Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Married at 13. Widowed at 25. Land grabbing survivor Julianna's story.

There’s this verse my late Grandmother used to share with me that I’ve still got memorised to this day. “The Lord tears down the proud person’s house. But he keeps the widow’s property safe” Proverbs 15:25. She was a widow, a widow for a very long time. And her property was a constant source of contention (even in a beautiful law abiding country like New Zealand). But on Widows Day earlier this year, I came into contact with IJM and watched this verse come to life.

The International Justice Mission is currently working in Uganda alongside local authorities to defend the rights of some of the most vulnerable people in our world – the widows. For many women in Uganda, the loss of a husband is only the first trauma in a long term ordeal. Widows are often evicted from their homes and physically abused - some even killed by their husband’s family! There, a women’s social status is so inextricably linked to her husbands that she either has no rights or very limited rights to their property and often finds herself financially insecure and dependent on the charity of her husband’s relatives. Worse still, impunity for abuses of the rights of widows is rife, with few perpetrators every successfully brought to justice.

One thing we know about Jesus is that his heart is for the downcast, it’s for the grief stricken, for the excluded, for the invisible, for the widow. And as goes his heart, so goes IJM.

On June 23rd 2016, hundreds of people gathered in Mukono in Central Uganda to celebrate the rights of the widow and the achievements IJM has had thus far in protecting those rights.  A lot of progress has been made and the day was a chance to recognise the extraordinary efforts of the local authorities including the Police, Chief magistrate, RSA, RDC and others.  

The celebration began with an official 90 minute march led by a brass band and fronted by almost 100 government officials. Taking up the rear were hundreds of women, widows, children and men lending their voice and their support to defending the cause of the widow.  The theme of the event read loud and clear across the banners being held by those marching and the keynote speeches that rang out throughout the day. ““No woman should lose her status, livelihood or property when her husband dies. Widows need and deserve our support.”

After the event concluded I met an extraordinary women that brought the reason for the celebration to life. Meet Julianna. 

“My name is Julianna and I am 75 years old. I had an arranged marriage when I was 13 and he was 40 years old. Soon after I had five children to him. When I was 25, my husband went to visit his relatives in Congo. A few months after he left, two of his brothers came to my house to visit me. One of them was dressed in the clothes of my husband and told me that he had died. This land was all we had left. Fortunately, he had made a will that said nothing on this land could be sold, not even a coffee plant – all of it belonged to me and our children.  
Over the years all of my children died of HIV and various sicknesses and they are all buried here. I have one daughter left and four grandchildren. 

One day a young man came on a motorbike. He said he was my grandson and that he wanted a part of this land. He asked me to give him his portion. I had never met this man in my life and so I said no. Over many occasions he threatened me, intimidated me and made threats to my life and my land. He said that because I was a woman, I had no right to this home. I told him that this land is for my grandchildren and I kept insisting that he would not receive anything. One day he came and put all of his things in the kitchen. Another day, he came and started digging a foundation. When I told him to go away he picked up his panga and cut my hand as I blocked my head. I reported him to the police. 

One of my grandchildren later told me about IJM. Soon they came into my life and helped me in so many ways. They helped me go to court (where we won), encouraged me emotionally and gave me a guard to protect my land and house during my court case. They also helped me make a will. One day I hope to give my children and grandchildren this land.  I can sleep in peace now knowing that will happen. “

The perpetrator In Julianna’s case was sentenced to six years in prison. The longest sentence in any property grabbing case IJM has worked on in Uganda. IJM Uganda exists to defend the rights of one of the most vulnerable groups of people - the widow. 
Long may they continue.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The bravest woman I've ever met

Rosemary* inside her home in a refugee settlement in Uganda

I've been sitting at my computer screen trying so hard to think of some eloquent/meaningful/appropriate words to say to precursor this story and I just cant.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Our ridiculously late first update

A Tutapona staff member sits outside one of our offices in Nakivale Refugee Settlement
An update at long last.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How do your favourite clothes brands rank on worker welfare?

Garment Factory
Three years after the deadly garment factory collapse in Bangladesh that shocked the world, global brands are under increasing pressure to improve conditions for the millions of garment workers in developing countries who make the majority of the world's clothing.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

That flight, the first week and election antics...


