I hope that we are all well and for those who aren’t, I send you positive thoughts of healing and comfort.
Things in Uganda have improved as more and more police and security personnel flock the streets and curfew is kept tight. There seems to be more vigilance in and around the city. I hope that this vigilance shall continue and the security situation improves. The month of December is a busy month everywhere, full of all sorts of things that which can easily be a target for bombers, when instead it should be a month of happiness, of togetherness, of merrymaking, and of travel.
Work continued smoothly this week and I was able to help set up some Mama businesses for the festive season.
I started with Florence A., whose request was to get hair braids and hair chemicals to prepare her salon for the festive season when business typically increases. Her challenge had been the lack of funds to boost herself in product for the season, and for her performance in the past months, we decided to offer her the loan to boost the business. Florence and I finally had to go into town to shop for the items she needed. This was after a disappointing afternoon spent waiting in vain for a supplier who failed to show up — and who actually lied to us several times about his whereabouts so we had to keep waiting for him, only to finally realize he was not going to come. He has been delivering items for her the last couple of times at her shop so we thought why not have them delivered to us at the salon but all in vain.
We then decided to go to the city and buy these items. The other reason why we did not want to go to town was the recent bombings and the threats around the city, so we thought Florence’s supplier would be a better option at that moment. Unfortunately, that did not happen but nonetheless, we were able to go and shop successfully and Florence was happy with what we got.
Our second Mama who benefited is Immaculate M., who started her business as a salon but has since transitioned into a pharmacy owner. Immaculate is a social worker and works for the HIV project at one of the hospitals in Namuwongo. With this kind of experience and exposure, she has partnered with some nurses who have come to the hospital but have not found jobs. She contacted a few and managed to strike a deal to open up a small pharmacy in her community. It is a common phenomenon for most patients not to be able to afford prescriptions at private hospitals like where she works, so she desired to bring this service closer to the community and sell at a relatively cheaper price directly to the people there.
Unfortunately the previous lady Immaculate was working with became unfaithful with the business by taking out money from the till, selling drugs at a much higher price, and not recording debts. I asked her about the new person coming in and whether she will not do the same. Immaculate said that she comes with more credible references.
We went to William Street where we got all the drugs we needed for the clinic. This process was quite easy because Immaculate made a list of what they needed beforehand. The day ended well for all of us. I am glad that we did this process because not only were we able to buy Immaculate drugs for the store, we were able to provide the community with an alternative plan to get drugs.
I was also able to meet Irene face to face for the first time since she lost her mother about a month or so ago. She was so delighted to be back at the shop but business had relatively slowed down and she even found another salon opened just next to her. She told me that it had been days since she last saw a customer and things were not going well for her. Irene was kicked out of the house and moved into the salon temporarily. Luckily she has left the kids in the village where she had been for a long time. I wrote about her misfortunes in the previous blog, so I will not go there.
What broke my heart is that she had lost her house because the rent had accumulated and this can’t be blamed on her directly because she had been away for a while dealing with issues at home. Irene is one of two children and as the firstborn a lot of responsibility fell on her head when her mother passed on. The Acholi culture, one of the tribes in Northern Uganda, is interesting in that the firstborn child always takes on the responsibility of the deceased parent.
Anyways, Irene is back at her station and the one thing I have liked about her over the past few years is her level of positivity in most circumstances. She is certain that her customers will be back because she has told most of them about her return to the market where her salon is located.
Being in the market area, I was also able to see Lilly A. for whom we were able to help get an industrial machine last week. We did not have the opportunity to see her in action after the machine was assembled at her shop. She is very happy with her machine as it is much quieter than the old Singer she had. She loves it and she had a very big smile on her face when I saw her. We also formally signed the contract process with her as we had not had the opportunity to do so.
We want to humbly and sincerely thank Rotary International for providing funding for this machine and for helping make life better for Lilly.
Harriet L. is not doing very well at the moment. She needs some funds to buy a few things like threads, fabric, needles, buttons, zippers, and some other small items to help her make a few dresses to sell. She told me that she has not had business yet so she wants to make a few dresses, display them at the front of her shop and maybe attract a few people.
Our idea is to help people like her perform business-wise so I am currently working with her to ensure that we prepare a working budget and a plan to succeed before I officially submit her request for funding.
