Vicky and her siblings are part of a child-led family. There are no adults at home to love and care for them. But the local church is bringing the love of Jesus to these children and restoring their hope for the future.
01 Nov, 2023
As the sun rises over Mount Moroto, the people of Karamoja in rural Uganda wake up to a new day. It’s time for Vicky and her three siblings to start their morning before school.
Judith is 14 and the oldest of the children. She is in charge of frying the mandazi (local bread) dough that was prepared last night so it will be fresh to sell at school. 12-year-old Abel is already at the nearby river fetching water for the day. Vicky is 9 and she gathers the firewood or sweeps the grounds to make it clean. Eric is the youngest and is 6 years old. He helps the other children with their garden plot. After all their chores are done, they get ready to walk to school together.
Every day begins this way for Vicky and her siblings.
They do everything to take care of their home and family as they have no parents or caregivers to rely on. Vicky is part of a child-led home.
After the children’s mother passed away from HIV in 2022, they were left to fend for themselves. Their father has not always been present and now works 200 km away in a different part of the country. They seldom see him.
“When it’s time for burying my mum, my daddy, he did not come. I don’t even know where he is,” says 12-year-old Abel.
Surrounded by sprawling mountains covered with green, beautiful lakes and breathtaking sunsets, the Karamoja region is rich in natural beauty. However, the lingering aftermath of COVID-19, violent cattle raids and conflict, unstable weather patterns and the rising cost of food has contributed to making this largely agriculture region the hardest hit by the global food crisis.
Esther, a partnership facilitator for Compassion Uganda, oversees many churches in the Karamoja region. “The situation in Karamoja was very bad because there were many deaths in the region. It was not merely hunger, it became famine,” says Esther, speaking of the impact of food insecurity. “There was fear because people were in danger. Of course, the most affected were the elderly and the children.”
On average, families in Karamoja can only afford to eat one meal a day.
Vicky and her siblings are no exception. Vicky was registered at the local child development centre when she was 4 years old. Her mother depended on casual labour to feed her children and often struggled to make ends meet. The family were often in need of food, medicine and clothing as well as other basic necessities.
“These children's lives changed when they were registered in the program,” says Sophie, a child development officer. “They started getting food assistance, and Vicky also got a sponsor who has been so supportive to the family.”
They also received medical check-ups and other basic necessities from the child development centre. Reverend Francis, the local pastor, says being registered in the program has dramatically changed Vicky’s future.
“In Karamoja, girls are married off at a very tender age,” says Reverend Francis. “Today, we might be seeing her married. Perhaps she would've run away from home and might be staying with a relative. We don't know where she would have been, but life would have been very desperate for this child.”
While the support from Vicky’s sponsor and the assistance of the local church was helping Vicky’s family meet their daily needs, the death of their mother was a devastating blow to the family. The grieving children were left in a vulnerable position with no way to generate an income to support themselves. The rising food insecurity in the region made an already challenging situation a dangerous one.
“When Vicky's mother passed away, the church stepped in immediately. We started counselling the children, praying with them, preaching to them, and reading the word of God,” says Sophie.
“We gave them some little gifts to make them feel loved. The church leaders formed a committee that goes to visit these children regularly and helped make sure that their bread-making business would be a profitable one.”
For Vicky, this love and support has been a lifeline at a time when she and her siblings needed it the most.
“If I wasn’t registered with Compassion, we would’ve been street children,” says Vicky. “There would’ve been a lot more problems in our family.”
Through their partnership with Compassion, local churches in Karamoja have also been able to help vulnerable families like Vicky’s during the food crisis.
“The church is helping the community through the food crisis. We teach them about food security. We give out food relief,” says Reverend Francis. “We also do a savings group where we cluster the community in groups of 30 and encourage them to start saving. They begin saving money on a weekly basis and we teach them financial discipline, accounting and the financial principles of investing.”
Initiatives like the savings group help families in this region to steward the little income they can generate in a way that is sustainable and helps to meet their basic needs like food and medicine. While the food crisis has devastated many children and families in the region, through the local church there is hope.
“Through the intervention that Compassion made through the local church, families are smiling again.” says Esther.
That smile can now be seen on the faces of Vicky and her siblings. With the love and support of the local church, the care of the staff at the child development centre and the generosity of Vicky’s sponsor, the siblings are becoming self-reliant. Through gifts from Vicky’s sponsor, they have been able to purchase cooking oil, wheat flour and baking powder among other ingredients to sustain their bread-making business. With encouragement from the local church, they have also taken the initiative to cultivate the land behind their compound into a small garden. The children grow maize, beans and pumpkins that they harvest for food and sell to generate an income.
Sophie says the impact on their spiritual development has also been significant. She has seen a spiritual transformation take place in each of the children. They now attend church every Sunday and they love to go to Sunday school, where they learn Bible stories and worship songs.
“These children are growing up in the way of the Lord. They have learned to trust God,” says Sophie. “They have learned to love the Lord because He is the source of their help. Without God, who knows where they would have been.”
In fact, Abel wants to be a pastor or a reverend when he grows up. He says he wants to pray for the sick and believe God will heal. Vicky loves to sing, and she says her favourite songs to sing are songs of worship to Jesus. Through the support they have received from Compassion’s local church partner, Vicky and her siblings are beginning to heal, hope and dream of a future full of possibility.
“I see the future of Vicky as very bright,” says Reverend Francis. “Vicky is no longer going to be that child that has a lost future because we are here for her. And we will try our best to guide her along the path.”
You can make a difference in the lives of children like Vicky and her siblings by answering hunger with hope today! Find out how you can be a good neighbour to those severely affected by the global food crisis.
You can also watch the story of Vicky and her family below.
Words and field reporting by Sidhara Udalagama.
Answer Hunger With Hope
345 million people are facing acute food insecurity. You can answer hunger with hope.