Seeing the fruits of a partnership for change

The Bell family, owners of Mountain Blue Farms in northern NSW, know what it takes to produce Australia’s biggest and sweetest blueberries.

They are also discovering how to make lasting change in the lives of children in need through World Vision.

Since 2013, Mountain Blue Farms have been partnering with World Vision and the local community to improve health and education in northern Uganda, a region deeply scarred by years of violence and instability at the hands of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. 

“We’ve been very fortunate to have a business that has achieved a lot,” says Mountain Blue founder Ridley Bell.

“We’ve made money and just want to give it back to people who are less fortunate than we are and to provide opportunities for them to better themselves.”

Mountain Blue Farms is among Australia’s leading blueberry producers, supplying both domestic and international markets. The Bell family are passionate philanthropists and they have been supporting local community initiatives around Lismore, NSW, for over 25 years.

In August 2013, Ridley and his wife Mieke (pictured above) travelled to northern Uganda with World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello.

In Aboke Sub-County, the Bells saw firsthand the huge challenges faced by families struggling without essentials such as quality healthcare and clean water. They visited Opeta Health Centre, which serves about 20,000 people, which had sparse facilities, barely any equipment, and no running water or electricity.

The centre’s midwife, Connie Apio (pictured above), explained that pregnant women, who may have walked for hours to reach the health centre, were forced to give birth on wooden benches. And she told of having to deliver babies at night by the light of a torch clenched between her teeth.

Deeply moved by their experience, the Bells returned to Aboke in January 2014 and during this visit announced their commitment to fund significant upgrades for Opeta Health Centre and for the recruitment of more health workers.

Just 12 months later, several members of the Bell family were present for the joy-filled opening of a fully upgraded Opeta Health Centre, now complete with a new maternity ward, staff quarters, medical equipment, running water and solar electricity, and a playground for children.

Within a week of opening, the number of babies born at the health centre jumped from three to 18.

Left: Irene and Olga stand in front of the newly upgraded Opeta Health Centre. Right. Upgrades to the health centre, made possible by Mountain Blue Farms, include a children's playground.

Long-term commitment 

Since then, Mountain Blue Farms have committed additional funds to upgrade another community health centre in the region, the construction of teacher housing at two local primary schools, and they currently sponsor an annual youth soccer tournament that attracts girls and boys teams from across Uganda.

“We fell in love with the people and the country and we have been very impressed with the World Vision staff,” said Mieke Bell.

“We certainly hope to continue to be involved in Uganda ... We have a long term commitment to partnering with World Vision.”  

The DESAL Football Tournament, supported by Mountain Blue Farms, brings together youth teams from across Uganda.

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