Greetings to you all,
It is an honor to write to you again this month. I hope that you are all doing well. The Covid situation continues to worry us but I like the fact that we are seemingly starting to realize that we have to kind of adapt to the situation so we can continue living. In Uganda, it looks like we are only a few steps back to normal. Earlier this month the president of Uganda decided to lift most of the restrictions, mainly opening up public transport, opening schools, and other educational institutions. Fully operationalizing public transport was a good sign that the economy was being opened up too. Our economy is mainly fueled by the fluidity of our transport system even with its flaws, it still somewhat works efficiently for its purpose.
This ease in the sector has surely come at the wrong time as the prices of fuel have shot up because many of the fuel tanker trucks can’t cross into Uganda because of delayed Covid 19 test kits and results. This has surely again thrown us off balance. We are back to almost square one where we have to pay more for transport because of fuel scarcity. We can only hope that this situation gets better because the government through the Ministry of Health has sent a team of workers to help deal with the situation.
The first week of official work has not been easy at all because I had to make a decision last week to not make physical visits but rather call. This was because Omicron had become an issue for us in the last 3-4 weeks and usually during the festive season, many people will travel to their ancestral homes or what we call villages. The same happened to me as I also decided to go and be with my mother because 25th December is her birthday.
During my phone call follow-ups, I discovered that many of the Mama Nguvu partners had caught Covid through the festive season. More than 6 of them caught the variant so it was actually a smart decision for me not to do physical visits because otherwise, we could have infected one another.
The following is what transpired during our phone call conversations;
Irene L. is doing okay. She too decided to go to her village but mainly because at the end of last year, she lost her mother and that was just the start of many of her problems. She eventually lost her business because she overstayed in the village, she lost her house due to the accumulation of her rent arrears so the landlord kicked her out. She reached out to me and we helped her come back but only alone, leaving all her children in the village because they not only had no home to come to but also the fact that she would not be able to care for them. We sent her some funds that helped her secure some food supplies for the children before she left Gulu.
She then came to Kampala and started living in her tiny salon. It was through these situations that we tried to help her buy some supplies for her salon so she could rebuild her business.
She traveled back to Gulu for Christmas and also picked up her children who moved in with her in the salon but luckily, her sister invited her to live with her because the four people would not fit into that small space.
She is back in business and the salon is functional because she needs it to be since schools are being reopened after almost two years without school. The salon is picking up slowly according to her but she still thinks more people will come after school-going children are dealt with.
Harriet L. is also doing okay. She was unable to go to the village this time around because the transport fares were a bit off for her, therefore decided to celebrate her festive season within Kampala.
Her business has not been bad at all during the season as she had some little business but the majority of the people who went to the village had not returned and the ones who had returned were all worried about school fees. All schools have become ridiculous this term, with schools charging up to twice the previous fees but also asking for way too many requirements for children and this has become quite an issue for most.
Asia B. is also coming back off a tough season as she recently was hosting and nursing her mother during the months of November and December 2021. I had the opportunity to meet her mother when I was delivering her Christmas Hamper and she was a sweet lady, she made it a point to thank us for the gesture. Thankfully, Asia’s mother was able to recover just well enough to go back to the village for Christmas.
It was unfortunate that Asia during this whole time had to close her shop, so she could take care of her mother. She used up a lot of her savings and capital too but I guess it was to the right cause and now that she is back, we will be looking forward to trying to rebuild with her over the next couple of months.
Pulakiseda N. is doing okay now but just like Irene, she had some misfortunes in December 2021. Her brother died of a longtime illness and depression. He was suffering and by the time they called Pulakiseda, it was a bit late for any intervention. She had to travel on 23rd December 2021 but he did not make it to the morning, he passed on and he was laid to rest on 25th December. While she was in the village, she twisted her ankle and came back with a bad leg.
She is back though and right back to business as usual. When she leaves for even just a day, she has a system to help her shop remain functional by calling a trusted friend to run the business. She sometimes goes for about 2-5 days but her shop is always open and functioning, something that I really commend her for.
Jane N. is doing okay. She is one of the other Mamas who did not go to the village for Christmas. She stayed at her home and ran her water business throughout the festive season, people need water anyways. The only challenge was that there were not as many people but also no water shortages so business was slow for her.
Her grandson’s piggery business was also not doing bad at all as their pig gave birth to 4 piglets. This project was started after I encouraged them to start out something for him (Francis) because of his physical and medical condition. Francis was born hydrocephalus and for a while, we helped him go for physiotherapy classes but it was also upon us to also help equip them to take on the responsibility by themselves.
