ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

February 13 update

{note: Thank you all for your continued support of ISEE Solutions and our work.

We have prepared and mailed out all of our 2020 tax receipts. They should be in your hands in the next week or so. If you have not received one by the end of the month, please email us and let us know and we will investigate and get back to you. -ed.}

Greetings to you all,

It has been around 40 days since the year 2021 began, and it is my hope that you are pressing on well even in these hard times where this virus has started mutating. We hope you and your families and friends continue to stay safe as we edge closer to all of us receiving the vaccine. We want to thank all the scientists and all people who have been involved in developing the vaccine and we hope the world can also catch up on creating a good vaccine to combat the mutation. 

The situation here in Uganda has not been any different lately. It seems as though the presidential elections — like I said in the previous report — seemed to put the governments’ foot off the gas when it came to Covid-19. It looks like all the mass testing that used to happen, happens no more and now people have to go and test voluntarily but yet again at a fee most of us can’t afford.  This has on a personal level encouraged me  to continue to spread the Stay Safe campaign, to ensure all our Mamas and people I associate with keep safe.

This week started on a low for me as I was under the weather on Monday but I pulled myself together and did some work this week, visiting a few Mamas’ including; Amina A, Angel N, Asia B and Jennifer N. Whereas I made some few calls to follow up the few I wasn’t able to meet including Dorah A, Rovence N, Semmy S, Gertrude N and Anna M.

Jennifer

This week, my first visit was with Jennifer N., our secondhand shoe-selling Mama, who had been faring well with sales after her building re-opened after lockdown late last year. Sales for January and February were not as good as hoped. This past week she went to buy shoe bales and the prices had increased by 100,000/- Uganda shillings from 350,000/- to 450,000/-. This price inflation was caused by an increase in taxes by the government that forced many traders to abandon shipments, hence creating scarcity which eventually led to increase in prices of the available stock. This is a situation that we can’t help, so we can only hope that the government listens to the traders’ cries and reduces the tax.

Asia

I hadn’t seen Asia N. since November 2020. She has been well only lately because all her 7 children have been taking turns in falling sick but luckily by the time of my visit all of them had just recovered. 

This took a huge toll and had a big effect on her stall especially that she hadn’t been selling her books due to the closure of schools. She has devised a new strategy to sustain herself by starting a cold beverage selling business. We had managed to support her in acquiring a fridge plus a few cartons of soda, water and juice to help her kickstart. 

The challenge now is that she has spent a lot of money treating her children and her shop is almost empty and she can only sell water and locally made juice for now. We will be keeping an eye on her and the situation to see how we can impact her life again.

Amina A. was in a similar situation like Asia but this time with one child only. At the end of last month I visited Amina and during my visit, I realized that her daughter had been admitted to hospital and we actually helped them meet part of the bill for treatment. Meanwhile even after we supported them, she continued to be sick for another week and had to undergo another treatment.

Amina

Otherwise, she has been doing okay and trying to keep her business afloat. During my visit this week, she had just ordered a delivery for her new fresh banana so she can continue. We hope that things can continue to go well in the next few months. 

Gratitude and appreciation shine from Amina. She knows how important this business is to her and her family. When I met her this week she testified about how this has been the first time in over 10 years that she has been able to sleep on an actual bed that has a mattress. The facial expression she had and the tone in her voice made me personally realize how blessed we can be sometimes. I am glad we are making such impacts on peoples’ lives here.

This weeks’ work seemed to be littered with lots of illnesses, I don’t know whether it’s because of the heat and dryness or sheer bad luck. I went to visit Angel N. and she was not at her grocery shop because she was sick. I met her younger brother who had taken on the shift until she felt better.

Angel’s grocery

This time I liked that she had bought some more little stuff like soap, salt, tissue paper and some other items on the shelves. This shows that she is taking her shop more seriously and sees the need that she has to keep her store well stocked because then she will be able to make the money she requires to support herself and the family.

The phone follows ups;

Anna M. has not yet restarted her business since closure last year but the good news is that she is planning to restart soon. When we spoke, she was well and healthy. Her family too was well. 

Anna wants to start a snack shop like she had said last year and I like that she is sticking with the same business idea. This consistency in thought helps to point that someone is serious and progressive thinking about what is in their mind. I will keep following her up to see what progress she is making because she has identified the possible location and that is a good start. She has a deadline to start around March 2021.

