2007 investigation Team, Bev Young, Andrea Koch, Ian Young, Amanda Wheeler, Jo Emmelkamp (nee Leader) & Geoff Leader at the Full Gospel church, Masaka, Uganda
In November 2007 a team of 6 from St Aidan’s Longueville travelled to Compassion projects in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda and were impressed by the obvious improvement in the health and education and opportunities this gives for employment leading to hope for a better quality of life. The purpose of the trip was to choose a project that St Aidans parishioners could support. Both Africa and South America had been suggested.
The Kibera Slum covers an area of around 3 sq km and is home for up to a million people, most living in shanties around 3m square. Many of those lucky enough to have a job work in Nairobi come back only to sleep. Compassion has a compound in the area for their sponsored children where they can get some schooling or learn the beginnings of a trade. They have an 8 bed orphanage within the compound. The rest of the children have homes nearby.
It is estimated that the Mathare slum houses 500,000 people. It occupies an area along the river, between the river and more conventional housing on higher ground. There was no evidence of a sewerage system, sewer lines from the housing either side opening into open drains running down to the river through the slum. I suppose they get used to the smell.
Home Visit School
We first visited a project at Entebbe, Uganda (near Uganda’s international airport). This project had been set up under Compassion but had become so successful it has been able to stand on its own feet. Compassion regards this as one of their greatest successes
First impressions: Kampala as a city was similar to Nairobi, chaotic traffic and little effort on beatification. Our Compassion guide avoided the slum areas and after visiting the Compassion offices we were driven south to Masaka to visit the Compassion, Child Survival Program (CSP) at the Full Gospel Church. We were impressed at once that outside the big cities the people are still poor in material wealth, (probably less wealth than in the city due to the availability of employment) but extra space for the children to play, clean air and smiling, happy faces gave less evidence of poverty. We visited one young girl who was living with her baby on a pallet under a canvas sheet outside a restaurant, her place of work. She had almost nothing materially but her smile largely made up for it.
We met the pastor, Elijah Kisaakye, and there was an immediate rapport between him and Geoff Leader, the pastor of St Aidans. Compassion was just starting CSP units in some churches and the Full Gospel Church, Masaka was chosen as one of the first. The Compassion CSP structure allows a whole church to join in support, different to the Child Sponsorship Development Program (CSDP) where individual donors support individual children. The scheme required a sponsoring church to provide $25,000 annually to provide staff and medical help for their clients. Pastor Elijah was asked what else the CSP needed to be more effective. He immediately produced fully costed reports on “Completing the half finished CSP stimulation room and offices building”, “Fences to make the area safe for young children” and “A motorbike to improve travel efficiency for staff visiting CSP clients”.
On arrival at Rwanda our bus trip to our hotel in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, showed a city very different from Nairobi and Kampala. Gardens lined the streets, No potholes in the roads and there appeared to be traffic rules.
We visited five Compassion projects in Rwanda, 2 in Kigali and 3 in rural towns. The projects appeared more affluent than at Masaka. What was noticeable was the difference between the project children and locals who came to see these palefaced visitors (muzungu). in all three countries the children came from everywhere when we arrived. In Kenya & Uganda it was not easy to tell accurately who were the project children and who were the ring-ins. In every project in Rwanda it was obvious.
The difference is obvious as seen by these two groups at the Kanombe project in Kigali. It was general in every project visited. No idea as to why. Note that one child among the project children is a ring-in. Maybe the culture puts more stress on being dressed up for visitors. The non project children appeared less healthy although that would not be so easily noticed without the more obvious clothing differences.
We can’t leave Rwanda without further mention of the Rwandan Civil War and attempted genocide of the Tutsi by the Hutu. Nearly a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus trying to stop the massacre, were hacked to death over a period of 100 days. The Kigali Memorial Centre is one of the most moving places I have ever been. The top floor is devoted to the Rwandan genocide and rooms in the lower floor to other genocides in the world.
What is probably the most amazing concept that has arisen is that of penitence and forgiveness. Our Tutsi guide in Kigali had told us that her parents, husband and children had be slaughtered in the war but introduced us to a close Hutu friend from the church who, in the fighting went on a killing rampage. He is now aware of what he did and sought and received forgiveness in the Tutsi church. How often do people despise “enemies” of past wars “maintaining the rage” even though the actual protagonists might be old or dead. They act on “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.
What did we learn?
We were considering a Church in either Africa or South America. The following are the considerations our experiences forced us to take into account.
1. We could relate directly to more people in Kenya and Uganda where English is the main second language. Rwanda, possibly more physically comfortable and the food is more in tune with Australian palates but communication with the ordinary people was not so easy. This would also put South America at a disadvantage.
2. The people travelling to the project as visitors are mainly born and bred in Australia. I found the poverty in the Nairobi slums too confronting and would not have been able to continue there for an extended period. Others with exceptional gifts can but I doubt if many from our Longueville congregation are in that category.
3. Rural projects with more space are less confronting to Australian visitors.
4. Probably the most important of all was the relationship that developed between the leaders of each Church, Pastor Geoff of St Aidan’s and Pastor Elijah of the Full Gospel Church.
The above influenced the final decision to get into a tripartite relationship between Compassion, the Full Gospel Church in Masaka Uganda and St Aidan’s Anglican Church Longueville.