Update from Archbishop Lucas – 7/19 and 7/20/17
Wednesday and Thursday were taken up with visits to CRS projects in the field. On Tuesday we flew to the western part of the country—very beautiful with mountains and lakes.
We visited a farm where a husband, wife and their children have been helped to develop a vanilla crop. At the moment vanilla prices are good, and this family has been connected to markets where they can receive a fair price. In fact, Ben and Jerry’s has committed to purchase vanilla from farmers in a cooperative in this region. With the sale of their crops over several seasons, the family is able to pay school fees for their children and they are in the process of constructing a new and more substantial home for the family. After the sale of the next harvest, they should be able to put a roof on the brick structure. Later in the day, we visited a site where local vanilla is dried and processed and prepared for marketing.
On Thursday, we began to drive back toward Kampala, stopping at various places to view CRS projects and meet with local officials. We visited the home of a family of a woman, a widow, and her children. After she lost her husband, she was not able to support her family or send them to school. She had health problems herself and had pretty well given up on being able to sustain her household. A local program to assist vulnerable households was able to assist her. She has learned parenting skills and received assistance with schools fees. She has begun a small mat-weaving business that is growing and has been able to save some money and reinvest it.
Nearby we visited a group of young mothers, representing a variety of groups in the area. The young women have learned skills that enable them to do some work at home to supplement the family income and to participate in the material support of their families. Some had learned to sew and made clothing for sale at local markets, some made sandals, others baked simple cookies and packaged them for sale. We saw samples of their handiwork and listened to them speak with pride about their accomplishments. Along with what they are able to produce, they learn interpersonal skills, parenting skills, information on hygiene and overall respect for themselves in every aspect.
We visited with some of CRS local partners in these and other projects, and we met with local government officials. Everywhere people expressed the need to provide opportunities for young people. It is a young country—I think perhaps 45% of the population under the age of 18. You see children everywhere. It seemed that I was the oldest person by far everywhere we went.
Tomorrow (Saturday) we are flying to the northern part of the country to visit a large effort to assist refugees from South Sudan.