Rebuilding a life and a community after years of conflict, violence, and trauma is no easy task. The pain doesn’t go away immediately. The healing doesn’t happen automatically. Those who remain must figure out the way forward.
The Spirit in Action Small Business Fund (SBF) is helping with this rebuilding, with more than just cash grants. Naomi Ayot is the coordinator for SBF in the Kole District in Uganda. This is where the Lord’s Resistance Army abducted girls in 1996 and years of conflict broke up families and forced people into refugee camps. Many of the families in the area are missing family members, with many women now in charge of running households.
The Small Business Fund provides grants of $150 and business training. And it also is providing psychological support through peer support groups and encouragement.
Members from different SBF groups meet to discuss their businesses and lives.
Turning Lives Around
Imat Milly is the main breadwinner in her family. During the peak of the conflict with the LRA, when it was no longer safe to stay at home, her family moved into a camp for Internally Displaced People. When the violence ended, they settled into a grass roofed house.
Now, with their successful farming business – growing food for sale, in addition to home consumption – they have built a iron-roofed house!
Imat Milly proudly stands next to her new house.
Imat has also bought a plow, so that they don’t have to plow by hand anymore! They are producing better quality and quantity of crops now. They have even adopted a five year-old girl and paying for her school fees. This generous act of caring for children in need is just part of rebuilding community after conflict.
“She thinks her life has really turned around,” reported Naomi. The sentiment is perhaps understated, but the satisfaction and joy in Naomi’s voice told me just how big this change is for Imat and her family.
Thinking Beyond Basic Needs
I wrote in April how Samsa used the profit from her agricultural business to send her daughter to pre-primary (nursery) school. When I met with Naomi in May, she told me again how much that meant to Samsa.
When Samsa’s daughter finished the school year, the school had graduation and Samsa was so proud to see her daughter receive the honors and be able to move onto primary school! For this community in rebuilding mode, education has not been a priority. However, Naomi reported that part of the success of SIA is that our program, “helps them think beyond basic needs to think about education.”
Naomi Ayot is the wonderful SIA Small Business Fund Coordinator in Uganda. She mentors others with passion and skill.
Counseling for Healing
In addition to these business successes, Naomi and her team on the ground in Kole District have created a spiritual counseling group, for anyone in the community who wants to join. SBF members and those who have not yet been chosen for grants come together to share about their challenges and to motivate each other to move forward. When I met with Naomi in May, she told me that these groups were helping to reduce domestic violence and levels of alcoholism in the group members.
“SIA is on-going,” says Naomi. “It not just a one-off project. This encourages teamwork and cooperation between families.” Rather than competing against each other, SIA SBF groups are working together, sharing their grief and joy, and helping to rebuild their community in the wake of conflict.