We fling open the metal shutters of our church to let the light stream in and arrange the wooden pews in an makeshift-square. A cook with a roadside foodstall, a highschool office assistant, a young song recorder, a nursing school teacher, a tailor, a brick maker, a laboratory researcher, several housewives, and multiple farmers arrive, one by one. Just twelve of us. First things first. It’s time to sing. While this could make for an awkward meeting NZ, you are guaranteed to set the right tone here. Next, our bible study. Today, its the parable of the 10 bridesmaids. For the meantime, stories and parables are easier on my Acoli, and easier for the members in our group that can’t read. To my surprise I discover that traditional Acoli and Jewish wedding customs have a lot in common. Bridesmaids take lighted torches to guide the groom to the bride? Same, check. When then groom arrives, a big feast ensues? Boom! Understanding the parable’s cultural context is suddenly easy – onto discussing the deeper meaning.
Now the meeting. I’m suddenly a bit more nervous – its been a big build up to this meeting since we started this group over 2 months ago. Our name is “Wakonye kenwa.” Its hard to translate, but broadly means – we find our help/strength amongst us, or we share our burdens. Today we will decide our projects- what change do we want to bring in Lacor?
We’ve spent the last few months talking with different groups in the community to identify what issues they would work on with us. Communication with these groups hasn’t always easy. Our first communication with the local football club was a classic example. Opiyo from our group presented them with the vision of uniting Lacor community groups to solve a common community problem. Two days later, they presented us with a letter entitled “request for assistance” which listed their priorities: new football boots, a new ball, and uniforms- not the community wide focus we imagined. Challenges aside, it happened. We made contact with all the groups, and had lots of conversations, found out about issues and priorities we never thought of by ourselves.
What issue is the group really about to choose? We’ve done the analysis, weighed up the pros and cons of tackling each issue, and now its time to hear from our core group members – what do they have the energy, the motivation to go ahead with? They have identified two.
First, there is a population right beside our church with a very stretched water situation. There is a pipe water source half a km away, but it is extremely congested. Our mission? Create a committee representing multiple Lacor community groups to work together to campaign the town council to give the community a new water source.
Second, we (predictably) found that many hard working people in Lacor still struggle to pay their children’s school fees. While there are many different ways to try and tackle the roots of this problem, as a group we identified that one of our strengths is farming. So our plan: the farmers amongst us will initiate a production group for Lacor farmers. We will start small with 15 farmers from our church, and invite 15 more farmers from the community. We can buy seeds in bulk at discounted prices, plan crop planting together, share expertise, and then pool the produce, selling it in bulk to a good market thereby earning more for each farmer than they could achieve by themselves. If it goes well, we will consider developing the group into a proper cooperative, and invite more to join.
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