Greetings to you all,
Happy New month to you all. It has been a while since we last shared here but I am happy that life has offered me another opportunity to continue this relationship with you all. The last time I was here, some parts of Canada and the USA were fighting major wildfires and I am glad that the weather finally showed up for people this time, especially in Canada, and that the fires were eventually put under control. I continue to send out my sympathy to the families that lost lives and properties in that fire.
The situation has not changed much here though at least the weather has changed a bit. We have seen a couple of rains these last few days. My flowers look great and the soil is now softer in my little garden. I have not had the opportunity to plant any vegetables this time round and I will wait when the rains stabilize so I can buy seedlings and plant them.
The COVID situation has not changed much regardless of the fact the restrictions have been put in place, though I like the fact that people are reportedly more often washing their hands. Many publicly-accessible buildings like shopping malls and arcades have washing facilities outside, and the taxis I have taken during the last few weeks all enforce social distancing and washing of hands.
I have been doing my level best to remain healthy on all fronts, social, physical and emotionally too. These tough times have taught me a lot about life and how to be strong as a human being, to support the people that we care about without withholding. To believe in people as they are struggling and to help them to eventually rise up from the rubble. Thank you for being a part of this journey, your support and encouragement goes a long way in making our world a better place.
These past few days, I was able to see the following Mamas; Betty N, Annet C, Hamida N, Justine N, Florence A, Francoise L, Jennifer N, Immaculate M, Aidah K and Lorna K.
Betty N is doing well. She is healthy and her baby is doing well too. Betty gave birth a few months back and has only since returned to her tailoring shop a few weeks ago. Of course she needed time to recover from her C-section surgery. She is happy and business seems to be back because she currently has four dress orders. All of them are needed in the coming one month, so she is working hard to finish them on time for the clients.
The tailoring training has not yet kicked off but she still has one of her favourite students’ working with her, so this is a good thing for her.
Annet is doing really well with her salon and hairdressing shop. All her 5 students are back to the shop and training at the moment. I was able to visit her and see what she was doing with her students. She is happy with the progress they have made so far. She has also included decoration to the package she is offering them. Annet owns a party decoration business that hires decoration and traditional wear dresses for brides. In Uganda, most traditions wear a dress wrap called “Gomesi”. This dress is very expensive to buy (just like Western-style wedding gowns), so people like Annet and others in this business buy and rent them out to people who can’t afford them.
She says her business has not yet picked up because of the restrictions on parties and celebrations but she was glad to report to me that she doesn’t have to go to town to shop for shoes. She found a gentleman who delivers the same shoes at the same amount so she is actually going to save time and money. This is good progress for her business and training because then she will not need to spend hours going to buy shoes from Kampala hence students losing time.
Hamida N, former poultry farmer, is trying to raise capital by selling furniture at her friend’s furniture shop. She is still negotiating with someone who wants to help build her a poultry house but he was delayed by the lockdown.
I hope that the build comes through because for sure I am a bit excited by the fact that she raises all her chicks and rarely loses any of them. I believe that she is gifted to do this and by empowering her to do what she loves, she can support her children.
Our potential Mama chick supplier is seemingly ready to partner with fellow Mamas in the same field. Christine has been doing well with all her pigs and chickens. She desires to grow her business continuously so, she is always on the lookout and I hope in the near future she can supply Hamida.
Justine N is doing really well for herself. Just before the lockdown and the new restrictions, Justine bought herself a new water tank for her water business. Justine requested for very large saucepans used by caterers to cook food for large groups of people and used to hire them out. She has been hiring saucepans out since 2017 and at one point was doing very well.
Justine also sells water and vegetables to her community and it was good to see the amount of progress made in her life by buying this tank. She managed to buy broken tiles and used them to floor her house to help deal with her flooding problem. This was really good progress for her, especially for this place. Water is one of the most important commodities and more so providing clean water is key for healthy living. Justine lives in a slum called “Bwaise” and one of the most scarce things is clean water. She managed to source clean water to her house and has been selling this for the last few years.
Florence A is doing really well in her alternative business creation. Florence started out doing hairdressing in her salon and through time and hardships she started a chips business. The lockdown affected almost all contact services and that included salons. As a result all salons were closed hence affecting the income of Florence.
