by Alli Kennedy
Benjamin House Ministries Summer 2019 Intern
Mary Nanyonga welcomes Susan (our Ntinda Child Advocate), Sharif (a volunteer and Ntinda sponsored child), and me from outside of her home and then hurriedly disappears behind a yellow curtain covered in floral print in the door frame to get something from inside. She reappears with something in her arms and motions for us to sit on the steps in front of her house as she spreads out a pink woven mat. Susan remarks on her youthful look and Mary's eyes light up as she laughs at the remark. Mary is small in stature, but I can tell she is strong from her build and the way she walks.
As we talk with her about her two children who are in the Benjamin House sponsorship program and her husband’s poor health following a boda boda accident, I notice a mountain of plastic bottles that look as if they’re going to burst from a multitude of sacks gathered together next to her home. I quickly learn that these plastic bottles are Mary’s livelihood. She spends each day walking through trenches and along roadsides with three sacks on her back to fill, hoping to collect enough to sell for a profit.
The nature of her work is cruel. People laugh at her like she is a mad person as they see her wandering around aimlessly looking for bottles. She’s lost respect from many people in her community because of her job. Her health is at risk each day as she digs through sewage and waste collecting plastic bottles in three sacks that she tries to fill each day. “I am constantly discouraged by their laughter, but I know God is with me because it’s a risky job and I never get sick,” Mary says.
She gets up to show us the collection of bottles she’s obtained over the last few months. She used to collect bottles on a small scale and send them to a factory, but the people she would give them to would cheat her out of money by using weighing scales that weren’t fully functional to measure the amount she had collected, or by giving her less than what she had earned from the profits from the factory. She decided that she wanted to buy her own scale so she could maintain the integrity of her business and have an accurate way of weighing the bottles.
Aside from a few times a week when her husband works as a boda boda driver for two hours at a time, Mary is the sole provider for her family. She smiles and tells us that the parents in her savings group, through the Benjamin House sponsorship program, lent her the money to get her scale, which she will pay back when she earns the profits from the plastic bottles that she has been collecting for three months. She will need 600 kg, or 1,322 pounds, of bottles, to earn around $135 from the plastic company. Until she reaches her goal, she will sell jerry cans and other large items she finds to provide for the every-day needs of her children.
Benjamin House Ministries' sponsorship program is benefitting her entire family through education and various programs. Mary attends a savings program and parents' group while her children attend the spiritual development program. She tells us with tears in her eyes how happy she is that she can send her children to school. “My child said to me one day, ‘Mommy, why don’t you just stop buying food for me at home and use that money to help me go to school,’ and that broke my heart,” Mary says with a heavy sigh. She couldn’t have even taken her children to a cheap school. Sponsorship is the only option she has to provide education for her children.
As I finish taking photos and talking to Mary, she looks at us with bright eyes, sacks filled with bottles over her shoulders, telling us she’s okay with whatever demands her job brings. Assuring us that she will find the number of bottles she needs, that she will someday expand to a bigger store where people will come and sell their bottles to her, and that she will have more room to contain the bottles she’s collected. Despite the ridicule and the risk of her work, she carries on with a joyful heart, striving to earn enough to give back to other parents in need, and thanking God for the courage to do her work each day.
by Alli Kennedy
Benjamin House Ministries Summer 2019 Intern
This is Winifred Nabwami. Winifred is an entrepreneur and single mother of four children, the youngest of which is Josephine Nalubega, sponsored through BHM.
Since 1990 when Winifred had her first child, she has been making envelopes by hand to hold medicine ordered at local pharmacies in order to support her family.
She buys scrap paper and then cuts sheets into the shape of the envelope. Because glue is very expensive, Winifred seals them with a mix of cassava flour and water which is then warmed over a fire to create paste.
Each night, she goes from pharmacy to pharmacy, selling her envelopes in hopes that she will find a new partner to work with. She wants to distribute her envelopes to the pharmacies and become their exclusive and trusted vendor.
Every day she worries whether or not she will sell enough to put food on the table because people do not buy her packages every day and the pharmacies have begun to replicate her design.
Despite the challenges she faces, Winifred is thankful for her job because it allows her to stay at home with her family and prevents her from having to do jobs that would put her health at risk. Many women in the community have to pick up scraps and sweep the roads or other hard manual labor in which they can be easily exploited.
Winifred is extremely thankful for her daughter’s sponsorship because it released her from the stress of her child’s school fees and introduced her to a savings program that has prevented her from being in a vulnerable position by asking people for loans.
With the BHM savings program, which each parent of sponsored children can be enrolled in, she has started saving money for her daughter’s university fees and transportation. Her daughter hopes to be an accountant.
Winifred Nabwami is excited to teach the other mothers in the sponsorship program how to make the envelopes and sell them so they can all provide for their families and save money together. A true act of humility and trusting that the Lord will provide for her family and the Ntinda community through the skills He has given her.
Bucky Rogers, Benjamin House staff, and short-term missionaries