ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

Mamas on March 23rd and 25th

This past week, we’ve visited a few of our “old” mamas to see how they are doing. These are the ones who were sponsored in 2013, 14 and 15 (tomorrow we’re meeting our candidates for 2017!). It’s great to hear about their progress.

Rashida – 2014 – tea and small goods stall

Rashida has faced some challenges this year as she was diagnosed with type two diabetes and struggled with her health in January. She is now managing her diabetes with a local herb that is commonly used to treat sugar diabetes as it is called here. She explained that even when she was not feeling strong, she would still come in to work as she did not want her children to be chased from school due to lack of fee payment. Rashida herself only completed P3 (grade 3) and is illiterate but her children are teaching her a few things, including some English that she was brave enough to use and speak to me. She is also learning to write basic words such as her name so that when she has to sign her children’s work, she does not have to just put a thumb print but she can actually write her name.

She has done some work on her stall and made it deeper. As she is paying the rent for the full plot (6 feet by 10 feet) and is often charged twice for rent as the owner and the church cannot remember who is supposed to collect the rent, she figured she should maximize the space. She has now built the walls to the concrete fence behind the stall so that there is more room for her customers to sit and eat.

When I asked her what her vision for her business was or how she wanted to see it grow, she explained that she is happy with how it is going. It brings in enough money to pay the rent, to pay school fees and to feed her children. She tells her children that the stall is like their mother and father as it is the one that provides for them. She enjoys her work and knows how to do it well. The only thing that she felt she needed was some bowls so that when she served stew to her customers, she would not have to use cups. It makes the meal more formal if they get it out of a bowl.

She is obviously well respected and well known as she had several customers who came by and bought things (not just looked at the mzungu) while we were there. Rashida shared with me that when her step-father died, he left a piece of land that was divided among all the children. They all decided to sell and she reinvested that money in a piece of land closer to Kampala where she is planning to plant a variety of crops for eating and selling. She is also starting to build a house (these are built brick by brick and can take years to complete) because she wants to make sure she has something to give to her children when she is no longer around. She does not want to leave them with nothing. She is an amazingly dedicated lady and a very hard worker. I am thrilled that our small investment in her tea business has helped her grow so much.

Want to help? She needs a dozen bowls to increase the desirability of her food. $25.00


Aidah – 2015 – world famous chips

Aidah looks younger and younger each time I see her! She used to be across from Kiwuliriza Primary but the landlord forced her to “shift” so she lifted her stall and moved up the street. She has a tiny stall where she peels and fries potatoes all day except when she goes to collect her little one from school at noon. She makes her chips in small batches and delivers them all over the area. Andrew keeps pushing her to expand but she has no interest. She likes staying small and doing what she does very well. She was initially promised 6 chairs in her contract but she does not even want those anymore as she does not want people hanging around her shop to eat. Her children are in school and she feels happy with her business. What more could we ask?!


Lilly – 2015 – Tailoring

Lilly is one of the women that Gifts to Grandmothers sponsored when they bought several sewing machines for the women in Namuwongo. She has been working hard to ensure her children are in school and while she has kept the youngest one with her, the older ones are in the village where her mother can care for them.

Lilly is a very talented seamstress and has even made some bags for us (we’ll have them for sale at the craft fair at Glenmore Elementary on May 13th) but I was hugely impressed by another sewing skill she has that is unique in the area. Her sister in Gulu taught her how to embroider using a zigzag machine so now Lilly buys fabric that has a fancy edge at the market which she then free-hand draws a flower design upon and she zigzags the design onto the fabric. She makes tablecloths, arm covers and seat back panels for sofas, and other home decoration items as requested.

She said that business was good over Christmas but now is only fair as people are not purchasing these types of things at the moment. But she feels that she is missing a lot of work either in sewing clothes or making these decorative items because she works from home and it is off the main pathway and people don’t see her work. She would like to move to a more visible location along the track so that people could see the unique work she does. I have never seen any work like hers in Uganda so I have no doubt that she would be successful in a more visible location.

Want to help? Rent in Uganda must be paid for the first three months. A secure stall with an iron door and power for her machine would be $50 per month so she would need $150 to start.


Francoise – 2014 – beer making, bar, soap making, vegetable and charcoal stall

Francoise is a ball of fire. When one thing slows down because of a turn in availability, she investigates something else. We initially invested in her beer making business but that was bulldozed in the fall of 2014 so then she went to selling vegetables and fried foods. When I returned in 2015, she wanted to learn to make liquid soap so we paid for that training and the equipment to start that business. I just found out this time that she has since learned a bit more and is now training other women on how to make the soap. What an awesome way to pay it forward!

