Eighteen months ago Elidad could be found wandering in the village, suffering from mental health problems and talking to himself. Today he is a thriving and inspiring young man.
Elidad has created employment for 12 young people in his village and is passing on the skills he acquired at Kira Farm to scores of people in his community. This rapid transformation is simply remarkable.
Elidad’s childhood was very difficult. His father would routinely and brutally beat him, his siblings and his mother. When his mother couldn’t cope with the violence any longer she abandoned the wretched family and his father turned to alcohol, drinking heavily. He’d frequently get so drunk he couldn’t find his way home and Elidad, from the age of ten, would have to go out searching for his father in the middle of the night.
‘There were many times when I found him helpless, naked and covered in faeces and I would have to clean him up,’ explains Elidad. ‘When that happened it would make me cry and I wouldn’t eat for days afterwards.’
When School is a Refuge
As the eldest child it was Elidad’s responsibility to look after his siblings and his father. He loved going to school and was immensely grateful his grandfather paid his school fees until he was in Senior 4 (Year 10).
To ensure everyone had something to eat he would wake up at 4.00am to tend to the crops, returning at 7.00am. When the crops were ready for harvesting Elidad would skip school, taking his books to the garden to study, so he could guard the harvest from his father who wanted to sell it to buy alcohol.
Despite his best efforts it was impossible for Elidad to take care of his seven younger siblings. ‘By the time Amigos came to my rescue I was tired of life. I felt I had failed my grandfather because I hadn’t been able to secure a job to look after the entire family and I felt I had failed my siblings because I couldn’t afford to send any of them to school,’ he says sadly.
‘I would walk around the village talking to myself and people began to think I had gone mad. They were right, I was losing my mind and didn’t know where to turn next.
‘I hated my mother for putting all of us in this position and I was disgusted with my father who had brought so much shame onto the family.’
A New Life
‘Kira Farm Development Centre gave me a second chance in life and through the mentoring I slowly began getting over the anger I felt towards my parents. By the time the year finished I had fully forgiven them.
‘Through the training we received in restorative justice I began to think about ways I could help my father. These first few months back home have not been easy, but I have spent a lot of time with my father to help him stop drinking. The training taught me how to listen and I know it helps when I listen to my father’s problems - with time he will stop drinking completely.’
Three days after Elidad returned home he secured a job building an office thanks to his new construction skills, making a tidy profit of £15.00. ‘Since then I have never been out of work and I make at least £3.00 every day,’ he smiles.
Elidad has been inundated with construction contracts and has employed nine young people on his building sites – quite an achievement in an area where unemployment sits at 83%, however Elidad feels he has much more than employment to offer. ‘I’m also mentoring them like I was mentored at Kira Farm, so they can improve their lives in many different ways,’ he explains.
Thanks to a healthy income Elidad has been able to pay school fees for three of his siblings so they can get back into the classroom. He has also invested in planting a two acre cassava garden, employing three young people to farm the land. If he reaps a good harvest he should make around £650.
Training a Women’s Group
‘My grandmother talks about me everywhere she goes because of the changes she is seeing in my family as a result of the training,’ says Elidad. ‘Her friends have formed a women’s groups called ‘Zinunula’ (which means ‘rescue’) and they have 23 members.
‘I have started teaching them things we learnt at Kira Farm such as restorative approaches, building tippy taps (simple taps made from local materials for a village setting) and energy saving stoves. They are looking for some land so I can teach them about Farming God’s Way (conservation farming). There has been a famine in our region so there is a huge need for people to know better farming methods.’
The news of Elidad’s remarkable work in the village reached the sub county officials who advised him to set up a Community Based Organisation (CBO) through which the district could support him.
Along with ten young people in the village Elidad has registered a CBO called Namawa Village Health Team Caregiver Group. The organisation will teach people how to build and use tippy taps, energy saving stoves, conservation farming, restorative justice and more.
When it comes to restoring relationships Elidad can talk from personal experience. ‘My siblings and I have been able to visit my mother for the first time since she left us, 15 years ago. It was a very emotional meeting but I was glad I was able to tell her how I felt and that I had forgiven her,’ he says.
A Mini Kira Farm
Through all his business ventures Elidad has been able to make sizeable savings of around £80. Along with his Kira graduate friends he is pooling his savings and once they have £200 they will open up a tailoring and hairdressing workshop to pass on the skills they’ve learnt. ‘I know this dream will come true because we are all earning money and we are committed to doing this,’ smiles Elidad.
In a remarkably short space of time this twentysomething has turned his life around. ‘I am so happy I have been able to more than fulfil the promise I made to my grandfather to take care of my family, now I am taking care of all the village,’ he smiles.
‘Not so long ago I was on the brink of losing my mind, but now, thanks to God, I am able to extend His love to everyone in my community.’
Amigos Worldwide is a registered Charity/NGO both in the UK and Uganda.
Amigos Worldwide, Registered in England, Company Number 6122350, Registered Charity Number 1119450
Registered Office 7A Beech Grove, Pilton, Barnstaple, Devon. EX31 1PZ
(Amigos International and Amigos are working names of Amigos Worldwide)