We arrived in Uganda after a long journey via Dubai (there are no longer direct flights from the UK to Entebbe) on Sunday 13th March. After a good night’s rest we were collected early from the Laico Lake Victoria hotel and travelled up to Luweero. Traffic around Kampala is crazy with vehicles literally pushing their way forward. You certainly need to be a confident ( or crazy) driver to get through Kampala.
We arrived at the offices of our partners in Uganda, READ (RURAL EFFORTS FOR ACTION IN DEVELOPMENT). They were established in 2006 and have vast experience of the local communities and their needs. They operate in 12 districts in Uganda, and specifically work with This Is EPIC in 3 of the districts monitoring our Village Savings and Loans (VSL) projects.
We currently have 9 VSL groups in Luweero and 26 VSL groups in Kyotera. With all new projects it can take time for the community to gain confidence in the process and to understand why a savings culture is necessary, as well as the benefits of starting income generating activities. As our projects grow, more and more people are getting ideas for their own small businesses, they see also knowledge sharing in the groups as a positive thing and the community spirit is increasing.
Following a positive project overview and catch up with READ on subjects such as Youth VSLA, Coaching and Mobile Money, we visited our first savings group in a very remote area of Kampeke. The group welcomed us with singing and dancing, we then had the privilege of speaking to the group members about their personal stories. It was humbling to hear the personal stories and the scale of poverty in the area was hard to comprehend.
Children were running around without shoes on and wearing old worn out clothes that rarely fitted. Culturally it is very common for the elderly Grandma to be looking after her grandchildren, this is something we saw a lot of in our first day. Life here is hard, very hard.
No running water.
Mud huts with open fires in them for cooking.
Life is simply about survival.
But…it is also stunningly beautiful here, and the people are so warm, welcoming and proud of what they have already achieved.
Below I share a few of the stories I heard from the amazing people benefitting from being a part of our village savings and loans projects.
Aisha is 28 years old and she is a mother to 3 children. She took out a loan of £50 to purchase parts for her sewing machine. Aisha now earns an income making school wear and providing tailoring services to the community. She hopes to use her savings to buy materials for her husband to build a new house.
Aisha’s 3 amazing children.
Below is Susan, she is a feisty and funny 20 year old in Luweero, Uganda. She has 2 children, and she took out a loan of £75 from one of our groups to buy materials to start her hair salon. Susan now uses her living room as her hair salon. From the income made from her salon she has almost paid back the loan in a very short period. Susan has found that being part of a This Is EPIC savings and loans group she has had financial input to her business, but also more customers as the group members now come to her to have their hair done. In the future she wants to use her savings and income to build a better kitchen in her home and reorganise her garden outside.
Francis is a very special and loving grandma. She has had a very hard life. She is a widow but she looks after 11 children (9 are her grandchildren). Simply getting enough money to feed the children was once a daily battle. Francis took out a loan of £50 to buy a pig. She then went on to see the piglets that the pig had and paid the loan back and is now able to feed her children and grandchildren. She is also hoping to use her savings to build a better toilet to ensure better hygiene for her children and grandchildren.
None of these lives would be changing without your support. You are making this possible, people, families and communities overcoming poverty in a sustainable way. Thank you.
We’ll be sharing more about our visit in the days ahead.