ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

March 29th – Our New Mamas

Welcome to our newest group of Mama Nguvu candidates. If you are new to this program, Mama Nguvu stands for “Empowering the Mother”. We believe that by empowering the mother, all her children will benefit as she ensures everyone receives an equal share of her “wealth”.

The way the program works is that we go into a community and hold an initial meeting explaining our program. We then take all the applications (in this case there were 208) and whittle them down to a more manageable number. Each Mama goes through a brief meeting with us so that we can learn more about their ideas and get a feel for who they are.

The final stage is completely up to you! Each Mama is posted here and waits for sponsorship from our generous community. You can choose to fully sponsor one Mama or sponsor a bit to one or more. The Mamas do not pay the money back but must put all their children into school. They are also required to be part of a savings and loans program and must contribute 60,000 (about $20) over the course of the year to sponsor another Mama next year. Each woman is followed weekly for a year and reports are sent monthly outlining their progress. You will be able to follow how they are doing by following our blog.

Twenty dollars can make such an enormous difference in the lives of these amazing women. You can donate through Paypal (even if you don’t have an account) and in the “notes to seller”, please identify who you want your donation to go toward. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity!


Hadijah N., 28, 3 children, married


Hadijah rents a space (literally a space next to the sidewalk) where she cooks small batches of chips and sells them to her customers. She can sell up to 25lbs of chips a day but her stove and frying pan are small so her potential customers often become frustrated in having to wait and move to other vendors. When she is done, she can leave her table at the stall behind her space but she has to carry everything else back home. She has 3 children, aged 3, 6 and 8, and they often come after school to help her carry her items back home. She always sells out of chips. Her husband is a shoe seller so he buys shoes from the market and then displays them at Oweno Market for sale to those who will sell from the street. She currently makes 15,000 a week ($5.50) and says her biggest expenses are food and water.

$100 buys Hadijah a larger frying pan, a larger charcoal burner, an umbrella, and pays 3 months’ rent.


Lillian N. 34, single (husband vanished when she was pregnant with her fifth child), 5 children


Lillian is currently renting a popcorn machine from a friend and is very successful at her business. She has a strong customer base. She rents a secure location with power to run the machine. She wants to have her own machine so that she reduces her overhead. Her friend lives in another area so even if she was to start making popcorn, they would not be in competition. Her youngest is 2 and her oldest is 14. At the moment, she is making 30,000 per week (just over $10) and says that her biggest expenses are food, water and power.

$125 buys a new popcorn machine.


Asia B., 32, 6 children, married


Asia is a stay-at-home mom as she has 3 children under the age of 5. She wants to gain some independence from her husband who is a scrap metal seller. He gives her a small amount of money daily to buy food and water and each day, she tries to save 1,000 in order to have some small money in case there is ever a sudden cost she needs to pay. She has a niece who does book making who taught Asia how to make them as well so that when her orders are big, she can go and help her. She wants to start making them herself as she can make them from home and either sell them from there or take them to sell to schools and stationery shops. Eventually she would like to have her own shop to sell her books. She needs the initial investment into the materials to start her business.

$150 buys loose papers, cardstock for covers, binding glue, binding, gauze, cloth for the covers, and sewing needles.


Justine N., 45, single, 8 children


Justine currently has three saucepans that she rents out but the third is damaged and leaking on the side so is no longer usable. These saucepans can cook 50kg of rice so they are rented for weddings and other large gatherings. She can rent them at least twice a week and earns 15,000 per saucepan per day. The renters have them for 24 hours but often fail to return them on time. She says that she has enough business for 4 or even more saucepans as demand is high and she is often turning customers away. She stores the saucepans at home where they are safe. She currently has a daughter that is going to tailoring school, a daughter in high school and the rest of her children are in primary school. She learned the trade from her mother and they worked together until her mother passed away.

$175 buys one massive saucepan (she would like 2 if possible!).


