Today has been a challenging day. It was already going to be different to the others, as for the first time our visit wasn’t going to be to Ogongora, but to another community further down the route of PEP. It didn’t start well – our early (well, earlier) departure was scuppered by a van needing repairs. Fortunately, it was fixed fairly speedily and we left only 90 minutes later than planned, which I think is pretty good going, given the context.
As a result of our delay, our planned programme in the village had to be squashed as we still needed to leave at our arranged time. [One of the challenges of this trip has been ensuring that we get back to the guest house at a reasonable hour, leaving time for showers, blogging, photo editing etc before sitting down to dinner. Early starts mean late nights writing blogposts aren't such a good idea.] Instead of visiting several people’s homes and land, key members of the community were gathered together in the church building for a time of worship, prayer and PEP testimonies.
Sitting anywhere hot for over two hours is always challenging. When it involves translation and long-winded testimonies, it’s even more so. I think we heard eight or nine stories of transformation thanks to PEP and several of them really were inspiring, but I really was starting to flag in the heat. (Such situations are made even harder when you’re sat facing the congregation!) Having arrived at midday, we only moved on to visiting people’s businesses at 2.30pm. People were clearly disappointed that we couldn’t visit more homes (especially the senior pastor), and that was tricky to handle too.
Personally, I found the fact that community was a more urban rural one than Ogongora’s off the beaten track nature. I’m not sure if that makes sense… Today’s village was along the main road as opposed to the literal tracks we drove down to Ogongora. It had a ‘centre’ – a strip of shops reminiscent of a Main Street in a cowboy film. Many of those involved in PEP had managed to found businesses in the centre, and it was these that we were visiting. However, because this community in many ways had much more in terms of material goods than in Ogongora – like phones, solar charging panels & shops – it looked a little more like they were living aspirational lives, wanting what could be had in Kampala. Because of this, what they didn’t have and their poverty was even more obvious than it had seemed in the more rural areas.
But still, the stories were inspiring. We met Margaret, who had begun baking cassava bread in her hut and thanks to PEP, found the means to expand her business to a shop in the centre – which she showed us with immense pride. [Note to self: Bex brought back a bag of the bread and I haven't tried any yet.] Clement took us to the property he’s just acquired for his cassava flour business. Multiple people in this community have been equipped with the skills they needed to make a life for themselves and their families.
And again, it’s not just the individuals who are benefitting – the whole community is too. Always the researcher, I was delighted to discover today that a significant amount of research goes into PEP, there are individuals whose job it is to help these communities to analyse themselves as a way to identify their needs. Abdul [fascinatingly, a muslim who has become involved in PEP and is now a passionate advocate for it] shared a few stats with us, including the fact that 6 years ago, at the start of the process, only 5% of families had a pit latrine. Now, over 90% do – and those that don’t are usually elderly or unable to dig one themselves. 6 years ago, only 4 children were in ‘senior’ education, now there are many. Like Ogongora, the village also wanted a new, larger, more permanent church building and they’re well on their way to achieving that ambition:
Tomorrow is our final day in the field and we’ll be visiting another village, in the same locality as today, but a similar context to Ogongora. Here’s hoping for no broken down vehicles and plenty of time to spend with inspiring people.