Earlier this year, Barbara Kayanja made a field visit to the village of Akokma on the southern shores of Lake Kyoga at the Akampala landing site in Uganda.
About 660 square miles in area, Lake Kyoga is a shallow body of water through which the Victoria Nile flows on its way from Lake Victoria to Lake Albert.
Along this lake are landing sites, which are the centers of the Ugandan fish trade, where boats depart and return with their catch every day.
World Renew had been to this place before, said Kayanja, a World Renew team leader, when the agency and its Ugandan partner, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God West Teso, began an Embrace AIDS and HIV Innovation Fund project there.
“I was returning exactly one year after the close of the project, curious to see if the community had been able to sustain the work that had begun years ago,” she said.
As she and others walked through the community, observing life on the landing site, project volunteers there told the story about a man who became a local hero after he killed a crocodile that had threatened many lives along the lake.
“Our hosts were grateful to God that humans and crocodiles have lived in relative peace since then, as God intended,” she said.
Hearing this reminded her of World Renew’s hope for all communities to “receive and express justice and mercy and peace as evidenced by healthy relationships with God, neighbor, self, and creation.”
“I celebrated their detente with the local crocodiles as evidence of healthy relationship with creation, but could see that was a mere sliver of the shalom this community had been experiencing as a result of their efforts to continue the work begun in the project.”
This story also made her think of the message of stewardship contained in Gen. 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’”
On the visit, Kayanja saw that project volunteers have remained in place and continue to do their work and today the community is proud to have 161 volunteers championing development in the community.
“As a team, they have been able to negotiate with local government for financial support for four self-help groups.”
Volunteers have constructed roads and installed boreholes to drill for water.
“We visited a number of individual enterprises and village savings and loan groups, listening with joy to what they have accomplished even after the project’s official closure,” said Kayanja.
Especially heartening, the health advances made have been sustained; the local rate of HIV is down to just 2.2% from 34.7% at program inception.
“More volunteers have joined the local church, and congregations have continued to grow.”
Playing a key role in all of this are volunteers who, she said, “continue to be good role models of what transformation on an individual basis looks like.”
In making the visit, she saw how volunteers such as these in the village of Akokma are making progress possible even after an official program has ended.
“Well-trained and motivated volunteers ensure sustained transformation and World Renew and our partners can replicate this success by continuing to build our capacity to recruit, manage, and motivate volunteers,” she said.