By Frank Mubiru, CulturePrep/On Uganda partner in Uganda
October in Uganda, is one of the rainy months of the year and everywhere you go, you get an immediate sense of what it means to live by the labor of one’s hand. People are always in a hurry and try to do everything as quickly as they can. Usually, they are not hurrying to avoid the rain, but rather to go to their gardens and dig up the ground or sow as much as they can before the next downpour. The ground is covered by deep green natural growth.
Unlike in the developed countries where farmers use tractor to work the land, in places like Uganda, most farmers (or call them peasants) till the land by hand and hoe. They sow seeds and seedlings such as corn and potatoes by hand and foot. It is hard work. But it is work that they look forward to when the rains come.
The rain comes and everything grinds to a halt – including public transport. The most common means of transport are a motor-cycle taxi which carries up to three passengers and a mini-bus or van that carries about a dozen people. Every shelter is swarmed by people trying to stay away from the rain.
Unfortunately, in Masese, only a tiny proportion of the residents have anywhere to dig at all. They live in tiny shelters made of mud and wattle, roofed with scrap iron sheets, or plastic sheets, or simply, dry long grass and reeds.
For these people, rain is not welcome.
It makes their living quarters a squalid mess. In some cases, the roofing leaks and the inhabitants have to put a bucket on the mud floor to trap the water while they hurdle into one of the dry corners of their house. These dwellings moreover, are usually rented from the slum landlords at about US 4 dollars per month.
What caused all this in the first place?
Masese is a suburb of Jinja town. Jinja, many years ago, used to be the industrial and manufacturing town of Uganda. It attracted skilled and unskilled workers from around the country. However, during the turbulent political times of 1971 – 1986, most factories closed, leaving behind hordes of jobless “migrant” workers. Most never returned to their original homes.
This environment is where His Everlasting Love Prevails, Uganda (H.E.L.P) is focusing their intervention and change the way the young people here perceive life.
H.E.L.P among other things, wants to bring hope to this despairing population by giving them the opportunity to be equipped with life skills such as dress-making, brick-laying, hair-dressing, cooking and baking, computer use, woodwork and carpentry, small engine repairs, etc, that can enable them earn a living and change their lives for the better. Our approach is: do not just give them fish to eat. Teach them to fish what to eat.