Hamidah N., 42, widow, 6 children


Hamidah has many years of experience raising chickens with her husband but when he passed away, she found herself with a limited income and more expenses. She sold the majority of her chickens to pay for school fees and has only remained with 60 chicks. She buys a few when she can to increase her stock but all the income she generates when she sells them goes to clear her bills at the neighbourhood shops where she spends on credit (as they know she will have chickens to sell and will pay later) or to cover school fees. She is part of a savings and loans program for women where each week they are required to put a small amount into the cash box and then each week one woman can borrow some as needed (each woman has a specific week). It was Hamidah’s week this week and she borrowed 140,000 to pay off some school fees for her daughter. She is now responsible for paying that back into the cash box. As she has already raised chickens, Hamidah has a coop and some of the supplies. Once her current batch is old enough to be sold, she wants to pay off her debts and then restock with 200 chicks.

$350 buys 200 chicks, 10 water jugs, 10 feeding troughs, 1 bag of charcoal to keep the chicks warm, 200 units of electricity, 3 rounds of vaccinations, and 100kg of chicken feed.


Haminah N., 45, single, 10 children

“HOTEL” (a roadside stall that sells food)

Haminah has more than 20 years’ experience cooking and selling food. She had an established business but the owner sold the stall and she was forced to close. She now cooks chapatti from her home and sells them to the students who attend the high school next to her home. Haminah knows that because of the students, she can easily sell food and drinks from her home. She has a child that can come home at lunchtime to help her with the serving. Haminah’s first three priorities are to put up an overhang to shade her customers, to buy some chairs, and to have a fridge so that the students can buy juice or soda to go with their chapatti. If possible, she would like to offer a more extensive menu but she knows that the cost of a fridge is high so she does not want to ask for too much.

$375 buys a fridge, chairs, and builds the overhang. – first priority

$200 buys saucepans, plates, forks, a charcoal stove, tables and a kettle. – second priority


Pulakiseda N., 38, single, 5 children


Pulakiseda already has a small shop that she rents. One of the items she purchases to sell is g-nut powder that she gets for 5,400/kg. From one kilo, she makes about 600 shillings profit once she has separated it into smaller bags to sell. If she purchases a sack of g-nuts and grinds them herself, she will make 2000-4000 shilling profit per kilo. Pulakiseda asked around about the cost of a machine and also investigated if there was anyone in her neighbourhood who had a machine as she wanted to ensure she could be successful with this business. She says that she is the only one who will be grinding her own nut powder for individuals and restaurants to buy in the area. These machines are expensive but there is huge potential in this business.

$650 purchases a g-nut machine, a large sack of g-nuts for grinding, two buckets, and an accurate weigh scale


Jane N., 50, widow, 6 children


Jane is the only water seller in her area. She has a large tank that she has filled by the city water suppliers and then she sells that water to the community. The tank she has is small and old so she is constantly welding it to fix the holes. It desperately needs to be replaced. She wants to replace it with a larger tank as she often runs out of water before her community’s needs are met. If they don’t get water from her, they have to walk to the communal tap to fill their jerry-cans. The water she sells should technically also be safer than the water that comes from those taps.

$750 buys a 10,000 litre water tank.

Remember that you do not need to sponsor a full Mama. Many smaller donations will quickly fund a larger project. If there isn’t one particular Mama that speaks to you, please consider even donating $5 toward the general Mama pot and we will use that money to “top up” someone who is close to being fully funded. Thank you!

March 27th Mamas

It was another amazing day with HEYFU in Kawempe. When we visited last Tuesday (already almost a week ago!) we talked about the Mama Nguvu project and they were very keen on trying it in their community. We arranged to have our initial meeting with the applicants today at 10am and we left the HEYFU team with 100 applications to hand out. We stressed that there was to be no cost involved in getting the application and that they knew their community best so they could hand out as few or as many as they wanted. Hahahah! As few! How naïve we can still be.

We arrived at 9:45am and found about 40 women seated in the meeting room. I thought that it was a perfect number to speak to but figured there would be a few more arriving before we started at 10. We handed out water as they arrived (we had 120 bottles) as it was hot in the room and it is a measure of good faith to provide water to those who are meeting with us.

