ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

June 20 update

Rovence with her Purifaaya

{ed. note: This will be the last normal update for a while now. Uganda has just announced a 42-day shelter-in-place lockdown. All civilian travel via vehicle is completely banned, unless for the purpose of transporting sick people to or from hospital. Movement between districts is completely banned as well. Andrew has stockpiled food for the period and he has a new water purification system (see details below) so he says he’ll be fine. Uganda is being hit with the variants that we are but unlike us they don’t have access to large stores of vaccines so the disease is running rampant. We have offered Andrew support for this time and please rest assured that we will never do anything which would jeopardize his life. We will keep you abreast of the situation but likely the internet will be the best place to search for updates. Andrew will still be writing reports but they will of necessity be different than they are now. We hope you understand and bear with us. We wish the best for the people we serve.

We would like to sincerely thank Jane K from the US who generously donated about 15m of PUL and 30m of flannel for our period packs. She shipped them to us from the US via FedEx and it was like Christmas when we received the HUGE box full of fabric. Thanks so much, Jane! Hope to see you again some time soon. Jane also told us about the Purifaaya water purification system which both Andrew and Rovence are using to such great effect. -ed.}

Greetings to you all dear friends and family,

I hope that you are all doing well. I know that we are all in tough times but we have to dare to dream that things will get better someday. My little world Uganda is doing “Uganda” as always. It is a country that keeps giving endlessly. Sometimes the things that happen here shock us and sometimes they don’t and that is why we say, “Uganda Zaabu” which tragically translates as, “Uganda is Gold”. I would really love to meet the person who invented this quote because he/she must have been shocked to the core. We now casually use it as sarcasm when something happens in our circles of daily lives.

The first being that, this week the police arrested people who stole the Covid 19 AstraZeneca vaccine. The country has reportedly run out of the vaccine as the statistics got worse in the last few weeks. We have recorded numbers into the 1000+ in a single day. The country recently bought just under 900,000 vaccines which account less than 1% of the total population and yet there are a bunch of incompetent people stealing the vaccines. It is reported that the police recovered just under 1000 vaccines from pharmacies and clinics that were hiding vaccines in their stores. I for one was happy that they were caught and the police hopefully did their job.

The other reason why we are Gold is that anything can sell, anything is an opportunity for us to make money. Forget about the money, Ugandans have released more than 1000 concoctions in the last few months, with all sorts of herbs being introduced as remedies by various herbalists. These remedies range from pineapple juice, oranges, lemon, ginger, tamarinds, garlic, turmeric and many others. Every household is on some kind of juice mix including myself. I have blended pineapple and mixed it with ginger and tamarind. We are trying to improve and boost our immunity as we prepare our bodies for the fight of our lives. Before this second wave people were living so recklessly, no one ever wore masks and washing hands was for show. I hate to say it but I am so glad that everyone I asked to wear masks now wears them voluntarily.

The third highlight is politics which I am not a big fan of but I am glad most of the political prisoners that were arrested during and before the January 2021 elections have been released. They were released on 14th June 2021 after many months in prison cells without bail. They were only granted bail today. The celebration for me here comes from the fact that these were young people and they had families and family members they were taking care of. Many of the family members had been struggling, going to the Central Police Station and court almost daily seeking some kind of justice. Finally a big number of them were released and that for me, it is worth celebrating. 

Between 8th to 14th June 2021, I visited the following Mamas; Rovence N, Florence A, Annet C, Asia B, Lorna K, Catherine N, Amina A, Francoise L and Harriet. I also reached a few by phone who included  Dorah A, Geoffrey O, Gertrude N, Jane N and Angel.

I will start with Rovence’s visit which basically was to deliver a Purifaaya water purifier for her business. This week we wanted to test how effective these purifiers are so we could maybe buy one for each Mama who owns a restaurant. We believe in improved livelihoods, but also clean water is one of the biggest contributors to good health. To this end, we investigated Purifaaya Water Purifiers. They are made in Uganda by a small business. We bought two ceramic water purifiers, one for me and the other for Rovence as a test of concept. I am proud to inform you that the purifier is a hit already. I went to see Rovence and the customers were already making comments, saying that Rovence had advanced and really upped her game. They wanted to know who her witch was, haha, because whatever the witch was doing for Rovence seemed to be working. Earlier they were pleased with the furniture and now she has the water purifier. They were really happy for her.

