Samaritan's Purse projects are helping impoverished people in Karamoja take care of themselves and pass on the blessing to the elderly and disabled
Along the northeastern border of Uganda, a region called Karamoja sits among dry, dusty riverbeds and cracked earth. The Karamojong people have suffered through decades of food shortages, lack of peace, and rampant alcoholism.
“Karamoja Help Vulnerable People in Ugandais characterized by erratic rain which comes once and too much,” said Geoffrey Gidudu, who works with the Samaritan’s Purse agriculture program in this area. “We only are able to grow crops for one month, two months.”
It’s a vicious cycle. The rain comes rarely and then in sudden deluges, doing little for the soil.
When people run out of food, they eat the seeds they had planned to use the next year, leaving them with nothing to plant. They raid each other’s villages to take livestock, often killing innocent bystanders. Many drink to cope with their lives, because putting alcohol in their bellies is more comforting than having nothing at all.
“You find them dying of hunger because all the muscles have been wasted off,” Gidudu said.
Samaritan’s Purse has programs throughout Karamoja to help people move past their suffering. Agricultural projects reward people with food when they work to restore their land. They have built ditches to retain rainwater for irrigation even when it doesn’t rain for months. They are learning to plant short-term crops. In the meantime, food distributions help sustain them so they can continue working.
Ministry to the Karamojong
There are also ministry programs that teach life skills and biblical truths. People learn how to make items, such as liquid soap, that they can sell, and how to create savings groups. The money is then used to help their vulnerable neighbors.
“Before I came to this program, I didn’t know anything about the Word of God,” said Madelina Kodet, who has been training in chronological storytelling so she can pass on the truth of the Bible. “When this program of Samaritan’s Purse came, it opened our minds and our hearts and made us know really what God requires of us.”
Madelina and her husband divorced 18 years ago. They both began attending the program and received healing through the Word of God. They decided to reconcile and become married again.
Now Madelina can tell stories from the Bible almost verbatim, and she often gathers crowds to teach them. Many people in Karamoja are illiterate and few churches exist in the villages, so these storytelling circles are the only way they can hear about salvation through faith in Christ.“I didn’t know God had purposed me to live in a proper way,” said Mary Akello, a member of the savings group. “I will never turn my back to this God because this God has made me what I am.”
Before joining the group, Mary was an alcoholic. She has now quit drinking and has received salvation. Her husband can’t find work, but Mary is able to sell produce through the group, creating savings for her family and the community.
“We have seen Karamoja is changing slowly,” said Agnes Risa, a Samaritan’s Purse staff member who was born and raised in the region. “When you give the Word of God, it touches the heart and changes the heart. And once the heart is changed, a person stops raiding, a person stops drinking, a person stops fighting.”
An important part of the work is helping others. Most people here are poor, and they have little to give others. At first, they were reluctant to share. But now, they see that they can care for their families and still help the elderly and disabled.
“At the beginning, they thought they had nothing,” said Tony Ogwal, who is in charge of the ministry programs in Karamoja. “Every time people came to meet, they said, ‘We have nothing. What can we really give to these vulnerable people? Even us, we are vulnerable.’ But through this training, they realized they have a lot of potential. They have so many things that they can share.”
The savings groups use their extra money to buy things for those who have nothing. But most importantly, they spend time with these people, helping them get around and doing things that they cannot do for themselves.
At first, the group simply served as Samaritan’s Purse taught, but they have begun taking ownership of the program. They seek out people in the community to help, and they organize their own meetings. The project now belongs to them.
“Samaritan’s Purse is not going to be in Karamoja forever,” Tony said. “So [for] the sustainability of the project, we have laid the strategy of them coming to groups so they have that sense of belonging. They are in the community, and they have the burden now for the community to do the work of God. We believe if Samaritan’s Purse leaves these specific groups of people, they will still continue.”