Lydia Namuswa’s family used to be wealthy, but her father’s mismanagement of their estate drove them into poverty. In desperation, her parents began selling local beer from home and began getting drunk on a regular basis. As a young girl Lydia was left to run the bar, endure drunken abusive customers, and raise her siblings. 

When Lydia arrived at Kira Farm Development Centre her self-esteem was at rock bottom. After 12 hope-filled months of training, healing and encouragement, Lydia is thriving. Today she is back in the village and making a good income thanks to her newly acquired skills in hairdressing, tailoring and conservation farming. In her free time she helps other girls who are facing challenging situations.

‘I had a traumatic childhood,’ says Lydia, 19. ‘I was always told that my family had been the picture of success, that we used to have the biggest plot of land and lots of food; but when my father inherited the family estate everything changed. He sold off most of the land for peanuts and used the money to show off in the village and sleep around with other people’s wives.’ Lydia’s father’s foolish reputation also caused Lydia to be bullied in the village.

Drunken abuse

Owing to their lack of land, Lydia’s parents began to brew and sell local beer from home as a means to make money. However this presented problems of its own. ‘From selling, my mother then resorted to drinking, she says. ‘Both my parents would then end up drunk, leaving me with the responsibility of taking care of the bar and also my siblings.’ Whilst working in the bar Lydia was frequently sexually molested; sometimes she would be beaten up by drunken men when she asked them to pay their bill. Most of the time her parents were too drunk to notice. ‘Whenever I complained my mother told me to be quiet because the family needed the money to survive,’ says Lydia.

The price of an education

Lydia struggled to receive a proper education. ‘I loved going to school because I thought if I got a good education I could revive the good reputation my family had in the past,’ she says. ‘But most of the time we were so poor I didn’t even have books or pencils.’ At one point Lydia was approached by a boy in her class who promised to buy her a book if she slept with him. ‘To me it wasn’t a big deal because I was used to having older men sexually molesting me at home,’ she says. ‘So I accepted, but I ended up pregnant and that was the end of my education.’ Sadly, Lydia wasn’t able to keep her son: ‘My baby was taken away by the boy’s parents who thought it was shameful to have their grandchild living with my dysfunctional family.’

Kira Farm interview

‘I was so nervous when I was interviewed for Kira Farm – and so grateful that I was selected!’ she says. It was an eye-opening year for the girl with a troubled past. ‘When I arrived at Kira Farm I hated myself and I had very low self-esteem. I thought I was a nobody, but after meeting other young people at Kira who had experienced even worse situations I began to think twice. I could either live the rest of my life crying about the past, or I could be grateful that I still have life and move on.’ When Kira graduates came to the Farm to share their stories Lydia was truly inspired. ‘Just hearing that other people, like me, had made a success of their lives gave me hope that the future could be better,’ she smiles.  

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From strength to strength

Lydia returned home just before Christmas - a time when hairdressing is in huge demand so she was able to put her newly acquired skill to good use. Along with friends she’d made at Kira, Keziya and Norah, the threesome opened up a hair salon and made good money over the festive season. ‘Because food has been a big problem in my family, I used some of the profits to rent an acre of land for £30,’ explains Lydia. ‘I’ve used this land to teach my family about Farming God’s Way (conservation farming) and they have been amazed by the results.’

‘Thanks to my new tailoring sills I have secured two contracts to make school uniforms and have so far made a profit of £100. I have also bought a pig that will soon give birth, so I will be able to start a piggery project.’ 

Passing on skills

When she isn’t juggling her many small enterprises, Lydia helps other girls with troubled lives. ‘I used to be bullied because of my shameful family, but now many girls admire my success and are coming to me for advice,’ she smiles. Lydia is also active in her church and has been sharing her story with others. In the near future, Lydia, Keziya and Norah plan to train local girls in tailoring and hairdressing so they too can support themselves and improve their lives. 

‘I have joined a large village savings group (traditional banks are inaccessible), and I’m managing to save at least £35 a month,’ says Lydia. ‘I’m so pleased my mother has closed down the bar to concentrate more on farming, and this means my father has reduced his drinking too.’

Turning shame into hope

Since Lydia returned home her ‘in-laws’ have allowed Lydia’s four year old son, Jethro, to stay with her for two weeks. ‘I am in the process of fighting for full custody of my son because I now have the means to look after him, and in Jesus’ name I know I will win the fight,’ she says. 

Lydia is grateful that she has been equipped to change her life in the space of 18 months. She says: ‘I’m so thankful to Amigos for turning my shame into hope and helping me become a beautiful and courageous woman.’