Greetings to you all,
I hope this past week has gone well for you all. Thank you for always keeping up with us, especially with the work we do. We had another successful week as we continued to visit our Mamas to see how they are doing.
We visited Margaret N, Lorna K, Betty N, Jane N, Dorah A, Justine N, Hamida and another Jane N whom I all managed to reach and meet face to face. I also continued to search for Gertrude N, Harriet and Peter K on the phone.
My week’s highlight was with Justine N. our Mama who hires out large saucepans used to cook food at large parties and events. A few months ago we helped Justine repair the bottom of one of her pans which had been broken for a long time. She was having a hard time getting it repaired because of the lockdown that had caused closure of parties and her business subsequently.
Prior to my visit for the first time in months all the three large saucepans were taken at the same time for more than 2 days. The pans each attract 20,000/- Uganda Shillings for each day. The catch from that visit was Justine donating 40,000/- of what her income was, as a way of saying thank you. She was pleased that we helped her repair her saucepan. She asked me to take it and also help another Mama just like we did for her. This is the kind of spirit that we want to continue with everyone we come across. It may not be a lot but it surely does make a difference.
Lorna K. with her new restaurant is doing really well. Since starting this restaurant a few months ago, she has enjoyed a good amount of success in this business. Lorna started out as a tailor but has since shifted business to try her luck with the restaurant. She had been struggling with tailoring since March 2020 during and after the lockdown.
It started to become hard to meet her bills with the tailoring so she decided to venture into the food business. We helped her setup because she has always exhibited hard work along with her desire to work so we are pleased that it is all working out well for her. Her daughter Catherine also joined her restaurant and engaged in the making of samosas, a snack loved by the majority of the people in her area. These samosas help Catherine raise money to help take care of her son, who is Lorna’s grandson.
Secondly, Lorna is also an active volunteer in the Volunteer Health Trainer program for her hospital. She has been attending training for the last two weeks to be a health representative for her community. These training sessions are organized by the Ministry of Health here and I am so excited that one of our own Mamas is part of a program such as this. We wish her well in her ways to try and impact her community.
Dorah A. is doing really well with her restaurant. She is excited her Moslem customers are back and business is back to usual. Her restaurant looks good and clean, and she is always changing the seating arrangement. I hardly remember visiting her and finding the same arrangement. When I asked her she said it keeps her customers interested each time. It is like they go to eat to see what she has done. I think it is a good way to entertain her customers.
The only issue is that the electricity problem is back again. There is nothing we can do this time because this time it is a district problem. The electric transformer that supplies her community blew up about ten days ago and the power service has not been able to fix it. This meant that her fridge would not stay cold so she has been unable to serve cold drinks to her customers, which meant that all the drinks had to be ordered outside her restaurant and as a result she is losing money.
Jane N is doing well. The water business is holding up really well for her and she continues to supplement it with her paper bag making business. She also makes alternative packing wraps for street vendors who use them to package food items. She is happy and her family is doing well at the moment. Her grandson Francis also received physiotherapy last month because of the good business performance.
For those who may not know, Francis has hydrocephalus. I met him about 2 yrs ago on my routine visits with Jane. I shared his story and we managed to get him monthly physio for almost 2 yrs until the lockdown. He is doing well and I always encourage Jane to continue taking him to the clinic at every opportunity they get to help ensure he has a better childhood.
Otherwise her water looks well taken care of. They continue to monitor the users so that they don’t break the tap or damage it. This has ensured that the tank stays stable and undamaged meaning that it will serve the community longer hence the value for the investment for a healthy community.
Betty N. is struggling a bit these past few months. She has only one student at the moment in her training program. She is currently surviving on individual clients who want clothes to be done.
During my visit at her shop, she had gone to pay her taxes for the shop so we only could talk on the phone plus the little conversation with her student. The student seems to like what she is doing and they have made so much progress to the point of making a dress together with Betty. This is a benefit for the student because it is usually slower when the group is bigger but she has attained this quickly because of the fact that she is alone.
Speaking to Betty, she said that two more people had shown certain interest in joining her program and may come onboard in the next few weeks. We wish her well with the coming students.
Hamida N. is just trying to reorganize herself. She has been working in a furniture shop as a way of trying to raise capital to bring her chicken business back to life. Several months ago she lost her business when her house got flooded and lost her receipts for the chickens she had booked. The process to recover it was very hectic and long. By the time she processed it, she was not able to take care of the chickens so she opted for a cash refund. She used the refund to repair the roof on her house.
