ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

November 13 update

Greetings to you all dear friends and partners of ISEE Solutions Society,

I hope this edition finds you well. I hope it has not been a long week for you. Life can be so interesting that it will make the day and week look longer depending on the curve balls it throws at you. I am only hoping that whatever you went through this week, surely you managed to handle it in one way or another. Throughout these last 7 months of 2020, I have learned to live life positively regardless of what is happening or what will happen tomorrow. I have learned that most of the time, the things that happen to us, we have little or no control over them. The challenge is that as a human race this is one of the hardest things to actually accept about life, so we end up being stressed in life because we are unable to identify what we can control or can’t. If we all had the ability to understand this particular lesson, maybe the world would have fewer depressed people. I have found that it is okay not to be okay because life is a lot more complicated than breathing in and out.

The pandemic situation is still growing day by day, as people continue to ignore the scientist’s directives for safety and operation. The case numbers here in Uganda keep growing every day as we edge closer to the elections as masses continue to gather in the attempt to listen to their political candidates. This week most of our presidential candidates launched their respective manifestos in the various districts of Uganda. These have attracted numerous groups of people, which obviously attracts and creates a risk of exposure to the many people who are moving to these destinations to listen. The current statistics show that Uganda is just shy of 15,000 infections,  with 7,393 recoveries and 139 deaths so far. One of the statistics this week includes a very prominent entrepreneur and businessman who owned one of the biggest public buses called TesoCoach that transports people to the Eastern part of the Country.

This week we also continued to serve our Ugandan population in our usual small ways but significant ways. I managed to reach out to Jane’s grandson who needed physiotherapy, Asia B, Dorah A, Florence A, Rashida S, Aida K, Provence N and Pulakiseda.

Dorah’s restaurant

As a personal motivation, I like to start on the positive note because these are some of the stories that keep me going personally. I am proud to report that Dorah A. was able to start business officially on Monday and has been registering some profits from the first four days. On a daily basis, Dorah invests up to 50,000/- Uganda shillings to buy foodstuffs like meat, beans, fish, peas, rice, posho and other foods. She told me that she has been able to make profits worth 8,000, 15,000 and 12,000 Uganda Shillings in the first 3 days which is not a bad thing considering she has just started. She has also decided to hire another lady from the village to help her be more efficient because she realised that working alone might not help her as much. I personally love this move because it does not only improve her work but rather also creates another employment opportunity to a woman out there. This is the spirit we would love to see as one mama lifts the other, maybe then we can change the world after all. {note: Andrew clarified that Dorah’s new assistant helps with cooking, cleaning, and delivering, thus increasing the reach of the business as well as the profit potential. -ed.}

The challenge I observed in this restaurant was the fact that Dorah was using smaller saucepans and small stoves. The smaller stoves take more time cooking and the little pans can only cook so much at a time. Otherwise she is also cooking two meals a day both lunch meals and supper meals which is not very common for small restaurants but could be a competitive advantage for her. {note: once Dorah is ready, we will reach out to her and see if she is interested in participating in the boost program in order to finance the purchase of larger stoves and pans, as well as sundries that she may need. -ed.}

one of the new tables at Rovence’s restaurant

Rovence N. was finally able to at least get 85% of her requested furniture from the carpenter, which was a good thing. I went to see her restaurant and surely there is a change as the bench now has synthetic leather and foam under it, the table is higher so it is easier for the customers to eat but also allows them to eat more comfortably. One of our goals has been to improve locally owned businesses to help improve the incomes of the Mamas. I was glad that she was happy with the general outcome of the deal even if she is still missing one table. We hope that the furniture she got is able to increase her business opportunities and continue to grow her business in one way or another. 

Asia at her grocery stall

I am happy to also report that for Asia B. things seem to be going well for her too as the sun has been having some good spells these past few days. She managed to pay half of her boost pay back which is usually a good sign for most Mamas when they make payment in time. Sometimes is just due diligence or just good business going on. I look forward to seeing her business continue growing weekly as we edge closer and closer to the festive season and the end of the year. This money that is contributed is what we use to help and boost other Mama’s businesses like Maria A., who we have helped this week get food for her chicks.

