As Mother’s Day approaches, our nation queues in card shops and arms itself with flowers, readying itself for a huge expression of thanks to our tireless, loving mothers and grandmothers.
Few places are more dependent on the care of mothers and grandmothers as Soweto slum in Uganda. The AIDS pandemic has all but wiped out a generation of parents and the conditions here have been so difficult that feeding children adequately and protecting them from disease has been an overwhelming challenge.
All mothers have their work cut out raising their kids, but imagine a mother, who becomes a grandmother, only to lose her adult children to a disease. She is then left alone, to look after up to 15 grandchildren, in a dangerous area, with no resources to keep them protected and in good health. There are no affordable schools and no safe way to gain an income or grow food. This is worth more than a bunch of daffodils, and we’re humbled to have been able to work alongside these heroic ladies for the last 2 years.
Since our first visit to Soweto, we have worked with our local partner ADSN to establish a Child Friendly Space in Soweto providing education, nutrition and a safe place for children to be in the day. We have supported an agricultural programme to enable local women to earn an alternative income to the breweries and provide a sustainable source of food. We have also worked to develop a Community Child Protection group, to tackle some of the issues that have left children so vulnerable to abuse.
The transformation over this time has been incredible. Most of the dangerous breweries that dominated the economy 2 years back have now shut down, and the Mum’s have described how the agricultural programme is starting to provide nutrition for children at the Centre and local households. The area is cleaner and the incidence of both child sacrifice and child abuse have greatly lessened.
Here are some more comments from some of the Mums…
- Judith the mother of 9 children says “The Centre did not discriminate and choose family and friends to come, they looked for children who were like ‘rubbish’ those who were not seen as anything in the community, and they chose these ones. So they were surprised and very happy”.
- Priscilla is a grandmother of 15 children. She says “The children used to loiter. Through the workshops parents now know their responsibilities, even those who don’t go to the Centre have now started to take their children to school. There used to be rubbish everywhere, and now although it is still not too clean, it is much much cleaner and also you don’t find faeces everywhere because of the training that is held”. Ruth, another grandmother of 13 next to her chips in at this point to say that the crime rate has also gone down.
- Grace is a mother of 5, she describes how “The cleanliness has changed dramatically. Workshops have taught people how to dispose of waste. Now there are holes dug in set places, and they put their rubbish there. ”
All these things have started to support mother and grandmothers in turning their community around and making a better life for their children. There is still a long way to go, but the difference is plain to see.
If you’d like to show some solidarity on Mothers Day, and support these dedicated ladies in transforming Soweto, please find out more about the project, and consider donating.