ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

May 16th update

Prossy at her home in Mitiyana

Greetings to you all,

I hope that you have all been keeping well. 

It looks like the rains have returned in Uganda. We have had three days of constant rain, raining for at least 3hrs non-stop which slows down everything and majorly impacts transportation. The roads are so bad, especially the access roads that reach our Mamas. It’s like walking in a campsite with mud and water everywhere. I have had to wear boots to be comfortable, especially the days I had to reach Asia and Pulakiseda because these Mamas both lead their businesses within the market. 

This week on Wednesday His Excellency President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will be sworn in for the sixth time. I actually got to learn recently that “Yoweri” translates as “Joel” in English. He was born at a time when the current education system had not been extended to the villages where he grew up. In trying to pronounce Joel, the local people made it easier by calling him Yoweri.

There is speculation that the opposition might cause some disturbance, so the military has been deployed at key places where they have intelligence that trouble might come from. This is aimed at protecting both people and property of people, especially shops that can be vandalized during riots. I don’t expect that this will happen but anything is possible. The deployment is to ensure also that the invited dignitaries feel safe or are protected in case anything happens. People!

This previous week I established Asia’s boost and visited Pulakiseda N, Prossy L and also Hadijja N. I followed up Harriet L who had failed to get a proper shop, Gertrude N of the stationary and Irene of the salon by phone. 

Hadijah

Hadijah N. is doing okay and the business is doing fine except for the fact that the up-coming swearing-in ceremony has caused the police to enforce curfew and now they have to close business earlier than usual. The police and military have been deployed to places like the trading center where Hadijah fries her chips, so she has been greatly affected. Let us hope that this goes away quickly because it has affected all businesses.

Hadijah preparing the day’s first batch of chips

She still holds her plans to reopen her bar business and she is only waiting to get clearance from the government to reopen bars. She opened a bar business in 2018-2019 and it had a tremendous impact on her income, so much so that she managed to pay off some really heavy personal debts. The closure of these types of businesses really affected people like Hadijah. Hadijah has a very beautiful 18-month old baby who is growing like crazy and Hadijah is worried that she might not be able to push her to school. She already has two older children who she is supporting with her chips business. The reopening of bars will help reduce the pressure on her and her husband who is a boda driver. He is a very supportive husband but does not earn much, so they need her business to reopen soon.

Prossy and Henry

I then traveled to see Prossy L in Mitiyana. She is doing well except that she has had a few health issues with her daughter and herself. Her daughter was admitted to hospital for about a week due to a malarial infection. The hospital bill was quite large but they managed to shift around some funds to pay it off.

On Prossy’s side, she had to visit the doctor because her feet are swelling. The doctor advised her to stop consuming meat which she says she hardly eats regardless. In addition to medication to help reduce the swelling, she was also advised to cook local herbs that would help reduce the toxins in her body. The herbs include leaves from the avocado tree, the mango tree and some other plants because apparently they will help to open up her blood veins and improve circulation. I encouraged her to get tight socks like footballing socks because they would help reduce the swelling in her feet.

Prossy and Henry

Otherwise the pigs look really well and healthy, their coats are shiny and they look clean. The rains have helped boost feeding especially with the availability of the greens and grasses that also help treat the animals. She tries as much as she can not to give her animals boosters because she wants to raise them as organic as possible which is a good thing. She only gives them vitamins and deworming tablets which she often will mix in the feeds. She also took her mama pig to the male to try and get her pregnant because she was ready and also the ones she gave birth to recently are now fully grown and in a few months they will be ready for sale.

Rovence

I was finalizing Rovence’s interview during the week so I made one last stop to get some more information and she was really happy. I am glad she was willing to share as much as she did. It was a nice thing. The business is still slow like it was the whole month and she is excited that the fast ends this week, so she can have her customers back.

