Hannington Sseruga, in his 40s and father of 6 children (one handicapped, deaf and blind), struggled for years to finish his education. He had such a strong desire to attend university but had always been unable to manage the cost. Starting in 2002, he found employment with Margaret Nelson who needed to clear some land to build her house in Kyevunze Village, and was able to start attending Makerere University in Kampala. It was a big struggle for him, juggling family, work and education at a university 50 miles from home, but finally he graduated with his degree in history and education last year. There was never a prouder day than his graduation day, followed by a family dinner at Margaret’s house, because he considers her his adopted mother. In Uganda, rain is considered a sign of God’s blessing, and the morning of his graduation, it was a struggle to get into Kampala in the early morning darkness as rain poured down creating flood conditions. God’s blessings have surely been poured out on this man’s education and graduation!
Early in 2003 Pastor Glen Grove approached nurse Margaret Nelson about bringing a medical team from New Life Center Foursquare Church, Everett, WA, to Luweero To work with her that summer. The result was that in August a team of 10 medical people and pastors came and did medical and Spiritual teaching in 3 villages for nearly 3 weeks.
About 5 years before, Sseruga Hannington was walking on the highway one day when there was a terrible accident, Bodies everywhere, thieves taking advantage and robbing the victims. He saw blood everywhere and people were dying. He felt so helpless, not knowing what to do. So when the medical team came to Luweero he recognized the first aid Class being taught by Greg Matthews, EMT, was an answer to his dilemma of not knowing how to help accident victims.
Access to medical care is very poor in rural Uganda, a big part of Uganda having one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world. Sserugga was already doing grass roots outreach to the community from his own church, and he recognized the great value of teaching people how to deal with emergency situations. So he attended every workshop taught by Matthews. Even simple first aid was not known in the villages, but within 2 weeks after the team’s departure, a village woman saved her choking child using the Heimlich maneuver as a result of this training!
For about 6 months Hannington taught this emergency First Aid he’d learned, and his classes evolved into a formal training that became known as Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO). The Good Samaritan Bible story (Luke 10: 25-37) became the model for this training and rescue ministry, stirring a volunteer spirit in its members, and a willingness to reach across all tribal and economic barriers to help a neighbor, as Jesus defined neighbors.
In November 2004 Greg Matthews returned to do addition training, and over the following 2 years, in additional seminars, trained SEVO members up to EMT level. SEVO now has 3 levels of training:
Hannington as founder and director of SEVO, has trained many leaders, and as a result, SEVO has expanded into 14 active districts across the nation. As is often the case in history, such medical outreach has been an open door for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ across all barriers, and many lives and souls have been saved across Uganda.
Sseruga has come to see the power in knowledge, and has been teaching the people of Uganda life saving methods by his founding and developing of the SEVO ministry. He has traveled many places, such as the Internally Displaced People’s Camps (IDP Camps) in the northern Uganda war zone where he’s seen many big relief agencies pouring large amounts of money into food, buildings, and supplies but not giving the people knowledge. So they continue dying from preventable and easily treated diseases.
An example of this was one of his trips to 2 of the biggest IDP Camps, Pabbo near Gulu, north of Luweero, and Nakatonya, near Soroti in northeastern Uganda. Many pit latrines had been built for these refugees, food and medication given, but because there was no education, people were using things like syrups made of eggs trying to treat malaria. So children were dying daily until he taught them about the anopheles mosquito and how to prevent malaria and to treat it properly. Thankfully, the war in northern Uganda has now ended, and all the IDP camps are gone, people having been relocated back to their home areas, taking their knowledge with them.
Sseruga has seen another desperate problem in Uganda which is the lack of adequate or clean water supplies. Many children die of diarrhea and other water-borne diseases, and for a long time, his only solution for this was to tell people to boil their drinking water. However, this is not entirely practical because of deforestation concerns. Many Ugandans are chronically dehydrated from difficult access to water and bad drinking water, creating other health problems.
Since SEVO’s beginning, we have begun to see other organizations developing medical rescue training programs, and there is no doubt that they have seen SEVO’s example and are patterning after it. We are glad to see this serious need being addressed. Many injured people survive their accident only to die from mishandling by “rescuers.” The few available “ambulances” do not administer medical care, but only transport victims, losing a big opportunity to save lives.We hope to soon see these statistics change!