ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

July 19-23

Hello! As you will read below, the situation in Uganda is not improving. The president promised to give a financial boost to the most needy in the country and sent 102,000UgX (about $35) to 500,000 people in a country of over 40 million. None of our mamas received this boost and they actually laugh when Andrew asks them if they got it. ISEE would like to provide these funds to our mamas to help them get through this next phase of the lockdown. Andrew feels that it would be a welcome boost for all of them as all businesses are suffering. How lucky we are in Canada to know that when our government promises us money, we will receive it. If you would like to contribute toward this emergency boost for all the mamas, you can donate via Paypal (the button is on the right), you can etransfer your donation to erika(at)iseesolutions(dot)org or you can mail a cheque. Thank you for your continued support. Let’s hope that things start to improve for these amazing women and all the vulnerable people in Uganda.

Shuttered shops in downtown Kampala

Greetings to you all,

The Covid situation in Uganda here has not changed much and I must say that whereas the lockdown put a bit of strain on our lifestyles, it has surely helped to calm down the situation a bit. I do not hear as many ambulances running down the road as much. It is either that my ears got used to the sound or else the lockdown has been somewhat effective in reducing infection and death rates. 

Statistics still show that Uganda this week registered 417 new infections and a total of 90,391 total since the first case was registered in March 2020. Of all these figures we have also registered 2,353 total recoveries which is a good number depending on the level of or standard of healthcare in Uganda. It is a miracle that we are still alive, that is for sure. 

On the weekend, I reached out to Lilly A., the tailor, and helped her get food supplies for her family. Lilly has had a hard one month or so trying to sew and when the lock down hit she had not much savings. All her business went on stand still as her business is not one that we can call essential. She told me that people won’t repair clothes if they don’t have water and food. This is what makes her business hard. Anyways I am glad we were able to put food on the table for this family for a few more days. 

I spoke to Irene L. the salon Mama and she is also going under the same stress. She told me that she sees only one to two clients a week. This is very hard for her because this is the average she would normally see a day. She has now resorted to cooking cow feet called “Molokony” pronounced as “More-loco-knee”. They are an intense food because it is cooked almost for an entire day. She cooks it once every week because it’s not something that one will eat daily. It is also hard to cook so one needs a lot of preparation to make it perfect. Irene cooks it and serves it once every week to her usual customers. This is a good strategy to keep her going in the meantime. It is not much but helps her supplement her lifestyle a bit as she figures out what to do next. 

The other person who I reached out to was Justine N. who hires out her large saucepans for functions like weddings, introduction, funerals and basically all sorts of gatherings that involve cooking. Her business is in a sorry state because the government has suspended all these events and has limited them to 10-15 people. Justine’s saucepans cook for people between 50-100 so no one will hire them for these very few numbers and more so people these days don’t stick around long enough to even eat food.

Justine has a small vegetable stall that sells onions, tomatoes, cassava and many other vegetables to her community so she is surviving on this. She sends a boda boda or motorcycle every other day to buy food stuff to bring to her stall. This means that she spends more weekly and limits the growth of the business. 

Otherwise this week has not started badly I must say. All the three I was in touch with were all vibrant, at least after the conversation we had with each one of them. Of course Lilly was super relieved to receive her support. We are glad that we can do this for people like Lilly. This is why we are here.

July 20th was Eid so it was a national holiday.

July 21st

Salaam,

This is a short form of greeting that is used by our brothers and sisters in the moslem fraternity. It is typically accompanied with a little bow as a sign of respect. 

Yesterday was Eid for them, the one which is a celebration of feast like the many other celebrations for them. Small groups were allowed to join at local mosques to pray and share meals. Some of the major mosques offered food to families that couldn’t afford meals due to economic problems and were given food stuff to take home. 

This is the true meaning of brotherhood and maybe if we pick a leaf or two from these people, we can make this world a better place. To extend love and kindness to humanity during and after the pandemic. 

It’s to the effect of the celebration of Eid that I decided to reach out to our Moslem Mamas and celebrate with them, even though it was a day later. I called Rashida S, Hadijja N, Hamida and Amina A. 

Amina is still struggling to recover well. She has been sick awhile since she lost her husband to some health complications that resulted from what I would call a police brawl. He was riding a motorcycle on the day one of the generals was shot at by suspects who escaped using motorcycles. Unfortunately, he was caught riding around the area, he was beaten and arrested but later released. They tried to treat his wounds but then when he was advanced to hospital for treatment, Amina says that he might have caught Covid. He later succumbed to it a few days later. 

Amina and her family caught it too but all of them recovered but she, Amina is having a hard time with full recovery. 

Amina was most recently selling yellow bananas for a living. She also later got some chicken and tried to raise them for sale. She had to stop the banana business because she wouldn’t go to pick the unripe ones from the market due to COVID. She was left with the chickens but these too became expensive to raise as she didn’t have money. The plan is to sell them and move back to her banana business when the lockdown is lifted.