Betty N. is also doing well. As you may know, Betty is a wonderful mother to 3 children but this time I was only able to meet her last-born girl but she said all of them are well. Alongside being a mother and tailor, she is also a trainer and has been training a few girls and women over the years. She currently has 2 girls at her shop undergoing training. It was nice to see her and her students happy.
Aidah K. is also doing great. I met her serving the last dish of the day for her customer. She seemed happy and said just like previously, business is improving even though little by little. The beauty of positivity is that it attracts good positive results and I am working closely with her while watching how we can help.
Rovence N. is still strugging with her fingers as she still feels a lot of pain at night. Otherwise, her restaurant is doing well. When I was there with her, there was a customer eating and he was asking for more water so it looks like the water purifier was a wonderful addition to the business. It is good to offer people clean and safe water at a very minimal price.
Lastly, just like last year, the plan to distribute a Christmas hamper was approved and the process has begun for me. I have started shopping for items like Posho, beans, baking flour, cooking oil, salt, soap, and rice. These are some of the items along with a bucket and soda to complete the hamper. These I will be able to purchase in the coming week.
It would have been a wonderful end to the week but sadly, I received a phone call from one of my long-time friends informing me of the loss of his father. I am glad that I was able to take a day off and travel for the burial in his home district, Bukedea. We traveled for more than 9hrs too and fro.
I want to thank everyone who follows and also for making this year’s hamper another possibility for our Mamas.
It has been a very sad week in Uganda because on Tuesday, we had three explosions at the Central Police Station and next to the Parliament of Uganda. These explosions happened around 9AM as many people headed to their workplaces. Some reports say up to 25 people died but the official number released is 7. This was not the first bombing; in fact, we have had 4 other bomb blasts in the last 3 months. This has been the most bombings since late-1986 when Museveni went to the bush to fight against then-president Idi Amin Dada. An Islamist organization with known links to ISIS has claimed responsibility. Ugandan security forces say at least three of the dead were suicide bombers.
I was strictly advised to remain home for the whole week as the level of insecurity within the city increased. There has been a high level of military and police deployment around the city as more threats flooded the country claiming that more bombs have been planted around the city and that places which are flooded with people within the city including road junctions with high traffic are some of the targeted areas.
As a result of all the bombings and threats, news media says that at least 10 people suspected of being involved have been killed by security forces. Social media and public opinion, however, says that likely their only crime was being Muslims. Many people, and of course this includes non-Muslims, are horrified and shocked that this profiling has happened. Some people say it has been tough recently to walk in the city with a big beard as most are looked at or treated like terrorists.
When there is such action or event, surely there is no way we can communicate goodness but rather we send positive thoughts to all Ugandans and all people who were affected including the families of the bomb victims and the families of the people who have been unjustly killed.
This week’s follow-up was done on phone except for the one visit I made on Monday to pay for Jolly’s training fees. Jolly is one of the daughters of Francoise L. who has been part of our program since 2014 when we had just started. We have seen this girl grow and study as a child, now she has grown into a young adult and we thought that the best way to send this young girl to the world was by equipping her with a vocational skill. Jolly wanted to do food catering about 2 years ago but then the pandemic hit and schools were closed. There was a promise that schools would reopen but before she could get admitted into the school, they were eventually closed again because of the second wave. Since that second wave in March 2021 hit, schools have never been reopened until recently. I remained in touch with them and always reminded them of this opportunity Jolly had received. About two months ago she decided to train in hairdressing and I spoke to her about this change but also the responsibility to give back by helping her mother daily.
Francoise, Jolly’s mother, suffers from a long-term illness and has been under medication for years now. Regardless of her state of health, Francoise, as many of you have read here, has fought against all odds to support her family for as long as she has been healthy. She has opened up businesses ranging from making a local brew, soap, selling dried food like beans, maize, and many others. She has done all sorts of business and has educated almost all her kids to the best of her ability. I share this with you because I want to paint a picture for you as to where our relationship has come from with this family and the decision we made.
While we support mothers with small businesses so they may in turn support their children in school, we don’t offer scholarships or bursaries of any kind. However, in some cases, we support short-term training like these that eventually become an income-earning activity for the intended persons.