She is now building capital to redo her chicken business. She has always been good with her chickens, raising them well and losing almost none during the process. Her plan is to raise them using one of the chicken pens owned by a friend of hers. My plan is to see what she is going to do in the next few weeks to see if we can tag along to realize this business.
I intentionally wanted to conclude this week’s report with these two heartbreaking stories that I came across this week. First was my encounter with Margaret N., one of our tailors who has been struggling with some health related issues including her spine and one of her feet. She managed to see the doctor who examined her and told her that two of her discs are wearing out and that is why she is having the pains and maybe the pain in her foot. She has been trying to medicate it and the results are encouraging. This in the meantime resulted in a temporary stop in her tailoring business because of the pain.
Anyways that is not the moral of the story. I was really disturbed with a conversation I had with one of the people she lives with who has stubbornly refused to believe or accept that Covid 19 is real and it is getting worse. She calls herself a person of faith and a preacher of the word of God. This lady claims that the virus was created to take people who do not believe in good and that taking the vaccine is an act of sin which would bring death or a curse to her family. I know this might not be the right platform to talk about religion but I think this has been my worst conversation this year. As we are trying to get people vaccinated and ask people to stay safe, there is a cluster of people speaking against it. Meanwhile Margaret, who is the aunty to this woman, is due for the vaccine and actually qualifies to get the vaccine from the designated hospitals but people like this COVID-denier won’t let Margaret take her vaccine.
My second moment came from the visit with Jane N . She is worried a bit because her house is going to be destroyed and she might not get the money to rebuild as planned. The story is that many years ago in the early 1990’s, she met a man and together with him bought a piece of land and built a house. They lived together for more than 25 yrs and had 16 children. A few years ago the man decided to leave her and found another partner, leaving her with all the younger children without any help. She has single-handedly raised the kids and educated them until now.
A few months ago the property on which they built their house was sold to an investor who is willing to buy them out and also help them settle on other properties. All the other neighbors have been compensated and they have left. Here is the challenge: when her ex-partner had this news, he came running and has made several attempts to delay or swindle all of the money and not share any with Jane.
Jane says that she is fully responsible for making the bricks that built the house they lived in. She also contributed 80% of the funds that bought the plot on which the house is built. Since he left, he never bought them food or even paid school fees for the children he left behind. Real life stories like these break my heart when I hear what fellow men are doing to hard working women like Jane.
Lucky enough Jane has most of the paperwork and also the developers are willing to listen to her but the pressure is a lot on her and I hope she can hold up and fight to the very end. She seems worn out with the constant arguments and conflicts between them all. I tried to encourage her to keep up the fight and not give up.
Jane owns a water tank that we gave her to help serve her community with clean water. After getting the tank it took her a while to have the tapped water come to her house. She had to build a wall around her water tank to ensure it is safe from robbers. It breaks my heart to see that this is going away but it is going to be my fight to ensure that wherever she goes, that tank goes too.
Lastly, all my efforts to find Gertrude were in vain. The last I heard from her was when she had gotten a large room to share with her brother who was starting a salon. I have tried to call her at least four times and even left a message with someone who knows her but I have not heard from her. I have to take the next step to physically locate her at her last known home address. Usually what scares me is not knowing where our Mamas are and what has happened to them. We have had a few cases of domestic violence so I have to locate them to know what is going on.
Harriets’ shop search is still difficult. She has seen about four more shops but they are not secure for her items so she turned them down. The search still continues for her and we wish her well. A good location is key for her success as a business.
I spoke to Peter this week to see how far with his vocational school arrangements but there is no update yet. The property he wants to buy is still available but the promises have not yet come through. He says one of his supporters is coming at the end of May 2021, so we wait to hear from that side of the story.
It is always a wonderful time for me to sit down, relive the visits and put them down on what we would call paper. Always brings a smile to my face. It teaches me a lot of storytelling because most Ugandans are storytellers, something I have been learning for several years now as it also comes with my job.
Thank you for always following, please share a word with someone and let them know about our little world of simple magic as we try to change lives little by little. Please don’t be like that “crazy woman”, please stay safe, sanitize and always wear your masks. Let’s love one another, let’s protect our world one choice at a time.
Yours in service
Director of Programs, Uganda
ISEE Solutions Society