The Archdiocese of Mbarara Development Association (AMDA) held her ninth caravan in Ibanda earlier this month, hosted by Ibanda Parish.
Ibanda Parish received the torch to host the 2023 Caravan at the end of the 2022 visit to Butare Parish in Buhweju District, at which His Grace, Bishop Lambert Bainomugisha, referred to the association’s members as modern missionaries.
Like the previous year, while celebrating Holy Mass at Ibanda Parish, the archbishop hailed the caravanners for being practical in reaching out to their communities, sharing love, and affirming the faith in their home base parishioners.
“We thank you for coming to firm the faith among the people of Ibanda. Even those who can’t see with their eyes, renew their faith by witnessing your acts of love. Our desire is for you to visit and reach all the parishes in the archdiocese.” Said His Grace while delivering his Homily at the final Mass, marking the end of the caravan.
His Grace, Lambert Bainomugisha, believes that AMDA members are helping the church ensure that people can live a full life which Jesus Christ agitates for daily.
Archbishop Bainomugisha said that missionaries came to Uganda in 1912 with Jesus Christ and that people should get him in full.
“They wanted us to have life and have it in full. People should have the energy of the body and soul. There is a big hospital in Ibanda, the Catholic Church did not put it there to make money, but they wanted people to have life and have it in full. The Catholic Church is a field hospital. You have healed people; you gave them needs of the heart and soul,” he retorted.
The mass was preceded by other outreach activities, including training on economic empowerment, spiritual development, and environmental sustainability campaigns where fruit trees and natural and medicinal tree species were planted at Kihani and Ibanda parishes, and the 6th medical camp. Other activities included women’s economic training, education and inspiring talks for school-going children and secondary school students.
The Medical camp, the 6th in a row was characterised by long queues of people who travelled many kilometres to access free medical services, some of which specialised and unavailable in their rural healthcare facilities. Over 9000 people were treated for a range of health conditions, including eye care with cataract surgeries and reading glasses, dental services, cancer screening, General Medical Care, Specialist Psychiatric Care, Specialist Gynaecology Care, Ante-natal Care, Post Natal Care, TB Screening & mental health, HIV Counselling and Testing Services, Counselling services, screening for Non-Communicable Diseases and Laboratory Services among others.
“We still have a big need for health services especially in rural communities. The best way to deliver these services to the community is through religiously based organisations like churches and organisations like AMDA. This is our sixth annual medical camp and what we have witnessed is that the numbers keep growing,” Dr Crescent Tumuhaise, the head of AMDA Medical Council, said.
Dr Tumuhaise attributed the high turnup at the medical camp to the public’s trust in the medical services provided by religious medical services.
While explaining the works of AMDA, Dr. Fr. Darius Magunda, the Association’s Chaplain, quotes Jesus’ teaching in John 10:10, “I came that you may have life and have abundantly.” Fr Darius explains complete life as one that addresses the spiritual, bodily and mental needs catered for in the caravan package.
“This is why we are not only preaching the word of God but also providing the other needs. We know that our people cannot only feed on the word of God, they need to be treated; they need good health for their minds and souls to engage in productive work,” says Fr. Magunda.
The Executive Director of Mulago National Referral Hospital, Dr Rosemary Byanyima, also a member of AMDA, participating in the medical camp, appealed to the public to improve their health-seeking behaviours to get early disease diagnosis and better outcomes.
“We need to invest in programmes and create awareness for public health and early testing and diagnosis of diseases such as cancers, prolonged cough, diabetes and blood pressure because treating these and chances of cure are high when diseases are still in early stages,” she said.
She appealed to the Government to increase access to specialized care services like cancer screening in rural areas where most people need the services, noting that the number of people who turned up for treatment are an indicator of the extent of healthcare shortfalls in the community.
The activities of the 3-day caravan aim to empower communities back home in different aspects of life aligned to our 7 pillars. To date, nine caravans have been held in 23 parishes, following the maiden visit to Rugazi Parish in 2013, Buhungiro, Birunduma and Kyoga in 2014, Rwera, Kagamba, Rushooka and Ntungamo in 2015, Kitabi, Mutara, Nyakishojwa and Bubangizi in 2016, Kazo, Rushere and Kitura in 2017, Rushanje and Rwoho in 2018, Mushanga and Kakindo in 2019, Butare, Bihanga, Nyakitoko and Kashorero in 2022.
The caravan, a flagship of AMDA which happens every year, is a unique outreach adventure through which AMDA reaches out to members of the archdiocese for total transformation through the seven pillars of Unity, Spiritual Development, Leadership Development, Economic Empowerment, Education Development, Health & Wellness and Environmental Sustainability.
“The caravan presents a huge opportunity for us to create lasting impressions by transforming lives and demonstrating our Christian responsibility of knowing who our neighbour is,” said Mr Chris Gumisiriza, AMDA Chairperson.
He believes that for the communities to live better, they need essential services like health, food, education, and God, among others.
“It is the idea of the caravan that enables AMDA to put into practice all her seven pillars at ago, thus contributing to fulfilling what the word of God requires us to do,” he says.
On the sidelines, there was a legal clinic providing free legal consultation. About 85 cases were registered, and these are being followed up in collaboration with the Legal Aid Project to ensure justice is served.
The Dean of Ibanda Parish, Father Paul Mutume appreciates the AMDA for the continued efforts to better their parishes through a holistic approach like the caravan which emphasises unity, spiritual development, the health of body and soul, and economic empowerment, among others.