Capturing 30 years of Send a Cow in Uganda, by Darran Rees
39-year-old Olivia sits in the rudimentary kitchen of her mother Kasilina’s house while she is visiting with her children. She is trying to persuade her little boy to comb the doll’s hair but he’s not too sure about it. Behind her sits her 17-year-old cousin Stuart who was stricken and disabled with cerebral malaria when he was just three months old. One of Olivia’s four twin girls, Babirye, carries another cousin through the back door of this small basic two bedroom home where her 70-year-old mother has lived for over 20 years .
I had the opportunity to visit with this wonderful family during my recent 10 day shoot and commission for Send a Cow’s 30th Anniversary celebrations this year. I was there primarily to describe the stories of generational change brought about for, and by, the families who first received a cow from the UK 30 years ago. I had spent the night in a small tent outside the house making a kind of time lapse Night to Day image which told the story in one picture and then stayed with them throughout the morning making photographs of their family time together.
‘Darran Rees/The Operators’
Among all of the unique experiences I had and the hardships I witnessed during my visit to Uganda in January it was my time with Kasilina at her home that touched me the most. Despite a long life of hardship and sacrifice, Kasilina has met it with grace, resilience, fortitude and a strong faith.
This amazing woman has not only managed to raise her own family single-handedly and send them to school – as Olivia here can now do with her own young family – but is currently bringing up three of her own grandchildren, a young niece and two nephews, including disabled Stuart, who have all lost a parent. This picture for me encapsulates this in one moment observed, of a family whose life is in transition, a picture of hope and a picture of the future.
Seeing first hand throughout my journey the sheer strength and positivity of people despite their obvious disadvantages, their determination to do what one could – if not for themselves then for the next generation – had a strong effect on my work. To witness how this unique organisation has enabled such people, firstly in Uganda and now throughout Africa, to realize these potentials, believe in their dreams and to at least have what we have in the West – a chance – was inspiring.
By the time this is published, Kasilina and the kids will have moved into her newly built house overlooking the distant shores of nearby Lake Wamala. She informed me that would never have happened if “it were not that cow.”