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  • Writer's pictureSean Stewart

Umoja Ni Nguvu. Can This Community Fight Their Way Out of Poverty?

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

“Umoja Ni Nguvu” is a program we began this year (January 2020). We were having a conversation with our staff during our discipleship time, when it got its start. I had been encouraging him to find ways to impact his community positively to show people the Kingdom of God. He had a valid concern that gave me pause. “How can I help my neighbour, when my mother is raising my niece and is struggling to provide school fees?” Since his sister and brother-in-law had both passed away, his mother needed to care for their child.

Extreme Poverty

I asked more about his mother’s situation. He told me that his family lives in an extremely impoverished area. The land occupied was given in place of the payment of salaries. Over time as people needed money, they would sell off portions of land. The families of this community are each living on one-tenth of an acre. Around five-hundred people live in this community. The population consists of people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. There are young single mothers. Elderly widows caring for their grandchildren are members of this community. Perplexed, I walked away, wondering what we could do. I knew we couldn’t assist his mother without showing partiality. If we ignored his mother’s plight, I also knew we couldn’t help any of her neighbours.

As I reflected on this area, I thought about the first-century followers of Jesus. We read about how people came together, how they helped each other. I began to think of a possibility, What if the people assisted one another? Could they rise above their circumstances?


“Unbuntu” is a Zulu expression which has the translation of “I am because we are.” I have seen a few memes on Facebook that give examples of how important this word can be; as I found out, its premise is that a community works best when the people surround each other. Could the people of Zea (Zay-ah) be this type of community? I believe it is possible, but, we would need a Swahili word or phrase to use instead of a Zulu one.

Could Umoja ni nguni work?

The hunt to look into some Swahili proverbs that could convey the same idea as Unbuntu began. There isn’t a way for one word to convey the idea. I found a few that worked well. But, as I showed the proverbs to our staff, he told me that the problem with them is that there isn’t a single meaning to any one idea. People will interpret them to how they best fit their situation. We agreed that the saying corresponding with Unbuntu is, “Umoja ni Nguvu. Untengano ni udhaifu” (Unity is strength. Division is weakness.) However, to use the entire phrase for a project title is a mouthful. We cut it down to “Umoja ni Nguvu.”

Umoja Ni Nguvu

Facebook Post explaining "Ubuntu"

Shared on Facebook

We will use this program to continue our discipleship. There will be five people we meet every month who will learn their identity in Jesus, and position in the Kingdom. We will aid them in determining how to best help the people around them. We want the help to be practical, using very little, if any, financial assistance. As they learn, these five people will also disciple others in Zea.

Please be sure to come back to the website for updates regarding this project. We are excited to see God work in this community. Each month we will tell stories of the impact the discipleship and practical help are making a difference in the lives of the people of Zea. If you would like to contribute a one-time donation, please click on the donate button above. If you are in the United States and would like a tax receipt, please click here. We appreciate all of the prayers and support that everyone around the world gives on behalf of this ministry.

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