As a country this week we celebrate our 58th independence. Uganda received its independence on 09/10/1962 with Dr. Apollo Milton Obote as the First Prime Minister. We have had a few presidents since then and some of the memorable ones to this day include H.E Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, the “Famous Idi Amin Dada” who for many reasons we will never forget and then the long standing President in the name of H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who has ruled Uganda since before I was born.
This year’s celebration is going to be obviously different due to the current situation of the Covid 19. The current statistics continue to rise as we close into 10,000 confirmed cases, 5,588 recoveries and 85 deaths since March 2020. The wars of liberation still continue surely in many arenas which include economic liberation. This economic war is a long standing one in the history of mankind that it will take forever to end, this is why our fight for economic liberation to end poverty can never stop. This is because as we celebrate the independence of our great nation, many families are still in anguish and many will go to bed without food on their tables.
Many Ugandans’ are celebrating the fact that the schools will reopen on 15th October 2020 and whereas some are celebrating this fact, people like me still think it is not a good idea because “if” truly Covid 19 is in Uganda, this is not the time to reopen schools. I am Ugandan and I know we are not good at following simple rules like washing hands or even not littering the city but we still do because guess what “We are Ugandans”.
I honestly fear the disaster awaiting us in the next few months as students are now preparing to head back to school. In my personal opinion, I don’t think schools here have the capacity to operate under the stated SOPs like wearing masks, keepings social distancing or even the littlest of all “Washing hands with soap”.
Having grown up and studied in these schools, I remember very well how classrooms were congested with more than 60 kids. We shared each desk with 3-4 kids depending on how small or big we were. I feel that it is surely an impossible job to have these schools buy the necessary safety gear because whereas it is not a Ugandan thing to do things “right”, the school proprietors do not have the money to buy these things.
Please wish us and the children of this nation well because as we close into rejoining school schedules, we are also closing into the actual close of the year. It is important for us all to end the year on a relatively good note. We need all the positive thoughts we can get.
This week I focused on establishing Rehema N. with her charcoal stall, Rashida S, Aidah K and Rovence N. On the other hand I spoke to Lorna K, Christine N and Asia N on the phone.
I started the week with the focus of ensuring that Rehema N. gets her stall and starts her business as soon as possible. The last couple of weeks, I have been monitoring her through visits and phone calls to evaluate the most appropriate way to aid her. Through the various engagements with her, she asked to purchase a wooden stall just by the house she lives in so she can use it to start selling charcoal. I was able to help purchase this stall at a fair price and have the stall rebuilt and rehabilitated ready for business.
The business of charcoal selling is so sensitive that the seller has to choose good charcoal so she can offer her customers a good product. In this and many businesses is how service providers maintain clientele. Therefore I offered her money to buy the first bag of charcoal from which she is going to be responsible to ensure that she sustains her businesses.
The vegetable grocery business requires that the seller goes to the main market to pick out good and fresh produce to sell through the week. I went down to Namuwongo to visit Rashida S. to check on the progress on the latest charcoal business. On my observation, the charcoal business was still going on alongside the vegetables. It was unfortunate that I was not able to see her because she had gone to the market to restock but otherwise her daughter was on station to help attend to the shop and my needs.
Aidah K. is still struggling with having people come into the restaurant since buying the chairs and table. The intention of this purchase was to limit movement from the restaurant or cooking area to deliver food to the scattered customers around the village. The challenge is that Aidah has no employee and she is the only one who cooks and also does the deliveries of the food ordered. One could ask, “Why doesn’t she hire a server or helper?”. Now the interesting thing is that whereas these little restaurants are busy, they do not make as much money to help the owners hire a helper. These little businesses rely solely on the presence of the entrepreneur’s availability and personal connection with their customers.
While speaking to her about the issues above, she said, “My customers are used to eating from wherever they are. I can not force them to enter the restaurant because they are not used to it.” My reply to her was that keep inviting them in, just make the interior more appealing and they will surely come. It is important that you explain to them the risk you undergo walking by the road delivering this food because firstly, it is not safe for you walking on the road with food. Secondly, the food is safer and hygienic if consumed within the premises.
