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Report from the Ground: Rachel Hardy

Rachel Hardy, International Studies in Development student is currently doing research in Northern Uganda for the Love Mercy Foundation for […]

Rachel Hardy, International Studies in Development student is currently doing research in Northern Uganda for the Love Mercy Foundation for 6 weeks, and also for her thesis.

Here is some of what she has learnt so far… 

I thought I was prepared.
I had my camera for pictures, my notebook of interview questions, a pen, extra bug spray, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer. I bought a muffin, bananas and some peanuts at the supermarket for a snack, and Jimmy grabbed chapatti, mandashi and water. I hadn’t had milk that morning to make sure my motion sickness didn’t get the best of me on the rough and bumpy roads. I was well stocked, well fed and well on my way for my first interview session with the women of Awake (ah-WAH-kay) church. But I was far from ready.
Upon our arrival, a handful of women gathered to talk with me about Love Mercy’s Cents for Seeds program; the village was participating for the first year, and we wanted to get their feedback. At first, the questions grazed the surface of their situations:  
 Do you need more tools? What pests are you dealing with? 
 As the interview went on, more heart-gripping answers came. The women normally went for weeks without ever coming into contact with currency. Their crops were failing due to a lack of rain, and they were worried for their livelihoods and families.
I reached the question where I expected a barrage of answers: 
What more could Love Mercy do for you? As Jimmy translated the question to the women, I sat poised, pen ready to write what I thought would be a huge list of the obvious: more seeds, food, better shelter, clothes, shoes, school fees, HIV medicines, electricity, running water.
But they didn’t ask for any of those. 
They didn’t ask for a closer market. 
They didn’t ask for a bigger or better home. They didn’t ask for Internet, new shoes or fancier clothes.
There were a millions things they could’ve asked for—simple things, expensive things, things many of us only dream of getting ourselves. 
They simply asked for goats.
Goats? What about chickens? Chickens are too risky without fences, I was told. Wild animals can easily kill them. A cow? The women initially agreed but then began murmuring amongst themselves. No, a community cow could cause tension and wouldn’t be a good idea. Tension? I was confused. How would access to milk and eventually meat for all be a bad thing? How was a small goat better than a huge cow?
The women explained that a community cow wouldn’t be the responsibility of anyone in particular, and if it happened to get sick, who would take care of it? And what if the cow happened to produce more milk for one person than the next? No, they decided; they didn’t want to risk tension and competition amongst themselves in return for a cow. A goat each would be perfect.
I was floored. Here were women who had to farm all day to simply exist, much less make any money at all, who had absolutely nothing materially, and yet their thoughts were communal. They farmed and weeded together; they went to church together. They would rather each have a small goat and maintain the relational ties in their lives rather than the wealth of a cow and risk their friendships. It was the exact opposite of the capitalist, competitive world in which I live.
At the end of my interview, I thanked the women for their time. One woman leaned forward and signaled to Jimmy that she had something to say to me. She began thanking me for coming, for caring, for helping them provide for their families. She was so thankful “my people” cared enough to come help the people of Uganda. She prayed God would bless my life for investing in Awake village and wished me safe travels back. She thanked me over and over. All I could think to do was return the thanks.
But what really could I say? Knowing that my very presence in Uganda meant I had more money in my pocket than she’d have in years, this woman asked that I be blessed. She wasn’t bitter towards our different circumstances; she didn’t resent the fact that I came from America and she from poverty-stricken Uganda. Her faith and heart simply wished that God would bless me for wanting to help her.
I was quieter on the way back to Lira; I couldn’t get over the grace, humility and strength the women of Awake church had shown. I rolled their words, their smiles, their concerns over in my mind. I played back the string of well wishes the one woman had bestowed upon me and fought back tears as I gazed out the Isuzu window. I had been prepared for the day materially but not at all emotionally. Bigger doesn’t mean better. Wealth doesn’t always bring happiness. Theses are truths I know, but the day’s perspective spun them in a new light. Not sure if I can chose God’s blessings for me, but if so, they are these: I want to see every situation I’m in—be it feast or famine—with a grateful heart and to be content with life’s needs rather than life’s wealth.
I want goats.

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