I am back from Uganda. In a nutshell, it was an amazing week.
I had really good intentions of blogging along the way… but then life happened. I learned quickly that a wifi connection was hard to come by in Uganda, even when the hotel said “they’re working on it” & “it should be working again soon”. Three days later and still no internet… Then there were the nights that, after a very full day, it took 2 hours to get our dinner, and afterwards I was way too exhausted to function well (let alone write). And finally, our days were so packed that there were only 10 minutes here or there on sporadic days to check in with the world, when there was functioning internet.
So here I am, arriving back at home, jet-lagged but with a full heart.
Where to start…
IJM in Kampala, Uganda works to secure justice for widows & orphans who are victims of property grabbing. A quick typical story – a woman’s husband dies and shortly thereafter (if not at the funeral itself) a relative from the husband’s side (a brother or uncle, or sometimes a neighbor) will swoop in and threaten her and her children with violence, claiming her land for themselves. They might destroy her crops, threaten her children with machetes, or push the house in on them while they sleep. She has nowhere to go, no one to fight for her, and she and her children (who are extremely poor to start with) are left with absolutely nothing. No shelter, no crops, no livelihood.
It is a very unfamiliar story to those of us living in the west. But this is her terrifying reality.
In a three year period from 2005 to 2007, 30% of the widows and orphans surveyed in IJM’s project area had become victims of property grabbing when their husband or parent died.
But this week, I met the heroes who are saying “not on my watch”. The IJM staff who stand up beside her and say “we are going to fight for you and we are not going away”. They are a group of truly remarkable people.
In a simplified description, IJM seeks to secure her land for her, to hold the perpetrators accountable for their crimes, to stand beside her in the process of restoration & empowerment, and to change the systems in place so that this crime doesn’t happen anymore.
Incredibly, since 2008 IJM has brought relief to well over 650 victims of property grabbing crimes. (That number is almost a year old too.)
So, what were we doing there?
The piece of the puzzle that our volunteer team was there to help with was in working to change the systems – specifically in the area of court reform. If we can help the courts run more efficiently, we can more quickly get justice for more victims.
Along the way, I was specifically seeking a chance to interact with our staff, to learn from them to better understand the work being done in Uganda. As a marketer, if I can better understand the work, I can help communicate the story more effectively.
In the coming days I’ll write about our adventures at the court house, reflections from spending time with the IJM staff, from going to a rural Ugandan church, and maybe most notably, I’ll share with you the story of meeting one of the incredibly strong widows we are still in the process of walking alongside.
By the way, I’m turning 30 on Tuesday. Help me celebrate by donating to my IJM FreedomMaker campaign. I set the audacious goal to raise $3000 (100% of which goes to IJM). Let’s make an impact together!