Candice is Hope Speaks’ resident Australian and has been working with us for over a year, looking after communications and media from the Uganda office. Her background in Social Science, Research and Education drives her passion to see data brought to life. Where some people see statistics and numbers, Candice sees people and purpose. We hope you are moved by her blog today.
It’s been a while since we wrote a blog - but for good reason. In Australia we’d say we’ve been “flat out like a lizard drinking” trying to adapt and respond, adapt and respond, adapt and respond to the ever changing situation and restrictions in Uganda. Like many of you, COVID came as a shock and as Uganda went into heavy lockdown we scrambled for ways to continue providing life-saving services (that were needed more than ever), while communicating the need to people around the world, who were also struggling to come to terms with the crisis.
But as life in Australia, the US and other places around the world seems to have balanced out to a new normal, Uganda is still reeling from the constant shockwaves. Just last week we went into another 42 day lockdown. Just this week, thousands of people were diagnosed with a new, more deadly strain of COVID. And just this week, hundreds have sadly lost their lives. We are rocked daily with the news of another friend, another neighbor, another loved one who has passed away.
For the staff at Hope Speaks, this is devastating. For the first time in our history we are having to turn people away from our outreach clinics for health concerns. The one place that has been a beacon of hope for so many families. Because our concerns are also their concerns - with this new virus strain attacking the young and the vulnerable, our clients are more at risk than anyone else. Our heart broke at the news of the death of one of our children last week. A sweet life gone. We weren’t prepared for that. We have parents and children actively seeking medical care and on home confinement. We have families reaching out asking us to cover the cost of critical and lifesaving medications. We have mothers and grandparents who literally cannot feed their children anymore.
Last night I read a heart-breaking statistic from Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, stating that around 50% of families with children with disabilities live on less than $2 per day - this is extreme poverty. To make this situation worse, these families face living expenses that are 39% higher than most other families. The math just doesn’t add up, especially as we consistently see sources of income shut down due to government restrictions.
This morning in our staff meeting we shared our heartbreak for these families - families it seems that are losing hope. Families like Benji’s, who can no longer afford medical care for their child. Families like Mama Alan’s, who had to give up work to look after her son full time. Families like Praise’s who got their income from tourism which has been cut even further in the recently renewed restrictions. Families like Jjajja Isaac, who simply has no money left to feed her grandson after a year of lockdowns. For us, these statistics are real people. They are lives that matter to us - faces we’ve seen, hands we’ve held, parents we’ve embraced.
We can’t sit idly by, waiting for someone else to take responsibility. So we are throwing everything at this. Holding nothing back.
We are downgrading our therapy centre facilities to make space in our budget for outreaches. We are cutting costs left, right and centre to make every shilling available for these families. We are reaching out to local manufacturers asking for food donations. We are calling on local businesses to help fill the gap. We are praying, daily. We are giving of our own resources. Because we can’t sit idly by.
James 2:16 is echoing in my head like a resounding call to action - “If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
What good is it?
While I 100% believe in the good of what we do, I have to ask the hard questions - What good is it to give speech therapy to a child who is literally dying of malnutrition? How can we do exercises with a child with severe vitamin deficiencies? How can we welcome parents into our outreach clinics, then send them away still full of anxieties and fears about their child’s wellbeing, or their family’s next meal?
‘Good vibes’ aren’t enough. Good intentions aren’t enough. Our prayers and thoughts need to be accompanied by action.
So we are asking for your help. We have an estimated 500 families who desperately need assistance.
- 500 families who are living on less than $2 a day.
- 500 families who don’t have access to protective measures to keep their child safe.
- 500 families who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
- 500 families who can’t leave their home because they can’t afford to spend half their daily income on a mandatory mask.
- 500 families who have spent their life’s savings on treatment for their child.
- 500 families who need speech therapy to be combined with nutritional assistance just to survive.
The truth is, we don’t know when this will end. What we thought would pass in a few months is only growing in intensity over a year later. We know that we can’t help everyone, but we can help ONE. And if you can join us to help another ONE, and then another ONE, and another. Together, we can make a difference.
This is by far one of the biggest operations Hope Speaks has ever undertaken. And it will cost tens of thousands of dollars. But we know we are not alone. We know that we are surrounded by people who believe in a God whose resources are unlimited. We do not carry this burden ourselves.
After all, perhaps we are here “for such a time as this.”
Will you join us?
Did you know it only costs $50 to help provide a family with the following:
- Maize Flour
- High Nutrient Porridge
- Salt & Sugar
- Cooking Oil
- Vitamin C
- and a Nutritional Consultation to help them get the most out of their relief package.