Helping People Help Themselves and Others
“It is very difficult to reach people my age; we are always stubborn. Many things have passed by us in our age so we do not bother with ‘new’ things,” James explained with a slight chuckle. His toothy smile and deep, gravelly voice reminded me of Louis Armstrong, and his fedora brought to my mind a dinner jazz club musician. He continued, “We don’t want the ‘children’ to bother us,” nodding his head in reference to Perez, the FARM STEW trainer sitting next to me. “Sometimes we think we know everything, but we don’t!” James finished by flashing me a large grin and a releasing hearty laugh.
James and his wife were FARM STEW volunteers in Magada village, but I learned that they were not just any volunteers. Their journey to make their community full to the brim with abundant life changed the way I thought about people's ability to help themselves and the people around them.
It was hard to recognize the grim description of Magada Village that James painted for us: trash, empty plots of land, and children with swollen bellies and skinny arms. But now you would see clean roads, full gardens, and children running around bursting with energy from yard to yard. Nothing like the Magada James first described.
James recalled that during the first FARM STEW training, trainer Perez talked about “abundant life.” James knew that was what he wanted for his family. After that lesson, you might say James went a bit over the top following the FARM STEW Recipe… He built two different tippy taps, two functioning latines, and a HUMONGOUS compost and trash pit. He thoroughly combed his entire home and land for any trash, created several garden beds, and finally, he and his wife donated a large parcel of their land for FARM STEW gardens and training.
James took on the FARM STEW recipe for abundant life, maybe even to the extreme! But was it working? James said, “I feel strength in my body from the food. In my 60 years I look like a youth! I have learned to lightly cook vegetables so that they maintain the nutrients, and I can taste the difference. That has changed my health.” And where was he getting these fruits and vegetables, you might ask? From his FARM STEW gardens! James told us, “From my youth, I have never grown food that I would eat” (it is very common in Africa for families to grow food and only sell it in markets). Gifts from donors like you helped James help himself, but what about the change in his village?
Recalling back to our first conversation about James’ age, he said, “I know the influence I have had with my many years. That is why I made my home a FARM STEW home.” James wasn’t satisfied providing only his family with abundant life—he needed to share it with others. James desperately wanted to see Magada come back to life; it was as if the life of the village was being drained into a pit. He needed to share the recipe of abundant life that donors like you had sent through trainers to Magada.
When asked about his reasoning for the piece of land he donated, James said, “We spend a lot of money on what we eat and drink. Yet, we don’t have a lot of money in Uganda. You find yourself eating poor quality food.” That was the reality for his village, but James refused to accept the current state of affairs. He wanted to see a Magada free from dependency and able to help itself. He used his influence to excite others to transform their homes with FARM STEW practices. What started off as a mustard seed of an idea transformed Magada, which is now a FARM STEW Certified community, meaning that 80% of the homes continued to use FARM STEW practices.
When a village decides to become a FARM STEW community, donors like you have given FARM STEW the power to reward and further equip those communities to continue changing with a very special gift. What is that gift, you may ask? Let's find out! The afternoon sun had surrendered its heat to a swift evening breeze now engulfing Magada’s landscape. In the remaining light that the sun could afford, men, women, and children scurried about carrying pipes, large wrenches, and blue painted pieces of steel. James, adorned with his fedora, was digging away in the soil clearing a path for drainage. What was the cause for all this commotion? A FARM STEW borehole (well) was being drilled in the center of Magada because they had become a FARM STEW community!
Water once had to be collected several kilometers away for many of Magada’s women, but it could now be retrieved, clean, fresh, and directly near their homes. Not to mention how much safer it was now for young girls to collect water on their own.
This was a celebration day for the donors who gifted Magada, James, and the FARM STEW volunteers who labored to bring abundant life to everyone they knew. The water that was soon to flow from deep underground would only serve to fuel progress James and the rest of Magada had worked so hard to create.
Before finishing our interview, Jame said, “Every Thursday, I host FARM STEW lessons at my home. I expect a lot more learning. Messages from other organizations don’t reach the elders. Some [organizations] even give 20,000 UGX ($6.00) to the elderly [each month], but that can do nothing! But FARM STEW taught me to think. Now I have the appetite, and I don’t regret it…”
People like you have given James the knowledge and tools he needed to create abundant life for his home and village, not a handout. To the donors who made James’ story possible, thank you!