This week Maria A., received another batch of chicks from Christine, another Mama Nguvu candidate. After receiving the boost refund from Asia B., I was able to top it up with some little more money and I was sent this to Maria who had earlier called me on the day requesting for some support. Obviously the agreement is that she will return it in about a month so the same money can serve another Mama who might also have a similar need or perhaps then we can help Dorah get better stoves and pans. Our hope as an organization is that maybe one day, the organization will have a self sustainable project with limited support from abroad.

Jane N., has a grandson who suffers from macrocephaly and he has not been able to attend physiotherapy since lockdown in March 2020. I am happy to report that we managed to get him a private session of physiotherapy this week. Jane and Francis’s mother were so happy to receive the money to help Francis get his physio. So many families like these have been struggling to an extent that they have to give up basic needs like medication so they can eat the next meal. This is why it is always important to meet the Mamas at every point, to help them get the basics they need. These businesses are the easiest way to empower them to get medical help because for people like Francis this service is as important as the next meal. This is why I endlessly can’t stop thanking you every single week for your financial donations and support because Francis and many other kids you don’t read about each week get this attention.

Pulakiseda’s stall (not her)

Pulakiseda is doing great. She was happy to receive me yet again this week as I made my way to her grocery stall to get my usual rice, sugar, salt, cooking oil and other items that I buy from her every month. Like I have said before, for me it is important that I support these Mamas by buying their goods like food and bananas each week I visit them, maybe I should get an allowance to shop from them haha! This for me shows that we have confidence in them and that we believe in them too. Why would we give them a business, if we can’t support them by buying from them so it is important to interact with them at this level too.

Aidah’s chip stall

Aidah K., is also doing well with her chips stall. She is getting more stable by the day, with more customers coming through from the local car garages around her stall. She attributes the increase from the fact that fast food is fast and the customers are enjoying timely delivery and close proximity. I am really happy to hear from her that she is doing well after moving just over a month ago.

Rashida’s charcoal stall

Business is also growing for Rashida S., as she is now lobbying to get the space on the right next to her because she needs to find space for her ever-growing charcoal business. She told me that she had been speaking to one of the gentlemen in charge of the property on which she is operating to be able to expand the space for her charcoal business. Currently the space is shrunk and she needs to get more so she can put more bags of charcoal, to minimize the time spent buying but also open up more space for charcoal storage. I am really excited to see how Mamas are growing in these latter days after quarantine and lockdown. I spent sleepless nights thinking about what our next step would be during and after quarantine but it seems to be turning out to be good after all.

Florence and random guy

Florence A., our salonist is doing great. She is having hair and hair products being delivered almost every week or the other. Business usually becomes better for them during the end of the year and nearing the festive season. I am so glad that she is picking up the pace at the beginning and closing in into the festive season. She also takes time to prepare her snacks like popcorns and local doughnuts that she uses as a side income to boost her business. This is one of the things that I have encouraged our Mamas to have some kind of side income to help supplement their incomes.

In conclusion, I have surely had a good week due to the success attained in my follow ups but also I have learned to appreciate the struggles that I have encountered and I usually encourage our Mamas to remain positive regardless of the situation.

This is the point where I say thank you to all of you who have stayed in touch with us, to support us, to encourage us and to send us positive vibes but also follow what we do. We can’t appreciate you any better than saying thank you so much. Please continue what you are doing and let’s improve the livelihoods of the many families we are in contact with.

Yours in service

Echel Andrew

Director of Projects, Uganda

ISEE Solutions Society.

November 6 Update

Yogga! 

