ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

July 19-23

Hello! As you will read below, the situation in Uganda is not improving. The president promised to give a financial boost to the most needy in the country and sent 102,000UgX (about $35) to 500,000 people in a country of over 40 million. None of our mamas received this boost and they actually laugh when Andrew asks them if they got it. ISEE would like to provide these funds to our mamas to help them get through this next phase of the lockdown. Andrew feels that it would be a welcome boost for all of them as all businesses are suffering. How lucky we are in Canada to know that when our government promises us money, we will receive it. If you would like to contribute toward this emergency boost for all the mamas, you can donate via Paypal (the button is on the right), you can etransfer your donation to erika(at)iseesolutions(dot)org or you can mail a cheque. Thank you for your continued support. Let’s hope that things start to improve for these amazing women and all the vulnerable people in Uganda.

Shuttered shops in downtown Kampala

Greetings to you all,

The Covid situation in Uganda here has not changed much and I must say that whereas the lockdown put a bit of strain on our lifestyles, it has surely helped to calm down the situation a bit. I do not hear as many ambulances running down the road as much. It is either that my ears got used to the sound or else the lockdown has been somewhat effective in reducing infection and death rates. 

Statistics still show that Uganda this week registered 417 new infections and a total of 90,391 total since the first case was registered in March 2020. Of all these figures we have also registered 2,353 total recoveries which is a good number depending on the level of or standard of healthcare in Uganda. It is a miracle that we are still alive, that is for sure. 

On the weekend, I reached out to Lilly A., the tailor, and helped her get food supplies for her family. Lilly has had a hard one month or so trying to sew and when the lock down hit she had not much savings. All her business went on stand still as her business is not one that we can call essential. She told me that people won’t repair clothes if they don’t have water and food. This is what makes her business hard. Anyways I am glad we were able to put food on the table for this family for a few more days. 

I spoke to Irene L. the salon Mama and she is also going under the same stress. She told me that she sees only one to two clients a week. This is very hard for her because this is the average she would normally see a day. She has now resorted to cooking cow feet called “Molokony” pronounced as “More-loco-knee”. They are an intense food because it is cooked almost for an entire day. She cooks it once every week because it’s not something that one will eat daily. It is also hard to cook so one needs a lot of preparation to make it perfect. Irene cooks it and serves it once every week to her usual customers. This is a good strategy to keep her going in the meantime. It is not much but helps her supplement her lifestyle a bit as she figures out what to do next. 

The other person who I reached out to was Justine N. who hires out her large saucepans for functions like weddings, introduction, funerals and basically all sorts of gatherings that involve cooking. Her business is in a sorry state because the government has suspended all these events and has limited them to 10-15 people. Justine’s saucepans cook for people between 50-100 so no one will hire them for these very few numbers and more so people these days don’t stick around long enough to even eat food.

Justine has a small vegetable stall that sells onions, tomatoes, cassava and many other vegetables to her community so she is surviving on this. She sends a boda boda or motorcycle every other day to buy food stuff to bring to her stall. This means that she spends more weekly and limits the growth of the business. 

Otherwise this week has not started badly I must say. All the three I was in touch with were all vibrant, at least after the conversation we had with each one of them. Of course Lilly was super relieved to receive her support. We are glad that we can do this for people like Lilly. This is why we are here.

July 20th was Eid so it was a national holiday.

July 21st

Salaam,

This is a short form of greeting that is used by our brothers and sisters in the moslem fraternity. It is typically accompanied with a little bow as a sign of respect. 

Yesterday was Eid for them, the one which is a celebration of feast like the many other celebrations for them. Small groups were allowed to join at local mosques to pray and share meals. Some of the major mosques offered food to families that couldn’t afford meals due to economic problems and were given food stuff to take home. 

This is the true meaning of brotherhood and maybe if we pick a leaf or two from these people, we can make this world a better place. To extend love and kindness to humanity during and after the pandemic. 

It’s to the effect of the celebration of Eid that I decided to reach out to our Moslem Mamas and celebrate with them, even though it was a day later. I called Rashida S, Hadijja N, Hamida and Amina A. 

Amina is still struggling to recover well. She has been sick awhile since she lost her husband to some health complications that resulted from what I would call a police brawl. He was riding a motorcycle on the day one of the generals was shot at by suspects who escaped using motorcycles. Unfortunately, he was caught riding around the area, he was beaten and arrested but later released. They tried to treat his wounds but then when he was advanced to hospital for treatment, Amina says that he might have caught Covid. He later succumbed to it a few days later. 

