DASSEL, KINGSTON, MN Last July, Judy Leach, of Kingston, visited Uganda as part of a mission trip with Destiny EWO (elderly, widows, and orphans).
As treasurer of the newly established non-profit, Leach was able to witness for herself the challenges many of the women and children faced, and how Destiny was working head-on to meet those needs.
Co-founded by Leach’s friend, Tonya Thimons of Spicer, the mission of the organization is to provide education, improve health, and provide sustainable living to those who are oppressed and marginalized, specifically the widows, orphans, and elderly.
“When I became a widow at the age of 29, I was heart-broken, as anyone would be,” Thimons said. “I was able to experience for myself firsthand how difficult that situation is.”
On a trip to Africa, Thimons saw how such a situation could be magnified as women are left with little resources to fend for themselves.
To create change, Destiny utilizes a team in Uganda to identify the needs and implement the program by providing opportunities for women to start their own businesses of raising animals, gardening, or jewelry-making.
Destiny’s US team, which includes Thimons, Leach, and Shari Seifert of Dassel, raises funds in order to sustain the program.
“It’s not a hand-out, it’s a hand up,” Leach said.
“We are helping them identify how they can become independent,” she said, noting that they are ambitious people living in an impoverished country with few rights.
“Instead, we identify the skills and trades of those in the program and assist them in getting animals (goats or chickens), paper bead-making materials, sewing machines, brick-making tools, seeds for farming and gardening, and promoting a sense of self-ownership and pride that they can begin to provide for their families,” Thimons said.
The first products of animals are then given back to Destiny, so it can keep building the herd numbers in order to give them to those who can most benefit.
The Destiny staff in Uganda will check on the elderly, widows, and orphans to ensure the animals or equipment are being properly cared for.
Thimons explained that some elderly are completely incapacitated and aren’t able to do work of any kind. Donors can provide them with monthly financial sponsorships that go directly to the purchase of such things as medications, food, clothing, and hygiene items.
The widows are active in their self-sustaining businesses, or Destiny offers skill training; making sure they are also adequately housed so they and their families are safe, Thimons explained.
Leach was further compelled when she visited a Ugandan orphanage, “knowing that what the children have is so little compared to what children here in the US have,” she said.
With no free public education provided, Destiny sponsorships help pay for the orphans’ school fees, uniforms, and other basic necessities.
Thimons provided a testimony of how Destiny was able to help Doreen, a widow in Masese, Uganda, start a business by making paper bead jewelry. Being the sole provider for the family, Doreen was able to make the beaded jewelry and sell it in the US with Destiny’s assistance. From the profits, Doreen was able to purchase the medication her sick child needed, as well as food for her family.
“I prayed with her before we left and she was in tears,” Thimons said, noting how grateful Doreen was that she was able to utilize her skills to provide for her family, due to Destiny. “When we left, she was smiling and kept telling us over and over, ‘This has changed my life,’” Thimons recalled.
Support the cause
Destiny EWO is hosting a Taste of Uganda event Saturday, Feb. 27 at the Kingston Community Center. All proceeds will benefit the non-profit organization’s programs to help the elderly, widows, and orphans.
A Uganda craft sale is open to the public (no ticket needed) from 10 a.m. to noon.
From 2 to 4 p.m., there will be cultural food tasting, a video, and Ugandan craft sale and raffle.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $10 by contacting destiny via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the door for $12 per person.