“Before you came here there was no development in this Colline.
There was no road to join our communities. People would die in their houses because there was no way to take them to the hospital.
There was no public place for meetings.
The adults could not read or write.
I felt ignorant in my heart,
and felt God had forsaken us.
Many of the people were living in small huts, just covered in the grasses.
We were drinking bad water from the streams.
We could produce some food crops, but could not preserve the harvest. We grew only beans, sorghum, small cereal grain, sweet potato, cassava and bananas.
We also had a problem with erosion. We could not fight the erosion. There were no trees left.
The women had to walk 5 kilometres to collect the firewood.
It was very difficult…
Before you came, the leaders were excluding the women.
Even as a leader I excluded women and gave them no chance to say anything. I could not accept women to have any responsibility.
The women could not give a speech or give ideas or suggestions. They had no voice.
The women were oppressed, and had to do whatever the men said.
I would quarrel with my wife and tell her to sell the crop food at the market, so I could buy beer. I was bossing her, and not listening.
There was no respect amongst the people – no dignity.
The males and females were separated and even the ethnic groups were separated.
We did not travel to other places to see what they were doing – we only went to the market and back.
When you came, our lives changed …
You started working with us in 2006. At first, you visited our households to inquire how we are living.
You started with the most poor. There were indigenous pygmies here who were nomadic. You helped them to have some land and build simple houses.
Then you built the road.
We now had a way to the hospital.
You trained us to grow rice in the swamps, and supported us with goats, cows, pigs and hens.
You built the hall for meetings and exchanging of ideas. You started to train some of us to teach others – how to farm, and care for the livestock.
We learnt about how to use the manure for fertiliser, and how to add things to it correctly.
You showed us how to grow palm oil, bananas and pineapple. You brought us a different sweet potato which is more productive.
You gave us new banana plants which are disease-resistant.
You inspired us to begin a nursery of trees to plant out to fight erosion.
You taught us about Savings and Loans, and told us women had to be part of the meetings. You said we needed 50% men and women to decide issues.
You took some of us to other Collines to see projects and what other development looked like. We were seeing many things and learning.
You helped us in the fight against malaria too, with mosquito nets and recognising the symptoms so that we can go to the doctor for treatment.
This has reduced the malaria dramatically.
You taught us to live in peaceful relations, even in our own households!
Now there is more understanding between people and the quarrelling is very much reduced. There is more peace in our homes too.
You helped with the building of a school, and teacher’s houses so that they can stay.
Men can now read, our children go to school, our women work together with us and we listen to their ideas.
We are so thankful and grateful that now we have life improved through so many, many teachings.
We pray you can keep on supporting to help us to keep growing.
I feel very joyful.”
When Stani had shared his story, he could not contain his joy. He gathered up Julie from ALWS, and danced in delight at your help!