An African widow is often, by definition, a beggar.
In southwestern Uganda, a widow is often without the land to grow food which makes her totally dependent on the generosity of others. She asks her neighbours for the chance to work in their fields in return for that night’s supper and takes home to her cooking pot a few handfuls of beans or maize or millet to feed her dependents.
The usual tragic story is that the husband falls ill and finally dies but only after whatever garden plots the family owned have been sold to pay for his medical treatment. Or in some cases, as is now illegal in Uganda but still practised sometimes, the deceased husband’s relatives come to reclaim the land forcing the widow and her children to abandon the only assured source of food available to them.
“The amazing thing to me, is that even without access to a sustainable food supply, a surprising number of these widows will take in and care for orphans, in addition to their own children or, as is often the case, grandchildren,” said David Moore, volunteer project officer for Courtenay’s Living Hope Church. “They recognize that they are the last recourse for many orphans without surviving relatives, and they will accept this responsibility, sharing what little food they have.”
No money for schooling, no money for a change of clothes, no money for soap, perpetually hungry, living in ramshackle huts in need of repair and bedding and furniture – you can usually recognize a widow in public by her downtrodden appearance.
Living Hope Church’s six-year Widows’ Gardens Project has been able to provide access to garden plots to 632 widows at the end of the fifth year.
“You can begin to see the difference this makes to their physical appearance and sense of personal worth after the first two growing seasons,” said Moore. “As a Ugandan dignitary once blurted out when he was first introduced to a group of such widows, ‘You don’t LOOK like widows!’.”
The project concept is simple: Give a widow access to enough land and seeds through two growing seasons to enable her to feed and clothe her family and save to renew the lease the following year. Each widow receives access to three-quarters of an acre.
“On behalf of Living Hope Church, I’d like to thank all of the project’s donors and supporters living in the Comox Valley,” said Moore.
To be part of this effort to bring food security within reach of Ugandan widows and their dependents, please call the office of Living Hope at 250-334-0777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.livinghopeonline.ca