The Story of Brenda and Ivan

In March 2016 Louise Smith and Martyn Langlois, two of our founders, visited our projects in Luweero and Kyotera, Uganda. During their visit they met Brenda and Ivan, siblings who are involved in our village savings and loans projects.

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Below Brenda outlines their story and both Brenda and Ivan describe how life has changed through being involved in This Is EPIC projects.

“I am called Brenda and my young brother Ivan. I am aged 24 years and Ivan is 20 years old. I have three children, Enid who is 7years, Shanita is 3 years and Shalom is 1 year and 3 months old.

Our parents died and left us when we were very young. Mother left us in 1998 when I was 8 years old and Ivan was 5 years old.  We stayed with our Dad who also later passed away in 2006 when I was around 12 years and Ivan was around 9 years old. By the time Father died I was studying in Primary seven and Ivan was in Primary four.

Both our parents died as result of HIV. It was hard for us, faced with stigma, family neglect and challenges associated with growing up as a child headed family. I cannot imagine that God enabled us to make it to present.

It was a very rough time for us. At first we thought that the family members would be in position to support us especially with education, clothing and medical care which was not the case. On many occasions we had to grow crops for sell to get home up keep. The fact that I was the oldest, I had to do all kind of work to help me earn for the family to survive. On certain occasions, I missed school as I was out working for a leaving. Life was not easy especially as far as medical care was concerned. We could fall sick almost every week and yet we could not afford medical care costs. This made the local herbs to be the order of the day. When it comes to clothing, it makes me cry but thank God, we have grown.

I very much wanted to excel in education together with my young brother but financial resources were not enough to favor us. We all managed to progress in education up to secondary four. After senior four, I joined technical were I did a course in hair dressing. Unfortunately, I did not complete because tuition fee was too much for me much as I acquired some skills which help me survive to present. I left technical and decided to come back and look for money to help educate my young brother Ivan. Ivan completed Senior four and we agreed that he joined a vocational school as there was no money to take him to High school. Ivan wanted to become an Engineer, a course he started but it was sad that he also never completed the course.

Ivan decided to come back and practice commercial farming to help raise tuition fees. Ivan still believes that one day he shall achieve my dream of becoming an Engineer.”

How has being involved in This Is EPIC projects helped you? 

Ivan answers:

“I thank EPIC for the job well-done in starting the VSLA scheme. For my case I am a farmer. I have started practicing commercial farming which requires timely financial support which is hard to acquire in formal banks. I have been in position to acquire a loan of 100,000 ug shillings which has helped me to prepare 2.5 acres of land which is now ready for maize planting. I am now waiting for the rain to start for planting. Besides acquiring a loan, I am in position to save the little earnings I get from the sales of my bananas which I used to spend before joining the savings group.

My future plan is to go back to college and finish studies to become a good engineer. I also want to acquire land and set up a mechanical garage.”

Brenda answers:

“The This Is EPIC VSLA group has helped me to save my little earnings I get from hair dressing. Before joining the group, I could not account for the little earnings I used to get. Using my savings passbook, I am in position to track my weekly earnings. I want to save to be in position to build a house for my children and set up an organised modern salon. With an organized salon, my earnings shall grow to be in position to educate my children.”

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Our work focuses on empowering community driven change and providing a help up rather than a handout.