ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

February 19, 2021

Greetings to you all,

I hope you are all well. For any of you who is not, I send you best wishes and positive thoughts that you will get well soon. 

Statistics released today in Uganda show an average of 27 new people are infected with the virus each day. We have reached a total of just over 40,000 infected people since the first case was discovered in March 2020. The stats say that we have had 331 deaths and 14,569 recovered patients. The virus is still out there at large especially for us here, where people continue to ignore the plea to stay safe, keep social distance and wear masks. They keep going on their days with no concern for safety and that is what makes me sick to the core.

This week was filled with so many exciting things from Mamas’ making payment to their Mama fund to seeing a pig giving birth. 

Maria in front of her piggery

I had the opportunity for the first time to see a pig give birth. It was so exciting for both Maria and I at her pig sty. Earlier that day, at about 4AM, her other pig gave birth to 8 piglets, so Maria actually saw two sets of births that day. When I was with her, her face was beaming with such joy, although she had been worried because the second mother pig was experiencing much distress and unrest because of its labor pains. It was restless since morning and it had started biting the piglets from the other pig so Maria had to put them in a secure stall. 

She is now planning to expand the sty by two to three small rooms to be able to raise the piglets before selling them off. She told me that had received a few requests from neighbors’ booking some of the piglets and her system is to always keep the piglets for at least a month before she sells them. This is  why she has to expand her pigsty to house them comfortably before selling them off.

Christine behind her piggery

In the same area as Maria lives Christine so I dropped by to check out her project. Apart from her second batch not being good at all because most of the chickens fell sick, the rest of the chickens and pigs are doing well. The egg-layers, about 50, have resumed their laying routine but not as productively as they used to so she will sell them off this Easter season. Christine currently has about 230 birds and still has adequate space in the chicken pen so she will take possession of another batch of eggs at the hatchery next week, so she has a replacement when the older ones are sold off. 

The pigs are growing really fast and well in the lower section of her animal house. They look really great and clean, meaning that she has been practicing good animal husbandry. No wonder her pigs are doing well and not falling sick.

Irene and her new location

This week, we managed to secure a new shop for Irene who had been house hunting since the end of December 2020. Irene was issued with an ultimatum to vacate the previous salon house she was occupying, though neither she nor I fully understand the reasons she was ordered out as she has never had any issues with rent or anything. She was doing very well in terms of maintaining the shop. It was well kept and she had even occasionally painted it. The owner of the shop gave her two rent-free months and she was due to leave at the end of  December. 

She started looking for a house to move into from early December 2020 but all she found was either poor quality or too expensive. This week on Monday she found a house which she liked (partially because it was close to her former salon) but it was yet to be fully built. She called me and we had to secure it for her by paying at least four months’ worth of rent. The shop was to be completed by this weekend and she would move in and start her business as soon as possible. During my visit to make payment, we visited the place where she had stored her equipment and they were getting spoiled so we had to somehow get this shop quick to save the items in storage from the rain and dust.

She was really happy and excited to be starting next week. Over the last few visits with her, she has been a bit worried about her kids and what they would eat. She was telling me that she had already spent the majority of her working capital during this little forced layoff before she got this salon.

Cissy and her restaurant

Later that day, I visited Cissy across the block on the other side from Maria and Christine. Cissy is doing okay, not to the level I expected but I guess she is starting to realize that she can do much better and she is willing to take on another challenge and start up another section of frying snacks. 

Her restaurant is being run very well by her daughter and wants to leave that section for her daughter to run and take care of her kids. She has found another opportunity to work by her friends’ tailor shop selling snacks. Her friend has offered her a place that can facilitate her preparation, frying and selling snacks. Whereas it’s a good opportunity, this place is a bit distant from her home but the location is good and it is a busy place so it would attract a ready market for the snacks.

Meanwhile she was able to make her Mama Nguvu fund contribution which is required by every Mama in the program. Her payment obviously has delayed but of course it is understandable because of what has been happening since last year. These funds we collect from the Mamas is what we reinvest in fellow Mamas. This is how we keep the spirit going between the Mamas. We tell them sometimes where it goes so they know what they have done and who they have helped.

