Karamoja report: What has happened so far
Volker and Ruth Sasse from Germany, the current leaders of the work of VfA in Karmaoja report about the current happenings in Karamoja and give an overview about the project and life in Karamoja.
Dr. Volker Sasse:
Since the end of the christmas holidays we have been continuously in Karamoja and apart from a few drops we have not seen any rain at all. There have even been some days where the drinking water supply stopped for 12 hours.
Unfortunately the new dormitory for the kindergarten children OASIS was not yet ready to move in at the beginning of the new term in February, but in this month of March we want to let 250 children move in and keep them with us until the beginning of May.
Meanwhile we got two strong young men as volunteers helping us. They are in charge of many handicraft and maintenance works and a lot more. They have set up our creatively designed welcome-board from Ruth and a solar cross we built. With the staff members we have started a row of preachings which should also lead to the ones having this specific gift. We have also started an Alpha course. Once we had a dangerous experience with a cobra which visited us while we were cleaning the church and which I killed with a broom.
I flew around our compound to get an overview picture by making a collage out of many single pictures. The Senager Compound has meanwhile 33 old habitants in 25 huts.
Karamoja is a semi-aride, flat savanne-like gras land. To overcome the lack of water we have 3 boreholes of which the second one in the main compound will now get a pump. We want to eliminate being dependant on rain water.
Due to the permanently strong wind with high sun radiation we evaluate a greenhouse-project. Therefor we got in contact with the GIZ and we will proceed in due time. In the plan above you can see the two pumps P1 and P2. With this not only the drinking water- but also the rain water tanks shall be filled. Later on we can (as seen in the example on the right) water a greenhouse in garden 1 and fruits and vegetables in garden 2 on point.
With Robert Elolu and his wife Anita we have a beautiful relationship, discuss everything and organize everything together. They are doing an excellent job with the children. Lately a retired nun called Sr. Agnes (a local former leader of the teacher's education in Moroto) took over the leadership for the Senagers. In the picture she is the one translating my welcoming speech into Karamojong at the inauguration of our buildings on the 25th of February 2019. She is also the assistant school director.
It was amazing that our 250 children, the parents/relatives of them and many village inhabitants took part in our first big church service in our church, in total 900. Additionally 30 european visitors, 30 honorables from Moroto and of course our 40 staff members, in total 100 people. This was more than our church could take in so that we had to set up tents.
It was a logistical challenge to provide enough food and drinks for 1000 people. We have not been 5000 but even in our case we had left-overs and everyone was happy and satisfied. In the next pircutes you can see the flood of people flooding to the places were the inauguration took place: Headquarter, Senager Compound, Kindergarten and dormitory OASIS. They danced, jumped and sang. The buildings were inaugurated and blessed by the VfA directors.
Hence the celebration was a successful thing and we have many reasons to thank God for everything.
Now some facts about Karamoja from Mariel Janz. She was a volunteer in VfA in the JACK (Jesus Agape Center Karamoja) for many months and wrote the following text:
"Role between man and woman:
Men are responsible for the herds, meaning that they are mostly moving around. You can often see them seated under a tree, drinking alcohol or laying or sleeping. When a boy grows up he becomes part of a group of guys in his age. This group then sits as well a lot under a tree and discusses. The older a group is the more they have something to say. The oldest group are the "elders" who make the most important decisions and are in charge of legal disputes. They also are the ones doing the "satanic" rituals. Furthermore they love to hunt. Otherwise they do not really play an important role for providing for the family. When they come home they expect something to eat.
The woman is responsible that there is food at home. She is like a slave to the husband, actually responsible for everything and self-dependant because most men have several wifes. She is building the house out of clay and straw (which she can only get from the mountains), to have a shelter for her and the children, she gets firewood, food and water, to provide to her children. Also she has to get firewood and Aloe Vera from the far bush to sell it in the city. Some women also search for gold in the gold mines (Karamoja is a very rich in ressources - it has gold, oil, diamonds, incense and myrrhe). Because they do not know the real value of gold they still live in extreme poverty.
Role of children:
There are many, many children in Karamoja. They mostly do not get a lot of attention. They are young workforces and also help in the house. In the age of 3-4 years the boys have to help keeping the cattle. They are also responsible that no animal gets lost. If one gets lost the boy gets beaten until half dead. The father then explains that he has to beat the boy because he cannot punish the goat for escaping. The girls help the women with all kinds of works as e.g. to bring water.
Alcohol and tobacco:
In all groups of people who sit together you will find "local beer" drunk out of jerry cans. Behind their ears sticks some tobacco which is being sniffed or chewed while walking long distances. If you reach a village you will smell apart from feces also a strong scent of alcohol. The people are begging for food, alcohol, tobacco and money. If you give them food or clothes they sell it mostly to get tobacco or alcohol. From childhood on these people are being used to alcohol. They also linder the pain which comes from hunger and the life and challenges they face. Even pregnant women are advised to take alcohol as it makes the children "big and strong". Therefor many children have problems with concentrating or other physical issues.
The Karamojong are caught in a world of witchcraft, child sacrifices and demons... They often pray to different Gods or sacrifice children that it rains or for another reason. Additionally they go to witch doctors to get healing when they are sick, which opens up the doors to demons in their hearts."
But as negativ as all that may sound, through Jesus comes light and change to Karamoja!
So for example the old people who moved into the "senager" village have now agreed not to take any alcohol and drugs and hereby start a new chapter of life. Especially the children learn about God's word and how you can live a life in the light, according to God's will.
We want to close with verses from God's word that are seen on the new inauguration-boards:
Exodus 17:6: I will stand before you on a rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink. Moses did so in the presence of the leaders of Israel.
Matthew 19:14: Jesus said: “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven!”
Matthew 11:28: Jesus said: ”Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 15:27: Then they traveled on to an oasis called Elim, where there were 12 freshwater springs and 70 palm trees with dates. They set up camp there next to the waters.
We thank you for your prayers!
Volker and Ruth
PS: Solar cross by night