I am glad we were able to make available for Rovence these advancements because they seem to have improved the outlook on the business for her and her customers are enjoying it too.

Francoise L is still undertaking treatment for her TB infection, malaria and typhoid. I was glad to visit her and go to the clinic to help clear her medical bill for the treatment. In Uganda the majority of the people don’t have or even can’t afford medical insurance so we always pay our medical bills using cash. The hospital was kind enough to give her first aid and treatment for malaria on credit and because of this gesture I asked that we help her pay this bill and I am glad we did. Since the medication for TB is quite strong, we decided to get Francoise a meal at Rovence’s restaurant for the next 14 days. We believe that this will help her body cope with the medication. Francoise has been out of work for a couple of weeks now and her eating has been non-existent so making this available for her will give her peace of mind and strength of body as she begins to heal.

Florence (r) with a customer

I made a quick visit to Florence’s salon. Everything has to be fast these days because of curfew and the fact that we are trying to reduce the risk of infection.{note: this was written pre-lockdown when they had a 6PM curfew; this has since been supplanted with total lockdown. -ed.} I am happy to report that Florence is doing incredibly well especially with her chips business. She has bought an electric deep fryer for herself to help make the cooking faster, helping reduce the use of charcoal and firewood. Florence said it fries the chips much faster and leaves them less oily. This is what most customers like so this is a good thing.


The salon is doing okay but she is worried about this second wave of infection which may result in the  closure of salon business yet again. She was happy that the chips had picked up and the snacks like popcorn plus other deep fried goodies are doing well. She was glad that she had opened up this segment of the business. She had space in front of her salon which was being rented by someone who was not even paying his rent, so she took it over and took on the opportunity. 

Annet with students

I took my last opportunity to travel beyond Kampala to go see Annet C. She is doing really well and she has for the first time enrolled more than 5 students to her salon training hairdressing. The students are many for her to handle all by herself and she decided to teach them in two segments. She has been training them for just over 3 weeks now and she says they are picking up well. They are day scholars so that makes it easy for her to handle them given the new restriction.

Annet with some of the shoes she sells as a side shuffle

My only disappointing part was that when I visited none of them was wearing a mask on their faces. I warned and encouraged them to wear their masks because all of them come from different families and homes. I told them that it is important that they learn this new skill but also be responsible enough to stay safe. I was really also happy that Annet is empowering young girls with a skill that would probably be the answer to their future goals and ambitions.

Asia with her daughter

Asia B. is doing really well with her business lately. It looks like everything is starting to work out well for her. The shop looks busier and she has now hired her front space to another person to transact mobile money. She is now also receiving rent from the lady using the front. She has also trained her young daughter to sell in the shop and she actually brings all her girls in turns each week. They help to pack water, juice, clean and also wash bottles and cups which are used in packaging the banana juice.

Her wrapping bag business is also picking up and she says each week it is getting better because people are starting to know about this addition to the shop. The sales from the wrapping or packing bags are improving and some of the packages are starting to deplete and she is soon restocking.

I am always excited when business picks up for Mamas like Asia who are trying hard to keep their businesses afloat. I am so glad that we gave her a boost to buy these bags.

Catherine cooking fries

Lorna K and her daughter Catherine started really well early this year but it looks like things have changed. They have lost most of the cups to theft from customers who order tea and porridge from outside the restaurant. The worst part comes from the fact that some of them don’t even pay for what they have eaten. It was really sad when she told me that she has been forced to stop cooking for more than a week now because some of them would come in and eat and say we don’t have money, we will pay later, but of course they never return. 

The same thing is happening to Catherine who fries and sells samosa in front of the restaurant entrance. Neighbors come to the restaurant and order samosas but after the samosas are handed to them they just walk away telling Catherine to pick the money in the afternoon as she passes their houses. Another challenge as I investigated showed that the other siblings too eat the samosas and this has greatly affected Catherine’s sales.


I therefore asked Lorna to ensure that she spoke to the other kids not to eat samosas, especially after Catherine had counted them and put them in the display box. She promised to speak to the rest of the children to stop this because Catherine might lose her business entirely because of this.