Immaculate and her new business

I was happy to see Immaculate’s new business this week. Immaculate closed her salon because it was not working out well and the people she kept employing to run the business in her absence were not faithful enough. So she decided to close the business. Immaculate is a social worker at one of the local hospitals in a place called Namuwongo for more than 10 years now. She has probably worked with many nurses over the years so in conjunction with a younger nurse, they have decided to open up a small clinic to help provide medical services to their village. It looks like it will make them happy about their enterprise. I wished them both well and thanked them for the service they are providing that community.

Lorna in her restaurant

Lorna’s restaurant is looking promising according to her report. They are selling more than last week already, so it seems they are doing well. We also took the opportunity to work out a budget  to improve on what they are doing now.

This week we are looking to improve and boost businesses of three Mamas’ including Irene L. who we helped secure a location for her business, Lorna who we will establish soon plus Annet who has requested for a boost to buy shoes and add to her business.

We want to thank you all who continue to support and follow us week in, week out. We appreciate you all. We hope that you continue to stay safe and keep social distance.

Yours in service

Andrew Echel

Director of Programs, Uganda

ISEE Solutions Society.

February 13 update

{note: Thank you all for your continued support of ISEE Solutions and our work.

We have prepared and mailed out all of our 2020 tax receipts. They should be in your hands in the next week or so. If you have not received one by the end of the month, please email us and let us know and we will investigate and get back to you. -ed.}

Greetings to you all,

It has been around 40 days since the year 2021 began, and it is my hope that you are pressing on well even in these hard times where this virus has started mutating. We hope you and your families and friends continue to stay safe as we edge closer to all of us receiving the vaccine. We want to thank all the scientists and all people who have been involved in developing the vaccine and we hope the world can also catch up on creating a good vaccine to combat the mutation. 

The situation here in Uganda has not been any different lately. It seems as though the presidential elections — like I said in the previous report — seemed to put the governments’ foot off the gas when it came to Covid-19. It looks like all the mass testing that used to happen, happens no more and now people have to go and test voluntarily but yet again at a fee most of us can’t afford.  This has on a personal level encouraged me  to continue to spread the Stay Safe campaign, to ensure all our Mamas and people I associate with keep safe.

This week started on a low for me as I was under the weather on Monday but I pulled myself together and did some work this week, visiting a few Mamas’ including; Amina A, Angel N, Asia B and Jennifer N. Whereas I made some few calls to follow up the few I wasn’t able to meet including Dorah A, Rovence N, Semmy S, Gertrude N and Anna M.

Jennifer

This week, my first visit was with Jennifer N., our secondhand shoe-selling Mama, who had been faring well with sales after her building re-opened after lockdown late last year. Sales for January and February were not as good as hoped. This past week she went to buy shoe bales and the prices had increased by 100,000/- Uganda shillings from 350,000/- to 450,000/-. This price inflation was caused by an increase in taxes by the government that forced many traders to abandon shipments, hence creating scarcity which eventually led to increase in prices of the available stock. This is a situation that we can’t help, so we can only hope that the government listens to the traders’ cries and reduces the tax.

Asia

I hadn’t seen Asia N. since November 2020. She has been well only lately because all her 7 children have been taking turns in falling sick but luckily by the time of my visit all of them had just recovered. 

This took a huge toll and had a big effect on her stall especially that she hadn’t been selling her books due to the closure of schools. She has devised a new strategy to sustain herself by starting a cold beverage selling business. We had managed to support her in acquiring a fridge plus a few cartons of soda, water and juice to help her kickstart. 

The challenge now is that she has spent a lot of money treating her children and her shop is almost empty and she can only sell water and locally made juice for now. We will be keeping an eye on her and the situation to see how we can impact her life again.

Amina A. was in a similar situation like Asia but this time with one child only. At the end of last month I visited Amina and during my visit, I realized that her daughter had been admitted to hospital and we actually helped them meet part of the bill for treatment. Meanwhile even after we supported them, she continued to be sick for another week and had to undergo another treatment.

Amina

Otherwise, she has been doing okay and trying to keep her business afloat. During my visit this week, she had just ordered a delivery for her new fresh banana so she can continue. We hope that things can continue to go well in the next few months. 

