Greetings to you all,
I hope you are well and we are happy that you have followed and supported us all this time. It is always a great pleasure to write to you and it always gives me chills when I have to write to you every week. I hope that you are well. The sun has been blazing everywhere including the Pearl of Africa “Uganda”, which is I think one of the best places to visit every once in a while if you can. The dust has been incredible because of the dryness, food has become scarce especially vegetables and all grains. Beans and maize have hit their highest in a long time.
On this episode of Keeping Up with the Mamas, I was able to catch up with a few like Jane, Harriet, Hadija, Irene, Florence, Rovence and Justine. I was unable to get to Anna, Margaret and Henry who I have to go and visit to see if he is doing okay. It has been a while since I last heard from him and his chicken project.
I will start this week’s report with my visit with Hadija who had been feeling unwell last week. She was feverish, weak and seemed like she was in a lot of pain because she didn’t even go to work that particular day of my visit. When I got there this week, Hadija was alive and well and back on the street doing what she loves the most, making money. She said that the fever had been shaken off and she needs to get back running as it is about time for schools to start demanding fees. During this visit, I was glad to meet one of her two sons she had left in the village. It was good to finally meet him as she spoke of him a lot during our past visits over the years. He is attending secondary school now but back then, he was in Primary 4. It is amazing to see how these kids have grown within the program.
I also dropped by along the way to see Angel and looks like she was able to pick up her pieces and bought a few more items for her stall. I was able to get some plantain and tomatoes from her stall. She is doing her best to regain but the supply market has not been very good towards people as the supply has continued to reduce because farmers were unable to harvest enough. Everyone is fighting for the little that is there as the sun was brutal to most of the produce and vegetables.
Florence is also hanging in there in the meantime. The salon is a bit off pace and the food sector is also not doing well. Florence is a wonderful and talented beautician plus very hard working but now and then things become tricky and she loses focus. This time, she joined a local women saving group where they are required to deposit money for saving very particular days of the week. It usually doesn’t matter whether the week has been good or not so this pre-emts them to even take capital into saving efforts. My major challenge with these saving schemes is that they don’t get profits on the savings and it is the one putting aside their capital and sometimes or most of the time, it ends up affecting the business. In this effect, the salon is depleted with no braids and weaves until the savings mature at a given date. She was filling polythene bags with juice to make ice or popsicles which are a big thing for the school-going kids.
Justine is doing okay. Most of her efforts have been focused on finishing the house and she has done most of the things she needs to do to make it habitable. This building also directly affects her income which eventually has eaten up her capital from the vegetable stall. It doesn’t look as it used to look but she is surviving with it at the moment. She has managed to keep all her grandkids in school. She has also successfully stopped the flooding water from entering and flooding both the house and the stall. Otherwise, her plans for the stall are still available and she mentions the same that like the rest of the Mamas who own stalls, vegetables and other farm produce are still scarce on the market.
Lilly is making herself busy with some small tailoring projects and she is hoping to sell at local markets. She is working with some little fabric she was able to purchase to make shirts and dresses for sale. She says that the September and October Markets are usually good and she wants to capitalize on these as people tend to buy in preparation for Christmas. She made a boost request for assistance to get some fabric to boost her business in this area and I told her that we will see about that. Otherwise, she is okay, her landlord is not overbearing as before and now Lilly sits out of the shop and does her tailoring.
Irene is back from her wild endeavours as she went to visit trade moving markets that sell foodstuff, clothes, food and many other items. The expedition was successful as she was able to profitably trade her silverfish at the refugee market in Gulu and she was able to restock her salon with hair and other little condiments in the shop. I was happy to see the progress she made and she is waiting for the next route to come so she can go back there. She also paid some school fees for her daughter who is now back in school. I guess some Mamas have to do whatever they need to do to obtain what they need.
Harriet is back and running again. This is another Mama who worries me the most as her eviction from the railway reserve but she surprises me every week and every month as she is there busking in the heat of the sun. Otherwise, she is well. Business as usual for her as always. She had been sickly but now she is okay and working hard to ensure her daughter is in school. She told me that she was squeezed between a rock and a hard place last week on whether to deposit some money on school fees or personal treatment. In the end, she made the best decision to split between the two so that her daughter doesn’t skip school anymore. Just like Lilly, she also made some requests to get the fabric too to help her keep busy and make dresses or displays for sale to customers. Maybe this can attract some more clients.
Rovence is also not bad. Business is really slow for her this season to the point that she thinks someone is bewitching her. It surprises me a lot when Mamas claim these things but I guess when you live in such places filled with poverty, people are bound to seek alternative sources. She on several occasions found her charcoal stove lit in the morning and yet no one is there. She locks the shop every evening but someone finds a way in and starts her fire for her and this was on two occasions. The season has been bad generally for everyone or most people here so people have not doing a lot of trading and eating out like they used to. This has affected Rovence’s income and now she thinks that maybe someone is doing something to affect her restaurant but I tried to calm her by telling her such things don’t exist just to improve her confidence in her ability to regain.
Lastly, I visited Jane and she is doing okay. Her main business for months has been gardening because she has surely suffered with these developers who have kept throwing dirt on what remained of what she owns on that block. The developers don’t want to pay up for the remaining plot so they have made it impossible but she has been resilient. Anyways, the break for me on this project is that we have now started the process to move the tank. We have paid for the 2 bags of cement and sand that is needed to complete the base of the tank. This has to be done because the guy who has been keeping the tank has been paid off and Jane saw him start moving his belongings so we have to work faster. I am glad this tank movement is in motion to complete this transfer. This is an expensive tank so it can’t be destroyed at this stage.
This week has been extremely challenging especially because of the heat and the dust in the atmosphere but I am glad I got to do what I did. Thank you for supporting us, and thank you for following the work that we do. The Mamas are always sending you their prayers and thoughts for all that you do for them. Last week, one of the roosters that were given to us became a father to 2 chicks out of the 10 eggs. It was the first time for my hen to lay eggs so there was nothing much to expect but I was excited to hear them chip in the morning when I woke up. Mother chicken has been so good and she has several times pecked my finger as I tried to move her to a safer spot for the night. It finally got used to my moving it and now we are back to friends and she allows me to carry her along with her two chicks to prevent the rain from beating them.
Director of Programs, Uganda.
ISEE Solutions Society.