The impact of severe weather and natural disasters is, as we all know, much more severe in developing countries, where communities are more vulnerable to the long-term effects of physical destruction. Without wanting to preach to the choir, there are many reasons for this vulnerability, a state in which uncertainty is a constant threat: Lack of infrastructure and safety nets (e.g. insurance), lack of facilities to store food (no electricity = no fridges) or save money (there isn’t a bank in Busolwe). Here, when something breaks or suddenly goes wrong, we might struggle but can probably use money we’d put aside for something else. A new fridge-freezer might mean we have to tap into our holiday savings. Double glazing might hit the bank account hard but most of us make the decision to fork out, in order to save money in the long-run on those energy bills. We have the choice to invest in our futures, and it’s quite easy for most of us to do so.
Lack of choice is a barrier for so many people living in vulnerable or deprived communities (In Uganda, The UK, anywhere). When something unexpected happens, like the storm that swept across Busolwe in June, it’s these communities that get hit the hardest.
We began a ‘storm appeal’ to raise money to help those most severely affected. I began writing this blog to update everyone on the situation and reel off a list of (vital and amazing) things that our team in Uganda are doing to help victims of the storm. Things like providing building materials and skilled labour, distributing stationary to school children that lost parents, and providing blanket and jerrycans for families whose homes were destroyed.
Then I was reminded that, actually, our ‘storm appeal’ doesn’t stop – or start – there. The a little bit of HOPE (Uganda) staff team refer to the above activities as ‘disaster support’. But ‘disaster support’ goes so much deeper than rebuilding houses and giving out blankets. It’s not sustainable to just fix things whenever they get broken. The parable of the wise and foolish builders comes to mind. When the rains come and your house collapses, you might rebuild it with the strongest materials available, but if its on a bed of sand, it’s just another accident waiting to happen. I’m metaphorically speaking here (even though we are literally rebuilding houses at the moment), and not referring to anyone as foolish! But this is why a little bit of HOPE funds sustainable solutions to help people escape the poverty trap, so that next time a storm hits, they won’t have to start all over again. And if they do, it won’t cost them everything.
Sustainability has to be the bedrock. And this is how we help build it:
- Giving girls the opportunity to stay in school even when they’re on their periods, by teaching them how to make re-usable sanitary towels. This enables them to receive a full education and increases their chances of university and eventually employment, in a job they choose. When the storms come, it’s less likely they’ll be married at 17, already with three children to support.
- Funding scholarships, so that young people can study vocational courses like carpentry, brick-laying, plumbing or hairdressing, that give them a solid chance of employment, and the ability to support themselves and their family in the future. When the storms come, they’ll have skills and savings set in place.
- Providing small-loans and business training to local entrepreneurs and start-ups, enabling them to earn a sustainable income, educate and feed their children, and put money aside for the future, reducing the threat of uncertainty. When the storms come, they might have to rebuild their roof, but this won’t cost them everything they own.
- Building concrete houses for widows, helping them start income-generating activities, and providing them with agricultural training. When the storms come, their houses will stay dry and they won’t have to patch up the roof again, they’ll have more financial security from their generated income, and their diversified crops on organically fertilised land will ensure they’re not reliant on a single source of food.
This is just a glimpse of how we help people build a foundation of sustainability, filling futures with more hope and less uncertainty. We can’t fix everything, but we can give people a leg-up, out of the stagnant inevitability of poverty. If you want to find out more or get involved, we’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to particularly help those affected by June’s storm, just text “STRM06 £10” (or any amount) to 700700. Thank you.