We planted, watered, harvested and shared

Corn Nearing Harvest – Nov 2020

After years of significant land loss for individuals, organizations and communities, access to affordable and productive farmland of any size is one of the greatest challenges in re-designing food systems that ensure access to food for all, throughout the year.

As a sustainability strategy for our community food distribution program, we are learning how to grow 70-90% of the food we share with food insecure households on a monthly basis, on leased farmland.

We saw an opportunity to continue helping our neighbors with food through leasing both small and large chunks of land from local owners, and using it to grow food for our food pantry.

Since we planted our first garden patch in 2016, our food pantry has already made a tremendous impact on the local food movement in rural Jinja villages. Every week, Emma works with Jacob and Simon to fulfill the growing demand for freshly harvest food grains in our communities of service. Growing our own food cuts down on the costs transporting grain from other regions of the country, ensures the integrity of the food we distribute, and our locally grown grain foods can be found in the kitchen food baskets, cooking pots and dining mats of our neighbors across several neighborhoods.

In addition to improving access to freshly harvested grain foods in the communities we serve, we are also learning to act as a resource for other nonprofits with a similar mission of alleviating hunger among the children, pregnant women, the elderly and sick in their communities in their communities.

A shared meal produced through shared toil is a powerful tool for engaging in hope and change.

Soon enough we will share with you what we and our sister organizations are growing, and what else we should be growing to feed our communities in need.

A Message to Carry Forward

Soybean harvesting- Dec 30th, 2020

Psalm 65:11. “You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.”

What I always knew but really didn’t and have learned to do better and to experience more, is that truth is not worth a whole lot until its is applied. As a rural non profit every year has began and ended in endurance fueled by much love. At the end of each year, we sigh at the reflection that love never fails. During this COVID-19 year, we were dismayed to learn that the COVID-19 virus shapes itself in the likeness of a crown.

As things got tougher all over the world, including our little corner of the world, opened the Book and got to studying. We learned about other crowns, real crowns, crowns we can celebrate like the one in Psalm 65:11. “You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.” So we agreed with, and were more excited about this kind of crown than the latter. We set our minds to believing that regardless of the limits set on our work and world during the pandemic, we would continue to draw from the inexhaustible wells of goodness, love and kindness.

A crowned year for us required taking a restful position in the midst of crisis, and and realizing that because there is no way of switching on or off darkness the way we switch on light, the answer to our ministry needs and resources lay in switching on an many lights of love, courage, hope, goodness, love, peace, patience … as we could. As a great preacher once taught, “darkness is a result of the absence of light.” (Pastor TD. Jakes)

From God’s wells of goodness deposited in every human heart, we have experienced some major turnarounds during this crisis.

  1. An increase in donor support
  2. An increase in in-kind support
  3. Enlargement in our agricultural capacity
  4. A multiplier effect in the dollar value of all monies for spent on medicines, nutritional supplements, and other aid and digital supplies to families in critical need.

Given how impossible it is to explain how a plate of shared cookies can bring more hope to a group of friends than all their money and material possessions combined, I will not go down that route.

What I can say with certainty, is this…. love is a “miracle cure” however it presents itself. For some of you this love and care presented as money, for others as medicine, food purchase, food delivery, food preparation, forwarding our fundraiser campaign to friends and family, a handmade quilt, a laptop, protective gear, blood pressure testing machines and I could go on and on. What am I trying to do here? I am trying to paint the picture of the abundant supply we have experienced this year 2020. Do you see it?

Instead of breaking ourselves with trying to fight and avert the negative threats and potential outcomes of COVID-19, we relied on your lighting a candle for those in our world.

Where panicked purchases and hoarding resulted in vicious cycles of shortages, we are grateful that your open hands and hearts not only kept the necessary resources in circulation, but also created the safety and security needed to stay afloat.

Yesterday December 30th, we began our first successful soybean harvest. In deed God has blessed us. Our farm carts are overflowing with abundance. There will be yet more food in the bowls of many families in 2021.

We hope you recognize the tremendous value of investing your charitable dollars with us.