Early this year, Florence started a little potato chip business just outside her salon. It blew up and she has advanced, buying bigger fryers and a tin house which she intends to use as a toy store. It is very impressive to see Mamas come from struggling places to a place where they are comfortable. Florence is a single mother and was left by her husband about 4-5yrs ago, with kids as young as 2- and 4-yrs old. She has worked very hard to reach where she is and she doesn’t want to go back.
She recently had an electrical problem and she almost went mad trying to have it fixed. I love that she is hungrier than she was before. She is a go-getter and fearless.
Francoise L is getting better each time I have visited her. She has finished her TB medication and has also finished her feeding program. About 6 weeks ago, I found out that Francoise had caught TB from one of the people she was living with. I discussed with Erika and we agreed to put her on a feeding program until she finished her medication. We paid for her to eat meals at Rovence’s restaurant, another Mama who is part of our program. Rovence fed her throughout this time, changing meals daily and always ensuring that Francoise found food at the end of each day. It was important for her to feed well to improve her immunity. She now looks better and looks stronger too.
She is now back to business, cooking and selling food at the railway line area. She buys maize and beans, soaks it in ash through the night and boils it through the night. She leaves it on the fire until morning and it is sold as it sits on the stove until it is finished. She has been back at doing this since she recovered from her illness. It was good to see her back on her feet again.
Jennifer N is doing okay in her business. The secondhand shoes are not moving as she had hoped but she says it is okay. It is better than staying home. Her only challenge at the moment comes from the fact her eldest son did not perform well in his final examination. She tried to get him into some good schools but all in vain.
Jennifer says the pandemic limited children’s access to classrooms and teachers, which she attributes to the reasons why her son did not do well in school. She hoped to get him private coaching so he can pick up on his learning.
Otherwise her business is well and her kids are all healthy and doing well.
Immaculate M is a clinic entrepreneur. She works at one of the hospitals as a counselor, so she eventually partnered with a nurse and through this partnership they created a pharmacy/health centre. The business is not doing very well at the moment and they are finding it hard to get patients. She attributes this low turn up to the lack of money and also the fact that most people have resorted to local and herbal remedies to treat their illnesses.
Immaculate started working with us when she applied for a salon and she was robbed of all her items. She had employed one of her sisters to work with her in the salon but she was not diligent enough hence causing Immaculate to lose a lot of her property through theft.
She has since been working on a plan and finally managed to start up a clinic with a friend and has been doing that for the last few months. We can only hope that things get better for her as the year proceeds.
Aidah K is really struggling with her sales. She closes her potato chip stall at 2-3pm, something she never did before. She was really unhappy when we met. She perfectly understands the fact that most people are not working so they don’t buy food from restaurants that much. She says most of her former customers now eat at home because they simply don’t have excess money.
This lack of jobs has also affected her side business selling vegetables like tomatoes, onions and other small vegetables. This section is not doing well too as she only had tomatoes and bananas at the time of my visit, so as a way to encourage her I bought tomatoes worth about 3,000/-. We hope times get better for her because she has started working half the day, which means she is very affected. She used to cook until 6-7pm in the evening.
Lastly, I visited Lorna K and I found her at her restaurant trying to finish her Voluntary Health Trainer gig. She had been filling in a few forms that she hadn’t finished at the hospital. She said that the business had not been very bad. She is still able to cook her breakfast meals every day and at the end of the day, she will sometimes make evening tea. The evening tea has not been popular recently due to the continuous rise in poverty around Uganda.
Lorna too, just like Jennifer, is not happy about the performance of her son but he has managed to get his organization that sponsors him to train in computer skills. He spends a lot of his time there so it actually ensures that he is a bit too busy to engage with his peers at home. It has limited the chances of him getting wasted like the majority of the kids in this slum.
Yet again, I would like to thank you for following us through this past weeks’ events and visits. Please continue to follow and support us as we continue seeking for avenues through which we can impact the lives of these people. It is such an honor for us to be allowed to walk alongside them as they achieve their dreams. We appreciate you all. Let’s continue to stay safe, maintain social distancing but remain sociable as it is our motto.
Director of Programs, Uganda.
ISEE Solutions Society.