As we celebrate the remarkable volunteers we are fortunate to have supporting the work of Self Help Africa in Northern Ireland while commemorating International Volunteer’s Day (Thursday 5 December), we are mindful that without the dedication of our volunteers here, our work in sub-Saharan Africa would be distinctively more difficult.
Some people ask me why they should volunteer and how much of their time volunteering requires. Quite simply, an hour a week volunteering for Self Help Africa can make a real difference to the charity’s work in Northern Ireland and overseas.
Volunteering opportunities exist for helping us fundraise and in keeping our shops open as we serve the local communities in Ballynahinch, Banbridge, Bangor, Belfast, Downpatrick, Dunmurry, Holywood and Lisburn.
In Africa we are committed to empowering women. While women grow 70% of Africa’s food, they own only a tiny fraction of the land they work.
In the Teso region of North East Uganda we work with rural communities tackling poverty and improving lives through our agricultural development projects. Along with seeds and livestock, we provide training and support to more than 1,500 households where 61% of the beneficiaries are female farmers. However 90% of farmers in this region rely on subsistence agriculture as a means of survival and you could help change this by donating your time to Self Help Africa.
We promote an integrated risk management approach to empower the women we work with in Teso strengthening their resilience and sustainability to increase agricultural production and productivity.
Take Angella Atim for example. As a young girl she was forced to flee her home. Today, she is a young mother trying to overcome the trauma of war and violence while rebuilding her life in Teso, one of the poorest and most troubled places on earth.
Teso is still recovering a decade on from years of violence and destruction at the hands of warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. Many people were murdered, women raped, their villages burnt, their crops destroyed, and their children stolen away to become child soldiers.
Angella lost her parents to this apocalypse at 13 and had to flee her home, taking on the care of her three younger siblings. Ten years on she’s back, starting her life again, from scratch, with courage, hope and determination. She found her home had been burned down and her family’s small land had returned to bush: “We fled with nothing, and we returned to nothing,” she says.
In Teso, there is not enough to eat all year – families eat just once a day, and endure ‘the hungry months’ when food run out. Children experience malnutrition, and miss out on school.
Since her return to Teso, Angella has cleared her one acre land and has planted cassava, sweet potatoes and sorghum. But Angella still only grows enough food to feed her family once a day.
Angella says: “I love Teso, the soil is fertile here. If I had the right tools and skills to farm more land, I could grow more crops and make an income from my work. I would be able to afford school fees for my siblings and pay for medicines when we are sick.”
Imagine living in Teso? Imagine not being able to eat for just one day?
By volunteering for Self Help Africa you could assist families like Angella’s to work their way out of poverty, for the long term, producing more food to feed their families and earn an income from their surplus and further our aim of helping our beneficiaries achieve year-round food security, including being able to eat at least twice a day during the hunger season by increasing household incomes, strong adaptability to shocks and improved nutrition.