In the Kasagamaa Sub County of Uganda, it’s not unusual for children to serve as the heads of households. Of all of the countries on the African continent, Uganda has one of the highest percentages of people living with and dying from HIV and AIDS, leaving many children orphaned and to fend for themselves.
Sentongo Abdul’s parents died of AIDS in 2006, leaving Sentongo in charge of looking after his younger sister and brother. Without the help of their parents, the Abdul children were often hungry. Although there is a free primary school in their community, the children did not have the required school supplies to attend.
“Well-wishers gave us food once in a while, but no one ever offered us money to cater for some of household essentials and scholastic materials,” Sentongo says. “It hurt me so much to watch my friends attend school on a daily basis, yet I could not afford basic materials which everyone took for granted.”
But thanks to a partnership between ELCA World Hunger and the Rural Action Community Based Organization, a local community service organization in Uganda, the Abduls’ lives are changing.
In 2011, the children were given a new house, a water tank, household utensils and two pregnant goats as a part of a larger initiative that distributed 280 goats to 90 households. For people in Uganda, a goat is as good as money in the bank. Goats can provide nutritious milk and meat, but more importantly, they can be sold when a family finds itself in need.
In the next phase of the project, the program will also provide gardening and food preparation training to children who lead households and people living with HIV and AIDS with the hope of increasing food security in the region.
In Sentongo’s case, the Rural Action Community Based Organization taught him how to properly care for his goats including how to build a pen, how to feed them properly with locally available foods and how to keep them from falling ill.
His goats each had two kids, and when the organization saw how well Sentongo was caring for his animals, they gave him two more. He was then able to sell four of the goats to procure books, pens, pencils and school bags for his siblings. Now Sentongo spends his days taking his goats to graze on the fresh grass in the hills where he lives, while his brother and sister get an education.
“I had given up all hope for life after our parents’ death. My siblings’ dreams of becoming teachers can now be realized because of the goat project. My future and that of my siblings is surely brighter.”