Amina and her family caught it too but all of them recovered but she, Amina is having a hard time with full recovery. 

Amina was most recently selling yellow bananas for a living. She also later got some chicken and tried to raise them for sale. She had to stop the banana business because she wouldn’t go to pick the unripe ones from the market due to COVID. She was left with the chickens but these too became expensive to raise as she didn’t have money. The plan is to sell them and move back to her banana business when the lockdown is lifted.

(Amina has faced more issues in the community this week as well as her neighbours are angry that she brought a COVID patient into the village. They called the police on her to report her actions but the police said that as it was in her own home, she was allowed to do as she pleased. We hope that she won’t be shunned once the lockdown is lifted and that her business fails because of this. -ed) 

Hadija is doing okay. She was excited when I called her. She is still doing her roadside chips business but yesterday she worked really short hours because of Eid and the fact that most people would prefer to eat home on such days. Most people will invite fellow moslem to their homes for meals but like it is this season, not many homes have opened their doors because of the pandemic. 

The business has not been very good so she was late to pay her rent and she was evicted from the house she was living in. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do. The landlord asked them to leave because they were one month late. 

Hamida was just from prayers when I called her. She is a very dedicated moslem and countless times I have called her and she is at the mosque. She said she was able to go for prayers yesterday. When I asked her why she would risk herself, she said that they were observing the Standard Operating Procedures and that they maintained social distance. 

Hamida was one of the best poultry farmers I know in the project but she was unfortunate that she lost her receipt for chicks one day and ended up losing her business. She had booked chicks at the hatchery but lost the receipt in a flood that happened due to long hours of rain. She lives in a swampy area so sometimes when it rains it floods. She was unable to recover the receipt that led to the failure to refund all her money. 

She was now trying to get capital to buy new chicks by working sales at a local furniture shop. Before anything could happen, the shop was closed due to lockdown. We were trying to fix her some chicks but she doesn’t have space at the moment. We will continue to check up on her and review her status for the ability to raise again. 

Rashida is one of the most jolly people I have met and she is always full of life and always smiling. She is doing well with her veggie and charcoal stall. These businesses somewhat compliment each other and she has been able to make a proper living out of it. 

We will be honored tomorrow to share with these four families a small token for them to cut at least a chicken. I love festivities especially at a time like this, when there is a lot of misery in the world. For a minute these celebrations help you to not focus on the pain around but only on the joy of food. 

Baraka Fikum. (Translates as thank you so much.)

July 22nd 

My assignment for the day like I had shared earlier was to extend a small gift to our Moslem Mamas. I was delighted that the little gesture made them happy.

police checkpoint

July 23rd

Days are not getting any better here as the virus infections and stats are not getting any better. It is rumored that they might extend the lockdown by two to three weeks because of this. This week some of the members of parliament here in Uganda were protesting against the Ministry of Health offering up to 2000 Covid 19 vaccines to one of the business men in Kampala. The businessman is actually one of the few Ugandans who donated up to 540 million Uganda shillings to help the Ministry of Health and the government to buy vaccines just about a month ago. Morally on all levels I think this not a problem given what he had done previously but also I don’t think that one person can consume all these vaccines. I would think he bought these vaccines for the people he employs and maybe a few relatives and friends I guess. I wonder why this is a problem to these people because these same members of parliament just passed a bill to buy them new vehicles worth more than 57 billion and yet we require just about 41 billion to buy us vaccines. The tales of third world nations are sometimes so miserable; our governments and our leaders have different priorities. 

This Friday I spoke to Aida K who I have not spoken to in awhile since lockdown. I wasn’t able to keep up with her because I didn’t have her telephone number since having lost my phone about a month ago. Aida owns a small chips stall by the roadside and she delivers her chips on foot to close by customers. We had made an effort to furnish her restaurant but it seems that people or her customers like to eat from wherever they are. The idea of furnishing was to reduce breakage and loss of plates but also to reduce the risk of her crossing the road all the time as she walks to deliver chips. 

Anyways, she is doing okay. Of course the lockdown has affected her business slightly because there is not much money on the streets anymore as customers don’t have jobs and work to do so they don’t eat as much as they used to. 

