Local charity to host annual fundraiser to benefit adult litteracy in Uganda

Hand Across Nations fosters adult literacy in the villages and prisons in and around Lira, Uganda.
Aaron Andrews
Staff Writer

Hands Across Nations is hosting their annual dinner and silent auction Saturday, October 6 at the Chewelah Civic Center, 302 East Webster. Tickets cost $15 ($10 for children). Doors will open at 4:30 p.m. Dinner will start at 5:00 p.m.; the auction will start at 6:00 p.m.
Tickets are available for purchase at Akers United Drug, Inc, 406 N. Park Street; at Tri County Stove & Spa, 2088 N. highway 395 in Colville; and at Main Street Floral 104 N. Main Street in Colville.
Hands Across Nations is a Christian charity supporting an adult literacy program among the Lango people of Uganda in east central Africa.
Directors Carolyn and Keith Jones, wife and husband, are Chewelah residents, but Carolyn spends eight months out of the year working in and around the town of Lira, Uganda. Her husband is in Uganda full time.
Their charity grew out of a 2001 church missions trip providing medical services to mexico, according to Mrs. Jones. Her church got a letter from Africa asking them to consider coming to war-torn Uganda for their missions work.
They decided to go for a month.
Mrs. Jones said that they were going in to the villages during the day administering physical therapy and medical attention to people who they were sure were members of The Lord’s Resistance Army, lead by Joseph Kony.
“They were just people,” Mrs. jones said. “Many of them had been abducted and weren’t there of their own free will. Others had nowhere to go. People didn’t want to take them back because they had killed people.”
Mrs. Jones described how the women in particular were trapped in the Lord’s Resistance Army. “The women were taken, and their families didn’t want them back,” she said. “They had children by these men, and they love their children. So they would end up going back to that person because no one else would take them.”
By 2003, Mrs. Jones was making the trip by herself and working for the only surgeon in Lira.
Mrs. Jones was struck by the ignorance of the community. “Not stupidity,” she clarified, “Ignorance.”
She described how the community is consumed by jealousy. “They don’t want other people to succeed,” she said. “They are jealous that anybody have anything more than they have. And they will kill you for it. They will poison you, whack you, send someone to shoot you.”
The Joneses live behind a wall with an armed guard and a dog, Mrs. Jones reports. She remembers one time their guard chased a robber out of their house, beating the trespasser with a pipe as he jumped the wall.
In addition to being jealous, the Lango people are entitled. Non-governmental organizations had been coming to Uganda all throughout the war to provide support, according to Jones. “They were just given so much stuff — animals, tools, food — because they couldn’t do it themselves,” Jones said. “After the war, they were stuck in that mentality. They saw us coming and they said ‘what are you going to give me?’”
The Joneses wanted to combat this ignorance and entitlement. So, they decided to teach people how to read.
“We said, ‘we will give you knowledge. We’ll train you, and you are to teach your own people. We are going to give you a gift so that you can do for yourselves,’” Jones said.
Using a teaching method developed by Literacy and Evangelism International, the Jones’s started printing primers featuring easy-to-understand gospels and Bible stories for the Lango people in their native language.
The effect was fantastic. Knowledge spread like a wildfire through the community. It wasn’t just any knowledge, however. “If you don’t teach them what is in the Bible, then really all you’ve done is created a more intelligent thief!” Jones noted. “But they learned about confession and forgiveness. They learned about restitution and healing. They learned about living in peace with one another.”
Mr. and Mrs. Jones brought their ministry to prisoners, lepers and the disabled.
Mrs. Jones remembers a graduate of their program, a man with leprosy, thanking her for their work: “Before this we were rubbish. We were nothing. We were just something lying along the side of the road that people would step over,” he said to Mrs. Jones. “But we are now people.”
Jones noted that the program is self-perpetuating. Once they teach someone to read, then they teach them how to teach. Once they learn how to teach, then they are taught how to train teachers. Jones reports that she hardly does any teaching anymore.
Funds from the auction will go towards buying school materials, primers, and food and fuel for the volunteers in Uganda.