Business for Rovence N, was as usual with customers coming and going in her restaurant. The challenge for her lately is that she needs new furniture because the one she has is worn out. The cushions on the chair and the tables are giving way and her customers are at a risk of falling. Just like Aidah when we spoke about money, Provence said, “I am still struggling a bit to regain my capital that I lost during the lockdown days. I can not afford to repair these chairs and tables but I also want to put my place back on the map by changing the interior seats and table.”
I asked her to look around for a good carpenter who can help build her some custom furniture that would fit her place. Rovence’s place is a bit small and it can not accommodate plastic chairs and tables. The plastics would have been a quick fix for this problem but like I said, the space to operate is limited. She will have to find a carpenter to assess and give us a quotation on the costs, so we can determine whether and how we can help her.
I made a few phone call follow ups but let me first interest you with the first phone call I got this week from a story I shared previously.
Last week, Christine’s husband called me and harassed me at about 9pm in the night, asking about my relationship with his wife and that he has seen me a few times going to his house. Like I predicted, Christine called me and told me that when her spouse came back home, he found a lot of progress with the chickens and also the amazing pig and chicken flat house.
He came home and they had a fight and he took her phone. That is how he got my number and called me. Apparently like I said previously in the last edition of the blog; he is jealous that Chrstine seems to be making more money than him and also that she is taking care of almost 60% of the home expenses. This bruised his ego and lured him into an argument with Christine that caused all the scenes thereafter.
I am glad to report to you that Christine is doing okay and not injured during this altercation, at least as she narrated. I don’t feel that it is safe yet for me to visit the home but maybe I might visit the project next week because they deliver the other piglets next week.
Business expectations for Lorna K. did not go as planned because the bedsheets she had thought would be cheap, where actually a little more expensive than she thought. So instead of the 3 sheets she wanted to get, she only got 2. The gentleman selling them said that the bales of bedsheets are not coming as much as they used to, due to you know what (Covid 19). This affected the prices of the available bales which translated to the high costs of the sheets. Nevertheless, she bought the 2 sheets and started working on the baby sheets that she will start to carry to the clinic on her volunteer days.
Asia N. is very interested in getting a small financial support to acquire a fridge and saucepans on a goodwill sale by another vendor who wants out of business. She called me to ask me about the opportunity to secure this assistance and we are looking at working on it this coming week. We will surely update you in our next edition.
Finally, this week I met with Geoffrey O. our brick making Head Teacher to provide him a loan to complete his projects. One of the greatest challenges with this project has been the escalation of prices of certain items that we needed in the project, so because of his constant communication with us, we decided to offer him a loan to complete the project.
Geoffrey is closing in on the final stages of the project where he is almost reaching his target of 60,000 bricks and surely in just over a week he will hit the mark because he is at 52,000 plus bricks. He ran out of money to help him buy logs of firewood which surely is an important ingredient in burning the bricks. We decided to offer him a loan which he will have to pay back to the organization fully of course but without interest.
We believe by offering him this financial assistance, this will facilitate the completion of the first batch of bricks. Our goal as ISEE Solutions Society is to ensure that ALL projects come to a natural ending each time; we were not going to stop here because he ran out of cash.
I want to continue to say thank you to all our supporters and donors for all the support you grant to us in helping the many people in communities around Kampala, Uganda.
Please continue to support us endlessly as we continue the fight against economic liberation. I believe that many of our Mamas and their families are surely enjoying a meal today because of the assistance you give.
I share a similar experience because as a child, my father bought chicken, beef and other nice things on Independence Day. As I write this blog, I can vividly remember the scenes of this day with lots of cooking going on and roast smoke filling the atmosphere. I think it relates to the 4th of July or Thanksgiving day for people in the Americas.
The only sad thing is that I can not enjoy these kinds of things because people don’t do it anymore and secondly I live alone since I don’t have my own family yet. It was like Christmas before the actual Christmas because it was always filled with music and food.
Director of Progs, Uganda
ISEE Solutions Society.