All posts by James Knight

How many bottles?

Imagine if you had to gather 340,000 plastic bottles just to pay for your baby’s life-saving surgery… Sometimes we encounter situations that completely change the course of our day and which require rapid decisions to be made. Last month one of our Champions, Ziria was on her way to follow up on a family who had a child recovering from malnutrition. As she was passing a neighbour’s house she heard crying coming from inside and stopped to find out what was the matter.

A lady with tears running down her face opened the door and explained that her name was Samalie* and she was crying over her baby, Pamela, who was suffering with a badly herniated navel. The mother told Ziria that the swelling, around the size of a tennis ball, was discharging fluid and causing the child great pain, she had no appetite, cried all the time and was hardly sleeping. Samalie had taken the child to the hospital, where the doctor had prescribed medication until the child was able to have an operation. Samalie knew she did not have the money to pay for the surgery necessary and when the medication seemed to make little difference, she began to lose hope for her daughter’s survival.

Ziria prayed with Samalie and communicated with the Every Life team. We talked further with Samalie and found out more about her situation. Her husband Michael was the only bread winner in the home and earned money by collecting empty plastic bottles and selling them to the plastic factories for recycling. For each kilogram of plastic bottles (between 20 and 100 bottles depending on size) he receives 500 shillings which is about 10p. Pamela needed another consultation, new medication and daily wound dressings and finally the operation itself. Altogether, this would cost around 1,700,000 shillings (around £300). This equates to between 68,000 and 340,000 bottles at Michael’s rate of pay – a frankly impossible task when most of the money he earns goes to simply feeding his family.

It is such a blessing to be able to step in with help in emergencies like this and bring hope and joy to a family in desperate need. Pamela is due to have her operation in April!

*names have been changed to protect those featured.

Hope came looking for me

Zamu, a mother of six children, was a regular participant of one of our Discipleship Groups. She was a Muslim, but was intrigued by Jesus and wanted to find out more.

“…I liked what he [Jesus] stood for; what’s wrong with someone saying don’t steal, don’t kill? So I always attended the Every Life discipleship groups in my neighbourhood whenever I was able to. I formed a friendship with the Every Life team who would regularly visit me, little did I know they would be a source of God’s blessing in my life.”

Zamu had been struggling for some time, but then she lost her job, was thrown out of her house, had to take her children out of school, and was unable to feed them. The situation hit her hard, and she suffered from severe depression. Her relatives decided to take her to a traditional healer (quite likely a witch doctor).

Her mental health continued to deteriorate, and she began having terrifying hallucinations. In her community, there’s a lot of stigma associated with mental health condition – so she was increasingly excluded from community life. Her children were divided between relatives to care for them – except for her 16-year old daughter who became her carer.

Zamu, when talking about this time, says, “I could hear all kinds of terrifying voices and in dreams, I saw different animals chasing after me. I had no peace and I had lost hope that I would live.”

When the Every Life heard of her situation, we went to visit her and found that her physical health had also deteriorated. We were able to get her admitted to hospital, where she stayed for three weeks and was diagnosed with, and began receiving treatment for, psychosis and severe depression.

For most people, it’s best that we support them within their local community. However, sometimes a family – like Zamu’s – needs more intensive support. For this, Every Life’s Family Centre is an ideal place. Here we provide families with emergency housing and a safe space to experience restoration. This peaceful location, away from the hustle as bustle of city-slum life was just what Zamu and her family needed in order to begin the healing process. She was supported financially, emotionally and spiritually – this not only relieved the pressure on her, but gave her space to focus on building stronger relationships with her children. She spent quite a bit of time reading the Bible and learning about Jesus from our team. 

The end of Zamu and her family’s stay at the Family Centre coincided with a children’s camp. During the camp, Zamu and her two eldest daughters chose to give their lives to Jesus and were baptised.

Now back home, Zamu is doing well. She still taking her medication and has managed to get her old job back – as a cook. She also has a small business making liquid soap and five of her children are back in school.

“Hope came looking for me, though at first I did not recognise it… When I reflect on the time I spent at the Every Life Family Centre I’m filled with gratitude. The only reason I am still alive is because of Jesus.”

Read more about our work in slum-communities in and around Kampala.

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Thanks to many of you, this year’s Children’s Camp in Uganda was a huge success. 170 children gathered at our Family Centre for a weekend of fun and games and to learn new skills in the beautiful and peaceful countryside outside Kampala.

“I loved singing and dancing at the Kid’s Camp. I learnt how to pray and about sharing with others” – Deborah, 13

Visiting Ssezibwa Falls

The Every Life Team, arranged games, challenges, crafts and team-building activities to encourage everyone to make friends and to learn how to work together.

