Aaron Montgomery traveled to Uganda this summer for the first time in several years. He recounts his experience, and the development that has happened at the G.O.D. hub in Uganda, through this photo story.
This summer Derek Bargatze (International Director of Students Living A Mission), Cameron Kagay (Regional Director for East Africa), Gregg Garner (President and CEO of G.O.D. Int’l) and myself (photojournalist and webmaster for G.O.D. Int'l) visited the G.O.D. Int'l East Africa Hub in central Uganda. The first building on our land, "the triplex" functions as a transitional housing for development workers in the region.
The main objectives of our trip were to evaluate and document our efforts in food production, primary education, and theological education, and to strategize for the upcoming year. This is a view of our land from the entrance. Francis Lubega, G.O.D. Int'l cooperative and master builder, walks home from our outdoor meeting structure.
On our 7-acre plot, our days were filled with garden and construction work in the morning, and meetings in the afternoon. We assessed the quality, efficiency, and sustainability of the progress being made with our community there. This is a traditional thatched-roof pavilion, where most of those meetings were facilitated.
Composting is an integral part of maintaining the quantity and quality of food being produced in the garden, as well as providing a means of waste management for the entire property. In one day, our team constructed 12 large compost piles--a feat made possible through Derek's combination of good management and positivity.
Cameron Kagay, Regional Director of G.O.D. East Africa, helped introduce our cooperatives to utilizing scythes to trim their grass last summer. The tool allows for quicker grass trimmings with less wear on one's body. Our African friends love the new technology, and are looking for ways to replicate it with their materials in Uganda.
By training our cooperatives to maintain and repair wells, we have increased the area's access to well repairmen by 500%. In the last few years, we've repaired eight local hand-pump wells, each of which supply water for hundreds of people. Francis Lubega, one of our cooperatives, took me around to each of the repaired pump locations for a routine "checkup."
Before we were involved, the roof was blowing off of the building due to heavy storms. We responded by installing a new roof and gutter system, attaching it to the already existing cistern. What was exciting was the community's involvement in the roof repair--parents and teachers came together to help with the construction, showing a new level of collaboration to improve the children's place of learning.
We also more than doubled the previously understaffed faculty with teachers of our own, including Lawrence Ssemakula, a seasoned teacher, administrator, and community leader. Lawrence has been working with us for nearly a decade, and his role at St. John's is pivotal. He has taken on the majority of the educational responsibilities, including the implementation of enhanced, appropriate curriculum, and the development of the school's teachers.
An overarching objective with everything we're involved in is to model for surrounding people alternative, replicable ways of living - from the domiciliary work to the educational endeavors - that elevate people from a place of just existing, or surviving, to a place where they are thriving. It's a privilege to be a part of this work.