ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

September 26 update

Muri mutta! (Moo-ri-Moo-ta)

This type of greeting is commonly used by Tribes from Western Uganda including Banyankole, Bahoro, Bakiga and Bafumbira. All these  people all speak almost a similar language but they are also differentiated by their accents. Whereas the majority of people from different parts of this country may not recognize which language is which, usually those from the West will automatically know where the other is from just by speaking. 

This greeting is also similar to one used by the Baganda from the Central Region, the interesting thing is that the only difference is the letter “L” and “Y”. Whereas the Baganda may say “Muli Mutya” the Banyankole will say “Muri Mutta”, if one is not a careful listener surely they will miss out the deviation. 

It’s amazing that we have such a vast category of people and tribes but yet again there is a vast similarity in the way we say or do things. It is almost as though all these five regions could have been speaking 5 languages instead of the 30 or so languages that we share. Almost every single district speaks a not very distinctive language from one another and we have over 134 districts in Uganda. I think you can imagine that for such a small country, we are so disunited that we speak so many different dialects and yet we could have spoken just 3-5 languages only. 

Anyways the world is in a continuous struggle searching daily with every resource they have to ensure that they can discover a vaccine for this pandemic. The figures are ever growing in the majority of countries, if not all. Uganda has hit 7,218 plus cases with just over 3,291 recoveries and 71 deaths. The government this week launched 10 new ambulances to help in the fight of the Covid 19. 

There is one fundamental story that I might have not shared with you yet but this is it, a few days ago a fire burnt down the senate building of Uganda’s national university, Makerere University. This university is one of the oldest universities in the land and has for years been recognized as one of the finest universities in all of Africa. It is almost every young person’s dream in Uganda that they study in this university and luckily the whole building or even the university didn’t burn down entirely. It was just a section of the administrative building, which means things will be replaced and when schools reopen they can actually attend school then. 

Makerere University

This week as usual, I continued to visit our Mamas and the following are some of the stories. 

Aidah in front of her completed stall

Aidah K has finally been set up completely. I delivered her 6 chairs and a table and finally her flooring has been finished. She was really happy and excited to receive these items which we had promised her almost 5yrs ago when we first met her. During our interviews when we first meet our Mamas, we actually ask them to share with us where they see themselves in 5yrs or so.  She told us that she wanted to have a proper restaurant where her customers would sit and eat their food. At that time and over the last five years she has been hawking the food, delivering the food to her customers wherever they were. 

Aida with her table and chairs

About two years ago, when we had a team come with Erika for about 3 weeks at the time, Aidah was donated 160,000/- Uganda shillings to help her move to a new location because she was having trouble with the place at the time. It is with this generous donation from the team that we started with and built up another fund to help her get the chairs and also fund the flooring of the new stall. She is now happily operating in her new place and hopefully she will stop carrying her food to the customers with time as people get used to the new place. 

We have also helped Christine N., to get her two little piglets. A few weeks ago you had been reading about the marvelous building that Christine was building until it was completed about three weeks ago. The next step was to wait for the availability of piglets to occupy the building. We were lucky that about a month ago one of our own Mamas called Maria A., who owns a piggery, received 8 piglets from her pregnant pig. 

Christine (L) and Maria (R)

Over the last few weeks she had been feeding them and preparing them for vaccines before she would trade off a few for some cash to be able to run the farm. We contacted her through Christine and she was happy to sell us two of her female piglets from which we will build a similar farm for Christine. What was good was that she accepted a fair price for her pigs but also to ensure that she has the piglets vaccinated before they are transferred to Christine. In the same spirit, I decided to meet half the costs for vaccination to ensure that she doesn’t lose all her cash. It was very refreshing to see these two Mamas share a light moment and discuss how they can best keep their animals for the best yield possible. 

{We are thrilled when this kind of synergy happens between Mamas. Thanks once again to Mary W. for her initial investment in Maria and her piggery. A big thank you to the students at Dr. Knox Middle School who worked so hard to make sure that Christine’s dream of a piggery could come true. -ed.}

Maria herself is doing well in terms and her farm is doing so well. She is lucky that in another 3 months she might be expecting new piglets. It turns out that 3 of her other female pigs are pregnant and will be giving her piglets some time in December. I am really excited for her because she wanted to have as many pigs and also one day build a bigger pig sty. The current sty has about 6 rooms and if these 3 pigs give birth, I doubt she will have enough space especially if she doesn’t get buyers. Otherwise everything is okay for her for now and even her chickens are looking good too. She actually bought some chickens for herself from Christine a few months ago and has been trying her luck in this business too. Maria used to sell deep fried snacks at a secondary school in her village but wanted to quit because it was a lot of work and at her age she didn’t want to expose herself to a lot of fire. She wanted to concentrate on her agricultural practice because it was friendlier and she loves it naturally so she wanted to give it time. I am really glad that all seems to be working out good for her. 

