As I write, I am sitting under a mosquito net on my bed in a quaint guest house, in Kitgum, which is a town in the northern part of Uganda only 40km away from the Sudan border. I am here with my husband who has been visiting this town for the last 12 years. This is my first visit. Everything is so new to me and I’m continually out of my comfort zone. The poverty is very real, and so is the red dust. For this trip we have hired a 4WD and we’ve been enjoying the experience of venturing out of the traffic congested city streets of Kampala to visit the towns along the rough and tumble dirt roads across outback Uganda.
Today my husband and I were involved in teaching a group of community leaders about personal progress. We heard some amazing stories. Some sad. Some inspiring. Some heroic. Some that need to be shared…
Of a group of approximately 30 people, almost 95% of them had lived in an IDP camp (Internally Displaced People’s camp). We passed these camps on our travels along the dirt roads. Now abandoned, they consisted of large areas with a multitude of round mud huts with thatched roofs. Here the Ugandan people lived as it was a safe place from the rebels who were terrorising the people of this land. Today I heard from the people what it was like to be in one of these camps for many years and how they were looked after by the government or world food organisations. They were given everything – from the shelter they lived in, to their daily food and the cups and plates they drank and ate from. In exchange for safety, shelter and supplies they traded their dignity, and sense of personal power and pride. For years the people could not and did not work. As a consequence, many of the men became angry and they turned to drinking and AIDs multiplied throughout the camps.
I admire the resilience of the Ugandans, especially the women. They have had to contend with so much. Many of them have lost husbands and children – some to AIDS, others to war. But they continue to raise their families and smile, sing and dance to the beat of the drums they play.
The war is now over and the LRA rebels (Lord Resistance Army) have left Uganda and are now hiding in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In these northern parts of Uganda – it is now time for the people to focus on both the restoration of things lost and to take action to ensure future progress. Yesterday my husband and I shared about practical steps to progress. We focused on encouraging the people to start new businesses. It dawned on me wherever we are in the world the principles of progress are all the same…
1. Multiply What is in Your Hands
Small business always starts by looking at the skills, resources, knowledge and talents that are already in your hands…in your life.
2. Get an Idea and a Plan
Before anything is birthed there has to be an idea or a vision. However an idea needs to be then enlarged into a plan…a strategy…the practical steps detailing how the idea is going to come to pass.
3. Seek Advice
No matter what you do that is new it is always wise to seek the counsel of those who are experienced in the field. Don’t do it alone.
4. Be Integrous
One Ugandan man shared a story of how when he farms and sells his produce that 1 kilo is always 1 kilo, whereas others he knew would be dishonest with their weights. Interestingly his business grew larger than his peers even to the point of World Vision and some other large NGO’s buying his produce. Businesses that are founded on integrity will always be blessed.
5. Little by Little – Step by Step
Personal and business growth generally occurs little by little, step by step. We must be committed to walking each and every step. Miss one step and we may miss out.
6. Work Hard
There are many proverbs that talk about how laziness leads to poverty. Any progress demands work – hard work and smart work. I love this proverb…
‘Go to the ant, you sluggard, consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer, no ruler yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.’