Read all about the brains and the beauty of this girl… We can’t wait to have you back in Sydney Cassi!
Q & A – Cassi Jenkins
1. How did you get involved with Love Mercy?
Africa has always held a special place in my heart. I can’t explain why, it just has. In 2010, I was part of the first Love Mercy Foundation (LMF) observation trip to Uganda. A team of ten of us travelled to Lira to identify the most pressing needs of the community. It was on this trip that we began discussing the construction of the Kristina Health Centre. Since that time, I have always been an LMF supporter and have volunteered in whatever capacity I am needed. In late 2013, Caitlin took maternity leave and I had just started a new part-time job. I offered to help LMF while she was away and have just stayed on!
2. When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in charity work?
Since I was 16 years old, it has been my dream to be a human rights lawyer. Throughout high school, I studied French and legal studies and continued my education in university where I studied a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies at UTS. I chose French as a language because many countries in Africa still use French as their official language. When I graduated from law in 2012, I worked as a Corporate Litigator for six months. I enjoyed the work but one day realized it was not what I had studied for and decided there and then to follow my calling. I stepped out of law entirely and into the aid and development sector. I’m very grateful for that decision because it has given me this opportunity to serve in Uganda.
3. You’re currently in Uganda for four months working for Love Mercy, tell us about your average day
I am and I love it! It’s hard to describe an ‘average day’ over here because no day is ever the same. Most days start off similar though with eggs and fruit for breakfast around 7:30am at my hotel followed by a small time of devotion. I usually then call Jimmy and Florence (our project coordinators) around 9am to confirm the day’s program. Some days, I will visit KHC and spend the day chatting to the staff and patients about the clinic. Other days, I will visit villages where we currently operate our Cents for Seeds program. These are usually long days, with very little or no time to eat. Over the past three months, I have met with over 1,000 women in 6 different villages and discussed beans, simsim (sesame) and goats and learnt all the proper agricultural practices required to harvest a good yield. I feel like I could almost start my own farm! But my favourite part of the day is when I can just sit with individual women and listen as they tell me their story. Every person here has a history that I can’t even begin to imagine but when they recount their lives, they speak with such joy and thankfulness that I feel so privileged to be a part of it. Often by the time I get home I am so exhausted that I eat dinner (usually rice with some kind of stew, beans or curry) and crash. On the weekends, there is not a lot to do in Lira so I usually spend my time with Jimmy, Florence and their family, playing with the kids and just relaxing in the shade. It’s a very different life to the one I left in Sydney!
4. You are seeing first hand what issues women in Uganda have to face on a daily basis – can you give us a glimpse into their lives and explain the change LM is making?
Women in Uganda are not only the caretakers of the family but in most cases, are also the breadwinners. They work tirelessly to ensure that the family is fed, clothed, sheltered and educated. It amazes me the amount of work they can get done in one day. It feels as if their day has to be longer than mine, with way more hours!
Something that I have noticed during most of my discussions with women in our Cents for Seeds program however is that the interview will often start with something similar to: “I had eight children but one died”. No matter how many times I hear those words, I can never hide the shock and sadness on my face. Over here, that is life. For me, it is unjust. That’s why I’m so thankful to be working with LMF, where I can see a tangible difference being made. LMF is helping women in several practical ways. Our Cents for Seeds project is an income generating program that uses seeds as micro-loans. By providing families with a secure income source, women need not spend the little money they have on food or seeds for planting. Instead, they are able to support their family by sending their children to school and covering any other household expenses. Savings groups have also been formed by the women which means they are able to safely control their savings and loan money when an unexpected emergency arises. Finally, the women feel empowered and less helpless, particularly when medical issues arise in the family. With the additional money they have saved, they are able to send their children to the clinic to receive medical treatment for diseases and conditions that would previously have gone untreated and may ultimately have been fatal. KHC has also played a vital role in this respect by providing high quality medical care at an affordable price to the community.
5. What are your personal ambitions for the future?
In relation to LMF, I would love to see us one day expand our projects into new territories of Uganda and later, hopefully move into other parts of Africa. In my mind, that would be the ultimate achievement.
Personally however, to be completely honest, I’m not sure. For the moment, I am content to focus on the present and complete this mission in Uganda as best I can. Over the past two years, I have enjoyed the freedom of relying on the Lord and following my calling and I am happy to wait and see what He has in store for me in the future. His plans are far better than my own and often far greater than I even imagined.