With gratitude for your generous heart,

Pamela Mukaire

The Ebenezer Thanksgiving!

August Red Peanut Harvest

A Blessed Ebenezer Thanksgiving to You!

THANKSGIVING is a great day to be sharing what we have been enabled to accomplish in the past months.

Looking back, we are grateful that we have been guided well in the past years, as only God would have known what the years ahead would look like, and prepare us to serve the needs of our time in meaningful ways.

When we started seriously investing in farming four years ago, we were excited about the challenge ahead of us –  revitalizing and building the soil to ensure the healthy life-forms of our ecosystems, to better serve our human friends and neighbors in need.

We had no doubt that the answer to creating food sources was right where we were – in our local gardens and mini-farms.

The next three years threw us a busy learning curve of learning the dimensions of the challenge of raising food, processing, storing and distributing it, while sustaining the soil.

Year four, we focused on increasing yields. Little did we know that of the harvest of that year, would be a greater need to share our food with many more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the last few months, we have worked through yet another set of challenges, related to farming during the COVID-19 pandemic. For many farmers, COVID-19 has exacerbated economic and mobility challenges leading to significant impacts on agriculture, food and the rural vulnerable communities that we serve. Despite of all these challenges, our farms continue to thrive, thanks to our friends, partners and sponsors.

God has turned us into Harvesters of Hope, and for this we sing with joy!

The stories in the next few blogs , recap the much we are grateful for.

You can start our “Harvesters of Hope” video.

Thank you for being part of our care family.

Dr. Pam Mukaire

A life shared …..

By Emmanuel Kasomba 

Quite often, we despise the power and impact of a simple touch, a listening ear, a smile, an honest compliment, a simple word of prayer, a small act of sharing and caring, but a combination of these creates the ability to transform and turn around a life. Nurse Benardette and volunteer Joan, in the picture above attend to Petraline during the RIBHO monthly home visits. She is an 80 year old lady who is so happy about the services extended to her by the RIBHO volunteers. Some time back when we had just started visiting her, she was so lonely because she stayed alone at her small house. But one visit after another, one food package and then another, a prayer here and there …we started noticing incremental positive changes. Then one time we went to visit her as usual, but found everything totally different. She was clean, smart, happy and healthier, and even more, God had sent her daughter in law and first grandchild to visit. She now has family to share her goodies with and lives an extremely happy life. Truly we serve a God of wonders and miracles.

“God remembered me.”

By Victoria Kateme

Francen an old widow from kyamagwa village, Jinja could not believe that God remembered her. In her own words, “having RIBHO volunteers in my home with food packages month after mother is the most visible sign of God to me.” Francen, has been staying alone and struggling to make ends meet without any support for years.

At the age of eighty, with feeble knees and hands, she still moves slowly to and from her vegetable garden patch, planting and weeding whatever she can to grow to make a meal and simply survive. During the June RIBHO home visit, her blood pressure was a bit high, she reported general body pain, paralysis in her left hand, and itching eyes among other pains and aches.

For two years now, RIBHO has consistently visited her every month with groceries and a nurse to give her a medical check-up and provide pain and blood pressure medications. Following RIBHO volunteer visits, other locals took interest too, and started helping her as well.

France is very appreciative and always grateful to God for choosing her among the many people that RIBHO supports. Sometimes she even dances for us, the volunteers upon arrival at her house. The support, love, care and prayers given by the RIBHO volunteers has enabled her to live a better quality of life. What she says she appreciates the most is, “helping me to have a renewed image of God as loving me, and accepting again that Jesus loves me and care for me, and will receive in glory when my time comes. I prayed for a sign for God to remember me in my old age, and you young people came with food, smiles, medicine and you still come. If God could do that, I am now confident that Jesus will also receive me in heaven when my time comes. I am happy. I am very happy.”

For a long time Francen lacked a personal pit latrine. Her kind neighbors sympathized with her and allowed her to use their latrine for many years. However, last year, following RIBHO’s example, a Good Samaritan in the neighborhood constructed a personal pit latrine for Francen, and she was saved from that embarrassment of having to go to the neighbors. Her home is now lively with a good number of grandchildren who have resumed visiting.