Asia N. is back at work although she is not fully recovered from her previous illness. She is back at the market stall but told me that people are threatening to riot again if they don’t release the people they arrested last week on Monday during the chaos. Incidentally, they arrested the chairman of the market traders and they have not released him. The traders are demanding that they release him or else the same thing will happen again. 

Otherwise Asia is better now and she is back at her market stall selling her beverages and wrapping bags. She said that the business is really slow because less and less people are coming to the market lately. 

This week was a short one because we had the Eid public holiday in the middle there for our moslem brothers and sisters. I was also glad that we did something small for their families. The only downside for me this week was the article I read about over 14,000 teenagers getting pregnant just this year in the district of Luweero. This is one of the challenges that this lockdown situation has presented to us here since last year. Very many young people have become pregnant either due to the fact that they are not in school or the increased levels of poverty presented by the limited range of economic activities. The temporary closure of schools has greatly affected most of the school aged going youth and has resulted in behavioral issues like these and many others like drug abuse. 

The struggle still continues as we fight the pandemic, let’s continue to stay positive in thought as it will help us become mentally healthy. 

The rate of infection is still growing in Uganda, our neighboring countries like Rwanda are also back to lockdown as they struggle with their third wave of infection. Tanzania has banned unnecessary gatherings as they termed it and this is a good thing for a nation that denied the existence of the virus. 

We have to stay vigilant, maintain social distance, wear masks, sanitize and wash our hands as much as possible. 

Thank you for following us this week. Thank you for supporting us to do what we do. 

Report by 

Andrew Echel 

Small update from Geoffrey

We have continued to dig out clay. Pictures below showing Andrew (not ISEE’s Andrew) and Adam removing water and digging out clay. This was quite inconveniencing. It slowed down the speed. The speed has also been slowed down because of the layer of stones which requires pick axes for which we do not have at the moment but we shall get a breakthrough. Our target was to dig out clay that can produce at least 15,000 bricks by Saturday this week. This might not be possible.We shall continue digging out clay in the next few days or weeks since rains have reduced. Since the place where we are digging out clay is a swamp, water keeps collecting. Every morning we have to remove water. Every after about 30 minutes water collects.

Week of July 18

July 13

Greetings to you all,

I hope that you are all well today. If not I hope it gets better by the hour. Thank you for keeping up with us every day, especially on what we do. We can’t stop to function because for some of our partners, their lives are dependent on how successfully they run their business and that sometimes requires us to constantly supervise or check on them. 

Today was a bit slow because the weather was a bit cold and it drizzled in most parts of Kampala, which was actually a good thing. I was able to make contact with Asia B, Anna M and Hadijja N. 

Asia

Asia B. is our Mama who works in one of the major markets in Kampala called Kalerwe market. This market sells fresh foods mostly and fruits but Asia sells books, cold drinks and poly wrapping bags. The business is closed for a bit for a few days because of some illness. She has malaria and has not been able to work for a few weeks now. She is getting treatment for it and that’s good. 

Meanwhile as she was away, one of the former employees of the market decided to hire rascals who caused chaos at the market. They were hired to beat the market authorities including Asia who was a fellow employee at the time. Luckily Asia was away due to the sickness and that’s how she and her shop survived. People who saw these men storm the market say that they briefly stopped at Asia’s shop before heading to other shops which they kicked and beat up some of the employees. This chaos actually caused the death of one person and the market was closed for a few hours. It was reported that a few military men had been deployed at the market at the moment to help restore sanity. 

Anna M. who is also our part time volunteer who helps in the girls sanitary hygiene and reproductive health classes is doing okay. I had the opportunity to catch up with her a little about her life and she is doing just fine. She is part time baking snacks and selling them to local shops around her community. She has been a bit busy recently because managed to adopt a 6-yr old boy from one of the orphanage homes in a place called Jinja district. She said she had always wanted to adopt a child and now she managed to get all the paperwork done four months ago. Anna is super happy about this and I am glad she got that sorted without hardships. 

I managed to get a hold of Hadijja N through one of the people we have worked with during the recent years, William. William heads an organization called HEYFU and they are passionate about young women but also health centered programs. He located Hadijja and also got me her number so we spoke for a few minutes.

Hadijja pre-Covid

Hadijja is doing okay. Hadijja is one of our Mamas who are in the food business and she operates a roadside chips stall at the moment. She used to operate a restaurant and a bar at one point but because of some misfortunes, she had to close the business and the lockdown happened. 

