Bringing hope to Uganda

Francis Chebet, 37 and Jabez Banan, 26, traveled to Oak Harbor from East Africa to forge friendships with groups that will give support to improving health care and raising literacy.

Chebet is a school teacher and Banan is a nurse.

They come from the District of Kapchorwa, which means “Place of Friends.”

The part of East Africa that they call home sits on Mt. Elgan, an impoverished rural area that borders Kenya.

The two men struggled to complete school themselves, making it all the way through some college and professional training. Then they recognized the need for better health care and education to give opportunity to all of the 200,000 people who live in their rural district.

Chebet and Banan are on leave from their jobs to spend two months training in America in their project areas. They will teach and implement what they have learned when they return to their village.

Being away from home is not easy for Banan and Chebet. Although they are here in Oak Harbor to learn new ideas and ways of communicating, their families aknowledge their absence.

Chebet is married and has five daughters.

“At first my family was happy for me because they knew that I was going to get to see a new place and learn new ideas. They ask me about American things and people but my children don’t fully understand where I am. They are always asking where their daddy is,” Chebet said.

Aside from missing home and loved ones, Chebet and Banan have also had to adjust themselves to an assortment of of new foods. Other novelties include such things as organized traffic, modern roads and emergency response teams.

“One thing that was different to us was the roads here. In Kapchorwa, we have one developed road that runs only part of the way through the town. Also, there are less wrecks here since there are traffic laws that people obey. Where I live, we hear about four or five wrecks a day where the victims die,” said Banan.

Chebet and Banan, along with their sponsor, Jonathan Beggs of Oak Harbor, are involved in a partnership of two organizations: the locally owned and operated Development Companions International and the Perfection Church and Ministry located in Africa.

The local Development Companions International or DCI is a non-profit organization that helps sponsor and help with individual projects that are usually church based and within communities.

The Perfection Church and Ministry or PCM oversees a large group of churches in Kapchorwa District and around Uganda.

Together these two organizations are implementing three separate projects to change the lives and the future of the people of Kapchorwa.

Already in the works is a leadership training project involving active members of the church. Alcoholism is a major problem in Kapchorwa, the three said in an interview. Beggs has visited the district and is a member of the PCM church along with Chebet and Banan.

By bringing the community members to church and teaching them to be productive members of society, they learn to live a more wholesome way.

The second project underway focuses on literacy and is aimed to empower the community both socially and economically. Since many can’t read, there is no way to allow for technological, social or economical advances, the Ugandans said.

English is taught in schools at an early age. The children whose parents can afford to send their children to school are considered privileged to know English.

“It is considered a blessing to know how to read because of the economic possibilities,” Banan said.

Beggs agreed. “We plan on implementing the program starting with the women and then working our way to the leaders of the church and community. If the women become educated, then they will learn the value of an education and pass that value onto their children,” he said.

The women can teach their children even if they cannot afford to send them to school. Through this project, Beggs, Banan and Chebet hope the women will prosper and the overall literacy rate will increase.

Health education is the third project in progress. The majority of people who live in Kapchorwa do not have access to health care due to the remoteness of their homes or financial restraints.

“We are really excited and anxious to begin community development projects that were initiated by the local African leaders. We would love to meet anyone who is interested in our projects or who would just like to hear us speak about Kapchorwa” Beggs said.

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