I recently returned from Uganda where I visited our pilot project that The Grow Hope Foundation has been working on in partnership with the Sustainable Community Education Program (SCEP). During the two weeks there I was able to witness first hand what the team in Uganda has accomplished in the past year. We spent much of our time in the community, getting to know the members of our pilot project and seeing the incredible changes that they have made to improve their health through improved sanitation and hygiene. Now that we feel we have educated our community on hygiene and sanitation, we have begun to work on phase 2 of our program which encompasses nutrition- eating properly, growing healthy fruits and vegetables, and drying/storing food.
The community that we work in is rural and most of the residents lack education. We want to offer this community a different future, not only for themselves but for their children and their grandchildren. Our community members in the pilot project have been so eager to learn and have attended the classes enthusiastically. After each workshop they return home to implement the changes they have been taught. In the last year every single family in our program has built a proper, safe and sanitary latrine as well as a tip-top (an apparatus for washing hands- an integral part of our program). They have also learned about the importance of keeping their home free from pests as well as built washing tables to wash and store their dishes, pots and mingling sticks- the tool they use to cook that was often stored on the ground in the dirt. With these simple measures, illnesses have decreased dramatically over the past year and not one child was lost in our village to the secondary effects of poor sanitation. While our community is healthier, we still see far too much malnutrition, especially in young children. And that is where we came up with a plan. A plan that we are really excited about and truly feel that it will impact this community and other communities around ours. Our hope is to create a sustainable program that offers education to the people around us, so that they in turn can begin to rise from the poverty that they currently exist in and create a life with hopes and dreams and a prosperous future. We want to build something that will greatly increase their chances in doing that.
Tusubira Village will cover three acres and will serve as an educational compound to the surrounding area. It will consist of an office building with class space for things such as sewing and skills education. It will also have a well which will not only benefit Tusubira Village but also the surrounding community, a house for the volunteers who we hope will offer different sorts of education to the people of the area, a thatched-roof meeting area, and a lawn where children can play while their parents learn. We will also have an education garden where we will grow over 40 different crops that will not only teach the community how to grow nutritious foods but also supply our farm stand in the village and offer food that will be donated to the malnutrition ward at the local children's hospital.
So now we begin the journey to educating the community on nutrition. Through the Tusubira Village we hope to not only teach the community but to actually show them and let them learn in our gardens. Our hope is to engage our initial community so completely that they will in turn become experts and be able to share the many things they have learned with others in their area who don't yet take part in the program. Our goal is that with this village, which will be a place for people to come and learn and change their way of doing things, can impact not only our members but all of the residents of our area. One day, maybe we will even help to improve the health and well-being of Ugandans in other rural areas.
We hope to do some serious fund-raising to get this project not only started, but completed. The sooner we can get Tusubira Village up and running, the sooner the lives of these incredible people can begin to improve. I've often thought about the fact that because many of us were born in the countries we were, we will never have to struggle to survive, better yet have a chance to thrive like this community does. But these women- the ones who welcomed me into their homes, shared what little food they had with me and freely strapped their children to my back so that I could experience, for half an hour, what they live every day. These women are strong, and smart and they are willing to do whatever it takes to improve their lives. They simply need a bit of help getting started. They will do the rest- and not only that, but I know that they will take what they have learned and spread that knowledge to the communities surrounding them, so that everyone has an opportunity to thrive. That is what we want with this project- a long lasting solution that will change the trajectory of their futures, as well as the futures of generations to come. We would really love your help- big or small- and over the coming months we will be offering a number of ways in which you can change the lives of people you may never meet, and give them hope where so many have lost all sense of it. They are an incredibly positive group, and with your help they too will be able to dream of a better future.