This week I went down to Namuwongo, one of the slums where we have been working over the last 6-7 years. I met Jolly and her mother Francoise, went down to a local salon that she had identified, and paid for her training fees for 4 months. Both Francoise and her daughter agree that this course of action is the best for the entire family. This training and trade will help Jolly spend more time at home but also be able to work or train at the same time.
I called almost all other Mama’s to ensure that they are fine and the following paragraphs are what transpired during our conversations.
Irene L. our salonist made it back to the city safely and she is back at the salon in Namuwongo, Kampala. She left Gulu on Tuesday morning and she left all her kids safe plus she also bought them food just before she left. During our conversation before she left, she told me that she was broke and she didn’t have any money to come back to the city but also to buy food for her kids. She was coming back from a bad month from which she lost her mother, her first son had an accident and her youngest son got sick from malaria. She had outspent herself and had no money at all so I sent her money for both transport and for food. I am glad that she bought them food and also made it back to town in one shape. She has reopened her salon because she has a lot to catch up on the lost time. The festive season is closing in and she needs to set up and get gear up for the season.
Florence A. another salonist is also well. She is safe and was very far away from bomb sites. She says she only heard the sound of the explosion because Namuwongo is not too far from the city center. She didn’t realize it was a bomb until she heard it on the news minutes later.
The business is doing okay, she said. She took the opportunity to remind me of a boost she had requested that she would need around this time. She wants to buy most of the popular hair braids she usually uses to braid womens’ hair plus chemicals just before the festive season kicks in and prices rise.
Rovence N. our restaurateur is doing okay. Kisugu is the area where Rovence operates her local restaurant and it’s not far from Namuwongo so she also heard the explosion. She is safe and so is her family too.
The restaurant is doing okay, she said. Customers have become more consistent because I think almost everyone has returned to full service and work. Many people have gotten the vaccine and people are more involved in work than before. There is such a high level of poverty, and although when people work they may not earn enough to save anything, they can at least afford meals. I was glad this was happening for her and I hope this continues throughout the festive season.
Jennifer N. one of our Mama’s who works more centrally in the city more than any other Mama in the program is safe and doing well. She heard both explosions go off but didn’t realize what it was but moments later, her building was closed and people started vacating the city. Jennifer sells second-hand shoes in one of the shopping malls downtown and these buildings are usually filled with people who come to buy shoes both for resale and personal use. At the time of my conversation with her, she was already at home and she was well. Her building, like many of the other buildings, was closed due to fear and rumors about more bombs being planted in and around town.
Otherwise, Jennifer and her family are safe and well. She was back to work a few days later because she had to work. It is the same story for many Ugandans that they will tend to move on much quicker or faster than they ought to. I am glad that nothing has happened since Tuesday, concerning the bombings but rather only arrests and the killing of these 10 people who were suspected to be part of the act.
Margaret N. is also doing okay and safely at home. She lives in a place called Kawempe so unlike the earlier few, she didn’t hear the sound until someone told her. She was at her home and during my phone call, she had just gone to visit an old friend.
She is well and has not yet resumed business. She is still undergoing rehabilitation for her foot and also building a plan for what is next for her.
Anna M. who has been off the grid with me for a while is also doing fine. Anna is one of the people who have been working with us in our reproductive health classes and also during the processes of interviews with our Mamas.
She has now moved to a place or district called Mukono where she will be doing all her work and life at the moment. She told me that she needed a place that was good and relatively cheaper to be able to sustain her family. She has four wonderful children that she has been raising all by herself. She said that Mukono is cheaper to rent and also food is cheaper in the new place. She currently doesn’t have a business venture at the moment but told me she is working on a few things and she promised me that she is well.
Aidah K. is doing okay. She was telling me that she had just come from a bad week because she had just visited the dentist. She was telling me that, before this, she was just hearing about toothaches but now she appreciates this. It is very characteristic for most Ugandans to not visit a dentist at all. She visited one a few days ago and lots of her teeth were taken out. She told me that she actually didn’t hear the blasts at all. She only heard word going around that two bombs exploded in town. Aidah is one of the Mama’s who goes shopping in town every now and then as she buys vegetables and re-sells them in her stall. Luckily for her, Aidah has not been going to town to buy vegetables, and also she doesn’t go to that particular side of town. She goes to the opposite side at a market called Nakawa market. This market is where most rural dwellers buy agricultural produce.