Two years ago, Francen was a community reject. Today the favour of the Lord draws people she does not know to support her. She has been a blessing to behold.

Happiness prolongs life

By Emmanuel Kasomba 

Studies show that a genuine smile contributes to your health. It can lift your mood, alleviate your stress and relieve any pain you are feeling. Did you know that it can even regulate your blood pressure? Thank you RIBHO for the smiles that you always put on these (in the picture above) and many other elderly members of the Kabembe community through the RIBHO Senior Nutrition and Health Assessment Program. From left to right are: Felista, Oritiya and Beatrice looking so happy and grateful after being administered to vital body checkups and health assessments by the RIBHO volunteer team as well as sharing the word of God, prayer, having Holy Communion and receiving a food package from the Organization at Kabembe Health Centre II.

A smile regained

By Victoria Kateme

“It is possible to forget how to smile… or how to smile.” This is very true for Hasfa, who is about 75 years old and lives in Jinja. You see, Hasfa doesn’t remember when she was born, but interestingly she always says, “I was born during the time of the great famine”.

When we first met and registered her as a RIBHO home health-visit client, Hasfa was ill, lived alone, and by the mercies of whoever could help her. A few months later, her daughter came to take care of her and she improved a little, walking on clutches and or with support, but still remained very weak, and experienced severe body itching.

Hasfa also has vitiligo, a condition that causes the skin to lose its pigment. Consequently, she has discolored patches in different areas of the body, especially her face. Needless to say, she has faced a lot of stigma and discrimination in the community. Adults and children alike stare at her, point and gasp.

The combination of illness, the stigma, limited medical and social support left Hasfa with a lot of bitterness and anger towards everybody around her. During our first visit with her, it was clear that she was hurting both physically and emotionally. She was rude, shouted at us and refused to answer half the questions out to her by the visiting nurse but she accepted the food packages.

But we returned month after month, and with continued relentless love, care and kindness from the RIBHO volunteer team, her attitude changed. Her health, attitude and outlook improved steadily. She became very hospitable and started waiting for us to come around, welcoming us with her wide, and sweetly singing us songs from her youth. In March and April when the home visits where paused due to COVID-19, she looked up some of the volunteers in their homes asking with caring concern, “What has happened to my good friends?”. You see, Hasfa believes she got a new family – us the RIBHO family.

On occasion, RIBHO volunteers walked with Hasfa through the village, and it was made known to the community that she was now a friend with medical nurses and professional social workers. The once very weak and sad Hasfa can now be seen walking through the village, straight up with an ever broadening smiling face. She testifies, “My skin no longer itches a lot and I am happy to be regaining my normal skin color in some parts of the body though one may not easily see this.” She also confesses that she enjoys the food RIBHO gives her.

In my opinion, Hasfa had given up on life, but now she is very optimistic and sure that her tomorrow will only get better.

Who knew that the once disillusioned Hasfa would become a “smiling machine” of the community, and a warm charming host to all who enter her house!

I, praise the Lord for the people supporting this program. You are making a difference. Hasfa wanted you to know. I hope sharing this story will put a smile on your face. Many hopeless people like Hasfa become hopeful and hundreds of such people are being helped.

“The mothers have come.”

By Victoria Kateme

Growing up in large Ugandan families, we were nurtured by many mothers. A good number of them were family members, and the other half were older women in the village who cared for us as well as our own mothers would. Not a lot has changed for the younger children that RIBHO reaches with a meal or two.

“I am happy to have a mother figure”, says Ambrose an eleven year old boy primary five. The end of this year he would be moving along to primary six, but with COVID-19 school is still suspended in all of Uganda and is likely to remain that way for the rest of the year.

Ambrose was born with pediatric HIV and he also has a hearing impairment. After the death of his mother who passed on when Ambrose was three years old, he was given to the full care of his beloved father. Although the father does not have a stable job, for a while now, they have done relatively well. The father has done a great job of making life comfortable for his son Ambrose, until this March, when COVID-19 brought work to a standstill for so many people like Ambrose’s father.

