Giving beyond limits: Women of Acholi Quarters Breaking Stones for Katrina Victims
Monday, 17 October 2005 00:00

A report by Vanessa J. Akello from AVSI-Uganda on their expression of solidarity with the victims of Hurricane Katrina, an education for all in true charity.

________________________________________________________________________________

 

It was a bright Thursday morning as we wound our way to Acholi quarters in Kireka slum, in Kampala the capital city of Uganda.

 

Branching off the main road, we met women young and old breaking stones, some with children tied behind their backs. With their faces grim and tainted with sweat, the women rhythmically shatter the big pieces of stones into smaller ones. These stones will later be sold to road constructors and house builders.

 

As we approach and greet them, the pounding stops and their faces suddenly light up with smiles. Later we see that deep in the quarry are men too, who are blasting the stones from the quarry.

 

Our visit to this hill is to witness the launching of “a two weeks initiative” of breaking stones for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The money from this hard labour will be given to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, specifically to the displaced families in Louisiana (Baton Rouge and Laplace) and Texas (Houston) for their needs for housing, work, medical fees and school attendance.

 

In attendance at the event were AVSI Representative, Dr Filippo Ciantia, USAID policy advisor on HIV/AIDS, Ms Amy Cunningham, local authorities of Nakawa division, and friends of Meeting Point International and AVSI.

 

Acholi quarters got its name from the Acholi ethnic group who occupies the northern part of Uganda. Due to a 19-year-old war that has ravaged the area and displaced over 1.6 million people, most of the Acholi ran away from their land. Today they are found scattered in many parts of Uganda and one such area is the Kireka slum in Kampala City.

 

Arriving here with no properties and land, they soon found it difficult to survive. Thus they began to break stones for their livelihood.

 

However, as it happens often in slums, the level of diseases increased in Kireka. One day, a woman suffering from AIDS went to Nsambya hospital and seeing how weak she was, a nurse called Rose Busingye was moved and decided to escort her back home, to Kireka slums.

 

Arriving at this hillside, Rose was moved to see the poor living conditions of the people in the area. So she started Meeting Point International, whose main aim is to be present among the people of Kireka and to support them.

 

For a people who earn less than a dollar for a days work, have already raised over 1000 dollars in support to the victims of Katrina.

 

“I am moved by your gift, simplicity and heart,” said Ms Cunningham while addressing the people of Kireka. She was representing the Deputy American Ambassador at the event. “It is moving to see that people living outside the United States also care for America”.

 

USAID is funding an AVSI project, Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programme that is supporting over 11,000 children in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda. Meeting Point International is one of the organisations that AVSI would like to be a sub grant under this project.

 

The AVSI Country representative on his part praised the people of Kireka for joining AVSI–USA campaign of fund raising for the victims of Katrina. Speaking to them in Acholi, Dr. Ciantia thanked them saying, “Like the people displaced by Katrina, you have also been displaced by the war in northern Uganda. Yet you did not make this stop you from helping others in need. I am moved by your solidarity and I give you my thanks.”

 

AVSI is fundraising as a response to Pope Benedict XVI appeal to Christians to show solidarity for the people affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Mississippi.

 

Overall, the most meaningful way as a human being in front of such a disaster as Katrina or the earthquake in Pakistan was summed up by what one woman Betty said, “I have nothing and what I give is just a drop. But added to the others will fill a cup.”