“This month did not go according to plan!” I am sure that many of us can say that. While I write, I am seated at the kitchen table reflecting on this last month of BOH. Surrounded by unpacked boxes and half-empty bookcases, I settle into my new “workspace” in the apartment our family just moved into. Had all gone according to plan, we wouldn’t have moved for another week and I would be in Uganda sitting with our women in the shade of the trees, discussing our programs, and visiting their gardens. However, travel restrictions, shelter-in-place orders, and a saddening worldwide pandemic have a way of changing things.
With a mixture of disappointment and relief, we canceled the trip to Uganda. However, this has not come without challenges for our team, as we adapt to the situation in Uganda and Eastern Africa. Last weekend, Uganda reported its first case of COVID-19. Days prior to that, schools were closed and all of our BSSP students returned home. Public transportation was restricted and large gatherings were canceled. While this is not new to many of us, several African countries are also battling an even greater threat.
Sweeping across Eastern Africa, are swarms of locusts that are devouring crops. For Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, this poses a significant threat to food supply. Uganda, which borders Kenya, has also experienced swarms as well, though in smaller numbers. With the crop season just beginning, this could be devastating to these countries which rely heavily on agriculture for their food supply. The situation will only be made more challenging by the battle against COVID-19. With transportation restrictions, food in general may be less accessible. In Uganda for example, food prices are already increasing, just days after the first confirmed case of the virus in the country.
This reality in Eastern Africa has been heavy on our hearts these last few weeks. While I face the inconvenience of cluttered boxes at home or an empty toilet paper shelf at the store, people that we love and countries that we care about may soon face the devastating reality of hunger. I wrestle with this juxtaposition, and it breaks my heart that it even exists. While Uganda is not in the center of the locust crisis, we are wary for our women. With 3 of our 5 Agriculture Projects being crop-based, we feel the weighty need to prepare for a potential food shortage.
In light of this, last weekend (just days before food prices increased), we purchased over 4,200 kilos of food to store in the event of a shortage, enough to feed approximately 83 families of 4 for about 3 weeks. In the event of a severe famine, this will not be enough for our families. We are continually monitoring the situation and will plan for additional purchases if needed, but we are thankful to have reserves on hand in the immediate.
Additionally, our Uganda staff team has been educating our women and students on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This week, Ahamed, our Beads Project Advisor, said he is also making liquid soap to distribute to our women. This was a skill the women learned in a training last year, and he is putting it into practice to make large quantities of soap at low cost. We are so encouraged by his generosity and resourcefulness, and BOH is now partnering with him in this effort to distribute more soap to our women. I am so proud of our staff team for navigating these tumultuous times with dedication and hope. It is a blessing to work alongside people who truly love our women and are deeply committed to seeing them thrive.
Typing from this kitchen table, I can feel so far away from Uganda, especially in times like these. But I am so encouraged by the faith of our women and staff. Most of them don’t have gloves, or masks, or extra resources. And yet, they have hope. For many of our loved ones in Uganda, they trust in a God who is bigger than a virus and mightier than a famine. And while we pray that the pandemic would end and the locusts would cease, we will hope in God who is sovereign over both. No matter what you believe, I share this as an encouragement to you that despite your abundance or deep need, you can hope in God who is greater. In times like these, we are faced with the harsh reality that we are not as in control of life as we would like to believe. And as we wrestle through this, I pray that we would find deeper faith, peace, and hope.
On behalf of the entire BOH team, thank you for your partnership in Uganda! We appreciate your care and support as we navigate this challenging season with our women. Thank you for being part of this journey. From our entire organization, please stay safe and healthy!
Written By Natalie Ruiz