“I really enjoyed the Camp fire. We had some lovely Christmas gifts, I made so many friends and I gave my life to Jesus and got baptised at the kids camp!” – Ashmin, 13

The team also told stories, taught new skills and spent time encouraging personal growth and in worship and discipleship with any of the children who were interested. At the end of the weekend around twenty chose to be baptised! “I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.” – Grace, 10
What an amazing way to finish the year.

The money raised also went toward children’s christmas parties at our bases in Kisumu, Kenya and Tower Hamlets, UK, where our teams organised more games, crafts, food and fun. What a blessing to be able to bring joy to hundreds of children and families over Christmas. Thank you for making it possible!

Something to chew on

One of the practical health issues that we encounter regularly in the slum communities around Kampala is malnutrition. It’s such a prevalent issue that at any one time our team could be dealing with a handful of serious cases in each community we work in. It is one of the most frustrating challenges that we encounter – being, for the most part, easily preventable, yet nonetheless lethal if not acted upon. However, at the same time the visible results of action being taken are so unmistakably significant that there is great satisfaction in seeing life restored to a frail and limp shell of a human being.

The World Health Organisation says that worldwide, “around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition.” This shocking statistic is, of course, most evident in low – and middle – income countries, with poverty amplifying the risk of, and risks from, malnutrition. At the same time, it is a preventable disease and we want to do all we can to do just that wherever we work! Through a combination of intervention, referral, social support and teaching, we aim to identify and take action in severe cases, avert others before they develop and put families on a firm footing for the future.

Community Health Champions

A typical case would be one like that of Amina and her son, Eli. While visiting Banda slum, our team were met by one of our Health Champions for the community (the Champions are individuals from the neighbourhood who have received basic training in how to recognise common illnesses in the area.) She told the team that she had met a nearby family with a child whom she suspected was malnourished. The Every Life nutrition team met Amina and her family that very afternoon. As she poured out her confusion, desperation and fear, Amina burst into tears, ashamed by the sorrowful state of her son Eli and afraid for his life. The team offered to pray, which was eagerly accepted and we then discussed with the mother about her child’s condition and finally referred her to Mwana Mugimu, a free nutrition unit in the local hospital.

Conducting an assessment

During Eli’s stay in hospital, the team regularly checked up on both him and the family. They monitored his progress and ensured that Mama knew what was necessary in a balanced diet and how she could best achieve it on what the family earn. When he was discharged as stable and well enough to leave, we encouraged the family through home visits, social support and ongoing assessments of Eli. We can happily say that he has greatly improved and is now a healthy and bouncy one-year-old. Not only did we see this visual transformation but Amina told us that the family’s joy has been restored!

“…for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”
Psalm 63:7

Unearthing gold

Two of our Frontline team found Mama Jotham very depressed and hopeless. Her son Jotham has cerebral palsy and she didn’t have the means to take proper care of him. She had been marginalised by the community and told our team that life felt so dark and oppressive. They offered to pray with her and Mama burst into tears and agreed. Afterwards she asked if they would be willing to come and check on her each week and pray some more.

The next time they visited, Mama Jotham opened up further. She told them how she had been made to feel embarrassed and ashamed by neighbours and the wider community over her son’s disability. Not only that but her husband had added to her burdens by rejecting the boy as soon as he discovered about the condition. This put all the responsibility for Jotham’s care and upkeep on her alone.

We continued visiting Mama and Jotham, praying with them and encouraging Mama in her love and care of her son. We also connected her with CoRSU a remarkable non-profit hospital in Uganda who specialise in surgery, therapy and rehabilitation for people with disabilities, particularly children. Here, Mama Jotham received professional help for her son’s condition.

Today Mama Jotham is much happier and more confident and even the relationship with her husband, which was on the brink of collapse has greatly improved. The whole family is now more joyful and loving towards each other, and they have hope again for the future. It’s so good to see the gold of restoration and hope brought to light by simply loving and caring for someone amid the chaos of life.

Value amongst the stones

A few weeks ago we went to visit Kawanga (a community just beyond the Acholi Quarters). There were a couple of women breaking rocks near where we parked the van and Anita knew them from the community group so we went over to greet them. We shook hands, greeted them and Anita asked if we could sit and talk to them. One woman in particular (call her Barbara) was overjoyed and so effusive in her welcome that one would think she was receiving a visit from royalty. We sat with them and she began to talk about how she has been so blessed by the way we have valued her and the other women who break rocks for a living. Barbara said they have never been shown love like this before. Most people just walk past without acknowledging them or even shout abuse at them. But not only have our team repeatedly given them our time, we have shaken their hands even though they are covered in the dirt from their job and we have chosen to sit in the rocks and the dust with them. She still couldn’t believe that after sitting on the ground with them we didn’t even wipe our hands off afterwards!

