By Missy Ward-Angalla
My life changed when I met Anna.
It was one month into my Student.Go assignment working with Refuge and Hope in Uganda, teaching ESL. Anna was an 18-year-old Rwandese refugee who had just arrived. She didn’t speak any English. I saw her several times a week for the next month as she slowly picked up words and phrases.
One day as she arrived, I could tell something was wrong. She handed me a letter explaining her story. She survived the Rwandan genocide as a 3-year-old child, fled to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a refugee and then was abandoned. She grew up alone in a refugee camp that experienced unrest and violence due to the conflict in Eastern DRC.
She experienced and witnessed violence. She fled to Uganda, desperate to be safe and for a better life. She arrived alone and did not speak the language. She had nowhere to go. A family took her in temporarily but could no longer take care of her because they were also struggling.
“Teacher, please help me,” she wrote in the letter.
I desperately wanted to help her. I looked for resources in Kampala for refugee women in this kind of situation but I found none. In a city with more than 200,000 refugees, there were no shelters or holistic services to vulnerable, traumatized and abused women like Anna. Women in this kind of situation were vulnerable to further abuse and violence.
God placed it on my heart in 2010 to start the first shelter for refugee women in Uganda so that women, like Anna, would have a safe place to go where they could experience safety, healing and transformation.
That dream became a reality during summer 2013 as we founded and began Amani Sasa, the first shelter for refugee women.
Since 2013, the Amani Sasa shelter has housed more than 150 vulnerable refugee women and children. Our ministry has since then expanded to serve over 800 men, women, children and families each year through a variety of holistic programs providing opportunities for refugees to experience healing and transformation. We work with the most vulnerable refugees in Kampala, Uganda through offering them access to safety, wholeness and empowerment so that they can live into their full God-given potential.
Our programs include the women’s shelter, a comprehensive men’s shelter, emergency services, counseling, music therapy, a comprehensive program for young pregnant mothers, a nursery and scholarship program for children at risk.
Over the last 8 years, we have seen God move powerfully to bring healing and transformation to the most vulnerable refugees within our community.
In Uganda, not only has the COVID pandemic wreaked havoc on the population and health system, it has been devastating to the Ugandan economy for both Ugandans and refugees. This year, we have seen a sharp increase of violence and exploitation of women and girls. As a result, our women’s shelter was completely full during the first half of the year.
Anna is one of our current residents.
Anna comes from a refugee family that completely lost their income when the pandemic caused the first lockdown in Uganda. In order to survive, Anna was trafficked into prostitution; then she became pregnant. Her heart was in a million pieces. She felt shame and self-hatred. She had given up all hope.
Then we invited her to move into our women’s shelter. Anna was surrounded by a community that loved her unconditionally. She received in-depth counseling. She learned about God’s amazing, unfailing love, hope and grace offered through the gospel. She received training in skills to allow her to make a safe, living wage.
She knows now that she has a special purpose for her life and the life of her child. She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl this past week.
Every week we have received calls to refer another refugee woman and we could not take them in because there wasn’t space.
As our team and I prayed, we felt God prompting us to expand this program and move into a new larger space. We are deeply grateful to our partners for making this possible. Yesterday we began that move. We are grateful to God for the opportunity to provide a safe haven to more refugee women, girls and children within our community a safe place to experience God’s healing and transformation.
Missy Ward-Angalla serves as a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Kampala, Uganda. Missy and her husband Francis serve as the co-directors of Amani Sasa Ministries. Learn more about her ministry at www.cbf.net/ward. The CBF Offering for Global Missions makes possible the long-term presence of CBF field personnel like Missy. 100% of gifts to the Offering support CBF field personnel serving in the United Sates and around the world. Give online today at www.cbf.net/OGM.