Rehema

I had been thinking about a particular mama called Rehema N. this past week, so I went to see her in Nansana. She is an incredibly hard working mama who by herself has raised over 9 kids including grandchildren. About a year or two ago, she lost her chips selling business just like Aidah when the property owner decided to sell. Unlike Aidah, Rehema didn’t have as much time to gather all her property so she sold some quickly to raise transport funds to move. Incidentally things worked out for her and she moved into a house keeping job, where the owner of the house was traveling so she has been keeping the house since. The challenge is that since this move, nothing has worked out business wise. This is what surprises me the most because knowing her previously, she was a very hardworking woman. Yes it was hard sometimes to meet all her bills but she would try and you would see it. We helped her out a couple of times to stabilize but she would later struggle but of course raising 9 kids with no permanent job, it was always going to be hard.

I really would like that we don’t give up on her and just like the other Mamas, we give her one more shot to see what she can do to sustain her family. The image was so sad when I visited them a few days earlier. They hadn’t had breakfast that morning and they were frying rice to eat as the only meal on the day. Yet she has toddlers in the house who are as young as 2yrs. 

We are trying to work out a small plan for her to sell charcoal next to the house she is keeping but the wooden shack she wants to use is in the middle of the way and she doesn’t own it too. The good thing is that the owner is willing to sell the shack to her so she can do whatever she wants. We want to give her a sack of charcoal and see how it goes from there. 

Angel

The struggle is still on and things haven’t changed a bit for Angel N. The grocery store is depleted substantially compared to the last time we gave her a boost about a year ago. The story is that her mother developed a swelling on top of her head and it required immediate operation and she was the only child in position to help. Angel ended up using most of her savings and capital cash into helping to treat her mother. Luckily for her, Angel’s mother got the treatment she needed and recovered without any complications but the challenge has been that she has failed to build back her capital. Over the past few months I have been visiting her and encouraging her to see to it that business grows back to where it was before. It might take a while but this time I want to help her build it all again with minimal involvement. I have discovered that sometimes people don’t know how much they can do until you show them or guide them to the answer. This is the best way of teaching, I have discovered. Taking someone to fish rather than handing them the fish all the time. I will keep monitoring and encouraging her to build through the next three or so months as she struggles to rebuild. 

The streets are getting rougher and tougher every day for Hadijja N. Hadijja is a very hardworking woman, just after two weeks of giving birth to her baby girl she went back to the street to sell her chips. With her baby on the back and other people helping out she would come to the streets on a place called Tula, Kirokole to fry her chips and sell. She previously had lost her bar business due to bad landlord deals that cost her rent and money too. She decided to close it and find another place to reopen the business. 

Hadijja

This was about the time she was nearly full term, so she thought maybe she would rest a bit before giving birth. Sadly after she gave birth the pandemic struck and she was never able to reopen the bar because everything was locked down. She later turned to a business she previously knew well and has been frying chips since then. 

The challenge that I have then has been the fact that she now doesn’t have a hygienic place to display her fries. She needs a wood and glass box which will help her display her food both properly and also hygienically. This will probably help attract more customers and increase sales. 

Another not so good story this week comes from Sarah N. our goat lady. She passed out the weekend before after she tried to chase her goats into the house from the field as it rained. These days it has been raining heavily as the rainy season is back. Sarah was in the garden when the clouds started to form and in no time it started to rain with hailstones falling. She was very worried about the goats, so along with her children and nephews they released the goats from the field and started to guide them to the goat house. During this exercise she realized her breathing was faint and tried to hurry into her house where she passed out and woke up the next day at about midday. Only to recognize that she was in the hospital with a few people surrounding her bed. She was told what happened and she stayed at the hospital for about 4 days. 

She received proper treatment and subsequently got better but the hospital as a policy started to ask for some payments and deposit as they administered treatment. They realized that the bill was accumulating so high and they advised them to pay the immediate amount as it would continue to increase if she remained bed ridden. The husband who is a farmer just like her was not able to raise the money so with the help of a local village leader, they managed to raise all the funds needed with the promise to pay them back. 

I realized that it was going to be hard and it was also going to be hard for them to make payments which would also affect the healing process of Sarah, so I spoke to Erika and we managed to clear the debt for them and also give her some money to help them buy any other necessary items. 

