The Love Mercy Foundation works in communities in Northern Uganda to increase access to food security, health care, clean water and income generation for thousands of families after decades of civil war.
Northern Uganda communities have been severely hit with the nation still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s also facing a devastating drought where there have been four consecutive years of no significant rainfall.
This has impacted crop production and reduced household incomes, food shortages and hunger-related deaths.
Love Mercy’s CEO Ms Rebecca Lloyd shared how the charity began in 2008.
Australian Olympian Eloise Wellings met Ugandan Olympian and former child soldier Mr Julius Achon and connected through their life stories.
Mr Achon shared with Ms Wellings his story of running from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and the ongoing horrors of what was happening in Uganda due to the war.
He also shared what his family and community faced after the war, with many communities on the brink of starvation and death.
Ms Wellings visited Uganda in 2009, and in 2010, started Cents For Seeds with 100 women.
Ms Lloyd said that Cents For Seeds has now reached 19,000 women and helped families thrive and provide food for themselves and their communities.
“$30 provides 30 kilograms worth of seeds, that can generate harvests of between 150kgs and 300kgs
This is positively life-changing.” Ms Lloyd continued.
Cents For Seeds has a local team of 10 agronomists and finance trainers, who lead the project on the ground and work closely alongside communities to ensure success.
They speak with the women within those communities and offer for them to register for the project.
The women who register undergo agricultural training in caring for their land and what they should look out for.
They are also trained in pest and fertiliser management and taught why the seed types are selected, and how to grow those particular seed types on their land and are connected to an area coordinator for ongoing support.
Cents For Seeds is a micro-loan program, and financial training is also provided to upskill and support women, as access to financial institutions is low in rural Uganda.
Seeds are purchased within local community markets, and the seeds from the harvest are then resold at local markets, building and pouring back into the local economy.
The Kristina Health Centre opened in 2012 and was named after Mr Achon’s mother, who was shot and killed during the war.
In 2017, maternity services began to be offered at the clinic, and over 1200 babies have been safely born since opening.
The services at Kristina Health Center include triage and treatment, disease testing, vaccinations, medication dispensing, maternity services, education and ambulance services for emergency transport to larger hospitals for treatment that is not, at this time, able to be facilitated at the centre.
Over 8,000 patients were provided with a medical service in 2022, and over 60,000 since the doors of Kristina Health Centre opened.
Another project the Love Mercy Foundation runs is called Well Worth It, which started in 2018 after information from impact studies showed that well-being declined unless they had access to clean water.
Women and children spend a significant amount of time walking anywhere from five to 10 km, three times a day, to collect water.
This time impacts on abilities to work and access education, and this project sought to provide a basic human right: access to safe and clean water.
It began through a partnership with a local Australian charity, Water For Africa, before transitioning into locally led organisations, that facilitate the drilling and repair of wells. Love Mercy Foundation has supported the drilling of 52 wells and has repaired close to 300.
The cost of drilling a well from start to finish is $8,000 and $300 to repair a well that is no longer working due to a lack of maintenance.
All work is driven by community support and donations.
After schools were closed for two years during the Covid-19 pandemic, the ongoing drought and the rise of global living costs, Love Mercy Foundation continued to co-design innovative solutions to overcome poverty and increase well-being.
This included a tailoring project, which started with 16 girls in 2021, who are taught skills to become a seamstress.
As part of the graduation process, women are progressed into Stage 2 of Cents for Seeds, Income Generating activities, where they have started small businesses like raising poultry, farming additional land and starting a piggery. This generates secondary income and further creates economic stability and security.
If you would like to support the work of the Love Mercy Foundation, you can purchase a pack of their Christmas Cards for $35, which provides one seed loan in Uganda.