By Hannah Lythe
Kari Miller left for Kampala, Uganda in May 2007 hoping to love the poor. She encountered Dorcas Widows Ministry and found a way to love. She has since become incredibly involved in the ministry, starting a school sponsorship program within the ministry, allowing Uganda widows to earn an income through a beaded jewelry business and other various components that has continued to build a community for the Dorcas Widows.
Can you tell us a little bit about your ministry, Dorcas Widows Ministry, and your involvement with widows in Uganda? How did you get started? What do you do now?
I went to Kampala, Uganda in May 2007 not knowing what I would do or whom I would meet, but I knew I wanted to love the poor and learn what it really means to follow the teachings of Jesus. I met a widow named Joyce who introduced me to the Dorcas Widows Ministry.
The Dorcas Widows Ministry is a Ugandan based group for widows who have lost their husbands due to the war in northern Uganda, HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, or other diseases. It is a support group that helps widows cope with the loss of their spouse and the devastating circumstances they find themselves in. I began to create friendships with these ladies and to learn about their challenges, how hard they worked to stay alive. It was out of a deep love and friendship that our partnership began.
How did you get started? What do you do now?
Their biggest needs were feeding their children, paying school fees, house rent and medical costs. At first, I just gave my own money whenever I felt God nudge me to do so. As I began to tell the stories of my friends on my blog, other people began to email me and ask how they could help. Suddenly over a period of one month God had raised $20,000 for these women!
I asked them what we should do with the money and they decided we should build a widows community where they could live rent-free and grow their own food. Still other donors began to give money to help those in the most desperate circumstances, which is how our emergency fund began.
When I arrived back in Minneapolis in August of 2007, I knew I had to organize a better and more secure way of collecting donated money. So, with my best friend, we created the Dorcas Widows Fund. The Dorcas Widows Fund is an American based non-profit 501c(3) that financially supports the Dorcas Widows Ministry in the areas of income generation, emergency feeding, school fees, and health care.
In essence, the Dorcas Widows Ministry seeks to love Jesus and follow his command to take care of widows and orphans in their distress. Our overall mission is to support the widows and children who are members of the Dorcas Widows Ministry in Kampala, Uganda in their journey from poverty to self-sufficiency.
What practical strides has the ministry taken to help the environment and physical situation of the widows?
Dorcas Widows Ministry practically helps the widows in the following ways:
- Emergency Funds: When a widow is unable to provide food or medical care for herself or her children, we give funds to provide those things for her. Most often we help women feed their children or pay medical expenses.
- Scholarships for School children:. It was out of one of the most critical emergency situations with a woman in the end stages of HIV that I first asked those that read my blog to consider paying school fees for this woman. A donor came forward to do so and that sparked others to support the children of other women who are HIV positive. So, in March of 2008, we began a school sponsorship component to our ministry. We now sponsor 13 children.
- Income Generation: We have formed two groups of widows who make beaded necklaces. Twice a week the ladies meet to roll beads and to pray for more business. God has so far begun to bless the work of their hands as we have had at least one order every week for the past two months. And still, every time the ladies receive their payment, they tithe 10% back to Jesus. We are finding markets to sell this jewelry in order to provide these women with more consistent income.
- Widows Community: We are currently looking for 3 acres of land to form a widows community where the widows can live rent-free and grow their own food. This land will contain 30 simple homes for the widows to live in rent-free where they can grow their own food. It is one of our most fervent prayers to acquire a piece of land where the women can live without worrying about being chased away by a greedy landlord.
- Encouragement: Members of the Dorcas Widows group take care of other members who are sick, praying with them, feeding them and getting them to a clinic.
How can we be a source of help for the marginalized women of northern Uganda?
My greatest dream is for people to see these widowed women not as the marginalized women of Northern Uganda, but as real people, unique people with personalities, hopes, fears, dreams, struggles, and joys. It is my hope that we would really know themnot as the poor or the sick but as our fellow sisters in Christ, as part of our extended spiritual family. That as fellow believers in Jesus, we would form a worldwide community with them where out of love and care for each other, we would give and receive as we have need or have plenty.
Here are the ways you can receive from my widowed friends:
- They make beautiful handcrafted beaded necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. You can purchase some if you wish. They are made from discarded paper that is rolled into differently shaped beads. If you wish to order any of these necklaces, you can contact Carol Daly Vogt at [email protected].
- They love to pray for you and to know you as much as you want to know them. If you would like us to pray for you please send your request to [email protected]
Here are the ways you can give to my widowed friends:
- You can donate to the Dorcas Widows Emergency Fund. The emergency fund provides money for widows in crisis. I
t often helps feed a family or pay for unexpected medical treatment due to illness. If you want to donate to that fund you can visit our website: www.dorcaswidows.org/ or email Lisa Tschetter at [email protected].
- You can pay school fees for one or more of the widows children. A primary school student is about $150 a year and a secondary student is about $600 a year. These fees are impossible for these women to pay without assistance from a sponsor or an NGO. If you want to learn more about sponsoring a widows child through school, please contact Lisa Tschetter at [email protected].
- You can donate to our Widows Community Project. We have already raised enough money to buy three acres of land and are hoping to build 30 homes on that property for the most disadvantaged widows to live in. Each house will cost approximately $10,000 to construct. If you are interested in donating or learning more about this project, please go to our website or contact Carol Daly Vogt directly at [email protected].
- Pray for them. Read their stories on my blog or on the Dorcas Widows web site and commit to praying for them. If you have any encouraging words for them, you can send it to my email and I will share it with them.
Stay tuned for our next issue for Part 2 of our interview with Kari Miller, founder of Dorcas Widows Ministry…
If you liked this article, check out Life of a Widow
Hannah Lythe recently returned from a nine month long trip to Pretoria, South Africa as a First Year Missionary. She worked in an a Children’s Home for HIV/AIDS infected and affected children. She currently attends Boston College as an English and Theology double major. Through this, she hopes to pursue a life of advocacy working towards the spread of God’s love amongst the suffering.