To me this is what makes me love the work that we do here. These moments like these are what motivate me daily or weekly to wake up and get out into the field to meet people like Sarah and make a difference in their lives. Erika calls it service, “..to serve them.”

This week we shared this quote by William Penn, “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

Sarah

This threw me into a realm of thought that challenges me on a daily basis to be a better person. To be kind to humanity and the earth at large. To make a difference in the lives of the young and the old who we come in contact with. Times like these are when we need to care more and be more present than ever. If my work has done anything to me over the years, it has surely challenged me to be a better person. The world needs some kindness. 

Sarah literally shed tears, lamenting “Who am I to deserve this?  You don’t know me even that much to do this.“

It turns out that she feels like she has been abandoned by most of her people over the years. That people are more willing to help you get into the grave but they won’t help you get treatment which may not even cost as much as they are willing to give at your funeral when life doesn’t matter anymore. 

I am truly honored to experience such joy sometimes when I meet our Mamas. They offer me all sorts of things like food, fruits and some go as far as offering money which then I can’t take because I personally feel they need it more. This is why when I go to visit their businesses, I actually buy from them also as a way of encouraging them. 

I want to thank you all for the opportunity you give us to make these kinds of differences in the lives of these families. Your single act of kindness to donate your time and other resources surely means a lot more than you can think of. 

This is why I continue to urge you all to stay safe, maintain social distance and also stay sociable. We can end this Period Poverty Mama by Mama. 

Yours truly 

Andrew Echel 

Director of Programs, Uganda 

ISEE Solutions Society 

{Just as this blog post was ‘going to press’, we received an email from Geoffrey Omongin telling us that his brick making project has hit their initial target of 40,000 bricks. This is an amazing achievement and we wish Geoffrey and his team all the best. We will continue to keep in contact with him — more details to come. -ed.}

September 20, 2020 update

{Note: This week ISEE received an incredible surprise. One of our favourite partner organizations, Gifts to Grandmothers, presented us with a tremendously generous donation that their members raised through the sales of fabric face masks. These talented and hard-working ladies have truly touched our hearts. Summertime is often slow for charities that depend on donations, and the additional stress of a global pandemic has also impacted our usual donations. This amazing contribution will go a huge distance in helping us support the women you read about in this blog. We humbly thank Gifts to Grandmothers for their kindness and urge anyone who hasn’t yet done so to go and visit their website for information on how you can support their work. -ed}

N’ngoni! (Inn-go-ny)

This is another greeting from one of the tribes in the West Nile region of Uganda. They are called the Alur people. The greeting simply says, “How are you?” If you ever travel to the West Nile region of Uganda and someone says “N’ngoni!” you simply reply “Mukke” which sounds like “Moo-Kay”.

The Covid 19 cases are still growing with 5,123 cases already in the last 6 months. The recoveries are still looking good with 2,333 people recovering and 59 deaths since the first discovery in March 2020. The concern on prevention is still growing and the government is continuously sensitizing the masses with the campaign “Spread the Message, not the Virus”. This message is, “Wear your mask for me; protect me as I protect you”. I think this campaign advert actually helps people bring into perspective what their role is during this pandemic and also how to prevent the spread of this virus.

The work has continued with a few visits to the Mamas but it was on the low this week as I had two personal errands to run, where one involved taking my mother to the hospital for review. In case you did not catch up on what happened with my mother about three weeks ago, she was knocked by a motorcycle rider that we call “boda boda”. Her knee was not badly damaged but her knee cap shifted. At the review the doctor said that it was looking good and he asked us to buy a knee brace which we actually got her.

Francoise preparing her maize

Visiting Francoise L this past week and talking to her was quite interesting as always, with her juggling businesses which include charcoal selling and food selling. During my visit at her house, she was preparing her ash to mix in the maize seeds. She gets the ash from the previously burnt charcoal and sieves it, then mixes it with water and the maize seeds. The ash helps to remove the hull of the maize kernel. She then washes it out, puts the beans and the maize in the pot then boils it overnight. She then sells it between 7am to about noon-ish usually for security guards and other laborers. On a good day she will sell all the 8-10kgs of the maize and beans mix.

{Note: This process that Francoise undertakes is very similar to the process used in countries like Mexico, where maize is first soaked with alkaline substances like ash or lime and then further cooked for consumption. The process, called nixtamalization, is how maize is able to be made into corn tortillas, amongst other foods. It makes the maize easier to eat and tastier to consume, as well as increasing the nutritional value. Incidentally it also removes between 97-100% of dangerous aflatoxins from mycelium-compromised corn, thus rendering it much safer to consume. The process is thought to have originated around 1200 BCE. -ed}

Harriet

After a long chase and me visiting her several times this week, I was able to finally get in touch with tailor Harriet L. She has been struggling since March 2020 with no tailoring work at all. Harriet got an extra job cleaning someone’s office in town but since the pandemic hit, most offices closed which meant that people like Harriet had no jobs. However, she is now back to her gig every once or twice a week, helping her get some money to support her family.