They started a small piggery and worked their way to 5 pigs so every now and then they could sell them off and get money for Francis’ treatment and medical needs. He usually goes once a month for that physiotherapy outreach and for them to not feel the financial pinch, it was better for them to have a venture for him. After seeing this venture come to life we have wanted to support them with better housing for the pigs because they are a bit in a small space. We wanted to help them expand but they have no space in that particular area so they will have to look.
Florence A’s business is doing okay now especially the food business but her salon has been slow since the start of the year. This has been common with many of the businesses because schools were to be opened in early January 2022 so most parents had to save all they can in preparation as we have already noted that schools have increased their tuition or school fees.
Otherwise, Florence is well and she has now sent her kids to school. As a matter of fact, she has decided to send them to boarding school because they have become bigger and the house they live in is a bit small. The other reason is the fact that they have to concentrate in school as their home doubles as a business location for hairdressing and french fries business. This environment makes it unsafe both physically and educational because sometimes or most times, the actual work goes till late so it seemed a better call to help the children by taking them to boarding school.
Amina A started the year on a good note, given the previous year and how it went down where she lost her husband and son to pretty much avoidable circumstances. The worst was of course losing her son which devastated her life. I remember visiting her and whenever she wanted to tell me the story, she would just break down in tears. This year started with her two children getting sponsorship by an old Islamic organization that paid for the school fees at least for this term. My hope is that they can continue until the year ends. The children had not yet gone to school at the time we spoke because they didn’t have scholastic material, so we partnered with them by providing the funds they needed.
We hope that this break can bring some sanity back to her mind as she does not need to worry about the children because they are both in school now.
We will then continue to look out for her until she gets another opportunity for business which we will surely help fund as long as the business is sound for her and the funds are available too.
Dorah A. has been school hunting for a few days. One of her kids sat Primary Leaving Exams so she needed to find a Secondary school for her. She got fortunate and found her a placement but like most of the Mamas’, they have to struggle a bit with looking for school requirements.
Otherwise, she is well and the kids too. The cooking businesses are okay though she had to hold a bit during the school hunt time, the rabbits are growing and she might get some new babies soon. Rabbits expand very quickly and it is a very marketable business so I am excited to see what happens in her life.
Annet N. is doing okay although her business has been slow because of the hot weather. She cooks tea and porridge every day which she sells at the roadside by the market and this season has been hot. Therefore, she has not had many sales over these past few weeks but regardless she has been saving her money. This has enabled her to keep her kids in coaching class and when the time came, she was able to send all of them back to school. The other advantage is that the school is right next to her home so the teachers know her.
Rehema N. has not been doing bad at all this season. She has been doing lots of laundry in the community and was able to save some money for her children, even though it was not enough for all. She was able to send the second last born son to school immediately because he was starting to join bad groups so she decided to take him to boarding school. There is always a fear among parents when the boy child stays home for so long, it is in our nature to explore and try to figure things out ourselves but most times this ends in poor choices.
Leone, her second son, was starting to come home late and become uncontrollable so when the opportunity came when schools reopened she had to take him away. Whereas this was good, it affected her youngest daughter who started complaining to her mother that Rehema loved her sons more than her. Rehema used all the remaining money to buy her some scholastic materials but it was not enough because the school required her to also pay some money for fees. We decided to intervene in this situation too and we are offering some aid to ensure that this young girl goes to school.
Lastly, I spoke to Christine N. the Poultry and Piggery farmer. She is doing okay at the moment. The animals have not picked up well yet again so she sold off a few of the chickens that looked mature enough and used the money to order for a new batch. Her pigs are doing okay but the dry weather has challenged her feeding. The season has been hot and dry which means there is not much in the gardens. There is also some scarcity of maize in the market at the moment and it has affected the maize bran prices. She usually alternates the feeding between maize bran and grasses. The lucky part is that schools have reopened and she might be getting the school food leftovers that students throw in the bins to feed the pigs.
Otherwise, she is preparing her children to go to school before the chickens come so she can pay attention to the chickens, and maybe this time she will get some good returns.
It is good to be back again, this year is exciting and I look forward to the new adventures to come. It is always an honor to write to you, keeping you posted on what is happening in our communities here. We ask that you keep supporting and encouraging us, the work that we do helps to secure the lives of the people that we serve. I want to thank you for following us and hopefully, you can spread the word as we make the world a better place for each Mama, child, and grandchild.
Director of Programs, Uganda.
ISEE Solutions Society