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The Batwa of Uganda & Redemption Song Foundation


This video was co-Produced by Joel Kwizera (Jokwiz Klean) and RSF Director Wendee Nicole in 2018.


Transcript:

Wendee Nicole: Redemption Song Foundation has a mission of Spreading Hope by Growing Healthy Communities and Sustainable Ecosystems in Uganda. We work primarily with the indigenous Batwa pygmies, a group of hunter gatherers who were evicted from their ancestral homeland inside of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1991. Since that time, they've lived in extreme poverty and are considered one of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in the entire world.


Wendee Nicole: The Batwa people, they were living in the forest and people thought that they were poaching—or that they couldn't have conservation with people living within a park. So to save the mountain gorillas, because the Batwas' ancestral homeland is where the mountain gorillas also live, and the mountain gorillas are an endangered species—so the government along with conservation organizations also supported this—they removed the Batwa from the forest and said, "We can't have people in here."


Wendee Nicole: I first came here as a journalist on a grant to look at how human livelihoods and conservation can work harmoniously together, or in some cases, not work together. I noticed that some of the children had dropped out of school at age 6, 7, 8, and obviously this wasn't ideal. So I met with the families, I met with the children, and we decided to get those kids in school. We already had a relationship with these children and so the older children go to a school called Bishops Boarding School, which is under the Anglican Church.


Wendee Nicole: Redemption Song Foundation has three main areas where we work. We have education, which is really our primary focus right now, and that's focusing on educating the young children, helping them understand not just academic but also spiritual, emotional, moral development, hygiene, health, all of these things are part of the education. We also work with the adults to help them to understand the importance of education for their children's futures. Education encompasses all of that.


Wendee Nicole: People can sponsor a child for $500 a year. That allows children to attend school. We buy school supplies. We have a weekly educational soup kitchen, which has been extremely successful. Every week the kids come to our house in the evening and we feed them. We often feed them meat because protein is lacking in their diet. We give them vegetables and fruits so they get a well-rounded [diet], a lot of different kinds of vitamins and minerals from the different foods, and we also let them learn to love to learn.


Wendee Nicole: We also have a livelihood project, which is called our Artisan Co-op where we buy baskets from the women and the women are incredible artisans. They weave baskets and we buy them from them at a fair-trade price and then we bring them back to the United States and we sell them here, and that money then goes back into Redemption Song Foundation.


Wendee Nicole: The final project is the community development project that allows us to get clean water for the Batwa. We've also built several houses primarily for single moms, some for families that are together and just working within the community to help ensure that they're maintaining their houses and doing other projects like that. We bought mattresses for them which is an item that they would not be able to afford on their own.


Wendee Nicole: Having to understand, you know, really the country, the culture, you know, and of course I'm still learning, but to really let a people know that you're there for the long term.


Florence Kyomukama [Speaking Rukiga]: My name is Florence Kyomukama, I come from Kalehe... I am a Mutwa (Batwa). I am thanking them (Redemption Song Foundation) so much. Thanks for helping... they are still helping by sponsoring our children in schools. I pray to God for their protection and to keep protecting them."


Wendee Nicole: When Jesus said I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, is really, you know, exciting to actually be doing that in a place that you're working with people who have been discriminated against and taken advantage of and they've lost everything. You know, so to be able to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and to help and just love unconditionally, I think that really inspires the work that I do.


Wendee Nicole: You can sponsor a child through Redemption Song Foundation for just $45 dollars per month, or a one time donation of $500 per year. You can also buy handmade fair-trade baskets made by the Batwa at our website. Sign up to sponsor a child or checkout our baskets at redemptionsongfoundation.org. Thank you for your support.




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