(Amina has faced more issues in the community this week as well as her neighbours are angry that she brought a COVID patient into the village. They called the police on her to report her actions but the police said that as it was in her own home, she was allowed to do as she pleased. We hope that she won’t be shunned once the lockdown is lifted and that her business fails because of this. -ed) 

Hadija is doing okay. She was excited when I called her. She is still doing her roadside chips business but yesterday she worked really short hours because of Eid and the fact that most people would prefer to eat home on such days. Most people will invite fellow moslem to their homes for meals but like it is this season, not many homes have opened their doors because of the pandemic. 

The business has not been very good so she was late to pay her rent and she was evicted from the house she was living in. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do. The landlord asked them to leave because they were one month late. 

Hamida was just from prayers when I called her. She is a very dedicated moslem and countless times I have called her and she is at the mosque. She said she was able to go for prayers yesterday. When I asked her why she would risk herself, she said that they were observing the Standard Operating Procedures and that they maintained social distance. 

Hamida was one of the best poultry farmers I know in the project but she was unfortunate that she lost her receipt for chicks one day and ended up losing her business. She had booked chicks at the hatchery but lost the receipt in a flood that happened due to long hours of rain. She lives in a swampy area so sometimes when it rains it floods. She was unable to recover the receipt that led to the failure to refund all her money. 

She was now trying to get capital to buy new chicks by working sales at a local furniture shop. Before anything could happen, the shop was closed due to lockdown. We were trying to fix her some chicks but she doesn’t have space at the moment. We will continue to check up on her and review her status for the ability to raise again. 

Rashida is one of the most jolly people I have met and she is always full of life and always smiling. She is doing well with her veggie and charcoal stall. These businesses somewhat compliment each other and she has been able to make a proper living out of it. 

We will be honored tomorrow to share with these four families a small token for them to cut at least a chicken. I love festivities especially at a time like this, when there is a lot of misery in the world. For a minute these celebrations help you to not focus on the pain around but only on the joy of food. 

Baraka Fikum. (Translates as thank you so much.)

July 22nd 

My assignment for the day like I had shared earlier was to extend a small gift to our Moslem Mamas. I was delighted that the little gesture made them happy.

police checkpoint

July 23rd

Days are not getting any better here as the virus infections and stats are not getting any better. It is rumored that they might extend the lockdown by two to three weeks because of this. This week some of the members of parliament here in Uganda were protesting against the Ministry of Health offering up to 2000 Covid 19 vaccines to one of the business men in Kampala. The businessman is actually one of the few Ugandans who donated up to 540 million Uganda shillings to help the Ministry of Health and the government to buy vaccines just about a month ago. Morally on all levels I think this not a problem given what he had done previously but also I don’t think that one person can consume all these vaccines. I would think he bought these vaccines for the people he employs and maybe a few relatives and friends I guess. I wonder why this is a problem to these people because these same members of parliament just passed a bill to buy them new vehicles worth more than 57 billion and yet we require just about 41 billion to buy us vaccines. The tales of third world nations are sometimes so miserable; our governments and our leaders have different priorities. 

This Friday I spoke to Aida K who I have not spoken to in awhile since lockdown. I wasn’t able to keep up with her because I didn’t have her telephone number since having lost my phone about a month ago. Aida owns a small chips stall by the roadside and she delivers her chips on foot to close by customers. We had made an effort to furnish her restaurant but it seems that people or her customers like to eat from wherever they are. The idea of furnishing was to reduce breakage and loss of plates but also to reduce the risk of her crossing the road all the time as she walks to deliver chips. 

Anyways, she is doing okay. Of course the lockdown has affected her business slightly because there is not much money on the streets anymore as customers don’t have jobs and work to do so they don’t eat as much as they used to. 

Asia N. is back at work although she is not fully recovered from her previous illness. She is back at the market stall but told me that people are threatening to riot again if they don’t release the people they arrested last week on Monday during the chaos. Incidentally, they arrested the chairman of the market traders and they have not released him. The traders are demanding that they release him or else the same thing will happen again. 

Otherwise Asia is better now and she is back at her market stall selling her beverages and wrapping bags. She said that the business is really slow because less and less people are coming to the market lately. 

This week was a short one because we had the Eid public holiday in the middle there for our moslem brothers and sisters. I was also glad that we did something small for their families. The only downside for me this week was the article I read about over 14,000 teenagers getting pregnant just this year in the district of Luweero. This is one of the challenges that this lockdown situation has presented to us here since last year. Very many young people have become pregnant either due to the fact that they are not in school or the increased levels of poverty presented by the limited range of economic activities. The temporary closure of schools has greatly affected most of the school aged going youth and has resulted in behavioral issues like these and many others like drug abuse. 

The struggle still continues as we fight the pandemic, let’s continue to stay positive in thought as it will help us become mentally healthy. 

The rate of infection is still growing in Uganda, our neighboring countries like Rwanda are also back to lockdown as they struggle with their third wave of infection. Tanzania has banned unnecessary gatherings as they termed it and this is a good thing for a nation that denied the existence of the virus. 

We have to stay vigilant, maintain social distance, wear masks, sanitize and wash our hands as much as possible. 

