Jinja, Uganda: Listening to the Cry of the Less Privileged

Patricia Akiisa Abwoli is a former Associate Mill Hill Missionary

I am indebted to the Mill Hill Missionaries for the ongoing formation I received when I was given a chance to go to St. Anselm’s, when it was still in Kent. I believe beyond doubt that when an individual is empowered to know what potential they have and acquires a growth mindset, a whole world of possibility is opened too.  Mission should include such so that the people we work with and for can own their destiny and work to improve themselves and have a purpose driven life. Probably unempowered people become poor, underprivileged or forced into the margins, just an opinion.

On returning to Uganda, I felt I had to observe and listen to the Cry of the Less Privileged in whatever situation I worked but use what I received to empower those I could. If I can’t impact a life then I have not yet got it! Thanks to all who helped our school, started by Rev. Fr. Aloys Helfer(mhm) RIP. The parish, local government through Old Boys, Bolzano recommended by Br. Hubert (Neumair) and Fr. Wijnand (Huijs), SPICMA, am sure recommended by Rev. Fr. Bernard Phelan and Fr. Charles Okata current Rector at the Formation House-Jinja.

 Fr. Aloys Helfer(mhm) RIP and Br. Hubert (Neumair) now retired at home, put a lot of energy and spirit in developing a Vocational school in  Kagoma, Jinja Diocese. At the time that was “the sign of the time”. I think Fr. Helfer wanted to improve Mind, Heart, Body and Hands. These basic domains remain core avenues of impacting lives. The methods or ways applied may change with time.

The Ministry of education, has changed the Curriculum to one which is learner-centered, hands-on plus problem-solving, to equip students with relevant applicable skills. St. Gonzaga has been paving a way for that; for Agriculture, SPICMA funded the Dairy and Poultry. The students and staff all got involved and each has their own story to tell. Hopefully they will continue to be proactive.

With all the above experience, I move out to continue skilling school drop outs, women caught in Gender based Violence, youth and others who realize that the best way to give themselves a chance to improve themselves and purpose, is through life-skills. So, with a team that advocates for harmony in community and within self, I embarked on person-centred empowerment. The skills we give hopefully will keep us happy, with peace of mind, body, and have hands-on skills to help us economically at domestic level.  At least we have seen an increase in speaking out for Justice in communities.

Unfortunately, early in February the brick structure I had put up was broken into and many items taken.(REF PHOTOS). Including what friends had donated for the cause of the girl-child. These were: hand knitting machines, a gas-oven, sewing machines, chairs for group-work, a big tent, a lot of knitting yarn and writing materials. As often happens, police caught four suspects but the stolen items had apparently been taken to another town (not Jinja) to be sold and there was no evidence for convicting.

In July we started again with one knitting machine, two sewing machines and one embroidery electric machine.  We give psycho-social support/counselling, adult literacy, Group-soft skills, tailoring, knitting, soap-making, computer training. The (Local Councillor) LC visits to encourage us not to give up.

Actually, the women and girls come in, in very small numbers since we don’t have enough gadgets yet. The first group I got were supposed to give back by teaching two people. At any one training each participant pays two thousand (2000/- Ugx) towards transport for the instructor and a bottle of water.

We believe with our silent working Patron St. Joseph we shall impact a few lives and make some purposeful interventions, when we get going again. My consecrated life is for service. The team tries its best to ask for spaces at village level where people share the challenges of life today. The (Local Councillors) LCs are very helpful and most people realize that begging reduces their human dignity and would wish to have a different way to empower themselves. Corruption in all forms is another battle and we are still far from the goal. We look forward to building a wall around the premise to keep the property safe. We work with Trustees, legal advisors and police. The voluntary association is made up of 16 members and three staff. Our partners are Action Against Violence Uganda.  (AAV-Ug)

Please continue to pray for our skilling dream for people’s empowerment and a growth mindset. Sometimes when I am sharing, I think of it as everyone’s call to evangelize in action.

I thank all who help us to continue positive amidst challenges (Fr. Fons, MHM Formation House, Sr. Dr. Solome(rscj), Mbikko Parish, Community Development Officer, all neighbours).

Patricia Akiisa (isj) Chairperson of the Association.

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