At the Volunteers Meeting held recently at Romero House, we were treated to two contrasting views of CAFOD’s work in Uganda. I say “contrasting” but there was agreement in the views expressed although coming from speakers of different perspectives.
Nichole Gillespie is taking a gap year before going to university to study music and drama. During her gap year she has become a CAFOD volunteer, as part of our Step into the Gap Programme, and was excited to find herself off to Uganda, to see the organisation’s work there, but startled, being the first time she had traveled to Africa! Catherine Ogolla is a Country Officer for CAFOD. Based in Nairobi, she is
CAFOD’s Country Representative for Kenya & Uganda and she described how
CAFOD works with Catholic Church partners in Northern Uganda to deliver aid and development projects.
While both speakers come with different life experiences, they were able to illustrate the truly positive work being done in Uganda, where food poverty and poor nutrition are ever present dangers coupled with low levels of income. HIV and AIDS rank high in the health risks further disadvantaging the poor in the country. In the Homabay Diocese, Ms. Ogolla told the meeting, the prevalence rate of HIV is nearly 26% of the population while between 55% and 72% are living below the poverty level.
Ms. Gillespie spoke about the programme to extend the installation of water pumps into villages and rural areas. Many of these are now motorised, running off solar panels, so water can be delivered directly to where it is most needed such as schools and medical centres. She was both moved and encouraged to see the vast difference this programme was making to Ugandans who now have clean water for drinking and cooking. However, Ms. Ogolla spoke of the rivalries that can occur over the use of such facilities with pastoralists sometimes wanting the water for their livestock. Such conflicts call for careful handling. As the number of bores and pumps grow so these programmes are being handed over to the local communities and authorities, who are often grateful to our organisation and partners for leading the way, effectively.
This sort of partnership ensures that existing projects are sustainable and allows for future expansion and innovation. It ensures that assistance is offered in the form of quality and dignified programmes to the poorest, the vulnerable and marginalised.
But both of our speakers were disturbed by the abuse of workers by corporations and talked about an open cast mining facility where people worked unprotected in the sun all day, digging and filling large trucks with the resulting ore. Nursing mothers were seen working on the site and, of course, no safety equipment was in evidence. People worked in shorts and tee shits. For their labour they were paid just twenty five pence for every lorry load. This shocked both speakers and volunteers but, Ms. Ogolla told the meeting that awareness creation on entitlements had started with the local community, and discussions and advocacy was in progress with the mining companies through a Church partner.
The holistic, integrated programme approach adopted in Uganda both ensures programmes are sustainable while empowering people and communities. Once more demonstrating how, Careful CAFOD Delivers.
The meeting concluded with a moving community Mass. We are grateful to Father Thomas Udie, from the English Martyrs Catholic Church in Walworth, for celebrating this Mass with us.
Volunteer metings are great places to meet other volunteer from different parishes and exchange ideas as well as getting to know what is happening behind the scenes at CAFOD. There’s another chance to experience this camaraderie on the 8th June. It’s at
Westminster Catholic Cathedral Hall, Ambrosden Ave, SW1P 1QH
We can meet our new director, Christine Allen, and chat to some of CAFOD’s Trustees and Central Leadership Team. Sounds like an event too good, and too important, to miss. Book your place here.
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