By Adam Riddell, manager of our Food for Work project in Karamoja, Uganda
This week, millions of Ugandans are celebrating 50 years of independence from colonial rule with the Golden Jubilee Celebration. The capital of Kampala is filled with patriotic displays, smiles, and excitement.
Truth be told, it has been a difficult 50 years for the small, landlocked East African country, having endured through multiple civil wars and political struggles. AIDS has also left a devastating mark on the country. Even so, Uganda’s history is not completely filled with bad news, and Ugandans are experts at looking forward, not backwards.
Over the past half century, Uganda has improved its education system by providing nearly free education for children as well as collegiate scholarships for those who qualify. Literacy rates are high and infrastructure projects such as paved roads are also on the rise. Uganda businesses are growing to compete with economic demands and are providing valuable services to the people. The country is largely Christian, and the church is strong and growing.
Uganda is currently one of the few East African countries to be enjoying peace and stability. To the north, South Sudan is having tense relationships with its northern neighbor. To the east, Kenya is battling the Islamic militant group, Al Shabaab, both in its own country and Somalia. To the west, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), rebels are clashing with government forces. This particular conflict has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing for the Ugandan border. I met one of these refugees there last week.
Esperance, age 30, fled for her life with her 3-month-old baby after rebels invaded her village and burned houses to the ground. She arrived in Uganda about two weeks ago, but just recently arrived at the Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement to join 21,500 other Congolese refugees. Samaritan’s Purse staff met her and provided food for her and her child Abigail.
As we sat under the shade of a tree, I listened to her story about how she didn’t know where her husband was or if he was alive, and how she never wants to go back to her country. She sat with her bag of food and her few new household items and waited to be transported to a small piece of land where she can construct a shelter to retreat from the rain and the elements.
Esperance is joining her Ugandan hosts in looking forward to a brighter future. As I join the rest of Uganda in celebrating this week of jubilee, I choose to celebrate a bright future and a country that is a safe haven to people like Esperance. I pray that God will continue to bless this great country and her people for more years to come, and to continue to use Samaritan’s Purse to meet needs and share the hope of the Gospel.