Joyce, Bono and woven mats

July 23, 2010


I've found that you can't fight some kinds of poverty. I know Bono would like to make it so that longitude and latitude don't determine the quality of a child's life - but I find culture, and belief, to be bigger than packages of food, or water filtration systems.

Morris and I visited Joyce Katende today. I told him last night that he needed to think like an American. I told him that things here that are normal to him aren't normal to us, and if we are going to do media together, he needs to think of things that are every day to him, but aren't. I told him to look with new eyes. That's when he nodded his head, looked at Millie and said, "I need to take her to Joyce." Afterward, we talked about jerry cans and how women are always the ones carrying them. He said he had never noticed, and boy did I give him an education!

Anyways, we rented a boda from a friend of his today, and took off out of town so that I could take some photos. "If this tugged at my heart, surely it will tug at yours," he told me, raising his voice over the hum of our boda.


Joyce lives in a one room brick building on the side of the main road running straight through Uganda to Sudan. Her dirt floor is covered in old tarps, and colorful mats she has woven palm leaves together to create. A black plastic bag in the corner of the room holds mats she has made - purple, green and blue. As she grows older, she has begun to only weave mats with dull colors, because her eyes are bothered by bright colors. She complains that her eyes are also bothered by the sun, and her poor eye sight, mixed with the soreness in her arms and legs, keeps her from digging roots for her family like she used to.

Joyce sat on a small twin bed on the floor while we talked with her this morning - one of two she shares with six AIDS orphans she has taken in as her own since their parents died. In the corner of her home is a sack of beans that she told us was the last of the food that was last brought to her by Wobulenzi Penticostal Church (WPC), her only source of provision, aside from the mats she sells for two or four dollars a piece, depending on their size. 

Fortunately, Joyce's small food supply will soon be replenished, thanks to donations to Life With Hope, a local ministry supporting women struggling with the repercussions of AIDS in their families. With the help of Align Ministries, WPC is able to bring Joyce regular food and ARVs for her children, as well as basic necessities such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and water jugs.

While Life With Hope provides women like Joyce, who cannot work, basic necessities, the ministry's ultimate goal is to help clients become strong enough to start supporting themselves. The ministry does this through slowly transferring the funds used on groceries and supplies to a loan that is to be used to buy the supplies needed to begin a sustainable enterprise. These small loans are to be paid back over time, without interest. 

I was all excited inside, living out everything I learned this semester about micro enterprise and micro finance. I remember sitting in boy's kitchen a few month's ago, while he cooked me fried chicken, and pausing my ipod to wave my beer around while giving him the ten minute run down on microinsurance for farmers, and how it was going to end world poverty.

He looked at me, sitting in the middle of about 10 books, 40 reports and a hef, and said "what!?"

I said "I'm not exactly sure. But I think I'm starting to understand it."

3 months later, and I'm living it. 

Morris explained today that the micro enterprise model is the best way to help women get on their feet because it keeps them motivated to use the money they are loaned to begin supporting their families. 

Joyce laughed when she told us about the way supplies are caring for her and her children. "I keep the cooking oil from the children," Joyce said. "They try and pour it all in at once and I say, 'no! you have to have it last until the next supply!'"

She laughed, and I wanted to cry, thinking about the dirty drinking water she showed me, and the story she told about her adopted daughter - bleeding every time she takes ARVs.  A doctor won't be here to see her until August.

What up, Bono?

I cried when Morris prayed with Joyce. I didn't understand what they were saying, but I felt God beside me. I think that happens when you care for orphans and widows. I think Jesus comes extra quickly - I think His love gets extra close. 

When we left, I felt awkward. I didn't know what to say to Joyce. I wanted to tell her that meeting her, and seeing her home, had changed the way I see the world. Instead, I just reached for her hands. She got down on the ground to kiss mine, and I bent down with her and told her no.

I climbed behind Morris on our boda with tears running down from underneath my sunglasses. 


Anyone wanna put in a woven mat order?

3 comments:

angela said...

what up, bono?

i want a mat. and i'll pay more than $4 for it! are you kidding?

Huff Doback said...

I like it.

Haddock said...

So true, longitude and latitude don't determine the quality of a child's life.