Inspired by a Lioness

Written by Bridget Chambers on Friday, 30 June 2017. Posted in Uganda

“Bless me to bless the lives of orphaned children and girls who are going through what I went through.”

Inspired by a Lioness

Carol Akello lost both her parents to HIV/AIDS and then escaped a forced marriage when she was 16. Later, with her determination and the support of her brother, she finished her schooling and went on to university. She says she prayed for one thing: “Bless me to bless the lives of orphaned children and girls who are going through what I went through”. Now that prayer is being answered through her role as Director of Angatunyo Girls: The Lioness Project in Uganda.

Carol and I have had conversations over messenger and email, and she has sent me some photos. This particular one has sat at my desk for the last couple of weeks. I frequently delight in the opportunity to peek into the moment of joy, chaos, care and celebration of these beautiful, bold and determined young women.

Carol is in the centre facing away from the camera as she attempts to organise everyone for the photo. On the left and right are local women who volunteer their time and skills to tutor the young women in tailoring and baking. They are also making jewellery, growing crops and looking into other productive ideas. This is a successful growing micro enterprise project. The first group of 12 lionesses recently graduated, and there are 18 in the second group.

Also in the picture are some younger ones. Some are children of the students and volunteers. At the front are twin girls from the neighbourhood with their friend Oumo Ivan. He is an 8-year-old boy who came to Carol in February this year, after the loss of his parents, and experiencing other traumas. Carol says that she took the matter to the authorities, and they told her that she should care for him. So the young women have committed themselves to his care and education. The photo captures a celebration of Oumo Ivan’s successful learning so far. His school tests are the papers they are holding, along with solar lights that they use to read in the dark evenings. He has performed well and everyone is happy about this.

The young women (ranging in age from 14 to 28 years), have come to the project after various histories of extreme trauma and challenge. They have experienced and witnessed many things that could have broken their bodies, minds and spirits. But they have survived, and through the project, they are encouraged to thrive. They are working hard, learning new skills and claiming back their dignity. They were victims, but they are now becoming victors: lionesses!

There are a range of other problems that Carol is working through. The young woman with the red cloth under her arm has significant speech and hearing impairment. This poses a communication challenge for everyone, but with determination, they all find ways around it. Some young women, due to the trauma they have experienced are initially unable to talk about what has happened to them, which makes it difficult to address their needs. Still, they are all cared for and included in ways that help them to move forward.

The young women use their developing skills to create a range of products for sale. Recently Carol has been exploring new market possibilities. The money raised from their work, enables them to rent the building behind them in the photo. This building is for accommodation and for their tutoring and work.

There is a health centre nearby. The other day Carol joined other community volunteers in giving it a clean-up. It requires better resourcing to deal with the needs in the community.

Carol has worked for 2 years on the Angatunyo Girls Lioness Project. Her tremendous effort and care have inspired the young women and their community. Her story and the stories of the young women have also inspired me. My hope is that through the sharing of this story, others will peek into the lives of these beautiful, bold lionesses and be inspired too.


Please click here for more information including how you can support the Angatunyo Girls Project.

About the Author

Bridget Chambers

Bridget Chambers

Bridget has a gift of using her creativity in ways that are therapeutic and empowering for herself and others. Her professional background is in early childhood education, and she has enjoyed many years of pre-school and junior primary teaching. She has also been part of writing teams, creating international, inter-denominational, age-graded Christian education lesson material, and she has published a novel for middle primary children. Over the past fifteen years, Bridget has moved from teaching, toward community development, focusing on her local community in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia. Her current employment involves supporting young mothers and their children impacted by domestic violence and homelessness. Bridget also volunteers with various community-building activities in her local community, and delights in spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren.

Comments (2)

  • Steve

    Steve

    30 June 2017 at 15:53 |
    Great article Bridget. Thanks. Very moving.

    reply

  • Leanne

    Leanne

    29 July 2017 at 08:30 |
    Thank you Bridget for sharing this insight into the success of the Angatunyo project. How wonderful that Fulcrum Aid is helping to give these girls a pathway to escape trauma and brokenness. May the benefits continue and grow.

    reply

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