She is well at the moment and operates her chips stall. She opens early these days because of the restrictions and lockdown. She can’t close later than 7 o’clock because the curfew for road side business is 7pm. Police start to make a sweep on the street by 6pm and they are given 30min to close. During the normal days 6-8pm was prime time for Hadijja but now it’s impossible. The good thing that she is happy about, is that at least she can operate early and leave early before curfew time. In this way she is able to sustain her family and little girl who just turned 2yrs recently. 

The times have surely changed and many of our Mama Nguvu partners are adjusting and adopting new strategies to survive. 

We want to thank you always for your support during this lockdown and second phase of the Covid 19 wave in Uganda. It has devastated the country and many people are dying every day. We encourage people here every day to continue wearing their masks, wash their hands and maintain social distance. Please stay safe, the world still needs you and your families need you too. 

July 14

Greetings to you all,

I hope you are well today but those of you who are not well, we send you positive thoughts to make you feel better and to comfort you. 

It is day 26 since lockdown was initiated. People are crying left and right as the local news has been showing. People don’t have food and some are eating only one meal a day as the news showed. The Prime Minister promised to send people Covid fund relief and as of her report 90% of the people who are supposed to receive have all received this money. It is amazing that none of our Mamas has received these funds. Not at least to my knowledge and it’s absurd that the real people needing this money are not receiving it. 

Secondly, there is still a large scarcity of vaccines and the government is still focusing on delivering the second shots rather than admitting the first. I spoke to one of my relatives who is a medical worker and she confirmed this phenomenon. I hope the government can get access to more vaccines and help manage the spread of this deadly virus. 

I spoke to three Mama’s today Annet C, Pulakiseda N and Amina A. 

Pulakiseda

After hearing about the riot at the Kalerwe market yesterday I had to call Pulakiseda to find out how she is doing because she has a shop in this market. I am glad to have found out that she is okay. She opened the shop today but the business was not as good and then also there was still deployment of police. This is basically to try and keep law and order in the market plus its surroundings. 

Amina

Amina A. is recovering slowly from her illness and making progress. Her children are now well and fully recovered at the moment. We will wait for her to fully recover before she decides her next move. 

Annet

Annet C. is not complaining much because she remained open teaching her students. This really disappointed me a bit because she defied the lockdown directives and she put her family at risk. This is majorly because all her 3 students are not boarding students but rather commuters. This means even if they wore masks, they would still carry the virus somehow. Anyways at the moment things seem to have been fine and that is all that matters sometimes. I nevertheless urged her to send them away until further notice. 

In my opinion this is how most people have actually killed their families by exposing themselves to such risks. The government has not yet even fully vaccinated 10% of the population and this surely presents a risk of infection to most people. It is true that most people can’t afford food anymore because the financial aid hasn’t come through yet for them. I hope that the government can surely get more vaccines for us so we can get back to our new normal. People need to get back to work that’s for sure because otherwise we will be headed to an economic crisis sooner than we think. 

I want to continue to thank you all for following and supporting us as we continue to try and end period poverty in the lives of the people we serve. The task is great but nonetheless we keep fighting. 

Stay safe until we meet again. 

July 15

Today was a pretty hot day, one of those days you wished the storm or rain came down from the heavens but guess what? We are not in the position to decide what happens to us sometimes but the truth is life goes on. Amidst the challenges that day to day people like our Mamas go through, it is sad to say that none of them have received their relief fund. 

I spoke to Maria, Christine and Dorah today but none of them has seen these funds. Absolutely nothing good came from their lips to the government and the people in charge. One of them said, “…at least let them lift the lockdown so we can die trying.” Most of them are tired and frustrated with how these things are being handled. Meanwhile some of these Mamas also in the first phase didn’t get the relief food that was distributed. What shall we do? What is the way forward now? Yesterday while I spoke to Pulakiseeda, she said to me that she will never take the vaccine. When I asked why not, she told me that her neighbor 3 shops down had just buried her son about a week ago from Covid. He had already gotten the jab. The question for many people like her is, is this vaccine real? Will it help? Why don’t I simply wear my mask and sanitize as often as I can? This is where we are at the moment. 

Maria

Maria A. is okay but still struggling with the issue of feeding the piglets. She really loves her animals and does everything possible to ensure that her animals are well. Oftentimes she would get left over food from schools and restaurants around but now, she doesn’t get much anymore. This supplementary feed would help her sustain and maintain a good balance in feeding but the recent weeks since lockdown have been terrible. She has not been getting much from her gardens lately so the situation has not been the best for her. 

