This is a guest post from Carol Levy of Pilot Light Foundation.
When I first visited the Batwa in the spring of 2011, I was shocked to see their living conditions. The homes they were living in were tiny and not water tight, made of sticks, leaves and various other items of trash. Some of them were lucky enough to use mud. They were living crammed onto small plots of land with very little food growing and almost no farm animals. The hygiene was clearly an issue.
Our intention was do an income generating dairy goat project that would also help improve the nutrition of the Batwa children. My partner and I quickly realized, however, that it would be impossible to focus solely on income generating activities without first addressing the pressing issues of safe housing, food security, etc.
Since that first visit, we partnered with the African International Christian Ministry. We have been able to build 40 homes and are going to build 94 more. We have established 29 Village Savings and Loans Groups, so the Batwa are learning to save, borrow and invest in income generating activities. We have improved food security through teaching farming techniques, supplying seeds and helping to acquire land for farming and building homes. We have been educating the Batwa on health and hygiene and giving incentive to send their kids to school. Many tourists who are in the area to see the mountain gorillas stop by to watch the Batwa sing and dance. We are working on a project that will centralize and organize the tourist visits to create an income generating business that will benefit the whole community. We did all of this with 5 groups of Batwa living in the area around Kabale, Uganda and are now increasing our program to include another 5 groups, in total 716 people.
During my last visit to the Batwa Project, it was so exciting to see the progress made. The Batwa were clearly thrilled with what they had been able to accomplish in such a short time and were proudly inviting us into their new homes. One man spontaneously broke into a dance when showing off his new home. We met with each group to give them the chance to tell us what they thought was working, not working and what else was needed. Now we are ready to move forward and to continue our progress.
To donate to the Batwa Project, visit http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/batwa-development-project/x/5358640
To learn more about the Pilot Light Foundation, visit http://www.pilotlightfund.org/index.php
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