November 16th, 2020Out to Africa: and now helping from here
She is one of thousands who have been plucked from poverty by an agency operating here and in England.
Steve Argent, founder of OrphFund, lives in Campbells Creek and one of his strongest supporters, Peita Herrick, pictured with Fortunate and Scovia, is a Daylesford shop assistant and cleaner.
She dedicates time and money to helping the homeless and the struggling among the 46 million people of Uganda, a nation known for the cruelty of its dictator, Idi Amin, its civil war which has killed tens of thousands and its president since 1986 who refuses to budge.
Peita (it means deep, or deep-rooted tree) heard about the 18-year-old through locals and began volunteering in 2015. Two decades earlier she had seen poverty first-hand in India, returning regularly to help some women forced to live on the street to move towards self-sufficiency through “beautiful and creative” sewing and other skills. “I felt,” she says, “like I broke and fell apart and was desperately trying to see what I could do. I’ve always wanted to help people and lift them from being under-privileged.
“If they do something for themselves it’s empowering and they can go further.” Sewing machines and training in tailoring have rescued women.
In Steve, a photographer, she found “a devoted person and major human being” whose organisation, she says ensures that all money raised goes to those in need.
During COVID this means providing food and essentials to Ugandan single mothers and their children. The women pay $11 to $16 so that they will not be evicted from the concrete rooms they call home. And it costs them a further $30 per head for a good staple diet each month.
OrphFund, she says, has helped educate 9500 children, seeing them through university or courses to become hairdressers, welders, carpenters or hospitality workers. Besides Uganda, OrphFund works in Kenya and Sierra Leone.
The help may come in the form of shipping containers of school desks, books, clothing and even a ute. The containers are sometimes converted into little shops.
“We build schools, help kids get medical checks and plant vegie gardens and farms. We’ve provided school lunches for thousands of kids…whoever needs help.
“So many generous people have shown great support.”
Because of COVID and its devastation Peita has been working on a women’s emergency fund where Ugandan women nominated three friends or acquaintances doing it hard, so that more could be done. Another 17 women were found caring for 38 children. Another woman looks after 10 homeless children.
The death rate from COVID remains unknown in Uganda and although shops are now open, there is little money. Peita acknowledges that some Australians, too, have been doing it hard through the pandemic, but because of government and other support, this nation is very lucky. For her the joy and fulfilment through volunteering “is abundant, nourishing and brings happiness and further purpose to my life”.
Three of the original women tailors now make beautiful work such as buntings, shoulder and shopping bags, pencil cases, cushion covers, kids’ skirts and dresses and more, using pure African cotton, which are sold at markets and on websites in Australia to raise money for the children.
“Now,” says Peita, “ I’m looking for as many kind people as I can find to commit to $10 a month for one year to help support these women and children.” And she has a final message: “If there is one thing that the current world situation has showcased to me more than ever, it is that we of privilege, opportunity, access and abundance live a life of fantasy compared to the lives of many in the same world. We have a chance to make a big difference for very, very little.”
Words: Kevin Childs | Image: Contributed