Barbara was also amazed that in addition to giving them our time, we were actually interested in them and what they had to say. She spoke up for the group, explaining to us that they are not looking for free money, they just appreciate being cared about. They have seen many NGOs come and go in that area and people have worked with them but no-one has given them the time that our team have or shown them such respect. Barbara explained that if her children were sick, it would mean more to her that we come and sit with her, listen and pray for her than to just pay for the treatment – it is our love for them that gives them hope for their community.

What an encouragement, God is so good.

1 Corinthinans 16:14 “Do everything in love.”

Putting the fun in fundraising!

“Several years ago, Nicola wrote to Every Life supporters asking if we would consider becoming charity ambassadors. My first response was, ‘No way! I don’t want to ask people for money, or do a sponsored run, walk or parachute jump!’ A couple of days later, I visited my local community market where local people sell plants, bread, jams, chutneys, ceramics, etc once a month, and surprised myself by thinking, ‘I could do this!’ I could rent a table and sell hand-made sewn or knitted items to raise funds that way. I must explain that I am retired and love making things, so I do have the time and the inclination.

Annabel’s Christmas market stall

So, for nearly three years, I have been enjoying sewing and knitting, the camaraderie of fellow stall-holders, meeting the local community, market visitors and customers, AND ultimately being able to raise money for this fantastic charity! I even joined the market committee two years ago. I sell one kind of thing each month, rather than a jumble-sale-type random selection, – for example, bunting or lavender bags in summer months; hats, hand-warmers, neck warmers or gloves in winter. I’ve also made shopping bags, bean bag frogs, children’s clothes and toys. Christmas always goes really well with various hand-made decorations. I make a plate of biscuits too and invite donations for those (not cakes as they are for sale in the café area). There are photos and publicity leaflets crammed onto my table too and I often get an opportunity to talk about our work in Kampala and impress people that I’ve been out there three times, so I do know what I’m talking about!

Annabel busy on her knitting

Last year, I was asked on several occasions about starting a knitting group, so I now do that in my home every other Wednesday afternoon. Cake is involved and a contribution of £1 for Every Life, which was suggested by the participants. Then, a few months ago, I launched an Every Life Supper Club, to make use of another of my keen interests – cooking for and eating with guests in my home. They pay £30 for a three course meal with drinks, I have the pleasure of planning, cooking and being hospitable, and Every Life benefits from the profits – every one’s a winner! I offer a themed menu which I enjoy putting together from my 100+ cookery books. I have advertised this in my church and on my monthly market stall, but although many people say it is a great idea, they have been slower to actually book. However, I have done two dinner parties, and a 60th birthday party for ten (Indian menu and a reduced price) and am offering Middle Eastern mezze for £20 over the summer.

This all goes to show that anyone can do anything to help Every Life to raise funds. I don’t make a lot of money but it is regular, and it really blesses communities around the world. I am simply using my own interests, skills and time, and having lots of fun while I do it. Go on – try it yourself!”

Annabel has been such a blessing to us over the last three years, raising nearly four thousand pounds for Every Life, simply by doing things she is passionate about. If you would like to become a charity ambassador for Every Life or simply raise money for us through an activity you love, why not get in touch and we will do our best to help. If that sounds too much of a challenge, why not raise funds for us whenever you shop online with Give as you Live…

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Mama Colin

We met Mama Colin in Banda when she applied to join our Family Centre programme. She was living with four of her children in a tiny house which was cramped and dirty. She had been through a string of abusive and controlling relationships. She was not coping well with life, had lost all hope and was desperate for change. We felt the programme could give her the opportunity to bring the change to her life she so desperately needed and invited her to take part.  From the first week she embraced every opportunity. She worked hard, threw herself into the practical work and trainings, engaged with the counselling and social advice  and dealt with emotional challenges in an amazing way.

Maintaining the maize crop at the Family Centre.

Learning to mix re-hydration salts.

She had two additional children living with other relatives and she decided through the programme to bring her family back together. At the end of the eight months, she told us that she had learnt how to forgive, how to truly love her children instead of taking her anger out on them and how to have a better life with Jesus at the centre. “In my time here, I have learnt that it’s better to deal with your past and the difficult situations in your life and not transfer the anger you might have felt onto your children.”