Through RIBHO’s feeding program, Ambrose not only has access to nutritious foods, he has also found a “mother figure” as he says, in one of the female volunteers assigned to him as to this boy to help him boost his immunity, but also the female volunteer social worker assigned to him. “She reminds me of my mother. She listens to me, and shows mw love. She also says inspiring messages to me. I thank God for her”, says Ambrose with a large smile.

During the June home visit, we found Ambrose at home alone. His father was out looking for work. For our usual prayer time at the end of the visit, Ambrose hoped that God would heal him and enable him to hear properly. You see, it is very difficult for him to hear everything we say, which frustrates him. For those patient enough to carry on a conversation with him, Ambrose rewards with a happy facial expression of both joy and relief.

When a watchful neighbor pooped around to see who was visiting with Ambrose, we identified ourselves as RIBHO volunteers. Nonetheless, she asked Ambrose directly, “Who are these people?” to which he replied, happily, “The mothers have come.” His simple but full matter of fact statement speaks volumes, especially when it comes from such an innocent loving and brave child.

The Grace Congregational Health Network (Grace Network)

One Need. One Voice. One Church

The Church is an amazing organization and as I grow in her service I marvel at God’s ingenuity of this organism. Another thing I have reflected on in the past months is how much credit COVID-19 has gotten for pretty much every happening in the human race since February 2020 (and December last year in some places). Yes, I might add another … this global event has hastened our local partnerships, and also made us more agreeable with each other than ever before.

Our Community Benefits and Partnership’s program was launched last year, with the aim of formally recognizing, supporting, developing and equipping local community care programs to do what they do best. One such indispensable community leader in our local communities is the Local Church.

Like her God and LORD, she is also the only organization I know to reveal herself under a new name to meet the new need in her community.

The local church has confronted and met head on every problem and need known to human kind, and if she has not succeeded at some, it’s not from lack of trying. In the very least, her ministry of presence remains legendary, and with every growing meaning for every generation she cradles in her arms.

And now by a new name for the new need, 10 local churches have come together as network of local congregations under the umbrella coalition “The Grace Congregational Health Network (Grace Network). They are working to address the hunger, medical and educational growing needs as just a few of the challenges in their local communities during and beyond COVID-19. To learn more about this initiative, read more here.

By Dr. Pam

How are you doing?

lake victoria

If you are like me, you have probably been surprised at the many responses COVID-19 has evoked in you. Perhaps you have seen similar or different responses in others.

On the inside and outside, we go around in circles that often have lament, cursing, fright, trembling, … and then hope, laughter, catching up with family and longtime friends, praying, fasting, … and we dial back to 0 …and on and on …

I am concluding that’s it’s okay not to be okay, for as long as we maintain some sight of hope. Just a little bit of it, every day.

With everything down and almost running out (if not already run out) this coronavirus lockdown continues to shake our individual and global lives. Here in our rural Uganda communities, the sting of bitter paralyzing days is beginning to set in and affect everything. Not to be negative. We are learning that calling things out by name helps us better deal with what we are able to name.

People are still off the streets, the usual Sundays gatherings are no more, learning institutions are still closed, shopping malls and restaurants all not functioning, public transport means no more …, and no where close to returning to normal as we had hoped the President would announce in his last address to the country.

In the last few weeks we have scripted messages of hope for ourselves and others.  As lazy and self-serving as it may sound, we are letting people know that taking care of themselves is now the first line of protection against this cononavirus. For us who are still blessed to live in low risk communities, our major issues will likely continue to be concern about having enough food and mental health.

As self-absorbing as it might sound, some days your best job and service to humanity will be taking great care of yourself. Please do just that.

So, a question to you friends, what measures have you put in place to ensure your safety, as well as that of your loved ones and neighbors?

Please share your tips with us, and if you have yet to figure these measures out, we are more than happy to make some helpful suggestions.

Stay well…

Emmanuel Kasomba