Christine (during construction of piggery, 2020)

Christine N. fortunately has been doing well. The chicks are growing really well. Her piglets too are looking good, she said. The sale of the bigger chickens was very successful and she left about 20 cocks. 

Otherwise all the remaining birds and piglets are very healthy and they are doing well. We hope this can stay this way for the moment because I really don’t want any more bad news from our people. 

Dorah

Dorah A. is back in town from her village in the West Nice region of Uganda. Those who follow us know that Dorah got Covid just before she lost her dad, who she eventually had to travel and bury. During this time, the president of the republic of Uganda announced lockdown restrictions that involved restricting people from moving from one district to another. Long story short, she managed to make it to Kampala and has since fully recovered. 

Speaking with her today, she is fully fit and is planning a pilgrimage to the central district to view the availability of the stall and space she was eyeing. I will follow her up to see if she got the place. 

We can’t afford to lose, we have to  continuously fight every day and never lose hope. Thank you for supporting ISEE Solutions and thank you for the positive vibes. Please continue to wear your masks, sanitize and wash your hands. I have the hope that tomorrow will be a better day. 

July 16

Greetings to you all,

I hope you are well. I am honored to be writing to you again but for the last time this week. This week’s journey has been incredible as we were able to reach just about 15 Mamas in total. It’s always an honor to speak to them in more ways than one, to catch up but also to know how their businesses are doing. From Annet’s to the Dorah’s and Maria whose businesses are all over the place but are still hopeful that everything will be alright. 

The Covid 19 and variant situations are not far from bad and worse but people are still hanging in there. We still have challenges with vaccination of the masses and I believe there’s more to be done especially with sensitization on the part of the government and the public. It was disappointing this week when I spent over 30min on the phone trying to encourage one of our Mama’s to go and get the vaccine. Obviously, it is an individual choice for one to get the vaccine but then they must have concrete information about what they are talking about. Except this time she had no idea what she was talking about so I encouraged her to take the vaccine because of the benefits rather than the fears. 

Today I spoke to the two Jane’s we have on the program. It is amazing that the both of them also do the same business of selling water to their communities. They are also both grandparents and both take care of their grandchildren. We like to identify them as Jane tank one and Jane tank two because Jane tank one was the first on the program and Jane tank two joined us much later. 

Jane

Jane tank one is doing great with her water tank business but she also makes paper bags on the side. She said the long dry spell has ensured that she has a constant demand for water and her customers keep coming unlike when it rains as people try to harvest water and this affects her sales. The supply from the National water people has also been consistent over the last few weeks so she has totally had no interruptions in her supply of water. 

The challenge has been her paper bag side business which has been slow majorly because of the lockdown. Roadside businesses that are usually her main customers aren’t operating at full capacity so they don’t demand the paper bags as they used to and also she doesn’t get paper supply as easily as she used to before lockdown. Meanwhile she is not sad about the current situation as much because she is doing some little business more than most of the people in her community. 

Her family has been well and she is glad none of them has fallen sick, even Francis, her grandson is doing okay. He has missed lots of physiotherapy because of the lockdown but he is doing well. He is happy and he is eating more, she was complaining that he was growing bigger and getting harder to carry. 

I was happy to speak to her in the mood she was in today. I hope things stay that way for a while for her.  

Jane

Jane N. water tank two is healthy. She is doing okay. No business at all for her because almost everyone has moved from the area. All the plots around her home were sold off to a property developer who built a shopping arcade and has evicted most of them. Jane, who has been the last one on the piece of property, was negotiating with the developer on how much she should be compensated but things got a bit tricky when her separated husband came back. 

The story is long but the short version is that they both contributed to buy this piece of land but I understand that Jane contributed more. The separated husband heard about the sale and he came back to confuse the whole process. Jane wants to be given a fairer share but the man wants it to be divided in half. To Jane this is unfair because the money they are offering her may not exactly help them buy and build another home. She wants another home because she is already taking care of her grandkids but the man just wants some money to put in his pocket.

The last she said is that they are on the brink of an agreement so she would let me know what happens. I hope the man doesn’t bring any other complications because Jane is tired of fighting. 

Written by 

Andrew Echel

Director of Programs, Uganda. 

ISEE Solutions Society.