Jonathon Face, 47, is the founder and director of Face2Face Ministries, a charity focusing on farming, health and education in the small community of Mogadesi in Uganda. Jonathon lives in a three-storey ex-council office block in Birmingham and together with his wife Deborah and children Danielle and Charlotte they run the charity from the UK. He took the time to speak to us about the challenges of setting up a charity, the people of Mogadesi who inspired him to action, and why Ugandan roads resemble Wacky Races.
You and your wife run an amazing charity running a farming cooperative in Uganda. Why Uganda?
Uganda is known as the Pearl of Africa because it is like a garden oasis surrounded by harsh Saharan dry desert. Being situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, the climate allows for lush green vegetation to flourish. My wife and I were drawn to Uganda as the tribal people in the rural bush areas that we work in are just the most lovely, giving and caring people we’ve ever met. They have absolutely nothing in the way of material wealth, yet they are so happy and serving.
So our hearts went out to them to try and make a small difference for just a few. We started by supporting a local church pastor so that he would be protected from the ravages of the harsh monsoon weather and dry seasons, and so that he could continue to serve his fellowship in Mogadesi without he and his family starving to death. Pastor John stated “In the hot season, we simply sleep all day, have a bowl of posho (tasteless white mash root vegetable) and go back to bed again, every day for months, there’s no work, no money and many die.”
Since supporting Pastor John, we now support twenty local widows and orphans with basic food and provisions every month. This led to the creation of the Community Farming Cooperative, to allow the local community to run a self-sustaining farm for their own community. We have purchased and secured the land and rented other acres of arable farm land and the community now grows their own casava (Root Vegetable), g’nuts and maize. Since starting the farm, we’re now looking at building the community’s first primary school, medical clinic and church building, the ‘Community Resource Centre’. We have the walls up to ring beam level, but have run out of the required £1700 to get the roof on and further £2,000 to finish the building off with doors and windows furnishings. It’s a loving work in progress.
What made you decide to start Face2Face ministries?
We decided to start Face2Face ministries because we wanted to make a difference. My wife and I have two lovely children who will be a lovely legacy but we knew that once we’d left planet Earth, we wanted there to be something lasting that stated we were here. Once we’d met the Ugandan people our hearts just melted towards them. The average salary is £20/£30 a month, if you can get work. And in a rural backwater like Mogadesi its 100% unemployment, with bartering the only method of commerce. So we knew that with the little we had in our hand, which was the sale of our home, we could make some form of a difference. We called the charity Face2Face Ministries, partly because in Africa you have to be there to oversee the work and see things physically delivered due to the high levels of corruption and poverty, and also our surname is Face, so Face2Face Ministries was born.
What are your biggest achievements with the charity to date?
The most significant achievements have been in setting the charity up. UK banks – with their anti-money laundering rules – set every obstacle in the way to stop us sending funds (or in our case taking funds) to Uganda. It took twelve months to set a bank account up as a charity eventually through the Charities Aid Foundation. Then securing the land purchase and seeing the twenty relatives fingerprints all over the title transfer deed, to ensure that every extended family member agreed to sell the first ever piece of rural Mogadesi land, ever. It was important that no family member could come back and claim any tribal rights. That was a major achievement.
You were based in Africa for a time while setting up the charity. What did you learn in that time?
Wow, Uganda is a special place. All normal western rules are off, life is cheap and corruption is everywhere. Despite that the people are lovely, just so so desperate. They see all that the West can offer and the rich Ugandans getting richer and the poorest are overlooked as happens in most places. Human nature can be so self-centered and debased but at the same time have the capacity to be so loving, giving and self-sacrificing. In Uganda you can see the entire variety in five minutes. It’s also one of the safest stable African countries you could visit, with a beautiful 260 – 300 climate every day as it’s based on the equator, which I didn’t know until I got there.
We also took our family dog, Sandy, and that made it an interesting 6 months as the Ugandan’s have an unnatural fear of dogs and they’d never seen anything quite like Sandy before. Vets and quarantine regulations focused the mind at that time as well.
Did you miss anything from home while you were there?
My wife would definitely say cheese, although you could probably purchase everything you needed. It was either cheap Chinese imported goods or very old tinned and packed goods. There are now modern supermarkets in Kampala, where you buy everything at a very high price, so a small block of cheddar would cost about three times the cost here in the UK. And house rental, in a normal UK style house was about 50% more expensive than the UK. Out in Mogadesi though, we could rent a missions base (4-5 bedroom large house in its own compound) for £200 a month.
If you were to ask me what I missed, it would be the common sense to hold on to one’s life when driving. Ugandan’s don’t seem to care who they kill or on which side of the road they drive, it can be like Wacky Races meets Demolition Derby at times.
What are your future goals for the charity?
To complete the building project and establish a secure funding stream to allow a primary school and medical treatment centre for HIV and Aids, Malaria treatment and general first aid provision to be set up. Things we take as basic essentials; clean water, antiseptic, pain relief, the people of Mogadesi don’t have access to or the funds to buy. So every little thing we do or can raise, helps.
We’d also like to see the provision of small £50 start up business donations. Allowing the farm to initially develop its livestock, so that individuals within the community can buy chickens, goats, cows or pigs and raise them through the farming cooperative but share the proceeds with the farm to allow more widows and orphans to be supported.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Africa for people who haven’t been there before?
The biggest misconception is that although they may be material poor, they are spiritually very rich. They find enjoyment in the simplest of things. We in the west need material things, as do the big city Ugandans, but the rural bush people just love to love and be loved. Just recognising that they exist and that they have some value. A little time spent around the people we’ve found in Uganda helps you to re-evaluate the importance of life, the things we think are of value to us and what it really means to be hungry, hopeless or even have problems. These people manage all that and still smile and love like there’s no tomorrow…and for many of them there isn’t. That’s why we choose to try and make a little difference to the few we can.
How did you come to be an Ad Hoc Guardian?
I relocated to Birmingham from Exeter to start a new role at the University. Whilst awaiting my family to relocate, I needed to be close to the Uni but equally reduce my living costs, as I’d be commuting and maintaining two living spaces simultaneously – my family home and a temporary residence in Birmingham. The Ad Hoc Guardian scheme gave me the ideal opportunity to both save financially but give a little back by safeguarding a local authority property.
Find out more about Face2face Ministries at www.face2faceministries.co.uk