The beauty of community

Written by Jamie Wingert


Why in the heck would people live here, and once they leave why would they come back? That was the question I pondered on my first trip to Uganda. The remoteness of Ongongoja puzzled me. Why would people not move closer to “somewhere”? And I was often asked that question upon returning to America, and I struggled with an answer that had a personal element to it. When you are looking at any situation through a certain lens, you fail to see the bigger picture.


In 2008, our little town in NE Iowa was flooded. Not just a little water, but ruining the homes of dozens of families, in which they could not rebuild. The residential area has since become a park, one house stands alone in that area of a 90 year old women who refused to leave (God bless her). Up the road is the main street where many flooded businesses held tight as well. A couple weeks ago, another flood warning was issued and an entire community came together to help those who would be affected by the devastation of the water. School was let out early, people closed businesses to help, and it appeared as though the entire town of able-bodied people were out in numbers supporting those in need. Regardless of the outcome of the flood that year, the overwhelming take away from everyone was we have an awesome community.


That was “it”. That is why. The people in Uganda, the people in our hometown, the people in most parts of the world value community, value home, value that togetherness. So then it was very clear to me, it is no wonder they stay in the area they call “home’, why they would return to that area after being involuntarily relocated. Just like us…we craved that sense of community, we fought for it, we banded together to protect it and when it was safe we returned to it. Was that it,…No. Once the “event” is over, the rebuilding process begins, whether physical damage to the community or not, people are affected by the event. That is where resources are so vital. We do not have all of the answers, few that live in the floodplain have extensive knowledge of flood preparedness, insurance, clean up, sanitation and carpentry skills to rebuild. They rely on people who have other knowledge to help…not more knowledge, not smarter, just different.


That is how I saw HopeChest’s role in this community. Do Americans know what is best for our friends in Uganda, absolutely not, can we go and “fix”…NO. But as we pair our knowledge as a community together, we all learn. We learn how to value things that have lost meaning in our culture (family, faith, connectivity, respect for others), and we can offer what we can, whatever that may be. We all have gifts to share and when you offer what God has blessed you with to others that is how community is built. Our community with a community in Africa, how beautiful is that.


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