Yes you can greet only by saying “Yoga”. In the Easten part of Uganda, we have a tribe called the “Iteso” who are also descendants of the Karamajong who live in the extreme North East of Uganda. These Karamojong people have a belief that all cows belong to them so in the 1960-80s, they raided other Northern Tribes taking all their cows. The government over the years has been trying to disarm them but also continue to compensate some of the people who lost their livestock due to these invasions. 

Patrick Amuriat, Ugandan presidential candidate, walks shoeless after being accosted by security forces.

This week has been very significant in most parts of the world as we all paid attention to the US elections 2020, as we saw Joe Biden and Donald Trump fight for the presidency of that “great nation”. In the same spirit here in Uganda, we had our Presidential nominations happen this 3rd and 4th November 2020 for all the interested candidates. Of course if you have been following Ugandan news, our race has been majorly zeroing down to the musician-turned-presidential-candidate called Robert Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine. The incumbent President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who has led Uganda for the last 36 years, was also nominated. As many of you might guess, there was surely violence on the streets as people were beaten and two were actually killed on that day. Out of the total 11 nominees Robert Ssentamu was beaten , dragged out of his car and arrested, and another one called Amuriat Patrick was literally delivered to the nomination grounds with no shoes on his feet.

Tensions keep rising as we draw near to the election, as the opposition keeps mobilizing supporters to vote for them in 2021. This is where the problem is for some people like me who have lost the interest in any form of violence but also are aware of other risks including Covid 19. As the people gather, the police are trying to disperse the groups at least partially because social and community infections have increased and they want to stem the tide that has risen over the last few weeks. 

These events above have affected me too in my work because in those two days most roads were closed and there I wasn’t able to access some of our people. They made my days shorter but I managed to pull through and have some assignments done. 

I met with Rovence N, Dorah A, Annet N, Rehema N, Prossy L, Jane N and Sarah N. I also spoke via phone to a few people like Christine N, Geoffrey Omongin and Cissy N. 

Dorah in her restaurant

I am not a fan of indifferent news so I will start with my best news this week from Dorah A., who finally got her shop and has started moving in her items. This week I went to visit and I had found she had bought chairs and tables for the restaurant. She had cleaned the place, laid table cloths, and set out a few cups, and was hoping she could start Friday this week. 

We have been working together and looking for a good location for Dorah for the last one year almost. I am happy that the long wait has brought us to this point and the hard work plus patience has paid off. She is looking into finding a fridge and maybe we can transfer one of the little fridges we have to her for the start. It might not be big but it makes a difference. 

One of Sarah’s happy goats

The livestock at Sarah N is looking really good. The goats look healthy and the two that are pregnant look really well; I guess these rains have helped them get enough grass to graze. The goat house is also holding up well, looks like they are doing a good job cleaning and maintaining it. 

She is also looking better herself from the last time that she was ill. She seemed happier or merrier when I was speaking to her. I am really happy that she gets to be healthy again and she is actually back to her farming and digging though not on full scale. She is a hard worker and digs a lot of her food at her home. 

Prossy L’s pigs are also looking really healthy. She has one pregnant sow already and she needs to create more room for the coming ones. The good thing is that she has one mature female that has failed to reproduce, even after several attempts to get it pregnant. She has decided to offer it for sale so she can get money to buy supplement food and also to prepare for the coming piggies. I think this is a good idea to help them become more sustainable as it is the point to why we engage our Mamas in our empowerment program — to ensure that they can sustain the business but also in turn take of themselves too. 

Rehema and her charcoal

I visited Rehema for the first time since I sent her money to buy the charcoal for her business and she looks really good. The stall was readjusted to a smaller shape to create way for the neighbor’s access road. She managed to get the charcoal and has started selling. She looked really happy when we met and I hope she can maintain and also maybe grow from the one bag of charcoal to multiple bags. She is still struggling with supporting her family especially with two of children who are supposed to be back in school as they are in candidate or final year students who have been allowed back in school.  We will keep checking on her over the next few weeks to see the progress she makes with her business. 

