Photo Album 2013
History Living Hope was established in January 2008 to restore dignity to vulnerable women, most of whom are HIV+, single mothers and returnees from abduction into the LRA rebel army who ravaged northern Uganda. Some of these women had been brutally mutilated and bear the scars of war; others were used as sex slaves, all of them disenfranchised and victims of circumstances they did not create. Through Living Hope, vulnerable women are given a hand up so theyâ€™re empowered to take care of themselves and their children. They receive assistance with basic necessities, are empowered with vocational skills and are either employed with the program or provided with microfinance loans to start income-generating projects of their own.
Opened in 2008, the Living Hope Centre in Kampala, Uganda is located at Watoto Churchâ€™s head office downtown. The unit in Kampala facilitates tailoring, liquid soap and candle making. The facility hosts more than 30 ladies who are employed as seamstresses for income generating activities. Discipleship, business training and adult literacy classes are also facilitated at this location.
The Gulu facility is located in the former Night Commuter Centre on Coronation Road, in Pece Valley. The centre was built to protect children from abduction during the Lordâ€™s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel war. In the aftermath, Gulu district chose to allocate it to Living Hope (rent free) in support of empowering women affected by war. In the Gulu facility the women specialise in peanut butter making, bee keeping and Shea butter development. Discipleship, business training and adult literacy classes are also facilitated at this location.
Gusco is a beautiful centre in the heart of Gulu, which was refurbished in 2011 to provide a tranquil environment for women who had been brutally mutilated during the LRA rebel war. As a result of these mutilations, ladies were ostracised by the community and were unable to freely live in society. The program at Gusco aims to help the ladies deal with the trauma of their past. Here they learn to forgive and find acceptance by experiencing the love of God and living a productive life. The ladies also receive discipleship, small business management skills, tools to run a small scale farm and start-up capital.
KEEP A GIRL IN SCHOOL In 2011, Watoto discovered that more than 40% of girls in the Northern Ugandan region drop out of school at the onset of menstruation. Through the Keep a Girl In School Project, Living Hope aims to address primary school drop-out and increase primary school exam completion among adolescent girls through the provision of sanitary towels and hygiene supplies, and character and life skills development. Earlier this year, we reported a 0% drop out rate in the schools that we started working with last year. We are thrilled at the results and are looking forward to expanding the program. All glory to God.
NEW INTAKE Living Hope has enrolled 540 new ladies into the program. They will undergo one year of intensive business training. In addition to this, the ladies are discipled, counselled, taught skills such as sewing and bead making and given literacy training. The purpose of the training is to empower them to develop business ideas and plans. Approved project plans will be funded through a microfinance loan from the program. Repayment for Living Hope microfinance loans begins when they start generating a profit. They will be monitored and supervised during the initial stages of their projects and encouraged to invest and steward their resources wisely.
RETURN TO DIGNITY BOOK Jennifer was abducted for the second time when she was 14 years old. They seized her from her grandmotherâ€™s grasp and, tying her to a group of 20 other children, they marched their victims into captivity. After four years in captivity, Jennifer was set free but faced rejection and abandonment from her mother and community. Through Living Hope, her life was restored and she was empowered to look after her children. (Excerpt from Return to Dignity) We know that not everyone can visit Africa, so founder Marilyn Skinner has written a book, Return To Dignity, that chronicles the incredible journeys of some of these precious ladies who have triumphed in the face of unimaginable adversity.
VISIT FROM NZ This month we hosted the ‘Sistas’, a team of 8 ladies from New Zealand. They visited all the projects in Kampala and Gulu and 4 schools where the Keep a Girl in School (KAGIS) project is being implemented. The team distributed sanitary towels, underwear and soap to almost 450 girls. One of the team members, Anne, commented “It was such an amazing experience to be able to visit schools, meet the students and learn first-hand what challenges these young girls are facing in rural Uganda. It is heart-breaking to think that something so small as a lack of underwear and sanitary pads can keep a girl from completing her education. I know I will be a better ambassador for Watoto in New Zealand, and am excited to continue to support Watoto and KAGIS all the way from the other side of the world!”
FELLOWSHIP Each morning at the Living Hope Centre in Gulu, an hour is dedicated to small group (cell) meetings where the ladies meet together to worship, share and encourage one another in their Christian walk. There are currently 26 small groups with 8-10 members in each. The purpose of cell is to connect, share and do the journey of life together in a supportive and empowering way. Betty Abwola, former abductee, Living Hope graduate and now a cell leader says, â€œCell has helped me understand my purpose in life and understand that I have the potential to be a leader.â€?
RETURN TO DIGNITY TOUR This year on September 1, Marilyn Skinner started her journey across the world to mobilise women and inspire them to make a tangible difference in the lives of the women in Africa. Great stories of lives being impacted have emerged from the tour so far. Marilyn has met with women’s groups in the USA and Canada. They have been touched by the stories of the powerful miracles that are possible if women are given a hand and shown the love of Jesus. Ruth Strohminger, one of the attendees from Marilyn’s visit to St Paul’s Lutheran Church in the USA said, “Thank you Marilyn for sharing the passion God has inspired in and through you for Watoto and the women of Africa (Uganda). The magnificent acts of God are evident! We are blessed to have met you and to have been reminded of the Spirit of power and love in each of us. When God calls (whispers!), may we hear and do!”
JOYCE’S STORY During a vibrant and celebratory Living Hope service this month, Joyce Ndagire shared her inspiring story. When Joyce and her children found out that they were HIV positive, her husband mistreated and tortured them, leaving them helpless and penniless. “As a result of the condition I found myself in, a social worker from Watoto Church visited me and I was registered in the program shortly after. I started to attend the discipleship course, where my relationship with God has grown tremendously. I was also taught how to manage my finances, budget and save for the future. I was trained to do beadwork. I now use this skill to earn a living and can, therefore, take care of my kids’ essential needs,” says Joyce. During the service, the ladies were empowered, inspired and fired up for the work of the Lord. They were reminded of Christ’s unconditional love and reassured that Watoto cares for them.
As part of our income generating projects, in November our Living Hope team produced and packaged 147 tins of shea butter from northern Uganda. These are the first of our Living Hope natural beauty balms. Through this project weâ€™ve already been able to empower over 62 women. As the project develops the number of women empowered will grow with it.
MERRY CHRISTMAS This month we decorated a Christmas tree at our Living Hope centre. The women were so excited as they posed by the tree for pictures. Sarafina Akello helped create original ornaments out of coconut rings and string, giving our tree a unique African feel. She will celebrate Christmas at her home in Kampala this year with her six children and two grandchildren.“There will be meat and sodas and rice,” she said. Sarafina is optimistic about the upcoming year. “The New Year will bring so much happiness,” she said. We want to wish all our partners and supporters a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May God bless you.