Oh the joy of living where your great passion meets the world's great need. Uganda. It's my place.
And it's not so much about need as it is about love. Uganda is the place where I come most alive, feel most at peace, where delight levels are high and each day laughter comes more easily. Thank you Jesus for Uganda.
Oh sure it's a developing nation. It completely has it's issues. We all do right? But after 6 visits in 9 years I've seen enough for the rose-colored glasses to come off - and still I glory in this nation and her people.
I sit here jet-lagged (as usual) with tummy grumbles and a heart that is full. I want to proclaim the glory of what has happened. Of what IS happening. The pure pleasure of aligning with what God is already doing in a place he loves that is ripe for harvest and so hungry for good news.
Canaan Farm. If you know anything about Yobel, you know this is where we got our start.
A 500-acre farm in the northern-ish part of Uganda initially begun as a place for displaced peoples to begin life anew. What began as a couple of huts and 2 fish ponds has grown to encompass a state-of-the-art medical clinic (thank-you Hope 2 One Life), a Primary School (thank-you artisans and Yobel supporters), an adult literacy school & tailoring project (Far-Reaching Ministries), a church, and at least 3 bore holes pumping out clean water for the surrounding village along with solar power that produces gravity fed irrigation and running water. And of course none of this would have happened apart from the faithful stewardship and leadership of Richard, Suzan and their amazing team. I cannot believe all that has transpired over such a short time in addition to the daily operations of farm life.
Last March Yobel led a team of 9 on our 3rd Exposure Trip to Canaan Farm to pilot a business training curriculum created by Paradigm Shift for the nation of South Africa. This was the curriculum's debut in Uganda as well as in a rural area within a week-long intensive format. We were supposed to train no more than 35 burgeoning entrepreneurs but found our training room packed out with 59 hopeful farmers, artisans, and marketers. Our team worked incredibly hard to deliver the training beneath a hot tin roof with the help of 2 different translators over the course of 6 long days. From outward appearances, it seemed that the training was well-received and brought incredible hope to those who partook. Parting comments assured us that "We will not recognize this place the next time we come," and we left with promises that the people would take this knowledge and really apply it to their lives.
Over the course of the past year, I received emails and facebook messages (yes facebook has reached Uganda) assuring me that people were indeed growing their businesses and beginning new ones.
But I was totally unprepared for all that had transpired over the past 14 months.
Christian gets a shave at Fred's Salon
Meet Fred Matunda, resident tailoring instructor at Canaan Farm and proud owner of a small tailoring shop and modest salon housed within the village center which he rents for 15,000 UGX each per month ($5.78). Fred got his idea to begin the salon at last year's training when he realized that the community had a need for hair care services that were not being met. He opened the salon 3 months later and now has 2 employees, Vincent and Mike, who offer a variety of services. Between the tailoring shop and salon, Fred supports a wife and 6 children who are all now in school. During the school uniform season he employs another worker to help fashion children's clothing to keep up with local demand. In addition to gaining his idea for a salon, from last year's training Fred learned "To help my customers, how to budget, and how to be more friendly with people." Fred was so excited to be attending the training again this year because "I am going to change the working of my business by adding some accounting so I can be sure both are growing."
It seems that last year's entrepreneurs have not been selfish with their knowledge. Upon arrival at Canaan Farm this May, our team of 11 was able to interview 46 returning business men and women. We found that those empowered by last year's course took it upon themselves to share their new knowledge with 159 friends and neighbors whom we hope benefitted from life-changing knowledge of how to improve existing businesses, increase profits, begin savings' plans, and more. As we entered the training room early Tuesday morning, we were greeted by 103 expectant faces packed into the very same room we previously thought maxed at 59! It seems that Ugandan's have a bit less of a space bubble than those of us from the US.
And it doesn't stop there.
Of the 46 second-timers, we were delighted to find:
Although the work is hard, it is at the same time easy because we are not striving, we are simply walking out what we are made to do.
And the thing is, we didn't come with material gifts; we didn't come with micro-loans or building projects. Each of these things has their place, but we believe our specific mission is to empower others to change their own circumstances while decreasing dependency on aid. We've been encouraged to see that when we offer love, relationship, and empowering knowledge within the proper time and place, a rich harvest is the result.
Oh and for those of you interested in the tailoring and bamboo projects, never fear - Julia and the team worked overtime to teach a few new designs and improve on existing skills. As a result we have some pretty cool new products coming your way very soon and some of the best bamboo jewelry we have ever seen.
So look out world! These men and women are proud of their skills, are being compensated fairly, and are investing their profits into their businesses and families; improving their lives dramatically.
The cost of this training was around $1700 to provide lunches, tea breaks, supplies, printed materials, and licensing fees. This was reduced significantly because the low literacy rate meant we only printed training materials for 15, decreasing our typical entrepreneur expense from $35 per person to around $17. The team cost was $2800 per person times 10, all of whom raised their own funds to join us. So nearly $30,000 to transform the lives of 103 people + the 3 additional friends and neighbors that each will train/assist on average and the 7 family members that will benefit as a result of the matriarch or patriarch increasing their earning potential = 1000+ people impacted over time. Not to mention the ways in which our team's lives have been transformed through this Exposure Trip.
I hear it argued often that short-term trips are so expensive. Why send a team across an ocean for 2 weeks at the expense of $30,000 when you could just send that money over to do something more lasting? An argument that has it's place, I'll allow - definitely a question worth considering.
But it's hard to place a price-tag on a sustainably changed life. Not to mention the impact this life will have on a family, a community, and eventually a nation.
This is money I'd consider well spent. And the fact that it can be done with great love, while impacting hearts in ways that are of eternal significance is a huge win for me.
Thanks so much to all who have made this possible! We are grateful for our friend and real estate agent who dropped off a check to fund the training of 20 entrepreneurs the day before we left, for those who donated fabric for the tailoring ladies, to those on our prayer list, to those who have joined the Big Picture Club or sponsored an entrepreneur, to our friends who encourage us, to volunteers who manned the shop while we were gone, to Jedd & Janelle and Richard & Suzan and their respective staff, to our amazing team and all who supported their trip, to those helping support our salaries to do what we do, to our loyal customers who shop at Yobel Market and to Julia, Kylie, Donavan, Irene and the Yobel Board. Bless you all.
You all are the reason this happens. Please help us continue!