Having been here a bit over a week, I thought we should get the blog ball rolling. 
Firstly, that flight. We enjoyed a pleasant, restful 40 hour voyage through the skies with our two quiet daughters. As we were getting worried that the trip was coming to an end, fortunately our last short flight was delayed by an hour to give us more time in the 'plush' Nairobi airport departures lounge. We arrived in Uganda at 10am, refreshed and glad we didn’t have to go to bed for another 10 hours or so.  Of course our fellow passengers might have a slightly different version of events. But we made it. And the girls did better than expected. It was their parents who struggled the most. 

Having only been gone for a year, life here feels very familiar. It’s nice to be back! We’ve really enjoyed seeing lots of our friends who are still around from 2014.
We met all the Tutapona staff at a two day training here in Kampala last week.
It was good to catch up with them again and get started with the work. There is a significant, exciting change coming up for Tutapona soon, more on that next time.

Hope has adjusted well overall, she slept in a 'big girls' bed for the first time yesterday and was quite pleased with herself. She regards Eva with some disdain for still being cot-bound.  Her biggest hurdle has been dogs. All of our friends have guard dogs and Hope is terrified by them. The other day she bravely tiptoed past one sleeping dog, only to come across a second further down the path. When she turned around, she discovered the first dog had followed her.  Dogs, dogs everywhere. She let out a scream of a rare quality. Neighbours' doors opened, pigeons flew up from nearby trees and my hearing was permanently damaged.  Despite this setback she is making progress and has even started stroking a dog in our compound.

It’s hotter here than I remembered but we’re getting used to it. All of us except Eva, who is constantly sweating. I think she is designed for cooler climes.

The general elections are a week away. Things seem reasonably calm at the moment. Although, yesterday I was out driving and came to a standstill as a big parade went past. Electioneering seems to consist of groups of young men on motorbikes performing stunts in front of crowds of onlookers blowing vuvuzelas. One guy was standing on the seat of his bike as it rolled down a hill, not touching the handlebars at all. I’m sure he will generate significant numbers of votes for his favourite candidate. Many people are stocking up on household essentials in case there is some unrest after the election result is announced and movement around the city becomes ill advised. 

Over and out.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Back to #ugandababyuganda

In a few weeks we’ll be boarding a plane to Uganda for our third and longest stretch with our two daughters in tow, Hope who is a shade under two and Eva at 3 months. Needless to say we won’t be the most popular passengers on board...

This is not a decision we have come to lightly. It has been fantastic to be living so close to both sides of our family this last year. Hope has been spoiled as the first grandchild on the Buckley side and has loved spending time with her 9 cousins on the Manson side. We’ve just had a brand new baby and life is finally settling down after a tumultuous start to the year. Both of us are so grateful for our lives in New Zealand with very close friends, incredibly satisfying jobs and a lovely home.

A number of interwoven reasons.
In short, we both know our time in Uganda isn’t over yet and God seems to be confirming that.

As many of you know, when we moved to Uganda in early 2010 God surprised us with the gift of a daughter! Hope is now almost two years old and so on a purely practical ‘must –do’ level,  by heading back to Uganda we are hoping to complete the full adoption process and then proceed to applying for New Zealand citizenship for her. It is important to us (and to NZ immigration) to obey the adoption laws of Uganda. This process is a challenging and complex one but we are committed to our daughter and committed to seeing it through.

The other reason we are heading back to Uganda is on a slightly deeper level - to continue our working relationship with Tutapona. In 2014 we both volunteered for Tutapona. After seeing their work first hand we feel very motivated to be involved again – this time in a more formal capacity.


This time we’ll be based in Uganda’s capital city (Kampala) instead of the smaller city of Mbarara where we lived in 2014.

Tim will be working to support and manage Tutapona’s staff as they bring trauma counselling services to refugees at various sites around the country. Helen will be coming off maternity leave and assisting Tutapona with their marketing needs as well as conitnuing to workwith her beloved Tearfund/Compassion as a Communications contractor.


Two years at this stage.
We’ll endeavour to keep you updated through this blog.
Here’s to the best plane ride ever.

Tim, Helen, Hope, Eva 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Behind the Scenes...

Recently I had the privilege of travelling with Tutapona up into North Uganda on the border of South Sudan. There, Tutapona is working alongside the UN, LWF and Samaritans Purse to bring healing and hope to the 92,000 refugees that currently call the camp home. When the war in South Sudan broke out in early December 2013 thousands fled to Adjumani. Tim and I arrived there about a month after the conflict had erupted and walked into a scene that looked like the movie Blood Diamond. Almost one year on, I went back to see how things have progressed and to hear the testimonies of those receiving trauma counselling. This is what I saw this time around.