Francoise is now running her bar and doing her soap almost exclusively as vegetables are too expensive to buy then sell for a profit. She sells super cheap milky beer (35 cents a 500ml bottle) and some type of hooch so her customers drink a bottle of the beer to start then move onto the more expensive hooch. She is also starting to make popsicles for the kids where she buys a package of flavouring like kool-aid and mixes it in water then pours a cup into a plastic bag and freezes it. The package of flavouring costs 1,000 and will make several pouches that she sells for 500 shillings each.

She is a very innovative and creative woman who is always thinking about what she should be doing next. All her children are in school and doing well. She is also learning a bit of English and surprised us all as we started to leave by saying “thank you very much!”


Adrine – 2014 – popcorn – 2017 – soda sales

Adrine was one of the first women to be sponsored in 2014 with a popcorn machine that she was turning a decent profit with but when they bulldozed a strip of Namuwongo in the fall, her machine was broken in the move and suddenly she disappeared. I was quite worried about her as she is young and vulnerable and no-one knew where she was. Then suddenly at the start of 2017, Francoise called Andrew to let him know that Adrine was back with a new baby boy born in December. I don’t know what has happened to the other small children she had, they are probably back in the village with her family but when she got pregnant again, she may have been chased away.

She was trying to sell vegetables and relying on Francoise for supplies so we decided to try to support her again so that she could get back on her feet. The initial photos Andrew sent to me showed a very gaunt and tired looking girl but I was pleased to see that she looked much healthier now. She wanted to try selling sodas so we purchased a reclaimed fridge but gave it to Francoise with the understanding that Adrine would use it and pay the power so that she could sell cold soda at her stall. We also purchased a cooler.

Adrine is now selling a few food items and charcoal from a stall next to the track. She has decided that soda is not a viable business for her. The fridge is not sitting unused as Francoise is benefiting from it in her bar. Cold milky beer is much more desirable than warm milky beer! When we were leaving Adrine, I told her that I had been so relieved to hear from Andrew that she was ok. “I’m sorry I have disappointed you,” she replied. “You have not disappointed me. It is not a matter of disappointment. I understand that situations change. I was just worried about you. I am happy to see you are ok and that you are smiling. That is what is important for me.” I hope she continues to move forward but I’m not sure how this story will end.


Prossy – 2013 – Piggery

Prossy is our first Mama Nguvu candidate and the one we have been most connected with. I have known Prossy since 2012 but I met her son in 2008 when I first came to Uganda. He is now completing his grade 12 exams (S6) and she is, of course, very proud. Prossy was given 9 piglets in 2013 and has since bred, sold and bred the pigs again. She moved her piggery further away from the house a year ago and they have bigger and cleaner stalls than before. She currently has 9 piglets again that she is raising. She also makes paper bags from old documents that are glued together with a paste that she makes. She delivers them to various shops in the area and makes a small amount of money from that. Her husband was employed by a big national bank but when the bank was taken over, all the employees lost their jobs and he has never been able to find business work since. He now helps his brother in the village where they raise his brother’s cattle.

A month ago, as Prossy was walking home in the evening after delivering and collecting payments for her bags, she was struck by a boda (motorcycle taxi). To make matters worse, the driver was actually a man who had been given the boda to wash and then had decided to take it for a spin before the owner came back. He has no insurance (well, no-one does) and plus he has no money to help her. He did come to see how she was doing but he can offer nothing more. She had a chunk of flesh torn out, one bone broken and one bone fractured in her left calf. Because of the flesh wound, she has a cast with a piece cut out of it so that the wound can be dressed each week.

Prossy’s husband Henry came home to help her manage the pigs and take care of herself. That is a big thing here as not all husbands would do that. I told him that he was a very caring husband with a big heart and he said that of course he could not leave her alone. She is also caring for a toddler who may belong to a daughter, niece, or sister depending on what translation you get. Henry is such a kind and gentle man, he is a great role model to their son Vincent.

Prossy has one more month of wound dressing before the doctor will consider removing her cast. She is still making bags but Henry is having to go to sell them. Once this is all over and they get back to their normal routine, Prossy would like to build a chicken coop beside her home and stock it with 200 chickens. She has had chickens before and been successful with them but had to sell them all when she suddenly had an unexpected fee to pay. She’d like to start that venture again on a larger scale.

This summer, Prossy will open her home to us again and the team will spend the day learning what Ugandan women do to care for their families. She is going to give everyone chores to do so we will clean, cook and care for the children as well as feed the pigs and make paper bags. It will be a great day!

Want to help? Prossy pays 50,000 for wound dressing plus 10,000 for transport each time she goes to the doctor’s. She needs 4 more sessions plus the removal of the cast. $100

We are honoured to be involved in these women’s lives and we are happy to see their businesses grow. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in supporting these women in the past. If you’d like to contribute toward the women above, please let me know or simply use the paypal button on the right of this page. You don’t need a paypal account to do so. You can also let us know in the “note to seller” which Mama you would like your contribution to go toward. All donations over $20 get a tax receipt.

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