HOPE CAN BE HARD TO FIND IN MASESE.
There is a hill that sits just outside of Jinja. On one side of the hill, you will find a landfill. On the other side of the hill, you will find many of our friends who make their homes in Masese. The majority of Masese is made up of the Karimojong, a semi nomadic tribal people who are marginalized, despised, and feared throughout Uganda – simply because people do not understand them. The Karimojong were pushed out of their homeland in northern Uganda and are now settled on a piece of government-owned property, where they cannot purchase or farm land.
Hope can be hard to find in this slum community where poverty, hunger, alcoholism, and disease are intertwined with daily life.
Because the people of Masese can’t farm the land they live on, many are forced to turn to brewing alcohol, prostitution, and picking through trash from the landfill for food. Most children don’t attend school; instead, they are found fetching water, looking for food, or begging on the streets.
So, in March 2009, Amazima Ministries started the Feeding Program at Masese Co-Educational Primary School. It rests on top of the hill where Masese is located. Before we started the Feeding Program, food was not being served to the students or staff at the school. They had an on-site kitchen, but it was not being utilized. Many children in Masese were growing up with little access to food—and with food not being provided at school, it was more important to spend their days picking from the trash or begging on the streets to find food than it was to go to school and invest in their education.
Amazima Ministries now feeds 1,200 children lunch every Monday through Friday in the community of Masese. When lunchtime comes, a swarm of hungry children can be seen surrounding the outdoor kitchen, eager to receive their plate of food. Some of the children come from the neighboring school while others climb the hill from their homes, many of them with a younger brother or sister tied on their back. They all have in hand a plate or a small bucket or container for their food. When it is their turn in front of the kitchen, they hand over their plate or container, and it gets loaded up with a heaping plate of beans and posho (a type of flour made from maize/corn) and leave with smiles on their faces and food in their stomachs.
What is exciting for Amazima Ministries is that the Feeding Program is predominantly funded by the sale of necklaces that are made by mothers from the community. Through their hard work, these women are not only able to earn a fair wage, but also to raise extra funds to continue feeding their community.
Some days it still seems that hope is hard to find in Masese. Other days we see that hope abounds in the faces of children singing about Jesus and carrying their heaping plates of food home to their families.
Ultimately we know though, Hope is a person. His name is Jesus. We have seen Him working in Masese. The dirt does not repel Him, the disease does not scare Him, and the extreme brokenness does not intimidate Him. In fact, these things cause Him to draw near.