Mary is a woman of extraordinary courage and strength. With the help of the local church, she has overcome insurmountable odds to give her children a future full of hope. This is her story.

In the beautiful Karamoja region of Uganda, Mary’s family lives in a semi-permanent house that consists of two small rooms. Eleven people live in these two rooms, including Mary’s children, nephews and nieces, and an elderly aunt. There are many mouths to feed and often not enough food, clothes and medicine to meet all their needs. Conflict, unstable weather patterns and the lingering aftermath of COVID-19 have contributed to a global food crisis that has devastated many families in Uganda, especially those in Karamoja.

“Life in this region is hard,” says Mary. “There’s no way I can support my children or provide food and water. This is what makes life hard.”

Mary’s life is made more challenging because she cannot walk. She relies on a wheelchair to get around and is grateful for the assistance of her extended family who will often help push her. Mary’s income is primarily generated through selling produce at the local market. After feeding her children in the morning, Mary wheels herself to the market to start selling at the stall and will also take up sewing commissions for garments and traditional cloaks called ‘ekapelo’. She may not be able to use her legs, but she is a hard worker and spends long days selling and sewing to generate what she describes as a meagre income.

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But Mary is full of gratitude for the life she has and for the God who has been faithful to her through her darkest moments. Mary gave birth to her twins, James and John, under tragic circumstances. On finding out that Mary was pregnant, her husband and the father of her children, abandoned Mary because of the stigma surrounding her disability.

“Since that month, I’ve never seen him up to now,” says Mary. Her husband has never met his children.

Mary was heartbroken at being left alone and facing the challenge of caring for the twins by herself. A few months after birth, the situation was so desperate that Mary attempted to end her life. She had no way of providing for the twins—they were severely undernourished and were unlikely to survive. There seemed to be no way forward for this family. That’s when the local church stepped in and Mary’s twins were registered with Compassion’s Mums and Babies program.

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“God has done so much for me,” says Mary. “My children were registered with Compassion, and I know it’s God that made it possible.”

The local church provided immediate food relief, counselling, medical assistance and more for Mary and her children.

“During this time, Mary had withdrawn from society and she had almost lost her small business,” says Reverend Francis, the local church pastor. “When we stepped in, we helped her regain that business, and that’s what she is still doing today.”

For Mary, this love and support was a lifeline. She is so grateful to God for the local church who have become the family and support network that she needed. The church went above and beyond to help Mary and show her that she was not alone.

“Sometimes on Sundays, when there is no one to help carry the children to church, the pastor or someone from the staff comes and delivers the sermon to me directly,” says Mary gratefully.

Mary’s twins are now 9 months old, and she says their lives have been transformed through the help they have received. “My weight has increased because we’re eating regularly,” says Mary, smiling. “Before being registered, my children’s health was so poor but now they’re happy and healthy.”

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Life is still challenging for Mary and her family, but Mary’s smile is firmly fixed. She is hopeful for the days ahead and believes that, with the local church, she is able to face whatever comes her way. When asked how she keeps smiling even through the difficult days, Mary has a simple answer: “It’s because I walk with my God. I still believe God will do many great things in the future.”

For Mary and her family, the love and support of the local church is helping them face the future with joy. Find out how you can empower Compassion's local church partners to keep being a light in their communities by answering hunger with hope.

Words and field reporting by Sidhara Udalagama.