Posted on June 2, 2016
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… A supporter’s first time experience of ACT at work
My wife and I have sponsored children through ACT for many years. We receive the regular updates and newsletters and so I have an interest in the work ACT is doing in Africa. But until a few weeks ago I had not seen ACT at work first hand. When the opportunity came, it was a pleasure to accompany the ACT Director, Kunle and another supporter, Buzz, on the recent trip to Africa. Since ACT was formed 18 years ago, Kunle has travelled endlessly in Africa to places where ACT has made its presence felt in the lives of poor widows, orphans and the children of single mothers. ACT is currently working in 8 countries. I truly am grateful for the experience of this, my first trip to East Africa, which took us to parts of Kenya and Tanzania. By the way, Kunle also happens to be my younger brother.
We set out on the journey to Kenya and Tanzania from the UK on Thursday, April 21. We flew with Turkish Airlines, changed planes in Istanbul and arrived early hours the following day in Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International airport. It was a short taxi journey to the local terminal to catch the 06:30 flight arriving about 40 minutes later in Eldoret. We were met at the airport by ACT partners from JTAN who drove us to Webuye, our destination. A combination of heavy traffic and huge road bumps meant our travel time on the 65 kilometres journey was two hours. Webuye is a small town in Western Kenya, not far from the Ugandan border. ACT has been working in Bunkoma County, Sitikho Ward since 2012.
In a packed four days we commissioned a Water supply project benefitting over 5,000 villagers inclusive of schools, churches, farms and homes with treated drinkable pipe borne water funded by a grant from the UK Lions club. We also commissioned a Green House project for Widows/Women. ACT is empowering widows in Bunkoma County through its sustainable income generation programme. We were welcomed by 60 village heads and elders in the Sitikho Village Council, met the orphans, fatherless children and widows sponsored by ACT, visited the Primary and Secondary schools that the children attend and fellowshipped with the villagers in church services at a conference organised by Bishop Humphrey, the local overseer of ACT programmes. We were impressed with the good work our partner is doing in the community with ACT support. Then it was back to Nairobi and after a day rest we were on the early morning flight to Mwanza, Tanzania on Tuesday 26 April.
We were on the longer Nairobi to Mwanza flight which stops at Kilimanjaro International Airport for passengers to disembark and pick up others travelling to Mwanza. The journey time was three and half hours (two hours longer than the direct flight). We arrived just before midday and was met by Fr. Honoratus from Justice & Peace, ACT partner in Kagera region who drove us on the one hour journey through Mwanza to the ferry port for the boat crossing to join the main road to Kagera. Mwanza is in north western Tanzania and lies on the south eastern shore of Lake Victoria. It is the second city of Tanzania. Mwanza is known as “Rock City” because of its many gigantic rocks jutting out into the lake, giving the city a unique topography. It is an attractive city for a first time visitor.
Ours was the second car on the car lane at the ferry port as we waited for the boat to arrive. When it did and was ready to load, the driver of the car ahead of us was nowhere to be found. The port police by-passed our lane and instead loaded the buses on the adjacent lane and filled the boat. Needless to say we had to wait another hour for the next ferry. Nearly two hours after we arrived we crossed the lake and joined the main road that took us on the five hours, 270 kilometre journey to Biharamulo in Kagera region. We travelled the final 70 Kilometres in two hours on dirt road where construction works seemed to have been abandoned. We arrived in Biharamulo, our base late evening, nearly eight hours after we landed in Mwanza.
Kagera is in the north-west corner of Tanzania and borders with the Republics of Rwanda and Burundi to the west, Uganda to the north and Lake Victoria to the east. Its land area is almost one and half times the size of Wales. The region is mountainous and mostly rural. Biharamulo is a small town within a national park. From there we travelled each day to see the children in their villages, meeting some in their Primary and Secondary Schools including Ragwati Secondary, Runari Primary, Kagoma Village Primary, Buzurayombo Primary schools (to mention but just a few). We discussed with head teachers, who often had genuine list of needs that could improve the quality of education and life for the children. We were updated about the progress of sponsored children at discussion meetings with village care team volunteers, teachers and community leaders. We also travelled 280 kilometres to the Angel Orphanage, Ngara, a project that ACT supports. The vast distances between towns or villages required travelling several miles on un-tarred dirt roads all through the four days and hardly completing our daily schedules.
The above are mentioned only in appreciation of the amount of work being done by ACT all behind the scenes and way beyond fundraising for their noble programmes. Only one trip of 12 days of non-stop travelling and my body just barely survived 10 of those days. On Saturday, 30 April we were on our way back to the UK, arriving just in time for the May bank (public) holiday.
My joy in going on this trip was derived from meeting deprived children, who would never have completed any reasonable education without ACT support and the needy widows whose lives I could tell was being transformed, both from the hope of a better future for their children and the support and training that ACT provides to enable them generate income in a sustainable way. There is so much more I could write about, but all I can say is that supporting ACT is very worthwhile and a good use of funds. It is an investment that is not in vain. “Seeing is believing”; I have been blessed by this experience of seeing ACT in Action.
Femi Onabolu is Past District Governor of Lions Club 105M and International Committee Chairman. He is based in Birmingham (UK)