Although I’m back in Uganda for the 8th time, I’m still stunned by the depth of the poverty but also encouraged and delighted by the tenacity and hard work of our borrowers.
Spent the last two days attending the final repayment days of four of our groups and was touched by the gratitude of our borrowers and thrilled to hear the stories of how their lives have improved. One woman told me how she’s been saving for the two years she’s been in our program and that she has now bought land for a future home. “Me, I bought land” she reported with a sense of pride and amazement that reflected how impossible it seemed that she could ever accomplish such a feat just a short time ago. Most of the women are reporting much more humble accomplishments. I frequently hear, “I’m feeding my children well now”, “I can afford to send all my children to school now” or “I bought two chairs for my house.” Progress!
In addition to the material success that the women are experiencing, they are also growing as people. Juliet, one of our loan coordinators stood up at a group meeting and discussed the accomplishments of the group over the past year. She was articulate, confident and a great contrast to the Juliet I met a year ago when I asked her to assume the role of loan coordinator; the Juliet who then could barely look me in the eye and spoke with barely audible, hesitant voice. The Juliet I saw yesterday was a changed woman!
Over the past few days I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and work with Maureen Businge, our new Program Director. Maureen is a bright, energetic, delightful young woman with a degree in Micro Finance, experience in another micro finance institution and most importantly, a passion for helping others! She’s hard working and has jumped in with both feet, already making a contribution. We are very blessed to have her in the organization. She is going to lead our growth in the next few years and allow us to help many more women.
Below, Maureen and I in our garden classroom at our hotel.
Loan repayment day in Lwaboba with Maureen on the far right, already assisting with loans repayments.
Today, we visited borrowers in their market place in the village of Kimwanga. It’s a large regional market that is open every Tuesday and attracts business people from all over the area. Many of our borrowers live in the area and sell at this market and then go to other regional markets on other days of the week reaching a broader customer base by moving to other geographical areas.
Here are some of the borrowers at their places of business:
Here is Mary Nambozo, one of our Loan Coordinators with her husband, Geoffrey in their shop.
With their most recent loan they were able to by a small refrigerator for the business enabling them to sell cold drinks and attract more customers in hot Uganda. Her husband, son and daughter help her in her business as is common with our borrowers. The wife’s business quickly becomes a family business!
This is Anna Maboli selling a form of dough nut popular as a breakfast food. She also raises and sells goats like the one in the bottom right of the picture. This was a terribly hot day and she, like dozens of other women, was cooking over a wood burning camp fire. The heat combined with the smoke made for a pretty tough working environment and yet they all, like Anna, smile and keep working.