Why we work in Uganda
Uganda is one of the world's poorest countries. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product - the value of goods produced per person) is one of the lowest in the world at just $912 per person, per annum. Uganda is 90 out of 230 countries. By comparison number one is Qatar at over £100,000 per person, per annum.
Uganda is a very poor country with nearly 20% of its population living below the poverty line. Uganda faces many challenges, with an unreliable power supply, high energy costs and inadequate transportation infrastructure.
Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing over two-thirds of the workforce. This is a key reason TWAM is so strong in Uganda for the need is very great.
One of the biggest challenges facing Uganda as it strives to build a sustainable economy is the huge age imbalance in its population:
0-14 years: 48.21%
15-24 years: 20.25%
25-54 years: 26.24%
55-64 years: 2.91%
65+ years: 2.38%
Compared to the UK:
0-14 years: 17.63%
15-24 years: 11.49%
25-54 years: 39.67%
55-64 years: 12.73%
65+ years: 18.48%
Infant mortality is very high at: 59.21/1000 of the population, compared to 4.38/1000 in the UK
Life expectancy is just 68 years compared to 81 in the UK.
Uganda is a country striving to break free from poverty and develop a vibrant economy based on its natural resources and agriculture. This requires the educating and training of its people and the support of organisations like TWAM.
All country statistics, information and maps are reproduced with the help of the CIA World Factbook.
What we do
Tools with a Mission has a long term and significant commitment to Uganda. We currently send up to seven containers a year packed with tools and equipment. We work with literally thousands of charities, churches, schools and organisations committed to improving the lives of their own people. We also ship a significant quantity of charitable goods for other missions working in Uganda and supply charities sending goods out independently. Containers are shipped via Mombasa in Kenya and go overland to Uganda.
The difference we make
Tools with a Mission supports thousands of local charities, set up by local people to work with local communities across Uganda. We could fill hundreds of pages with the stories of lives changed, from one child receiving a scholar pack to a community receiving a set of industrial sewing machines. We support projects working with orphans, teenagers needing vocational training, schools without school books or computers, marginalised peoples, vulnerable women, impoverished communities and displaced peoples.
TWAM's key partner in Uganda is Mindset Development charity in Entebbe. They receive our containers of tools and equipment. They act on our behalf to distribute the tools to the excited charities and organisations awaiting them. They also do amazing work in Uganda working with disadvantaged women that we are delighted to support. Training is the beginning and the tools are the continuing journey out of despair and poverty.
Let us introduce you to some of the people being helped by Tools with a Mission through our partnership with another long term partner.
The Youtube video below was produced in July 2021 for our online National TWAM Day and introduces Sam, our Country Leader talking to our UK volunteer Country Coordinator, Peter and also our in-country partner Mindset. It lasts for around 10 minutes. A great watch.
Tools for Churches in Kasase
This surely is the ultimate example of thinking outside the box. Let’s meet Pastor Thembo standing outside the mud hut he calls home. His village is made up of 500 families who mostly live in mud and bamboo huts. This is the rural heartland of Uganda.
He is the Pastor of a small Baptist Church and like most Pastors in Uganda, his wages are 30% of the Sunday collection. This may sound reasonable, but living in an ultra-poor community means 30% of almost nothing is a challenge at the best of times. Hence Pastor Thembo lives in a ramshackle two-room hut with just one stool and a bench to share with his wife and nine children.
His plight is the norm, not the exception, and when the Baptist Association realised the way their Pastors were living they decided something had to be done. Their response was the ‘Support our Pastors’ project where they offered to train the Pastors in a livelihood-creating skill that would provide income to feed their families and educate their children.
However, Pastor Thembo felt too old to learn a new skill and asked a young man from the church if he would train on his behalf and then support both his own family and Pastor Thembo's family.
The quiet, rather shy young man was Bwambale, and he says:
"I accepted the Pastor's offer because I wanted to help myself and other people. When I finished training the church helped me rent a place in the town so I could help the Pastor and the poor. I was given a carpentry kit from TWAM."
Bwambale now makes furniture, windows and doors. He is very successful and the Pastor proudly told us that he now supports both their families and the poor of the church and the widows in the community.
Once again it’s a remarkable story of self-sustainability instead of dependency, and how one box of carpentry tools can help so many people. Indeed, this is not even the end of the story as Bwambale says:
“I am now training two other people in the village because I want to help others as I have been helped.”
And all of this can be achieved by sending a box of tools at a cost of £25. Can you think of a more productive way to invest £25? We can’t.
Thinking outside the box - the TWAM way.
Patricia's life transformed with a sewing machine
Patricia knows the devastating power of poverty and the heartbreak it can so easily bring. Patricia lives in Uganda and the Poverty Thief has never been far away, he was there at her birth and followed her throughout her childhood.
Patricia’s story began with her birth as the youngest of six children, born to a single mother. Her mother’s story was one of pain and tragedy with no choices and no opportunity to escape the downward spiral of poverty. Patricia’s mother was unable to work and struggled to provide even the most basic support for her young family. There was never going to be an opportunity for Patricia to go to school and she has never had a single day’s schooling.
It was heart breaking for Patricia and her brothers and sisters to see other children in the community go off to school, but knowing that they would never join them, and that without an education they had little chance of ever breaking free of the never ending struggle just to survive. Tragically, some did not survive and Patricia lost half of her brothers and sisters to weakness and illness.
The hold of poverty was complete on this young family. Could it possibly get any worse? Tragically the answer was yes!
In 2016 Patricia’s mother died of exhaustion and weakness, simply unable to struggle anymore. The remaining children were split up amongst distant relatives and Patricia has lost contact with virtually all of them. She was effectively alone in the world.
But thankfully that changed, and we’ll let Patricia continue her story in her own words:
“I never had an opportunity to go to school when I was young, but by the grace of God, I heard at my church camp about Mindset. I asked more about it and I decided I must go to visit them and see if they would help me. I went along and they were so welcoming and Maureen became a mother to me.”
Mindset is TWAM’s main partner in Uganda and they work with vulnerable young women. They train them in tailoring, provide an education, business skills, counselling and motivational support. Maureen is the founder of Mindset and a truly inspirational woman with the biggest heart imaginable. It didn’t take Maureen long to realise the plight of Patricia and bring her into the love and care of the Mindset family.
Patricia spent a year training with Mindset and completed her tailoring course at the beginning of 2017. The result is extraordinary. Patricia tells us:
“When I heard about Mindset I had lost hope, but through Mindset God has brought me back. I learned tailoring and specialise in making bags. I am now making bags to help pay for my schooling so that I can catch up. I can now afford to buy clothes for myself. I hope that I will be able to go to university to learn design.”
Maureen helped Patricia track down an Aunt who, in return for Patricia helping with house duties, gave her the use of the small kiosk by her gate. She has turned this into a small bag making workshop. It is still a struggle for Patricia and she still cries when she talks about her mother and her childhood. She can still only just support herself and funding a university course will be the greatest challenge of her life.
But the Poverty Thief has finally been given his marching orders thanks to Mindset and the gift of a TWAM sewing machine and haberdashery kit. The wonderful conclusion to this story is that Patricia is not willing just to help herself get free of the Poverty Thief, now she wants to help others. Again in her own words:
“I am now in my church choir and support the work of my local church. I go to visit the sick in hospital and go on church missions. I look forward to giving something back to other girls and single mothers, as I know what my mother went through. Mindset went with me and held my hand on my journey and I want to do the same for others with God's help.”
Patricia now has a future she never dared to dream of thanks to Mindset and Tools with a Mission.