It was another amazing day with HEYFU in Kawempe. When we visited last Tuesday (already almost a week ago!) we talked about the Mama Nguvu project and they were very keen on trying it in their community. We arranged to have our initial meeting with the applicants today at 10am and we left the HEYFU team with 100 applications to hand out. We stressed that there was to be no cost involved in getting the application and that they knew their community best so they could hand out as few or as many as they wanted. Hahahah! As few! How naïve we can still be.
We arrived at 9:45am and found about 40 women seated in the meeting room. I thought that it was a perfect number to speak to but figured there would be a few more arriving before we started at 10. We handed out water as they arrived (we had 120 bottles) as it was hot in the room and it is a measure of good faith to provide water to those who are meeting with us.
At 10am, Andrew and I started our presentation about the program. By that time, the room was full and women were standing in the corners and in the entrance. About 15 minutes into our talk, Corey started making signs to me from the doorway (when he could get his head up and above the throng of women at the door) and I finally understood that we needed to move outside. The women lifted their chairs and moved out. I was the last to get out as I was the furthest from the door. Imagine my surprise as I found the front of the building full of seated women and the area around the corner full of more women getting help filling out their application.
I went through the application with them then I spoke about our expectations of the program and how the women had the following commitment should they be selected:
- To work hard at their business (although we do understand that things happen and businesses fail)
- To get their children into school
- To participate in HEYFU’s savings and loans program that meets once a week to learn about budgeting
- To meet with Andrew or Anna on a weekly basis
- To donate 60,000 over the course of the year (about $20) which is then re-invested in another women’s business
We answered a few questions then I let them know to see a member of HEYFU or Anna or Andrew for help with the application. They could also hand in their application to any member of our team. No sooner had Andrew translated my final thanks then I was swarmed with women giving me their application form. They were all very kind and smiled when I said, “Webale nnyo Nnyabo” (thank you very much madam) but I still felt a little squished for a few minutes! Maybe they thought that if they gave their application directly to me, they would have more success in being sponsored.
We stuck around for another 30 minutes as I was meeting with one of our first Mamas, Margaret, who lives in the area and had made bags for me (again these will be for sale at the Glenmore Artisan Fair in May) and then had a brief meeting with the HEYFU board to say thank you and to wish each other success. One thing I appreciate about HEYFU is that the meetings are never long and drawn out, they value time and get to the point much more quickly than other Ugandan organizations.
After collecting the last few applications, we headed to Margaret’s home to drop her off and to see her machine that she is still using. She used to be the matron at Kiwuliriza but has since retired and is now caring for her grandchildren while taking more tailoring classes. She also plans to start making exercise books so will be purchasing the materials for those. She has a cataract in her right eye so she is finding threading a needle more and more difficult, especially with the amount of light that she has. The book making can be done from home while she watches the children and then the books can be sent to be trimmed and stamped with school logos. Hopefully this will help her continue to be self-supporting and to support the two adopted children she supports who are continuing their studies.
We left in a hurry as we could feel the storm coming. If we had been by her home at the time of the deluge, we would have never been able to make it out as the whole area would have turned to mud. As it was, the roads were completely waterlogged. We drove to Good African Coffee at Lugogo “Mall” for lunch and to go through the applications.
It turns out that there is someone in Kawempe who has made a lot of money photocopying our application forms!! We had 208 applications to go through. We put them into piles of 10 and just sorted through them. The first cull was all those who were asking for only consumable goods such as a bag of fruit, charcoal, or clothes to sell from the street. The second cull was all the incomplete applications. The third was anyone who added a line for “assorted goods” or “capital investment”. Then we each had to pick our top 3 and our second place 4 so that we had narrowed 208 to 28. From there, we each read the other applications and wrote our thoughts and questions on the front.
Andrew took all 28 applications and is calling each one tonight. He will ask them the questions we wrote on the front of the applications but will also ask the following 4 questions:
- What training do you have for this business?
- What experience do you have in this business?
- Where will you be located or is your current business located?
- Why will this business work?
Tomorrow, he will come with the answers to those questions and we will cull further. We hope to get it down to 5 or 6 candidates to share with you by the end of the week. We wish we could sponsor them all but it is not realistic. We want the businesses to be sustainable and we are looking for businesses where we are buying equipment, not consumable goods unless they are things like fabric and thread to go with sewing machines. It’s exciting to be part of this project as we have seen how far these women can go with just a small investment into their dreams. Stay tuned for more details about the selected candidates!
Have a great day!
PS – These are some of the posters in the HEYFU office. They talk about all aspects of reproductive health and pregnancy. It’s really an amazing team.