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Today I am a Happy Woman

In the driest part of southern Uganda water is very scarce.  The boreholes drilled by the government produce water that has too many minerals; neither animals nor humans will drink it.  The long trek to the Kagera River that borders Tanzania can be dangerous and the water is always dirty and contaminated.  Once you have walked the 3-5km distance through steep hilly country, the queue for water is long.  Jane Tumwebaze is a living testament of the difference a water tank can make.  She belongs to the Mabuna Orphans Caretakers Association which was set up with the assistance of Christian World Service partner Centre for Community Solidarity (CCS) to help orphans and vulnerable children most of whom have lost their parents to HIV and AIDS.

I am Jane Tumwebaze 46 years of age. I lost my husband ten years back after producing six children with him.
“Today, I am a very happy woman! My rainwater tank keeps water for my family throughout the year.   Here there are two rainy seasons with one very strong dry season of four months that make plants and the vegetation dry and many animals die.  Since the construction of this tank on 2nd September 2008 I have managed to pay school fees for my children, raise a piggery which has grown fast and I get income to address my family needs.  My family diet has improved because with a backyard garden and drip irrigation I have managed to raise a good number of fruit trees like oranges and jackfruits.  Growing fruits in this very dry place is very difficult you see.

We had a small piece of land with a banana plantation on it.  I have been surviving on this subsistence farming. Raising these children in this impoverished stated was very difficult for me.

Through this association with CCS supported by CWS New Zealand, I have benefited from the following:
•    Rainwater tank in front of my house – water through the year. We wash our clothes and bathe daily unlike in the past when my kids suffered from jiggers (chigoe flea) and lice.
•    We eat green vegetables throughout the year
•    My children attend schools and have time for their school homework
•    We get income from keeping pigs and chickens – we sell eggs
•    I have more time to attend my banana plantation. Grow beans, maize and other food crops for food and surplus for sale. I get time to grow coffee that has increased my family’s income.  I have free time to attend development meetings with others and at times, time for resting.”

Before CCS began working with the community life was extremely difficult.  Jane could not always afford water that cost NZ $0.29 for 20 litres so the family went without.  Unable to clean themselves or their clothes, they were often sick but also hungry.  In the dry seasons the line at the boreholes was long.  Jane recalls the time when she and one of the children woke at 3 am to get water first, only to find the line so long that energetic young boys were pushing weaker people out of the way.  When her sister died from HIV and AIDS last year, she took on the care of her niece now an orphan.

In the newly formed Mabuna Orphans Caretakers Association Jane found the value of sharing her problems with others.  She learnt how to solve them and earn the income her family needs.  Now her children are smart and healthy like others.  She is very proud of her improved farm where she sees the benefits of her training in soil conservation and protection.  All the members of the Association now have a water tank by their homes.  Even those who chose not to join are looking for ways to finance their own improvements.  In an area feeling the loss of many family members through HIV and AIDS, the support the community provides is crucial for otherwise helpless children.

CCS has helped Jane and others like her become self-reliant.  Members of the Association save a little money each month and lend money to each other at 2% interest – they cannot get loans from banks.  The money helps buy school uniforms, school equipment, clothes, soap and other things for the children.

“My message to New Zealander is that first and foremost I unreservedly thank them all for their generosity, love and commitment to improve my life, to support my family and my colleagues in the Mabuna Orphans Caretakers Association.  I was miserable.  None of my kids could go to school.  I lost two children to diarrhoea as the water was stagnant and the river water carried the dead bodies of people killed during Rwanda’s civil war.  Having a tank at home is not simple and would be costly without a subsidy.  It has elevated my status and other people started coming to me to ask how magically CCS made things happen.”

Centre for Community Solidarity
Centre for Community Solidarity works with primarily women caring for orphans and vulnerable children who have lost family through HIV and AIDS to build rainwater tanks in the Isingiro district.  The first phase from 2008-2012 provided the funds to build 495 water tanks for 530 groups members and 1742 children.  In addition they raised money for 45 more tanks through their own efforts.

•    Forms the community groups and helps them set up and make plans
•    Organises exposure visits to learn from neighbouring groups
•    Organises the building of rainwater tanks
•    Trains the groups in construction skills, hygiene, sanitation, HIV and AIDS prevention, coping mechanisms and how to deal with those infected
•    Helps them set up and manage revolving loan funds and organising repayment
•    Established a piggery project and gave 240 piglets to families
•    Produces water filters to sell cheaply to ensure safe drinking water