At 10am, Andrew and I started our presentation about the program. By that time, the room was full and women were standing in the corners and in the entrance. About 15 minutes into our talk, Corey started making signs to me from the doorway (when he could get his head up and above the throng of women at the door) and I finally understood that we needed to move outside. The women lifted their chairs and moved out. I was the last to get out as I was the furthest from the door. Imagine my surprise as I found the front of the building full of seated women and the area around the corner full of more women getting help filling out their application.

I went through the application with them then I spoke about our expectations of the program and how the women had the following commitment should they be selected:

  1. To work hard at their business (although we do understand that things happen and businesses fail)
  2. To get their children into school
  3. To participate in HEYFU’s savings and loans program that meets once a week to learn about budgeting
  4. To meet with Andrew or Anna on a weekly basis
  5. To donate 60,000 over the course of the year (about $20) which is then re-invested in another women’s business

We answered a few questions then I let them know to see a member of HEYFU or Anna or Andrew for help with the application. They could also hand in their application to any member of our team. No sooner had Andrew translated my final thanks then I was swarmed with women giving me their application form. They were all very kind and smiled when I said, “Webale nnyo Nnyabo” (thank you very much madam) but I still felt a little squished for a few minutes! Maybe they thought that if they gave their application directly to me, they would have more success in being sponsored.

We stuck around for another 30 minutes as I was meeting with one of our first Mamas, Margaret, who lives in the area and had made bags for me (again these will be for sale at the Glenmore Artisan Fair in May) and then had a brief meeting with the HEYFU board to say thank you and to wish each other success. One thing I appreciate about HEYFU is that the meetings are never long and drawn out, they value time and get to the point much more quickly than other Ugandan organizations.

After collecting the last few applications, we headed to Margaret’s home to drop her off and to see her machine that she is still using. She used to be the matron at Kiwuliriza but has since retired and is now caring for her grandchildren while taking more tailoring classes. She also plans to start making exercise books so will be purchasing the materials for those. She has a cataract in her right eye so she is finding threading a needle more and more difficult, especially with the amount of light that she has. The book making can be done from home while she watches the children and then the books can be sent to be trimmed and stamped with school logos. Hopefully this will help her continue to be self-supporting and to support the two adopted children she supports who are continuing their studies.

We left in a hurry as we could feel the storm coming. If we had been by her home at the time of the deluge, we would have never been able to make it out as the whole area would have turned to mud. As it was, the roads were completely waterlogged. We drove to Good African Coffee at Lugogo “Mall” for lunch and to go through the applications.

It turns out that there is someone in Kawempe who has made a lot of money photocopying our application forms!! We had 208 applications to go through. We put them into piles of 10 and just sorted through them. The first cull was all those who were asking for only consumable goods such as a bag of fruit, charcoal, or clothes to sell from the street. The second cull was all the incomplete applications. The third was anyone who added a line for “assorted goods” or “capital investment”. Then we each had to pick our top 3 and our second place 4 so that we had narrowed 208 to 28. From there, we each read the other applications and wrote our thoughts and questions on the front.

Andrew took all 28 applications and is calling each one tonight. He will ask them the questions we wrote on the front of the applications but will also ask the following 4 questions:

  1. What training do you have for this business?
  2. What experience do you have in this business?
  3. Where will you be located or is your current business located?
  4. Why will this business work?

Tomorrow, he will come with the answers to those questions and we will cull further. We hope to get it down to 5 or 6 candidates to share with you by the end of the week. We wish we could sponsor them all but it is not realistic. We want the businesses to be sustainable and we are looking for businesses where we are buying equipment, not consumable goods unless they are things like fabric and thread to go with sewing machines. It’s exciting to be part of this project as we have seen how far these women can go with just a small investment into their dreams. Stay tuned for more details about the selected candidates!

Have a great day!

PS – These are some of the posters in the HEYFU office. They talk about all aspects of reproductive health and pregnancy. It’s really an amazing team.