Harriet L. is doing well and safe. She is continuing in her small retail tailor shop. There is nothing much going on with her but is continuing with her business as usual.
Annet C. the salonist is good. She lives incredibly far from Kampala as her salon is in a place called Mukono, actually closer to Anna M. She didn’t hear about the explosion at all. She also owns a decoration business and she was planning to visit the town to buy some materials that she would need.
I was concerned about her husband because the last time I heard, he was working in the central district but she told me he doesn’t work there anymore because he found a new job in another district but he has not worked for the last two weeks because they don’t have funding.
Jane N. water tank one has been well and also the business has been good because of the heat in the last few weeks. The sun has been so hot and her water business has been doing well. This water business is one of the most volatile businesses in Uganda as it changes a lot especially due to the weather. Kampala weather is very tricky and changes in no time. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Jane’s business being on the low and now it is back up.
She is well and her entire family is safe. None of them was affected by the blast.
Jane N. water tank two was also not affected by the blast as she was far from Kampala. She has been traveling between her village and town over the last few months because of her farming activities but also because her property is under the process of sale to some developers. She has and is not doing anything with her water tank until it is ready to be moved to her new home when discussions are over and the deal is settled.
Otherwise, she is safe and so is her family, none of them was directly affected by the blast.
Justine N. continues to recover steadily which I am glad for. Her plans to diversify her business continue to grow in her mind and that is good as this is a driver for execution. I will continue to walk by her side to see and determine when she needs help. Baby thoughts like these need a lot of encouragement, especially at these stages.
Rashida S. is doing okay. She had just come back from her market day buying vegetables. The business was slow a bit last week but has seemingly increased this time around. Her only challenge has been the sun that tends to scorch the vegetables at her stall display.
Semmy S. continues to be joyful as she is very grateful for life. She has a personal agenda to stay positive and remain positive no matter the situation. She was able to continue with her tutor obligations with her pupils throughout the week. Semmy is one of our Mamas who has been with us since 2015 doing popcorn at the school she taught at during that time. She drifted into new ventures like vegetable selling and soap making over these last few years. She is not concentrated on soap making and tutoring for a few pupils and one special-needs child.
Christine N. is doing okay. She has been struggling a bit this past week as her chickens seemed to have fallen sick. She got them treated and they are responding to the treatment and medication they were given. She was worried about them because the second batch for her last year didn’t go well because of disease so she is trying to do her best this time. She struggled with feeds a couple of weeks ago but we were able to fill in for her.
Otherwise, she is doing well and her pigs are doing well too.
Annet N. who makes porridge and tea at the roadside in Kyengera is doing okay. The business was a bit slow because of the hot sun: it was scorching hot last week even by 10AM. Most people naturally stayed away from hot tea and porridge during this time.
Finally, I wanted to end with one story that seemed captivating to me when I was talking to Hadija. Hadija makes and sells chips or french fries at the roadside in a place called Tula-Kirokole, I know this may seem like a hard word to pronounce but say “two-la chi-row-call-ee”. We were speaking with her about her business and she told me that when curfew time comes, they simply carry their items behind the shop blocks and continue so as to cook longer. Most of their customers know and they just walk as if they are going to their home behind the shops. I thought, well this is a brilliant way to continue making money until their food is completely finished.
At the start of all this pandemic situation as most countries did, they set curfews and all these restrictions that would help to hinder the spread of the virus. I must say that the majority of these measures helped countries like Uganda to limit the spread of the virus but what the government forgot was the economic burden it left most of the families that were vulnerable to poverty. I may not directly support the disobedience but for people like Hadija who survive on hand to mouth, they can’t survive if they buy food and they don’t sell it all. They have to be creative so as not to eat all the capital they have and they can’t sell all the food in the 3 hours they are allowed to operate before 7 pm.
I am glad that it looks like the insecurity situation is coming under control but we can never know for sure with these kinds of random attacks. Just two months ago we were dealing with a bomb blast at a local drinking joint and a bus in transit bombs, now three more serious explosions at the Central Police Station and Parliament Kampala and next to the parliament of Uganda. We are keeping our fingers crossed that for the remainder of the year nothing like this happens.
Thank you for reading and following our work, we appreciate your time and support. Please keep us in your positive thoughts that a country Uganda remains peaceful through these tough times.