All the families at their programme graduation

She has now resettled with all her children and thanks to some training on the programme is building up her own business making backpacks whilst also growing her own crops. It has been such a privilege to see the family re-united and strengthened through their time with us at the Family Centre. We are excited to see them go on shining brighter together!

It’s not too late to be part of our ‘Families Shine Brighter Together’ campaign this Christmas and see families like Mama Colin’s re-united and flourishing.

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We’ve known Mariam for a couple of years now but really got to know her through our Nutrition mini-group this year.A Muslim mother from Banda community, her daughter was malnourished and needed help.Happily through assisting the family with nutritious food packages and through teaching Mariam about eating a balanced diet her daughter is restored to health and growing well.When she heard about the Social Champion programme and being able to give something back to the community, she was eager to take part.“As someone who’s been served by Every Life, I feel like my role as a social champion is to show people that their lives really can change for the better. It’s not just theory.”

The Nutrition mini-group
Even the relationship we built with Mariam made a huge difference in her life.“It’s not just about the service or benefits Every Life gave us – like the nutritional support they got me when I didn’t have food to feed my ailing child, or the teachings I received from the champion’s program – but the emotional support… I never had anybody that cared whether I was struggling… not even my very own husband who spent most of his time on drugs. They not only cared, they were willing to help me figure out what to do about it.”Through her own experience, Mariam has built an enduring commitment to helping others and strengthening the relationships within her own family.In fact, in the coming year, Mariam wants to become a peer leader for Women Programs in Banda slum and loves to help coordinate anti-substance abuse groups within her community!She also took part in our recent Child Protection campaign; encouraging kids and helping parents see the value and potential in their children as well as how to care for them best.Mariam sees herself as an advocate.Always willing to speak out against stereotyping or mistreating  women or children, Mariam says, “I try to be a strong friend and mother. I don’t stay silent, I stand up, and I encourage others to stand up for themselves. It’s so important to me that people feel safe and able to speak up.”
Teaching mothers during the Child Protection Campaign
Entertaining and having fun with the children during the Child Protection Campaign
Mariam and the rest of the Social Champions help share the values of love and relationship which are the foundation to all we do in the local communities.Strong relationships build a truly caring community.

By joining in with our Christmas campaign, Families Shine Brighter Together, you can help us restore and strengthen families this season and raise up more Champions like Mariam to shine with hope in their communities.Donate


“My name is Ronnie Katende. My childhood was very short. I was on the street at the age of nine and quickly became addicted to drugs. For many years I did not have interest in learning anything to improve my life situation. I felt messed up and that my life was a waste of time. After some years I met my wife Catherine, which was a great joy and we had five children together, however, we struggled to look after and provide for their basic needs. I had no skills with which I could earn a living and this made life so hard. I had land that was given to me by my father before he passed away but I did not know even how to use it productively and had no friends to support me. Failure and the shame of being unable to look after my family lead me to abandon them for a whole year. I couldn’t bear seeing my children not going to school, going hungry and having nowhere to safe to live.

Catherine watering the vegetables at their home

Ronnie learning sustainable building techniques with the Mugezi building group; Catherine with Jordan, Joshua and one of the family’s goats

The time I returned to be with my family, was the exact period my wife had just joined Every Life’s discipleship group in Kasubi community. This was such a turning point for us. We learnt to grow in love like never before and to know God deeper. My wife would share stories and testimonies that inspired me to know more about Every Life. She learnt to be patient, believing and trusting God mostly in hard situations and acknowledging that he can always lead us through no matter what. This strengthened me, our family and all our relationships.

Learning to build a water jar with other men from the community

Ronnie teaching some of his neighbours some of the advantages and techniques of market-gardening

We made friends and through the Life Groups and the Mugezi building project, we were trained, not only in practical skills like building and agriculture but how first to see to the available resources within us before being overwhelmed by outside situations. Who we are is not defined by our situation. The things that we had lacked because of money we discovered we could often do ourselves at home. We started farming and were able to grow food for our children, made and sold bricks for constructing houses (including our own), we learnt to make safe charcoal stoves that kept our children from diseases like pneumonia and a water jar that provides us with safe, clean, rainwater. On top of all this we have been able to encourage and help our friends and neighbours with our new knowledge. Through Every Life, I have gained experience and skills, I am proud to provide for my family, my children go to school and we have learnt together, to put our trust in Jesus.”

By getting involved in our ‘Families Shine Brighter Together’ appeal this Christmas you’ll be helping bring hope and support to more families like Ronnie and Catherine’s.

If you or your church would be interested in fundraising for our Christmas Campaign, please do get in touch. We have resources available to help you do that.