These kids are loved by Jesus. They are not unseen, they are seen! Each one is heard and loved by the King of Kings. Every day, I have the honor of witnessing how the Lord provides for them in the midst of uncertainty. I am so grateful and honored to be a part of their story.
When news came to me that Uganda was shutting down all schools immediately due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, my first thought was.. oh no. How will the kids get food? Our school provides a meal a day to kids who honestly don't have the luxury of eating at home. Their families are simply too poor to even provide a meal a day to many of the kids, and if there is a meal, it is often half a potato or maybe a banana depending on the season. Prior to starting the school, many children were not expected to live past the age of 5 due to malnutrition and disease. This new reality of the school closing pierced my heart and sent a sudden panic through me.
But within moments, peace was restored. As I talked to Moses, I felt the Lord tell us to start an emergency food distribution program. Without hesitation, Moses agreed. So we began. Within 3 days we had raised enough money to provide food rations to every child (yes nearly 900) for two months!
So, I could just stop there, and say that all went smoothly and life is great..but I feel the Lord saying to go deeper. To let you into the behind the scenes reality of running an international ministry. Yes, Lord. I will tell the stories.
First, food was not available locally. All transportation was shut down, and if you travel during this shut down you will be arrested. Sigh. How do you get food for 900 kids without public transportation when you serve a village almost an hour by vehicle from the nearest market?
God made a way. Moses was able to gain favor of the local government and was allowed to order food in bulk to be delivered by the truckload to the school.
Moses quickly worked with his staff to develop a system of portioning and distributing cornmeal flour and beans to the families. This would not be easy. Honestly, it takes days to portion, days to distribute, then you start over again. To keep the people at an acceptable social distance, both the school and Moses private homes have now become food sorting and distribution sites. A steady stream of people come to collect their rations once a week. This is a never ending job for Moses and his team. But, they never complain, and work diligently to make sure that the process is smooth and orderly.
Cornmeal flour being weighed and packaged for distribution. The two boys on each side of the photo are from our school, and are official Hands of Action Volunteers.
Bags, ready to go!
Just as we think we have this system figured out, we get the next hurdle. The President announced that anyone distributing food who is not of the government will be arrested for attempted murder. Yes, our staff and volunteers were then in danger of being arrested and tried for attempted murder for trying to feed the kids.
Let me explain the reason..
The thought behind this is two fold. The reason it was implemented was because groups who want to affect the next election for President of Uganda were using this pandemic to win favor for votes by distributing food to the hungry. Second, the thought is that if you gather large groups together and they spread this disease, you are in essence responsible for their deaths. This is where the attempted murder charge comes in.
Moses then contacted the local authorities and we were investigated (I prayed and held my breath!). After the investigation, we received a hand written letter stating that we could continue to distribute food under some more strict guidelines. Thank you, Jesus! So, we were able to keep going!
Little ones doing their best to help out! Some parents do come for the little ones, but many of our kids are orphaned or come from homes of elderly grandparents or sick parents unable to travel. Many of our kids live over an hour (some 3 hours) walking distance one way.
Ok, phew. We got this, right? Not so much. Now, the next wave of complexity hits. It's planting season, but seeds are not available and no one can go to town to get any because there is no public transportation. If you try, you face being beaten and arrested by the police. In a community where you farm to live, if you don't plant..you do not eat. We were now facing the reality of long term famine hitting this remote village.
Then God said.. Give Seeds. Yes, Lord. Make it so!
And we were able to raise seed money quickly and Moses ordered bulk seed to give to the families from our school.
Of course, this meant double the work for weighing, packaging, distributing. Never did I hear Moses complain. Instead he said thank you and worked around the clock with his team to make it possible.
Seeds ready for pick up!
Some of our older girls collecting seeds for planting. Look at that joy!
So let's see...It's Wednesday. Moses spent another day distributing food today with his team today. Tomorrow I imagine they will start the process all over again. I get tired just imagining it! Truly, I have the easier job. His team works endlessly to ensure that those around them do not have to suffer.
We run out of our original food money on June 2nd. So for me, it' time to ask again..will you partner with us to keep these kids fed during the pandemic? The cost is about $4000 a month to provide rations for all the families from our school. That averages about $4.50 per child, per month. The food they receive will not stretch to feed their whole family, but it is a great supplement!
No one knows how long the shut down will last, but our goal is to alleviate the suffering of hunger for these kids as much as we can. Once they are back to school, they will go back to eating there. Until then, will you consider helping even one of our kids to eat? click here to donate: www.handsofactioninternational.or
Executive Director of Ministry
Hands of Action International