Adjumani Food Gathering area BEFORE
Adjumani Food Gathering area AFTER

Arrival area BEFORE
Arrival area AFTER
Adjumani Reception Center BEFORE
Adjumani Reception Center AFTER

South Sudanese refugees listen to the Tutapona staff running 'Empower'  - a trauma counselling program for victims of war

South Sudanese refugees listen to the Tutapona staff running 'Empower'  - a trauma counselling program for victims of war
"My name is Sophie and I don’t know how old I am. I think I am around 60 or 70. I am from South Sudan. I’ve seen a lot in my life. I have lived through two wars, I’ve seen people been killed solely based on their ethnic background, I’ve seen people starving and crying every day. Hunger, sickness and the effects of war on children with no parents.

 Our livelihood was based on cows and I had cattle.  It was a good life for me as I could cultivate using my hands. However this was all taken by the bandits and raiders after they shot me in late 2013. My husband was also killed in 2012 from the rebels when they came to our village. This hurt me deeply as I no longer had anybody near me.
After I was shot I moved onto my knees and went into a hiding place in the bush. It was disturbing to see a lot of people on the ground and people so confused by what had just happened. I had three children at that time but one died.  I moved to this refugee settlement in March 2014.

For me, trauma is a past event like the death of your husband or children. Personally I thought about  suicide but that lessened after Tutapona came. What Tutapona is doing for us is helping us to have emotional strength and to be able to forgive those who hurt us. I have allowed in my heart to forgive those that hurt me. The program started by asking our personal stories, then after that it went on to tell us what is trauma and then they taught us different ways of overcoming it.  The Tutapona team taught us is it best to divert attention by doing things like playing cards with friends. It is a worthy program. If there is a way to support this program, I advocate for it to be supported to reach more people.

Since Tutapona came to us I’ve noticed a difference. We were so depressed and we felt so heavy. Personally after the program I felt light and free. Before the program I was feeling lonely, and after that I felt comforted. Too many people like me exist and they need the same help. If the Tutapona team can come back a lot of people are still in need of that. I would like to tell the people of the world to extend their hand to those that are suffering. 

You can donate to the work that Tutapona does by visiting
A $50 donation will enable someone like Sophie to go through a trauma counselling course.

Helen xo

Monday, December 22, 2014

End of year Update from the Mansons

Dear blog readers,

We hope you have some exciting plans for the holiday season.
We'll be spending Christmas at our 'home' here in Uganda before heading to our other 'home', New Zealand for some time.

Thank you for being interested in what we’re doing over here and for praying for us this past year. We both think the year has been a success and that our time here with Tutapona has been worthwhile. We have felt so privileged to be part of an organisation that is helping psychologically traumatised people heal from their pasts and regain hope for the future. The scale of the organisation has more than doubled since January, largely because of two new partnerships we've entered into. We’ve gone from 6 staff to 18 staff in 1 year!  About 5,000 people have been through our trauma counselling program across the four locations. These attendees have come from some of the most brutal conflicts in modern history such as the ongoing wars in the DRC and South Sudan and past conflicts in Rwanda (1994) and Northern Uganda (1987-2007). 
We look forward to seeing how God will strengthen the bonds we have with this organisation in the years to come!

Helen has also had the privilege of continuing her relationship with her beloved TEAR Fund/Compassion and has been to South Africa and Ethiopia for them on photography trips as well as working with them on projects throughout the year as a contractor. 

Of course thrown into the mix has been the arrival of our beautiful daughter Hope and we couldn't be more grateful for her. She has turned a busy year into a chaotic one but we wouldn't have it any other way. Trying to adopt in a third world country has been the biggest challenge we've faced in our lives to date and we are beyond excited to introduce her to you when we get back. The full process is a three year one and one that we are absolutely committed to seeing through to it's final completion here in Uganda. 

Once again, thank you so much for caring about us and being part of Tutapona’s work in helping some of the world’s most traumatised people.

Love Tim, Helen and Hope

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why missionaries can never go home again...

Read this blog the other day - it resonated well.

Refugee boys watch the sun set whilst flying kites together in Nakivale Refugee Settlement

When a new missionary first gets to the mission field, it is obvious where home is.