Gratitude and appreciation shine from Amina. She knows how important this business is to her and her family. When I met her this week she testified about how this has been the first time in over 10 years that she has been able to sleep on an actual bed that has a mattress. The facial expression she had and the tone in her voice made me personally realize how blessed we can be sometimes. I am glad we are making such impacts on peoples’ lives here.

This weeks’ work seemed to be littered with lots of illnesses, I don’t know whether it’s because of the heat and dryness or sheer bad luck. I went to visit Angel N. and she was not at her grocery shop because she was sick. I met her younger brother who had taken on the shift until she felt better.

Angel’s grocery

This time I liked that she had bought some more little stuff like soap, salt, tissue paper and some other items on the shelves. This shows that she is taking her shop more seriously and sees the need that she has to keep her store well stocked because then she will be able to make the money she requires to support herself and the family.

The phone follows ups;

Anna M. has not yet restarted her business since closure last year but the good news is that she is planning to restart soon. When we spoke, she was well and healthy. Her family too was well. 

Anna wants to start a snack shop like she had said last year and I like that she is sticking with the same business idea. This consistency in thought helps to point that someone is serious and progressive thinking about what is in their mind. I will keep following her up to see what progress she is making because she has identified the possible location and that is a good start. She has a deadline to start around March 2021.

Gertrude N. in a similar position as Anna because both of them closed business last year 2020. They both have varying reasons why they closed but it still breaks my heart that they closed shop. Our desire is usually to help them keep afloat for as long as we can but we are also sensitive to the fact we ensure they are comfortable and we maintain that they own the business and they make the decisions for themselves.

She said that she was going to work from home in the attempt to try and avoid paying rent for a shop in the meantime as she tried to get her feet back on the ground.

I also spoke to Semmy S. who is a teacher by profession but has had a small side business making popcorn and also tried to erect a veggie stall that didn’t work out well. She has enrolled with a tailoring factory for more than 5 months now since schools closed and now that preschools have been officially suspended until further notice, people like Semmy can’t won’t be employed anytime soon. 

The efforts to help Dorah and Rovence obtain consistent access to a power supply might take a while as I called them both to ascertain their progress and both of them seemed to desire to simply to pay small sums to the people whose power they are piggybacking upon until they themselves can get their own in a few months. {note: there are byzantine levels of bureaucracy to navigate in order to get a simple utility hookup in many disadvantaged areas of Kampala. It is far more difficult than it is in Canada (or in a more prosperous area of Kampala, actually). We will continue to work with Rovence and Dorah in hopes that we will be able to get them connected to a stable source of power but it is by no means quick. We will keep you posted as to any progress. -ed.}

This week, we also received an email update from Geoffrey O. our brick making Headteacher as he heads closer to completing his first batch after starting the baking this week. We are so glad to hear of this progress as it had been overdue a bit as had been planned. We wish him the very best and many more successes as he continues his venture.

We are also introducing a new segment in our report called Prospective Mama Boost. This segment will re-introduce one Mama each week who has approached us searching for support. It has been very evident to me that many of our Mamas were profoundly affected by the pandemic and the elections of January 2021. There was a widespread belief, perhaps held even by the majority of the people in Uganda, that the election would trigger a civil war. Many fled back to their villages and others closed businesses. {note: This has impacted many of our Mamas who have in some cases been forced to use their meagre savings to purchase food or other emergency supplies instead of re-investing the money to keep their businesses afloat. In some cases, and as we’ve detailed before on this blog, the women’s profit margins are so razor thin as to force them to choose between feeding themselves or feeding their families, and this pandemic has certainly exacerbated the situation. -ed.}

Harriet L

This weeks’ candidate is Harriet L. Harriet is a trained tailor and has been with us since 2014. Her business started out well but stalled due to both income constraints and the pandemic. Harriet wants to twist her practice by opening up a tailoring shop, with tailoring items like threads, needles, fabrics, buttons and many other little things. We have assigned her a duty to get us a working budget which we will look at to progress from here. 

Report by;

Andrew Echel

Director of Programs, Uganda

ISEE Solutions Society.