Thank you for following us this week. Thank you for supporting us to do what we do. 

Report by 

Andrew Echel 

Small update from Geoffrey

We have continued to dig out clay. Pictures below showing Andrew (not ISEE’s Andrew) and Adam removing water and digging out clay. This was quite inconveniencing. It slowed down the speed. The speed has also been slowed down because of the layer of stones which requires pick axes for which we do not have at the moment but we shall get a breakthrough. Our target was to dig out clay that can produce at least 15,000 bricks by Saturday this week. This might not be possible.We shall continue digging out clay in the next few days or weeks since rains have reduced. Since the place where we are digging out clay is a swamp, water keeps collecting. Every morning we have to remove water. Every after about 30 minutes water collects.

Week of July 5th

This week’s report is shorter than usual as Andrew’s “brother” (cousin who was raised with Andrew and who is of the same age) passed away and Andrew had to travel to Lira to attend to the burial. Our sympathies to him and his family. We have included an update from Geoffrey, at the end of the report.

On another note, should you live in the Central Okanagan and have a fridge or know someone who is getting rid of a fridge, the community fridge on Cawston needs replacing. Please let me know if you have a lead!

Andrew and the deserted Kampala streets

July 5th: Greetings to you all,

I hope that the weekend went well for all of you. I was glad we had some rainstorm here on one of the days. It helped cook the temperatures a bit. The Covid situation has not changed much as the deaths are still going on, one after the other. We lost about 5 senior government workers and some lawyers too. One of the deaths was from a former President candidate in the 2006 presidential elections called Aggrey Awori RIP who died early on Monday morning. 

Monday I didn’t do much because I had to walk to town to pick up some cash for myself to be able to deal with my monthly dues. The walk was long and it took me about 4.5 hours to and fro. It went really well as I was able to walk to and fro safely and at the end of the day, I was able to see my mum who happened to have called me as I went back home. 

There were so many roadblocks on the way but of course for cars mainly. I managed to maneuver through and the sun was not as hot in the morning so I was able to walk successfully. Of course I got a few water breaks and bought some drinks along the way. It was quite refreshing because I thought about a lot of things on my way. 

I will now order my groceries in the confidence that I have the money to pay for them. I will try to organize tomorrow to see if Pulakiseeda can have her son ride his bike and drop me the goods. 

On the other note I am happy to report that Dorah A. who had traveled to bury her father and was locked down in her home district managed to make it back safe and sound. She is back home with her family and children. 

July 6th

I hope that you are well. 

Today for me has turned out to be a dark day as I lost one of my brothers called Denis. He succumbed to kidney related complications during dialysis later this evening at about 6:40pm. He is survived by two beautiful daughters. 

He became unconscious about 4 days ago, regained consciousness the day after and started his dialysis just yesterday morning. Denis got diabetes at a very early age during his early teenage years and since then he had been in and out of hospital because of high blood pressure related issues, diabetes and now kidney failure. We grew up together, played a lot together and when I received the news, all I could see was the last visit I had with him just a few weeks before lockdown. This afternoon as I write this all I can think about is our early childhood days and some of the last conversations when I went to see him. I had never seen such optimism in a long time as we spoke. He was full of life and positive energy but it is sad that today he lost his battle. I will surely miss him. We are trying to work on the paperwork that will allow us to travel or else I might not go because of the lockdown restrictions. But I am certain that I will travel for the funeral and burial. Life is full of surprises sometimes. 

Today I spoke to Amina A and she is still feeling sick. Her children have been in isolation and taking medication for the last few days since they lost their dad. The last born is the one currently getting his treatment but she has run out of money and herself, she is not feeling well. 

I finally got through to Angel N. and she is okay. Her shop is open as they take turns with her younger brother because it is so far to walk daily. 

Angel was able to make it back in time before the lockdown was initiated the next day because I remember having called her and she was out of town. I am glad she made it back on time. 

Otherwise thank you for keeping up with us today. I have not much to say today because all I can think about is my brother Denis.

I might be away for a few days but until we meet again, stay safe but remember to stay sociable. 

Update from Geoffrey

The wooden box that is used to make each brick

We made 2,034 bricks today. We finished the heap of clay we had. We finding out what we can do to remove the water from the pit so that we can dig out more clay by at least Friday this week. Bricks in the third phase of digging out clay (11,600) are almost ready for baking. One of our neighbors baked his a week ago from the place where we are supposed bake from. We are waiting for his to be bought before we can bake ours. The heap of clay in the fourth phase produced about 13,000.

Someone either intentionally or unintentionally allowed his cows into the compound where fresh bricks are laid yesterday evening. Cows walked on the bricks and caused several damages on the freshly laid bricks. About 500 bricks were destroyed. I followed up until I got to know the owner of the cows. He denied but finally accepted because there was a witness. His continued denial prompted me to go to the local council one chairperson. We went with him and local council leader up to the site. He was made to pay for the destroyed bricks, to which he accepted but said that he would pay at beginning of August since he doesn’t have money. He was also warned against his recklessness with his cows.