In Uganda, if your home is built with mainly mud and bricks, the rainy season may be a season of fear. One family in the community experienced the worst-case-scenario last month when a big rain storm came through, and a wall of their home collapsed in the night. This family with five children could see the signs that their home might not make it through the storm, and thankfully, they were not inside when it came down. When morning came, one of the children was sent to the first people they knew to seek when help was needed – the social workers at Amazima.
Several of the children in this family are in the Amazima program, and they know that means much more than school fees being paid. When you’re a part of Amazima, it’s like being part of a huge family, and our Community Engagement Department (CED) is largely responsible for making it feel that way. Within this department are 10 social workers led by director Maureen Nakalinzi, and together, their goal is to impact the families they serve through discipleship, strengthened relationships, and improved quality of life.
So, what does that look like on a day to day basis? For one, it looks like embracing a child who brings news of their house falling down, and helping them find a solution. But when it comes to doing social work in vulnerable communities, there is a constant balance between helping provide for desperate needs and empowering families to develop solutions. To help with this balance, the CED came up with a new structure for the ministry last year by creating something called “clusters.” Clusters are groups of households in our program that are divided up based on the location of their homes – there are 19 different clusters that divide up the approximate 500 families in our program. Now that Amazima has established these clusters, they mostly manage themselves. For example, as part of the CED agriculture program, every cluster has a plot of land. Amazima provides the seeds to grow the food in these communal gardens, but it is the families who work the land and decide together if they want to sell their crops or divide and keep them. They are empowered to make their own decisions, and Amazima is there to support them.
Our social workers also take time to visit each of the families at their homes on a regular basis. Visiting with the parents and guardians of students communicates that it is not only their children that are loved and cared for, but the whole family! Our social workers go to encourage them, listen to their ideas and concerns, pray together, and much more. The CED also regularly holds community fellowships where the gospel is taught and the guardians come together to worship. When the students are home from school, the CED hosts discipleship programs. As Maureen put it,
You can improve the life of a child but if you don’t improve the household, it doesn’t work. There has to be support at home for the child. What we are trying to do is to ensure they have holistic support. We are dealing with the challenges the child has at home by working with their guardians, and at the same time we are supporting the child at school.
Perhaps the most important component of the CED’s work is discipleship. It ties every program together – whether our social workers are visiting families, helping enroll students in school, planning for a student gathering, helping someone sick have their medical needs met, or training parents in the agriculture program, they point to the love and care of Jesus. When asked where she sees discipleship in the work they do, Maureen said, “In every program we have, there is discipleship there. How we serve people is all about showing them the love of Christ. It is what is first for us, and everything else follows.” Even when a home collapses, the love and care shown for those in need points to the love of God.
Within weeks, Amazima was able to help this family rebuild their home. Because of the support and connections made through their cluster, one of their neighbors offered to let this family stay with them while their new house was being built. Our social workers were able to supply the building materials and labor because of the generosity of our donors who specifically allocated money to home construction. Together, everyone was able to praise God for His provision in so many specific details.
A month later when our social workers presented the new house to this family in the middle of a rainstorm, it was hard to forget that it was the rain in December that destroyed their previous home. And it seemed fitting that as they moved in, it was the rain that greeted them, reminding them that God takes what seems to be hopeless and turns it into a blessing of unlimited proportions.
At Amazima, we desire to see the gospel lived, not just told. Every time we’re able to meet a need in our community, ask a parent or guardian how they’re doing, enroll a new student into our program, or even resource a local farmer with more fruitful farming techniques, doors are opened for the love and truth of Jesus to change eternities.
Thank you for making these stories possible day after day, year after year.