Update from John Emelio
We just returned from our fourth trip to Western Uganda in a little over a year and once again it proved to be very fruitful for SMI’s efforts in the region. Below is a summary of what the Lord enabled us to accomplish in our three weeks there.
The 26-acre SMI parcel has now been completely fenced, and culverts are being placed for access to the main road. The Road Authority is currently holding the titles to all lands along the road so please pray that our title is released so we can complete the process of putting the land in our name. This will allow us to start construction on our projects and buildings, including our future orphan home and staff/guest house.
We have already helped to establish the Sustainable SACCO LTD (a Savings and Credit Cooperative) in Kiburara, which operates like a Savings and Loan with members who have shares. SACCO’s are often the only providers of financial services and loans in rural areas. They can improve the lives of rural farmers and businesses based on the loans they can offer. Members can build equity and pass their shares on to their children. The establishment of a SACCO is a foundational ingredient to improving the standard of living in the area. The SACCO will soon be offering mobile money options as well. Monies received from our recent paper bead jewelry sales (made by local artists in surrounding village churches) allowed many more villagers to open accounts in the SACCO, and the sales almost doubled the amount of funds available for loan at the SACCO.
We made good progress on the trip preparing for the establishment of a soap making enterprise in Kiburara. Much time was spent gathering market data on competing soaps and researching and visiting suppliers for key ingredients. To save money, we realized we could initially start producing the soap from our existing leased space that SMI has obtained in the town of Kiburara. The picture above shows our space. This was a former bar that we took over last summer. Bringing industry and jobs like soap-making to the area will help build sustainability while funding charitable and mission efforts for the church. In addition, we hope to buy essential ingredients from local growers to help them provide for their families. We will be traveling back April 8-21 to set up the soap operation, buy ingredients, materials and tools and hopefully start making soap.
We are considering starting our own well drilling company by purchasing a portable hand-powered drilling rig that can be assembled in an hour and would fit in the back of our SMI pickup truck. This would create a local, sustainable well-drilling business that creates local jobs in our zone of ministry. It would also provide a source of revenue for SMI’s charitable efforts, allow us to bring clean water to remote areas unreachable by a well-drilling truck, and install wells at a fraction of the traditional cost. We could also organize the men in the villages receiving the wells to operate the drill, further lowering installation cost and increasing local ownership and buy-in.
Last August, members of our team met with the Deputy Director of the prison in Kiburara to see if they would have interest in building an airstrip on part of their 6,000 acre grounds. The airstrip could be used for emergency medical transport and to ease access to the area (a 1 ½ hour flight vs. a 9 hour drive!), as well as for commerce and tourism. They were very receptive to the idea. On this trip, we met with a former member of parliament for the Ibanda district who was very interested in the project. We then met with staff from the Minister of Internal Affairs as well with the Undersecretary for Prisons to move the project forward.
It is sobering to realize that water-related illnesses are the leading cause of human sickness and death. In fact, 80% of diseases in the developing world are caused by contaminated water. Thanks to our training efforts last year, local staff are now able to fix the wells that we repaired on our earlier trips. One well that has failed twice in recent months has been repaired both times by the local village who raised funds and had it repaired. This is good progress! In addition, we will install a Rainwater Containment Systems (RCS) at the Lake George church as soon as the church completes construction of their walls and roof (they are getting close). We are in the process of completing a detailed survey that we hope will lead to the installation of a gravity-powered water treatment system to purify the polluted lake water at Lake George and provide safe drinking water year-round for the first time to this location. Currently, there is no clean water source and the majority of children in the village suffer constant dysentery. Through a gravity filtration system, clean water could potentially be sold by the village at an affordable price, increasing sustainability, economic development, and local ownership of the clean water source.
By this time next year, we hope to have constructed an orphan home on our SMI land. The first home would house 8 orphans age 2-12. We must first obtain a clean title for our land and then obtain the licensing from the Ugandan Government. Once approval is granted, we would identify and house the most desperate cases first.
Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support!