Our link with Sunday Dhugira, Mothers Union Community Development Coordinator, Nebbi Diocese Uganda.

It is just over a year now since we managed to communicate on a regular basis with our link Diocese, Nebbi in Uganda.  Our contact is the Mothers Union Community Development Coordinator, Sunday Dhugira. Nebbi is one of 37 Diocese in Uganda!

I have been corresponding with Sunday regularly via WhatsApp, Facebook, and Messenger. She also has a link to our Llandaff Mothers Union Facebook page and our website and posts comments quite frequently!!

I thought it would be good if our members were to know more about Sunday and her work in Nebbi. She was more than willing to tell me a lot about her life and her work. Indeed, to quote her she is

“very humbled by the request and happy knowing that MU Llandaff is concerned about me and praying for me”

Sunday grew up as a product of Mothers Union. Her mother Mrs Anna Uromcamu was the first Mothers Union worker of the Nebbi Diocese.  Her father, Late Canon Justus Uromcamu was the Diocesan Secretary and Sunday is one of six children – 4 boys and 2 girls. Her mother worked tirelessly and with great commitment to MU, going for days with programmes from one Parish to another leaving the children to take care of the last born, who was still a toddler. Her father was equally busy in his work.   The children were brought up in a Christian household with all the values that the Mothers Union uphold.  Little did Sunday know that one day she would follow in her mother’s footsteps!  Sunday has three children of her own now – 2 boys and a girl – Aaron who is 14, Cyrus who is 12 and Helen who is just 5 years old.

In 2010, Sunday was employed to work for the Diocese as an Administrator and Principal of the Women’s Vocational Training Centre.  This institution was built by the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, USA in order to help women and young girls who drop out of school. There is high illiteracy levels among women in Uganda. This training centre offers a variety of life skills for the girls including Tailoring, Catering and Hairdressing.

The centre was built and completed in 2005 and different administrators came and went.  There was no proper progress and the purpose of the centre was in danger of collapsing.  Sunday was appointed to try to give the centre some stability and continuity for the girls to continue their training. It improved and went from strength to strength and was doing well.  In 2016 Bishop Alphonse Wathokudi appointed Sunday to coordinate Mothers Union and to head the Women’s Department. That was when she joined Mothers Union officially. The two organisations for which Sunday is responsible complement each other in that it is the education and welfare of girls and women and therefore families that are at the heart of the projects.

The Diocese of Nebbi is divided into five archdeaconries and 36 parishes.  Each Archdeaconry and Parish have Mothers Union leaders, through which Sunday and her team members work.  With MU support, Sunday and her team train and empower these leaders to help and support families in their own communities.  Every few years elections take place and new leaders must be trained again. However, this training is becoming less dependent on Sunday as the leaders become more confident and can train their successors.

This is a photograph of Nebbi Diocese Mothers Union Annual General Meeting where women leaders and clergy wives came together from the 36 Parishes to plan for the forthcoming year.

Mothers Union in Nebbi is heavily involved in supporting families and family life.  MU identifies with families during the loss of dear ones.  MU contributes whatever they can to help grieving families. Burials are traditionally communal events that attract many people and MU supports the family by contributing food and money. Spiritual support is also given to families through prayer.

MU counsel couples intending to get married and encourage couples who are cohabiting to marry in church with a Christian ceremony. Mothers Union hold seminars with families to discuss issues which affect their homes and family life.

Vulnerable people in the community – the elderly, child headed households or orphans – are supported in many ways. Practical and emotional support is given along with spiritual support.

MU visit schools to talk with the girls about life skills and their future after leaving school. This year it is hoped to encourage a Fathers’ Union in this ministry to hold similar talks with the boys.

During school holidays, as parents continue to work,  children are often left on their own or in the care of ‘housemaids’ who teach them ‘their own thing’  – and this is becoming a great problem in many communities. Mothers Union are aware of problems arising and support these children as much as possible.

Besides this family ministry, MU are involved in providing prisoners with supplies such as clothes and soap provided by members.  MU also communicate directly with prisoners and give fellowship and prayer for their wellbeing and purpose in life after release.

Many of the Nebbi members are peasant farmers and readily provide food and produce from their gardens to needy families.  They are overwhelmed by the number of families who need the support of MU and yet their resources are greatly limited.

Mothers Union in Uganda has the same aim, objectives, and values as we have here in Wales but the needs of their communities and level of support are so very different. Mothers Union in Nebbi, Uganda provides support to families and family life and Mary Sumner would be so proud that her idea is now clearly worldwide, supporting the individual needs of women and families in different communities.

As well as her tireless work in Mothers Union, Sunday also has great responsibility with the Threads of Blessings project led from the Women’s Vocational Training Centre where she is Director. Initially, this project was only in the Nebbi Diocese, but it has now expanded to include 13 Diocese in Uganda supporting 650 women- Testimony to the hard work and commitment of Sunday to improve the lives and future of women in Uganda. The main problem facing women in Uganda is illiteracy and poverty. Education is not regarded as important for girls and of course cultural practices encourage the belief that girls should marry, produce children, stay home and perform garden work. The practice of forcing young girls to marry so family will receive income through the bride dowry, reinforces the reasons for the lack of education amongst girls. Threads of Blessings is an inter-generational group of women who enjoy designing and sewing! They are committed to supporting and nurturing the creative process. Threads of Blessings has enabled women in Uganda to produce unique pieces of textile art that represent their culture and surroundings. Through the 100% sale of their work, these women use the money as school fees, start a business, support their local church through tithes, build better homes, buy livestock and seeds etc. As their work improves and their confidence grows, many lives are being impacted and changed.

Sunday was invited to West Texas to meet and speak with different groups to tell them the story of Threads of Blessing and the impact the ministry is having on the lives of the women in Uganda.

She arrived in San Antonio on March 12th and within three days of arriving everything changed!  All programs were cancelled due to Covid 19 and before Sunday could travel back, Uganda closed the border. As I write this (June 18th) Sunday is still in America!

Sunday’s first thoughts were to her children.  They had been sent home from school but thankfully they are being looked after by their father and she has been in almost daily contact thanks to social media.  Her faith is strong and she prayed to God to give her the strength to carry on, and as time went on she became calmer and stronger every day with the support from her host whom she has known since she was a child – Garry and Helen Schnelzer.  They were the ones who initiated the partnership that exists between Nebbi Diocese and the Diocese of West Texas. This is a photograph of Sunday in the garden of her hosts.

Sunday has not been idle during her time in San Antonio. She has been busy embroidering as well as pursuing a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Ugandan Christian University.

She has also become a part of the Christ Episcopal Church Saturday sidewalk where she volunteers for 3 hours every Saturday to give food to the poor and homeless. She has enjoyed being a part of this project and says…

“this has given me joy, seeing the needy coming and leaving with smiles on their faces for there is food for them for a few days”

There is hope of returning home but no definite date. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs gives updates through the Embassy. She registered for repatriation 2 months ago and is patiently waiting her turn to return. Only those who test negative for the virus will be allowed to board the plane and then they will have 14 days quarantine on arrival in Uganda at their own cost in hotels identified by the government.  She tells me that she prays Psalm 121 daily to give her strength – I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help”

Please continue to pray for Sunday and the amazing work she does with both Mothers Union and Threads of Blessing to improve the lives of girls, women and families  Mothers Union is gaining momentum in Uganda now and there are 21,500 members already.

Lowrie Washington-Jones

Action and Outreach Unit Coordinator

Llandaff Diocese Mothers’ Union