Jane and grandson Francis

Whereas everyone else seems to be doing well in this rainy season, Jane N., has been struggling to keep up with her water selling. As it is a habit of many people here, we tend to harvest as much water as possible whenever it rains. This has caused a small fall in her sales and hence turning over to her paper bag business to help boost her livelihood. Only that sometimes when it rains, the road side traders also work short hours which means they don’t demand as many paper bags. 

Otherwise her family is doing okay, we are looking into helping her grandson Francis get his physio this week because he has not had any in the last 10 or so months. He needs the physio to help him become stronger physically in his situation. Unlike earlier when he would have monthly regional clinics, this time we have to find him a private therapist who can come to his house. 

Annet

The struggle is still on for Annet N., as she continues to look and wait on getting another place of business. She is still operating at her former place but she is running out of time. One of the things we have wanted for a long time is to help Annet find a more permanent place for her business. I think that this would give her an opportunity to grow the business but also stop living under the uncertainty of whether she will find her space or not. I will continue to encourage and also see the available opportunities to engage with Annet to grow her business and family. 

Rovence, ever patient, in front of her restaurant

Rovence N., is still waiting for the carpenter to finish her furniture since last week when he said he would be done. I visited her and also called her to check on the progress but there was no progress in this matter. I usually like to avoid such situations during work when I have to confront people in this case when they don’t do what they promise. If I don’t get a positive response by the weekend, surely I will make my way to the workshop and demand some answers. We have actually made 75% of the payment so we need to have this deal done by now. I intentionally withheld some of the money because I knew this would happen. It’s time to follow up. 

Christine N., who has been having constant arguments with her husband over their property, has made progress. This week she got a court order for the hearing of this matter on the 20th November 2020. We are hoping that she can get some kind of injunction on the property to stop the husband from selling the property.

Christine is doing all her farming on this property and she doesn’t want to lose her livelihood. She earns a living through selling eggs and rearing pigs. We helped her build a poultry and pig pen to help her do her farming. She doesn’t want to lose these things because she has worked hard for them. Let’s keep sending her positive thoughts throughout these times. 

Geoffrey’s bricks

Lastly, I went to see Geoffrey’s brick making exercise and things are not looking good. The rains keep coming and more bricks are breaking. He needs to bake what he has already or he actually risks losing more due to the rains. I saw the bricks and encouraged him to urgently attend to that matter or else he will lose a lot more than he might think. The bricks will be stronger after baking so he rather bakes them twice than waiting and baking them in bad shape. Which then will make them lose economic value because of poor quality. 

One of the many reasons Ugandans (like me) love our country, are really small. We are like children or comedians. We never take things too seriously even though they are serious. When things start going south, we say “Kki Uganda kki tandise okunyumila” which directly translates as “Uganda is starting to get interesting for me”. We kind of exist as a social media page or application in one way or another. We have things that trend and make our country interesting. We find one positive in a million negatives just to smile and be happy. 

Now if you noticed, I have used the word “Struggle” a lot in this edition. There is a phrase “Tuli mmu struggle”, which simply translates as “We are in a struggle”. All of us in real life have one or two struggles going on that we are dealing with so the last thing we need is another’s struggle becoming part of yours. This phrase has been used for both good and tough times in respective places. But the question is “What is the moral?”. 

One of the things is that we need to appreciate whatever we are going through because everyone is going through something but amidst all these things, we should always remember to be kind. Erika brought me a bracelet or a rubble bangle or wristband that says, “Take a second, make a difference”. She has taught me through lots of memories to always be kind, including buying me a be kind shirt. 

Let’s move on in this week remembering these words, that we are all in a struggle but let’s not get lost in our struggle because we might damage someone’s life permanently. We only live once. 

Thank you for following our blogs. 

Stay blessed, stay safe and remain sociable. 

Let’s end period poverty together. 

Yours in friendship,

Andrew Echel

Director of Prog, Uganda

ISEE Solutions Society.