On Sunday August 10, 2008, Fr. Francis Muhenda showed a modest group gathered in the parish hall of St. Thomas the Apostle in Ann Arbor, MI a power point slide presentation of his home district in Western Uganda, St. Peter the Apostle Parish - Butunduuzi, Fort Portal Diocese. He is the only priest serving over 30 villages where electricity, running water and paved roads are non-existent. Generous members of St. Thomas the Apostle sent him back to Uganda with resources to secure, for the first time a sturdy four wheel vehicle, a cistern to collect water for his school and house and a solar panel to provide electric light after sundown.
Fr. Francis spoke of the unaddressed poverty of his people which preclude them from paying school fees, the nutritional shortcomings of their diet, the polluted water they must endure and the mosquito borne malaria problem which primarily kills infants.
Some asked him “what can we do to help you?” He suggested that we could help empower them to lift themselves up by funding a couple of simple projects. One would be to fund the purchase of fast growing saplings which his parishioner’s could plant and nurture for future sale as timber. At 6-8 ft. growth per year, the time for harvest is relatively short.
His second suggestion was that we could help sponsor a chicken project. Meat and poultry are hard to come by and a luxury rarely experienced by people in his Parish. If we could assist with money to buy building materials for chicken coops (chicken wire and wood) and hens and roosters, his villages could cooperate to develop a source of eggs, poultry meat and, conceivably build a source of income. With seed money a donor sent with him to develop a pilot plan, Fr. Francis has already overseen construction of the first chicken coop. Two more are soon to be completed.
Inspired by Fr. Francis’ slide show in August , several of us met in September and October to plan a project to provide continuing aid to his parish. In the long run there is endless work we could do. We think that the sapling and chicken projects merit our immediate support in the short term because of their simplicity. These two plans do more than just give charity to Ugandans. They provide a concrete way for them to improve their own lives and hopefully advance upward from their profound poverty.
On November 3, 2008 we formed a Michigan Non Profit Organization to assist Fr. Francis Muhenda’s parish, called Uganda Empowerment Project Inc. We hope to make periodic and sustained fundraising efforts to encourage Fr. Francis to promote these projects. The ad-hoc committee behind the non profit Uganda Empowerment Project, Inc. is made up of Thomas Owens, Mike Rhode, Elizabeth Crist, Doug Mullkoff, Marie Williams and Grace Potts.
We have opened an account for the non profit with Key Bank in Ann Arbor. If you are moved to support Fr. Francis with this project please send a check made out to Uganda Empowerment Project, Inc. c/o Doug Mullkoff, 402 West Liberty, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.