Pulakiseda

I was invited to a birthday party for my nephew and I needed some vegetables to make a salad because my sister knows I am the best salad maker in the world — at least in her opinion. I went to see Pulakiseda who usually will help me buy these things because she knows the market well. Her shop is really strategically located so I dropped by to see her and see the goings-on in the shop. She is well and the shop looks good too. The sales have improved since finishing the road to the market and she was pitching me with another request to boost her shop.

Lastly, I spoke to Harriet who has really failed to get a well-located shop for her business. We have everything already in line for her but we are waiting for a good location. Her business is a very high budget business but the success of this type of business surely is dependent on good location. I spoke to her a bit and she is still on the hunt.

Gertrude with some of her printers and office equipment

Gertrude N is not clear with her ideas so I don’t yet want to mention details but I will go see her this next week and assess this situation. Some people will not tell you anything until you go find them and talk in person. She was supposed to co-share or rent the space together with her brother so I want to follow that up.

We would like to say thank you as always for following what we do, it is always a pleasure hearing your feedback about the work we do. I look forward to continuing to bring you new stories every week as we continue to serve our community and our world. Please continue to stay safe in this new wave of the pandemic. Let’s keep fighting the spread of the virus. Stay Safe, Maintain Social Distancing but as the gospel has always been, let us stay sociable.

Yours Sincerely

Andrew Echel 

Director for Programs, Uganda

ISEE Solutions Society

ISEE Interview Series: ROVENCE

{Note: The following interview is with Rovence Nakanwaji, one of our first Mama Nguvu candidates and arguably one of the most successful. She has consistently impressed us with both her fierce work ethic and her generous spirit.

The interview was conducted in Lugandan and then translated into English (by Andrew… my Lugandan is not so good). The grammar and rhythms are different than you may be used to but hopefully will serve to give you a taste of true Ugandan speech.

A regular update will return next week. –ed.}

My story: Rovence

My name is Rovence Nakanwaji. I was born in the later parts of the 1960’s in a district called Masaka (Pronounced Mass-sir-car), in a village called “Kaseruka” (Pronounced Car-say-rue-car), to a gentleman called Emmanuel L. and a lady called Angelina N. I have three children of my own, who have since grown into adults now. I lost my second husband who took me up after the first had left me in the village. He loved me and is the one who helped me to move into another house when my landlord asked me to leave his house which we had moved in after my brothers’ death.

I grew up in the village and I went to some of the local schools around the area but unfortunately I got pregnant before I could finish  secondary school. I was only in Senior One. Luckily I stayed in the village for another 9 months and was able to give birth safely, that was probably 1989.

Moving to the city to start living with my brother was not easy because we bounced from one relatives’ house to another for a few months before I finally settled with my brother in his rented single-roomed house. I needed to start earning a living as soon as possible. My brother sold deep-fried snacks for a living and needed me to help care for his newly born son, who was sick at the time. His wife too had gotten birth-related complications so the help was desperately needed that I had no option. Eventually his wife passed on and I became the caretaker of these three children she left behind. 

We lived with him in this single-roomed house for about four years, before they had to move us into a two-roomed house. The  one-roomed house became too small because the kids had grown too. The owner of the house was forced to move into a bigger house because he felt pity on us and for a fact my elder brothers’ lifestyle was not the very best. He moved us to a new house and lived there until 1997. This year was difficult because my brother was ill for about 2 year and he eventually lost his battle in 1997.

I started cooking after my brothers’ death in 1997, I had never worked or gotten any form of employment. My brother loved me and cared for me, everything we ever wanted, he brought to us. It became extremely hard to live by ourselves when he was gone, so I decided to take the children to their grandparents who at least would take care of them easily. At this point I felt like I was between a rock and a hard place. The world is a big place but I felt like the only space I had was where my two feet were standing. The children were eventually brought back to live with me.

My brother used to sell snacks like chapati, mandazi, cassava and other deep-fried snacks for a living. I would eventually learn how to make these because he would let me help out every now and then. I did this for the first year and things started to make sense but eventually I shifted into cooking food because food was my comfort zone. I moved to a bigger space to cook better and surely a few years later into this place I am in today. Someone who used to eat at my small place called me telling me about this busier place where I could make more money.

