From the smallest of beginnings…

This post was intended for Sunday evening, but the wifi at the airport wasn’t strong enough to get much done. Since then, work & tiredness have overcome blogging, so I’m back-dating the last few posts.

On our last day in the field, we heard some of the most dramatic testimonies I think I’ve heard during the whole trip. Two in particular stood out to me, one because they had achieved something we’d not heard anyone else speak of; and the other because it started with such small means…

John Julius greeted Katie and I with enthusiasm when he arrived at the village on Saturday morning. We had quite a long chat with him (in English) before he entered the church building, about his family, his farm and in particular, his son – who was months away from graduating university, except he needed to find the 1.5 million Ugandan shillings (approximately £330) to pay his last term’s fees. This was the first time anyone we’d come across in the PEP process who had mentioned at child in higher education, and this was in fact John Julius’ second son to have studied a degree!

In the church meeting, John Julius shared more of his testimony in detail. He described his life pre-PEP as “sleepy” – passing him by and without taking much initiative in the direction it lead. PEP helped him and his family realise that they were blessed with fertile land, so began growing crops and investing in livestock. The main purpose behind this activity was to fund his children’s’ education – which he did. As well as the sons who’ve studied at university, he has two children still in secondary school and a daughter who’s trained as a primary school teacher – significant achievements in Uganda as a whole, let alone this small rural community.

John Julius & ground nutsJohn Julius & his store of ground nuts.

Following the meeting, we walked the short distance to John Julius’ home and it was quite honestly one of the most encouraging and impressive sights we’d witnessed in any of the villages. There was a group of calves, bred from cattle who were out grazing; chickens, sheep and goats; flourishing banana and mango trees; fields of crops; and the crowing glory – a stash of sacks of ground nuts awaiting selling. These nuts were the key to finding the funds for his son’s fees. If the price was right, he might get the full 1.5 million from them, but he wasn’t optimistic. The deadline for fees is March 9th and if they’re unpaid, his son won’t be able to take his final exams. Do pray that he is able to find the fees – to come so far and be prevented from completing the final hurdle would be horrendous for all concerned.

Grace's pigs (& chickens)Grace’s home.

Another home close to the church building was home to Grace – the woman I mentioned in my last post as having once worn rags, but who was now regarded as one of the best-dressed women in the village. I want to tell her story with the same detail as she shared it at our gathering as it shows just how PEP enables people to progress from the tiniest of resources…

When Grace returned home after attending PEP training, she looked (as she was instructed) for what she had as a starting point. All she could find was some charcoal her oldest child had, which she thought was worth around UGS 800 (less than half a US$), which she really didn’t believe would be enough to kick off any kind of business enterprise. But she didn’t give up. She harvested the cassava she was growing in her garden and planned to make some simple buns that she could sell at market. To do this, she needed cooking oil, but the charcoal money wouldn’t be enough for a whole jar, so she asked a shop to lend her some. Using the charcoal money, she bought sugar and then made the buns. Once sold, she had enough money to pay for the oil and a small profit. She continued this business until she had saved UGS 390,000 – at which point she surprised her husband by revealing the money and using it to buy a cow! The cow produced two calves and a lot of milk, which is a big deal when caring for a family of six. Later, she became pregnant and was worried that she would use up all her savings while she was unable to work, so instead used them to buy two pigs – one of which she later sold at a profit and the other has produced piglets which in turn can be sold.

Grace's homeGrace shows us a basket of silver fish.

She has done amazingly, especially in overcoming the drain on resources that pregnancy (and an extra mouth to feed) might have been. We visited her home too and the range of activities going on there now was incredible – calves stood in the shade of a tree; chickens ran around with the piglets; at one point she brought out a basket of silver fish which she catches locally and sells at market. Given that all this has emerged from the sale of such a simple thing as charcoal, it’s incredibly impressive!

It was an amazing way in which to conclude the trip, seeing evidence of just how much PEP can achieve even from the smallest of beginnings.

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