Aida’s former location, now demolished

Aida K was subsequently evicted after the property she was working on was transferred to another person. We have since then been working on settling her into the new stall she got a few days ago. She had been under threat for months now until last week when she was actually evicted from the plot after the owners sold it.

Aida’s new location

Aida was lucky to find a place really quickly and she hit the ground running before she could even renovate the place. She had the timber poles raised and the roof on top then she started frying her chips. She has made progress in the previous days and we have decided to help her with the flooring because she wants the tin house to be used as a sitting space for her customers. Aida had an offer with us to help her get chairs and a table from about 4 years ago, so we will also help her to get 6 chairs and a table to help implement her plan. 

{Note: ISEE would like to thank the team members of 2019 for their generous support of Aida. During their time in Uganda they met Aida and decided as a group to leave money for her to empower her to develop her business. She used that money to renovate the space and with their continued support will soon be able to install flooring to make her space more permanent and attractive to clients. -ed}.  

Aida in 2019

It seems things are working out for another Mama, as Dorah A. was able to get a room for rent to use as a restaurant. About 10 months ago she lost her vegetable and restaurant business as the owner of the stall wanted it to be removed from the plot on which it was seated. Dorah on many occasions failed to get herself a new place because most of the new buildings in the area had been booked before she would make contact. Speaking to her today, she told me that she had finally gotten a place which she could afford so I will be working with her to secure it for at least three months. We will then assess her needs after we have secured it to ensure that she is properly set up to help her business kick off.

Dorah

The last few weeks prior to this discovery, Dorah had been selling a unique type of fish which has been helping support her family. The fish is called “Peddo”, which simply would translate as “Spread”. The fish is caught, shaved into thin beautiful strips and put in the sun to dry. This was usually done to help in food storage among the tribes of the West Nile region. This is because the people who lived along the River Nile would fish a lot and as a way of preserving they had to come up with different ways to make this fish stay longer. This helped them to not only preserve fish due to the high numbers but also help them preserve food for the dry season.

Amina

One of our Mamas who needs close monitoring is Amina A. who has had a hard time getting along with her business but since she got this yellow banana business, it looks like things are going on well. The challenge here has been that usually things will start out well for Amina and then boom, things change to the worst. Right from her restaurant, then to the snack business and then to the chapati making business all these have failed to sustain themselves for at least three months. I am really hoping that this one works for her. She has managed to keep it a float for just over a month now, so we hope it stays like this. 

This week has been a bit slow due to those few days I had to work half day because of my mother. We took her to the government or public hospital for the review because they have the best doctors in Uganda. These hospitals usually have very many people flooding them because they are subsidized services but oftentimes won’t have medicine and we bought all the supplies used and the knee brace from one of the pharmacies nearby. 

I was grateful that I was able to do some work physically but I also made a few phone calls to Anna, Asia, Semmy and Catherine. 

Anna is doing okay but she has no business yet as she is still making efforts to find a new business location.

I spoke to Asia and she was doing well. We thought we would meet up but the meeting was rescheduled because she had to travel for an emergency in her village.

I was unable to meet with Semmy on the other hand as she was at work. During the lockdown she trained in tailoring and is currently working for a sewing factory, sewing masks and other uniforms for different organizations. Semmy is a teacher by profession and since schools had closed, she had to find an alternative to support herself and her family too.

Catherine N., one of our younger mamas has found it hard to get some new work for herself. She lost her catering job too due to the pandemic. Catherine worked as a school chef at a nursery and kindergarten school close by. When we spoke she was looking at going back to her snack frying job that she initially had before but with a new location. She put emphasis in finding a new location because she knows the struggle of working in a poor location.

I would like to thank you as always for supporting us as an organization as we try to improve the lives of many families that we are in touch with. This week we were working to set up Aida and by next week we believe that this project will be finished and ready to continue. This is why we continue to seek your financial and material support because as Erika used to tell me, charitable work never stops. Next week we will work with Dorah also to ensure that she secures the new location she found. We will not stop there but we will also ensure that she has all she needs to restart. 

We want to thank all of you who have supported us and we ask you that you may continue to do so.

Please continue to stay safe and do whatever it takes to protect one another from this pandemic. We love and appreciate your support.

Always in service

Andrew Echel

Director of Programs, Uganda

ISEE Solutions Society