Posted on February 21, 2020
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“ACT has brought hope to the hopeless, because the lives of the children have greatly changed” – [Reverend Laurence Wandera]
Namayingo is not a place many people have heard about, except of course if you live there. It is the main town and commercial centre of Namayingo district which takes its name from it.
Little do people know that this small town, in Busoga sub-region of Eastern Uganda, is on the shores of Lake Victoria and was the object of exploration by John Hanning Speke in his quest to find the source of the River Nile. Speke set out on his expedition with hope that he and his companion, Burton, would discover the source of one of the world’s greatest and historic rivers. But was Speke driven just by hope and personal endeavour? It seems not, his was evidently a story of service – a duty Speke felt to his ‘queen and country. Service is, however, not duty bound. Serving a cause not bound by a duty or dependent on a pay-cheque is not the norm in today’s society. Why then do some people in Africa, particularly those of little means and with many needs of their own, offer to volunteer to serve?
At ACT, our work in Africa is carried out in collaboration with community based organisations, mainly Christian churches and schools. They in turn are served by Care Teams, made up of volunteers supporting a paid project officer. There are a number of reasons why the care team members offer to volunteer, but after more than 22 years of working in Africa, two characteristics stand out among those who have been the most dedicated — faith and compassion.
Namayingo is home to Reverend Laurence Wandera, our dedicated Care Team leader, overseeing our work in Namayingo district. In Uganda, ACT is working mainly in the Busoga sub-region in collaboration with the Elim Church of Uganda, who have about 200 local churches across the Eastern Region. Reverend Laurence Wandera oversees 5 Churches in the district, all of which have orphans and widows that ACT support. As Care Team leader, he oversees and coordinates the activities of the care team volunteers in the district. In this article we gain an insight into why he has taken on this mighty task and find out what motivates him to give his time to ACT.
Reverend Wandera is married with 4 children. He is unable to survive on the little income he earns as a church minister. He supplements this by selling produce from the small farm on which he and his family live. His involvement with ACT started in 2006, a year after ACT started working in Uganda. Along with other Elim church district leaders, he was invited by Reverend David Mwesigwa, Director and Co-ordinator of ACT’s work to a meeting in Jinja, where he found out about ACT and the collaboration with the Church. He was excited by the opportunity that the project could bring to the orphans and widows in his district and immediately volunteered to lead the work. According to Revd Wandera, the volunteers are a close knit community and all know the children and women most in need. For them seeing the disadvantaged children able to go to school, wear school uniforms, shoes and receive a daily school meal, has made the sacrifice worthwhile. Some but not all the children supported are church members. “We identify the children that meet the criteria of ACT, help them to complete the application forms, as many of the mothers or guardians are illiterate. We then send the forms to Jinja, from where they are forwarded to the UK”. His day to day role includes keeping records of the children’s school performance, visiting them with care team members, paying their school fees and passing on reports about their health and welfare to Jinja where reports from the districts are collated and sent to the UK. We also have farming projects for the widows which they use for income generation. Recently, ACT supported us to buy goats for each family. The family sell the goat milk and many new kids have been born. All these help sustain the family.
Andrew Egesa is one of the children in the care of Revd Wandera. He was supported by ACT as a child after his parents and guardians had all passed away. ACT educated him and now there is no greater joy than to say he is married and a primary school teacher. But ACT didn’t just give Andrew an education, he has followed in the path of Revd Wandera and trained as a minister in the local church, so that he also can serve to help change the lives of orphans and widows for the better.
According to Revd Wandera, ACT has brought hope to the hopeless, because the lives of the children have been greatly changed.
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