Gertrude N. in a similar position as Anna because both of them closed business last year 2020. They both have varying reasons why they closed but it still breaks my heart that they closed shop. Our desire is usually to help them keep afloat for as long as we can but we are also sensitive to the fact we ensure they are comfortable and we maintain that they own the business and they make the decisions for themselves.

She said that she was going to work from home in the attempt to try and avoid paying rent for a shop in the meantime as she tried to get her feet back on the ground.

I also spoke to Semmy S. who is a teacher by profession but has had a small side business making popcorn and also tried to erect a veggie stall that didn’t work out well. She has enrolled with a tailoring factory for more than 5 months now since schools closed and now that preschools have been officially suspended until further notice, people like Semmy can’t won’t be employed anytime soon. 

The efforts to help Dorah and Rovence obtain consistent access to a power supply might take a while as I called them both to ascertain their progress and both of them seemed to desire to simply to pay small sums to the people whose power they are piggybacking upon until they themselves can get their own in a few months. {note: there are byzantine levels of bureaucracy to navigate in order to get a simple utility hookup in many disadvantaged areas of Kampala. It is far more difficult than it is in Canada (or in a more prosperous area of Kampala, actually). We will continue to work with Rovence and Dorah in hopes that we will be able to get them connected to a stable source of power but it is by no means quick. We will keep you posted as to any progress. -ed.}

This week, we also received an email update from Geoffrey O. our brick making Headteacher as he heads closer to completing his first batch after starting the baking this week. We are so glad to hear of this progress as it had been overdue a bit as had been planned. We wish him the very best and many more successes as he continues his venture.

We are also introducing a new segment in our report called Prospective Mama Boost. This segment will re-introduce one Mama each week who has approached us searching for support. It has been very evident to me that many of our Mamas were profoundly affected by the pandemic and the elections of January 2021. There was a widespread belief, perhaps held even by the majority of the people in Uganda, that the election would trigger a civil war. Many fled back to their villages and others closed businesses. {note: This has impacted many of our Mamas who have in some cases been forced to use their meagre savings to purchase food or other emergency supplies instead of re-investing the money to keep their businesses afloat. In some cases, and as we’ve detailed before on this blog, the women’s profit margins are so razor thin as to force them to choose between feeding themselves or feeding their families, and this pandemic has certainly exacerbated the situation. -ed.}

Harriet L

This weeks’ candidate is Harriet L. Harriet is a trained tailor and has been with us since 2014. Her business started out well but stalled due to both income constraints and the pandemic. Harriet wants to twist her practice by opening up a tailoring shop, with tailoring items like threads, needles, fabrics, buttons and many other little things. We have assigned her a duty to get us a working budget which we will look at to progress from here. 

Report by;

Andrew Echel

Director of Programs, Uganda

ISEE Solutions Society.

Brick Making Update

Geoffrey Omongin’s brick making project has entered its next phase. They have begun the process of baking the bricks.

Geoffrey
the front of the kiln showing two of the fire channels
the start of the kiln
detail inside the fire channel
the fire will burn for at least 36 hours in order to create enough heat to fire all the bricks
from now until the baking is finished, the kiln will be continually manned by at least two people
it will take at least 5 truck loads (!!) of wood to fire the bricks
the kiln is coated in mud to protect it from rain as well as to act as insulation

Geoffrey tells us that the burning is so far going well, despite the threat of rain.

Once the bricks are completed they will cool and then be sold. The profit he makes will be shared with his workers as well as used to prepare more bricks. His next task, he says, is to pump out the ground water that has accumulated in the excavation site so that he can harvest more clay. The access to the site has been improved so he anticipates this happening next week or so.

the water in the excavation site

He also needs to replace many of the hand tools used in the process as the clay is extremely hard on tools. One wheelbarrow is completely beyond repair, he says, and all of the picks and shovels will need to be replaced.

the burning in full force

We will keep you updated as we hear more. Thank you so much to all our patrons who have helped make this project possible! If you have any questions or comments, please email us directly. If you want to ask questions of Geoffrey, please contact us and we will forward them to him.

Webale Nnyo!