunchie Sewing Business.
We were placed at Victors Church with Pastor Lilian in Entebbe. In 2013 Pastor Lilian established a project named Mutima Outreach, after a prominent member of her church - Miss Nakato Rose - died of HIV/Aids leaving her children to fend for themselves. This really touched Lilian and she felt she needed to do something to help other women in the same situation.
The fundraising for my 2nd trip was achieved by collecting anything saleable: household goods, toys, clothing, bric a brac, etc. My church (Hayling Island Baptist), friends, and family really got behind me with this to the point that I ran out of space very quickly! So through boot sales, garage sales, and coffee mornings enough money was raised for me to stay for 2 months on my next trip.
My return to Entebbe in Jan/Feb 2020 was actually more than I had expected. Staying with my young Ugandan family (Pastor Lilian, George, and Princes Patrick and Preston) was a joy and an education. I learned so much about their culture, their faith, their diet; but I also learned more about myself. I fitted in with this life like it was always meant to be.
Lilian took me under her wing spiritually and I accompanied her on visits to hospitals and homes where she had been asked for prayer. She is such a calming person and I learned from her the protocol of how to approach situations. My part, of course, was largely financial, which I am pleased to say I was able to help with time and time again. We did outreach visits normally twice a week, handing out food packages and soap but there were also women I helped with rent arrears and repairs to their homes. Some were helped by giving them capital to boost their businesses while others required help with healthcare and medication.
Every Thursday morning we would meet at Victors Church to travel in the back of a builders truck to Prayer Mountain. Lilian chose Thursday as she knows that is the day I meet up with the ladies of BREAD for Bible study in England; but I have to say the meetings of prayer and reading on Prayer Mountain are far lengthier. People from all over the world visit this sacred site and I can understand why. The landscape is really calming but the pilgrims are very vocal, intense, and animated. If I’m honest, my own prayers seemed extremely conservative by comparison. Our single file safari would climb the countless bricked steps and make our way to the wooded area to make camp for our 4-5 hours of praise and worship, prayer and intersession. I loved it!
My largest project started last year: a house-build for a young lady and her twin daughters. I met this lady on my first outreach visit and as she shared her harrowing story she showed no emotion at aIl. I felt her heart and soul were dying. The conviction to help this lady was immediate and very clear: to move her from her dwelling in the fishing village, build her a new house, and get her out from working the quarry. All was achieved this year, and she is now a regular member of Mutima and Victors Church, and assists the outreach programme .
I am regularly in touch with Pastor Lilian, especially now in the current global situation with Covid-19. As soon as I saw the wave of infection spreading I advised them to buy provisions on a large scale and distribute to their Mutima women because lockdown would follow. Now they too are in lockdown and under curfew between 7.00pm-6.30am. Food is still available and Pastor Lilian and George did get supplies and some cash out to the women, but this will only last them another 2-3 weeks and it is not safe for them to continue to do this without any protective clothing. My concerns grow for them daily as infections are increasing rapidly.
Please pray for their protection and provision. These women are extremely vulnerable under normal conditions but this situation puts extra pressure on them as they do not have the same resources and services that we have. With the current closure of Victors Church and the sewing business they will have no income at all. The cash handed out by Pastor Lilian will probably feed them for another 2-3 weeks but by then they will be in arrears with their rent. Food will always take priority.
If you have been touched in any way by my mission and would like to help the women of Mutima, Nicole has set up this website for donations https://donorbox.org/prakasa-co (£4 can feed a family for a week and £7 - £10 could pay their rent for a month).
Update (31 July 2020)
Hi everyone. I apologise for for not updating sooner but much has been happening and it's been challenging trying to keep up. After my forced vacation in Waterlooville I am very pleased to return to my little home on wheels back on the island.
While I was in Uganda Jan/Feb I know many of you stored booty for me to sell at the boot sales again. Well over the last 2 weeks I have been collecting all this lovely booty from you and have already done 2 sales raising £207. This is a great start, and as long as the weather is kind I shall continue to do so. Fortunately Brenda has given me the use of her garage again which is such a blessing, enabling me to collect and store everything in one place. I did bring back with me a lot of craft work made by the ladies of Mutima which will all be up for sale when I have the time to arrange.
Our small crisis support group are still sending money out to Pastor Lilian every fortnight for food and soap to the 16 families of Mutima and we have enough in the fund to continue until mid September . However we will be reviewing this support in a couple of weeks as things do not seem to be improving in any way for them out there . With lockdown and curfew still in force they still have no income . Actually the situation out there is worsening . As the Coronavirus spreads , figures of registered cases reaches 1103 and on Thursday 23rd July their first death was registered . Movement is also a worry for them . Public transport has become very expensive and the Boda Boda (motorbike taxi service) has been banned , only private motorcyclists and private car owners are allowed movement.
Over the past 3 weeks Pastor Lilian has had health concerns for her 2 boys . Preston her youngest was the first to be hit with ill health , going down with fever and gastric problems . They took him to a clinic and he received 5 days of treatment . Intravenous antibiotics for a bacterial virus . I am pleased to add he has recovered well and is almost back to his cheeky self . Patrick on the other hand is recovering from cuts and bruises to his face after being hit by a motorbike when Lilian took him out for ice cream for his birthday. Poor little chap spent most of his birthday at hospital.
All in all they are not fairing too well right now. As lockdown for them clocks up 5 months they are now behind with rent for their home and the church, but their landlords seem very understanding as long as they can pay something. My plans were to return again Jan/Feb next year to start another building project but obviously with things as they are this may not happen. So for now, I shall continue for as long as possible raising funds from the boot sales but this money will be sent out to them now to help with the present situation.
I want to end on a positive though . My time spent with Lilian and her family earlier this year was a time of pure joy, I learned so much from her . She is such a strong resilient lady but its her faith that builds that strength. A true warrior of God , and whatever is thrown at her - her faith pulls her through. Coronavirus IS a stumbling block no denying, but when God has a plan for us we have to walk on the pebbles too sometimes.
Thanks everyone for all your support and I look forward to when we can come together again and not in the virtual world.
(Jesus is my living hope)