HN 25 | The Road to Thriving: Stories of Change in Marare and Nashisa

It hasn’t always been an easy road for the communities of Marare and Nashisa. For decades, these two villages in Mbale, Uganda, struggled to survive. Political unrest, war, and human rights abuses shaped the way people approached life, and it significantly slowed community development. Like most rural communities in Uganda, Marare and Nashisa dealt with a struggling economy, sanitation and hygiene problems, and a growing HIV/AIDS crisis. 

In 2009, Food for the Hungry started walking alongside these two communities. The people of Marare and Nashisa were eager to begin their journey from stuck to thriving. Since 85 percent of the population were subsistence farmers, FH knew the key to success would be helping them farm in the most efficient and lucrative ways possible. By holding agricultural training workshops and providing seeds, seedlings, and livestock, FH staff worked with the people of Marare and Nashisa to improve their livelihoods. 

But they didn’t stop there. New teachers and classrooms brought thousands of children a quality education. Cooking workshops helped families create diverse, healthy diets. Communities dug and maintained wells together, preventing disease and giving everyone better access to water.

After ten years of working together, it is now time for Marare and Nashisa to graduate from their partnership with FH. The communities are confident that they are ready to move forward independently and that they can maintain their new way of living. 

The difference after ten years is apparent. Each leader, child, or farmer has a story of change. Here’s what their thriving looks like.

Musa Finds Hope

Musa in Grade 5, Musa today.
“I was an orphan in Grade 5, a small boy, who seemed to have no hope of what my education would be like. I was depressed, I had no father whom I could depend on for my future opportunities.” - Musa

Musa couldn’t remember what hope felt like. He was an orphan for the bulk of his formative years. He fought depression and hopelessness. But his Canadian Sponsor would write him to send encouragement. “She told me how she loved me and wrote words of hope,” Musa explains.

Thanks to counseling sessions and guidance from FH staff, Musa was able to overcome negative feelings of hopelessness. Despite being an orphan, Musa was encouraged and motivated to stay in school and take life head-on.

Today, Musa is focused on becoming an accountant. “This education has given me hope,” he says with a smile.

Loy Coaches

Loy has set up a hygiene station outside her house.
It’s one of the practices she’s picked up from her
Cascade health group. 
Mothers died in childbirth. Children died from preventable illnesses. The communities of Mbale suffered because of inadequate healthcare. 

“Before FH, health messages were only heard at the clinics. But now, we hear them at the courtyard and at the well,” explains 42 year old Loy, a faithful member of her women’s health group. She’s noticed how common health advice and practices have become thanks to FH—and it’s making a difference in Mbale. “Now people value their lives by going to the hospital willingly,” she says. Children are eating better and are being immunized. Childbirth is now a much safer process.

Ester Leads

Ester shares scripture with her family.
She is now a leader and mentor in her local congregation.
Ester has natural leadership potential and a savvy business sense, but there weren’t many opportunities for her to thrive in Mbale. “Women were never recognized as leaders,” she explains.

When FH started walking with Marare and Nashisa, they held workshops that taught leadership, listening, values, and restoring relationships. This broadened the definition of leadership and who could be a leader.“I did not know that the church would ever allow women to be leaders. I did not know that I would be a leader!” exclaims Ester.

Ester now leads groups in her church. “I started using leadership skills in my position as a woman leader. I even sit on the church council at the parish level.”

She also runs her own small business. “Since 2015, I attended trainings with FH and I’ve used what I learned on money and savings to start the business I now have.”

Deborah Celebrates

Deborah poses for a photo with six of her children.
Providing for a busy family would not have been
possible without the help of Canadian sponsors.
Deborah reflects on her life before FH came to Mbale. “Before my involvement with FH, my life was characterized by domestic violence, distance from the church, and involvement in witchcraft. I had no savings plan. I depended on my husband for everything.”  

After ten years of partnership with FH, Deborah’s life is completely different. She’s taken adult literacy classes and joined savings and loans groups. “I have learned how to save, look after dairy cows, and make my own bricks for construction.” 

“The biggest change is our knowledge,” Deborah explains. “We don’t have time to gossip anymore. We work, share knowledge, and develop one another.”

Church Partners Share in Celebration

Ten years ago, two Canadian churches embarked on a journey. CAP Church in North Vancouver began walking with Nashisa, and Northgate Baptist in Edmonton partnered with Marare. 

This new partnership meant a lot of things. It meant financial support and a new development plan. More importantly, it meant building relationships, and the churches sent teams to Uganda to get to know the families living there. 

As personal ties between the communities grew, members of CAP Church and Northgate Baptist began to notice a change. Within a few years of partnership, it was evident that Marare and Nashisa were well on their way from stuck to thriving.

“In 2012, I saw the village of Nashisa for the first time. We met under a mango tree next to the partially constructed church. Only one classroom block was completed and the other building was a dilapidated structure with gaping holes in the roof... There were no latrines... It was a depressing sight. 
There are now over 1,200 children in school, more than half of which are girls. There are now 50 savings and loan groups operating which offer members a means to save and borrow to buy land, livestock, and supplies that improve their ability to earn a living and send their children to school. Cascade groups train mothers in basic hygiene and useful skills which then trickle down into the community. The dairy cow program provides nutritious milk for children and a marketable product, and the manure is used in biogas systems that are becoming more common throughout the village. We walked the fields of a young farmer who has embraced organic methods and produces a staggering quantity and variety of vegetables.

We were privileged to play a small role in [their] journey... They have done the work with God’s help. We celebrated with the community the transformation in the lives of men, women, and children and of the land itself. Our tears as we left were tears of joy."

— Andrea Smith, CAP Church

“It brought the grandparents a lot of excitement and pride to show the progress in the construction of their new house. Making the bricks themselves and buying the concrete mix, Prossy’s grandparents are slowly building a much bigger house for the family so they can move out of their mud hut. This brought A LOT of encouragement to the team to see that the people of Marare truly are self sufficient... The time there won't be forgotten.” 

— Vanessa, Northgate Baptist

“They sang, “We will cry cry cry brother Diniz never forget us.” They sang that to each team member. They also sang 'for everything that you did for St. James School we will never for get you.' Lots and lots of tears were had by all including the children themselves.” 

— Diniz Rodrigues, Northgate Baptist



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Food for the Hungry: HN 25 | The Road to Thriving: Stories of Change in Marare and Nashisa
HN 25 | The Road to Thriving: Stories of Change in Marare and Nashisa
Food for the Hungry
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