Amina with chickens

Amina A. has temporarily closed her banana stall to try and raise chickens for 6 weeks now. The last time I visited her, I was not able to meet her because she had gone for a burial. This time we met and she showed me her chicks and explained to me why she did what she did. I told her of course not to worry as long as she was happy with what she was doing. Unfortunately she doesn’t like the experience because it is expensive to raise birds because they eat a lot and also the fact that they don’t bring money daily like the bananas. Amina’s home can only run effectively if it has cash coming in daily and that is why I encouraged her to get this kind of business.

Amina has decided that this will be her first and last try to raise chickens and she will go back to her bananas immediately she has traded the chickens.

Otherwise she is doing okay. She is healthy, she actually asked me to send regards to her dentist because she has not had any pain ever since her dental appointments.

We can only wish Amina the best during this time of the chicken. I am glad she has lost none and we hope she doesn’t lose any until she sells them off. The chickens are only broilers so she is not getting eggs even.


We had a light moment with Lilly when I visited her tailoring shop. She has been having a hard time with her shop in the recent weeks, having no orders for sewing in more than 2 weeks. This week she was lucky to get an order to sew 3 dozen tablecloths so she was happy and really laughed about it. It was wonderful to see her smile again because the last time I visited her shop, she was all bundled up in wraps because of the cold plus the fact that she wasn’t sewing made it worse. 

Otherwise she is doing well. All the kids she sent to school a week ago are all back home and she is a bit disappointed after taking out loans to pay school fees. Some or even most of the Mama’s, especially lately that schools have increased fees, can’t afford to pay cash so they take out loans and then repay them slowly. Lilly, like the others, also took out a loan and was disappointed to see the kids back only after a week.

I am glad she now has some work to do and I hope she can now pick up from there and become busy for the next half of the year.


I also visited Harriet L. our tailor who is still searching for a shop. Unfortunately, there is no progress at the moment. She has not found a place to locate her shop. She told me that she has been looking slowly but has not found anything interesting for her.

I usually visit people like these to push them harder because I realized that some of our Mamas really need constant follow up and encouragement. I will keep looking out for her until we get a breakthrough.

Lastly, I followed up the following via phone and it looks like most of it for the next one month will be via phone because a lot of restrictions have been put on transportation due to the spread of the virus. 

Jane, our water tank Mama is still fighting for her land and when we spoke the negotiations were still going on with the husband on sharing the money. Jane, as most of you might now know, has been separated for more than 7 years and the man moved on to start another family. Jane has been single handedly raising the kids and paying school fees for them alone. The property on which they live is under the interest of developers and they want to buy them out but the man wants them to split equally. The interesting thing is that almost 90% of the investment on this property was made by Jane. She wants to get the bigger share to be able to construct another home for her grandchildren who she is currently living with. The developers have given them more time to discuss the sharing yet again but they have not yet reached a conclusion. Lets wait to hear from the next meeting that is scheduled in about 2 weeks.

I spoke to Dorah who suspected that she caught the virus and she is doing better now. She won’t open the restaurant for a few more weeks as she regains her strength. She said that her reopening will depend on how fast she recovers and also the fact that she has to wash the whole restaurant. I am glad that she is stronger and can talk better.

I was disappointed that Geoffrey O has fallen back in the habit of not picking up my calls. I thought that since the schools have been closed he would be more available but nothing to hear from him. 

Getrude is in a mess after having spent money on furniture only to reopen business to a closed university. The government closed all schools and institutions due to the second wave of the virus that has affected many schools hence closure. They will reopen after 42 days and during this time all teachers are to be vaccinated. I wonder how this will happen since we do not have any vaccines left.

Please keep us in your thoughts because the virus has spread wider and faster than we thought. I fear for the Mama’s that we serve because of the kinds of communities they live in. I have bought myself a box of masks and sanitizer because of the movements I have to make. I have also extracted juices that I travel with and I sip on them to try and boost my immunity. As you may remember, I had a bit of a season a few weeks back but I feel better and I am sure my immunity is now good. 

Thank you for supporting us endlessly and we hope you continue to do so because it is times like these that your support is needed more than ever.

Please continue to stay safe, maintain social distancing and also sanitize but remember to stay sociable. The world is in pain and suffering, we could use some loving and kindness.

Thank you.


Andrew Echel

Director of Programs, Uganda

ISEE Solutions Society.

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