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Grants enrich United Methodist outreach in East Africa (UM News)

May 24, 2022

A United Methodist women’s training center, theological college and district motorcycle project have revved up their offerings thanks to a collaboration between UMC Ministries and Harper Hill Global.

UMC Ministries is a growing, volunteer-based organization that works alongside the Uganda-South Sudan Conference, and Harper Hill Global is a Nashville, Tennessee, faith-based organization. Together, they raised $13,410 (U.S.) to support projects in eastern Africa. 

UMC Ministries provides opportunities for churches, districts and institutions in Uganda and South Sudan to secure funding for projects and ministries by connecting them with The United Methodist Church’s general agencies, denominational partners and nonprofits. 

The denomination’s finance and mission agencies have withheld funds from the East Africa episcopal office for nearly a decade amid continuing financial concerns. The East Africa Area today encompasses United Methodists in four annual conferences and six countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda. Among UMC Ministries’ missions is to provide open transparency and accountability for all donated funds to United Methodist work in Uganda and South Sudan. The organization is based in Wobulenze in the Luwero District of Uganda. 

The United Methodist Church Women Training Center in the Jinja District of Uganda received a $5,400 grant that will be used to purchase sewing machines to train local women.

The Rev. Lugobe Fad, who coordinates the center, said the money would help women gain self-reliance and independence and avoid gender-based violence. 

The center works with women, young mothers, youth, rape survivors, displaced people, adult education students and street children. The goal is to improve livelihoods through vocational training, as well educational programs on family planning, reproductive health and gender-based violence. 

Participants learn a variety of skills such as making paper bags, party decorations, sanitary pads, shoes and soap, as well as tailoring and other handicrafts. 

Iryn Namugele, a beneficiary of the training center, said the lack of money for further studies led her to early marriage. “After being trained in fashion design and craftwork,” she said, “I can now sustain my family and educate my children.” 

Perinah Kauma said that before learning dressmaking and tailoring, she felt alone and isolated as a rape survivor. Her parents and friends avoided her, she said.

Fad, the center’s coordinator, also accepted a $2,500 grant on behalf of Uganda United Methodist Theological College, where he serves as dean. The grant will provide library books and scholarships for 10 pastors. 

The Rev. Ddamulira Christopher, Luwero District superintendent, received $3,510 to help purchase two used motorcycles. He expressed relief that he and his assistant would have transportation to traverse the remote district in Uganda. 

The Rev. Wilberforce Bwire is coordinator of the Namayingo Job Training Center, which received a grant of $2,000. Bwire said employment opportunities are scarce in Uganda, but with newly acquired skills, participants can find work or launch small businesses. 

The Rev. Gene Ramsey oversees development at the theological college and fundraising for UMC Ministries. He thanked donors, friends and partners for their support that will ensure projects are revived. 

The Rev. Nancy Neelley Hicks is founder and executive director of Harper Hill Global, which uses communications technology to improve the interpersonal and physical health of communities. She stressed the importance of building relationships to affect change.

When women in developing nations shared about the violence they endured and the opportunities they were denied, Hicks said she knew she had to be part of the solution. 

“We are embodied,” she said. “We are more than only our thoughts and beliefs.”