I met my husband a year later after my brother’s loss when I had just started cooking. A gentleman from the school nearby came asking for a person to open up a canteen in the school. I thought well, since I am cooking snacks just outside here, I would take the opportunity. I started making more snacks and delivering to shops in the community and the rest I would carry it to the school canteen. One day he (my husband then) was building at the school and he came to eat at the canteen. He supported me after the landlord kicked us out of his house after the death of my brother. He helped us rent our first house and he later moved in with us. We had two more kids with him but sadly he died a few years later, this was in 2004. 

A few months after his death, I started falling sick and I thought it was depression because he left the kids really young. I was always worried about school fees and the upkeep all the time, so I was so stressed and depressed. I stopped working and all my customers got concerned. They looked for me at home and took me to the hospital where they actually tried to treat me. They did tests for the usual Malaria and Typhoid but nothing showed. They later did more blood work and found out that I had caught the virus. This stressed me out the more, on the day I was told I went back home, bought a chicken and a big bottle of soda. I cooked the chicken myself but when I started to eat it, I couldn’t finish of course. I thought I was going to die soon so I wanted to eat my favorite meal.

Fast forward, my neighbor knew one of the doctors at the International Hospital Kampala. She took me there and I received treatment for free until I recovered. My family members feared visiting me because they thought the would be arrested because they obviously knew we couldn’t afford it. Anyways, I think there was an HIV/AIDs project at the hospital, so it covered all my medical needs. I was also enrolled into a counseling program and medication unit where I received medication until the program was wound. They also connected me to another organization called Touch Namuwongo. 

Touch Namuwongo became a blessing to me as they trained me as a peer educator in my program. I started to get involved in the programs at the organization and I also got gigs to supply food for the days when they held various training sessions. This helped me make a lot of money to be able to pay my children’s school fees, rent and other things. I started to stabilize, getting my medication but also doing business with them. This was actually organized by Immaculate who was a counselor with Touch Namuwongo. She would check up on me to ensure I was okay and a few years down the road (2014) we met again in the Women Empowerment class and reproductive health clinic that ISEE Solutions was holding at a local primary school in the Namuwongo area.

ISEE Solutions Society in 2014 became a very important part of my life and the many other women who were enrolled with me and the years after. My daughter was in primary school at that time, so the Headteacher at the time contacted some of us women to come attend the workshop. We got reusable sanitary pads. Fast forward weeks later after our initial contact ISEE Solutions Society helped me purchase a fridge to add to my business along with some utensils and eventually about a year later helped me buy food warmers for my catering business.

My business has grown along the years and I have managed to secure myself a small piece of land on which I hope one day, I can build a home for my children. My husband wanted to build us a house but life never gave him the opportunity, so I want to build my children a home in case anything ever happened.

I feel tired a bit and my body is starting to act up on me. I would have wanted to build a restaurant or start up a bigger one than what I have at the moment. This would mean that I will have to hire younger cooks who would do the cooking and I will only manage. I have been cooking for too long in this charcoal and I guess my time is running out. I will focus on trying to build them a home, at least I can go rest there and never worry about rent like I do here every month.

In conclusion, I want to thank the ISEE Solutions Society Family, Erika and Corey who we met in 2014 and years later when they brought teams to visit us. I will not forget Immaculate for the role she played and also Andrew who has always done a great job in visiting us and giving us advice but also motivating us when times are hard. 

In my last words today, I think all women should work hard especially with the kinds of opportunity we have as women. I have advanced in age but every week I have an opportunity to attend a business class offered by some organization here in Namuwongo. Whereas I have been running this business for more than 20yrs, I think I have learned a thing or two that when I put them in action, I will improve my business. For us as Ugandan women, ISEE Solutions has given us an opportunity to change our lives and educate our children but we still have to work hard for it. It is tough but we can’t give up. I was almost done but thanks to my friends who supported me throughout the hard time.

This is my short story. I wish I could share everything but time is limited.

Thank you.