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EMMF: Making a Difference in Uganda

Bishop John Nteavereize report

 

We spent approximately two weeks in the Bishop’s residence with he and his wife Jocelyn. They provided housing and line cuisine of the Ugandan typical fare, which was very hearty, with a large starch content. He expressed a great sadness that had overshadowed the Diocese of Kinkiizi. He attributed this to several events. He mentioned that a drought of several years’ duration, the longest he could remember in his fifty years living in the area, which still had a death grip on the area. He was hopeful that the coming rainy season would break the spell, but he said many people and many animals had died during this time. There was also a pall over the region, secondary to mass suicide at the Konungu cult, which was approximately five miles away. He noted, and it was confirmed by me, that there was no person in the area that was not affected by this tragedy. Most families had lost a family member and all had lost friends in that mass suicide. The last incident occurred in late 1999, when insurgents from the Congo attacked tourists in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest who were observing the gorillas. They were found hacked to death with machetes. The results of this slaughter of the tourists sent a shock wave across Uganda and even into Kenya, reducing tourism in East Africa. Regarding the Pygmies, he seems to be on a friendly basis with them, appreciating their plight and truly willing to help. He has been instrumental and the go-between in obtaining land for the Pygmies in both the Katairiro and Byumba areas. Within his limited funds, he’s also attempted to provide education, health, and agricultural expertise, although as he mentioned, the funds have dried up. His main interest in helping the Pygmies is the Bishop’s primary school. He would like to see them educated. He said the fascinating thing about the Pygmies was that they were initially appreciated to be less intelligent than the Ugandans. However, in the classrooms where the Pygmies have mixed with the Ugandans, the top students in the class were always the Pygmies. He would like to see scholarships provided for the Pygmies to be allowed an opportunity to increase their education and raise themselves out of their difficult plight.

 

His other concern is improving the health care by providing a health care nurse at the Pygmy site to improve general hygiene and to identify Pygmies at risk and to refer them to appropriate facilities. Bishop John struck me as someone who truly had the best interest of the Pygmies at heart and was willing to support the Pygmies with whatever means were available to him.

 

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