A Woman Who Loves: Viola Lutara

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“Although we live in different parts of the world, we all belong to the same God and the challenges that you face are the same ones that we face. It is only the definition that varies.”WomenWhoLoveBanner_200

Viola Lutara-1We are honored to introduce Viola Lutara to you today, a SheLovely after our own heart. As the Director of Living Hope, Viola works to restore dignity to abandoned and widowed women living in Kampala and Gulu, Uganda. These women may be pregnant, returnees from abduction, or have experienced brutal torture. Besides meeting a woman’s immediate need for food and medication, Living Hope also provides spiritual discipleship, assistance with setting up a self-sustainable income, and reconstructive surgery.

In addition to overseeing Living Hope from her home in Kampala, Uganda, Viola is the mother of five children and a grandmother (can you believe it?!) to three lively grandchildren. Encouraging women to live to their full potential is her greatest passion. We are thrilled she carved time out of her obviously full schedule to lavish some of her wisdom on us. Do settle in and join our conversation.

Q & A with Viola Lutara

[On life]

Megan: Tell us a little of your story. What have been some of your defining moments?

Viola: Let’s start in in 1993. My husband had begun to fall ill with frequent bouts of malaria. In an effort to discover the underlying cause, we both went to get tested for HIV. Both of our tests came back positive. Throughout 1994 his illness continued, but because there was no medication available, he passed away in November of that year.

I was left jobless with three young children to support.

In June of 1997, my younger sister passed away and I began developing rashes due to the stress of yet another tragedy. By December, there were rashes all over my arms. My girlfriends collected long sleeved blouses for me so I could continue working.

I was terrified. I knew the rashes were one of the first signs of a decrease in my immunity.

All I could think was: “Is this the beginning of my death? What will happen to my children? How can I make sure I stay alive?”

I had heard of a medication that could suppress the HIV virus. However, it was only brought into the country by private doctors, and the cost was an exorbitant US$1,500 per month!

I could not afford it.

But then, the Holy Spirit asked me to take a huge step of faith. He laid on my heart that I needed to ask friends and family for help. At least twenty of them needed to donate 50,000 Uganda shillings a month to help me buy the medication.

I asked my friends one by one. At this point my arms were covered in sores. When I rolled up my sleeves I could see the pain on their faces. Within two weeks I had raised the funds to buy my first dose of medicine.

While taking the first dose I prayed, “God, please take away the rashes.” Within two weeks they were gone! But I didn’t know what was next. I could not sustain the payments, despite how many friends were committed to keeping me alive.

Thankfully, the World Health Organization began to put pressure on pharmaceutical companies to manufacture and send  inexpensive drugs to Africa. Over time, the cost of the medication kept reducing. It’s completely manageable for me now.

Megan: How did you become involved with Living Hope?

Viola: In 2007, Marilyn Skinner asked me to come lead the Living Hope Ministry. She told me that God had spoken to her about looking after women–supporting them and keeping them alive so that they could look after their own children. She believed I was the right person to take up the assignment. When she asked me I did not think twice; I had seen how my church, friends and family had rallied to keep me alive. I believe that all of my life’s experiences have prepared me for what God has called me to do in Living Hope: walk alongside my vulnerable sisters and tell them, “You can make it!”

Megan: What was your dream as a young girl?

Viola: As a young girl I wanted to be a manager because my mother was one and I saw the influence and authority she had in her work place.

[On sisterhood]

Megan: What would you most love for us to understand about our Ugandan & African sisters?

Viola: We would like you to know that we love and appreciate you. Although we live in different parts of the world, we all belong to the same God and the challenges that you face are the same ones that we face. It is only the definition that varies. Please also understand that African women are hard working people who are committed to looking after their children. A woman will often go hungry in order for her children to eat.

[On inspiration & gratitude]

Megan: Love is ___________

Viola: . . . being available

Megan: Faith is _____________

Viola: . . . hanging in there even when it doesn’t make sense.

Megan: Who inspires you?

Viola: The girls in Living Hope Gulu. They have gone through so much yet they continue to smile and move forward with their lives.

LivingHopeGradViolaCutsCakeMegan: What would be your #onewordcheckin today?

Viola: Grateful

Megan: What are you most grateful for?

Viola: That God has kept me alive through the generosity, love and support of the people around me. And that He has given me the opportunity to serve Him by serving my sisters. He could have used someone else but He chose me!

[On making a difference]

Megan: What advice would you give to women wanting to impact their own communities but unsure how to begin?

Viola: I think every woman needs to first know who she is. What has God put in your heart? What are you passionate about? What is it about your community that you would like to change? After identifying that, she needs to get in touch with like-minded women or church leadership and share it with them. It is difficult on your own but with a group many ideas can be generated. It does not have to be big or grand. Just start!

Megan: What has God been teaching you lately?

Viola: That He has an assignment for each and every one of us, and that sometimes He allows us to go through things in our lives as training ground for the assignment He has called us to. When God calls us He does not expect us to use what is in somebody else’ hands, but what is in our own hands. He has been teaching me to be myself and not try to be someone else.

[Just for fun]

What is your happy place? Home.
Which books have most inspired you? “Never Give Up” by Joyce Meyer and “Power Unlimited” by Anthony Robbins.
What type of food would we have to try if we came to visit? Fresh beans and chapatti.
What is your favorite song? Great is Thy Faithfulness.
What is something about you that would surprise us? I love to dance!
Is there a scripture that has greatly impacted you? Isaiah 43:3-5 has been my anchor. It helps me remember that what I am going through is only temporary. The Lord says I will not be consumed by the fire, or swept away by the water.

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Do you know a “Woman Who Loves” we need to meet? A woman who is leaving her own unique mark in our world? We would love to hear her story. The comment section will be open all month long to receive your suggestions!

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Is your heart stirred by the amazing work of Living Hope? You can learn more, make a donation, or even arrange a visit by checking out  www.watoto.com/livinghope or by emailing International Coordinator Kate Mukasa at kate.mukasa @ watoto.com.

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Megan Gahan
After over a decade in the fitness industry, Megan now spends her days chasing two pint-sized tornadoes disguised as little boys. By night, she is a writer and editor for SheLoves. A proper Canadian, Megan can often be found in the woods or at Tim Hortons. She writes at megangahan.com.
Megan Gahan
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Comments

  1. Saskia Wishart says:

    Love this story! Thank you for sharing the beautiful Viola with us Megan! And what an incredible reminder on the difference having medication available those all over the world can give one person the opportunity to live life abundantly and bring so many others through a journey of healing. Bless you Viola!

  2. pastordt says:

    WOW. LOVE this so, so much. Thank you for this beautiful interview – both of you!

  3. What an amazing woman!

    Love this:

    “Megan: Love is ___________
    Viola: . . . being available”

    Also, I’m all about the beans and chapatti! Yummmmy.

  4. Ahh. So beautiful. I am inspired and awed.

  5. lewprivette says:

    This is wonderful. Thank you so much for bringing us all a little closer together, for making the world a little smaller for us and showing us that we really are one big sisterhood. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Viola. You are an inspiration.

    • Megan Gahan says:

      I love what you said about making the world a little smaller . . .that’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it? Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment – it’s wonderful to honor Viola in this way.

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  1. […] We’re thrilled to share this heartfelt article on Viola Lutara – Director of Watoto’s Living Hope by She Loves Magazine […]

  2. […] there were rashes all over my arms. My girlfriends collected long sleeved blouses for me so I could continue […]

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