ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

Aug 9-15

Greetings to you all,

I hope that we are well. I am sorry to hear about the continuing fires in Canada especially now that it is closing in on Kelowna where most of my friends live. I hope that they are safe. Erika shared a few pictures of what it looks like in their city and it is so sad compared to the pictures I have seen from before. It is saddening to see how the world is turning upside down with a deadly pandemic and now wildfires across Canada and America. We are sending you all the best wishes and positive thoughts as you go through these tragedies.

The situation for us here in Uganda has not changed as we are still struggling to contain the spread. This time round more people are wearing masks and washing hands more diligently than before. It is a pleasant sight to see that we have become more adaptive to the situation but I am not sure I can say the same for the government and the hospitals here. I guess the fact that the people have no hope in the system, they are doing the best they can to protect themselves.

Jennifer selling shoes

This week I was able to actually complete my Covid Fund Relief task by physically reaching the homes of the few Mamas I was not able to catch by phone. I visited Cissy N, Prossy L, Rehema N and  Harriet L who I had initially failed to find. I also dropped by along the way to see a few Mamas as a routine check to see how they are doing like Francoise, Semmy S, Rashida, Aida, Catherine and Lilly.

The stories that stood out for me this week come from Francoise, Semmy and Hadijja.

A few days ago, I received a call from Hadijja thanking us so much for the Relief Fund we sent her because it came at a time when the landlord was chasing her out of the house. Hadijja is one of our Mamas who runs a roadside chips stall. She told me that this lockdown thing had been hard and that all the profit she was making was just to feed them. Literally hand to mouth daily, she could not afford to save for rent. Now the challenge is that she had just been evicted from the previous house just a few months ago. She called me with an excitement that is hard to explain but she was really grateful for the intervention. This is why it is on top of the lists of my favorite stories because the intervention was timely and meaningful. Hadijja has a baby girl who is about 1.5yrs now and I would hate that she is tossed around like this. Thank you ISEE Solutions Society.

Hadijja and her daughter Adeeva

The other story is from Semmy S. Semmy is a nursery school teacher and has not been able to get any meaningful work since the first lockdown almost a year and a half now. She had hopped from one thing to another, vegetable stall, juice making and children coaching, all of them just kept her going for a while but eventually she couldn’t keep doing them. Last week I sent her her portion of Relief and she called me to thank me for the money. This week I visited her and she told me of the money we sent her, she used 40% to buy ingredients for liquid soap making. She made a few litres of liquid soap and by the end of the week she had already gotten her returns. She was so excited sharing this story with me and I am really glad that she didn’t only spend the money on buying food but she thought about multiplying it. She offered me a sample but I would rather she sold it for money for her family. I am really happy that some of the Mamas have really taken advantage of this little opportunity they had.

Semmy with her soap

The other one is Francoise who decided that she would get that money and restart her food business again. She has been sick for a while now and was diagnosed with TB which eventually led us to paying her medical bill and also paying for her feeding for a while. When she got this money, Francoise decided to buy beans and maize to restart her business. She is a bit sickly and surely needs something to do so she can stay healthy and focused to help her kids. She is lucky that some of the kids have since moved out and she remains with the last two. With this small business she will be able to manage her family financial affairs in the meantime.

Francoise

Lastly I was really happy to finally deliver the final batch to the last group like I said in the beginning;

It was unfortunate that I was not able to see Prossy in person this time but I met her husband at home. Prossy had traveled to the village to help take care of her ailing mother. Henry was now in charge of taking care of the home and the animals. I must say that he has done well. The animals look good although he had been struggling with feeding them. He was really excited and he wanted to call Prossy but her phone was not reachable.

Henry, Prossy’s kind husband

I was able to meet Cissy in person and deliver the money to her. Her phone was still unreachable but she gave me an alternative number that I could use in the meantime. She was really happy and she said she wanted to buy a few building materials to help finish her unfinished stall.

Cissy

Rehema had just returned from picking her medication from her contact hospital. I was happy to see her as it had been awhile. She was very happy and really excited to receive her funds. She has lots of children and grandchildren and I just don’t know how she keeps up but she does. She is still doing laundry for her neighbors as her main source of income.

Rehema with two of her grandkids

Harriet L the tailor has not yet found her business shop but she was very happy that we thought about her this way, she said. She told me that her husband had not yet received any pay because he was not going to work because of the lockdown. “..omg, thank you Andrew” she said. “We have not been working and my husband has not received pay yet.” She said she can now buy food for the children.

Harriet

Lilly the tailor is doing well. I met her in her shop working on one of the table cloth orders she got. I am glad that she is at least back in the shop and that her section of the market is open. She had been struggling during the 42 days lockdown.

Lily back at sewing

Catherine N. has been doing well helping her mother Lorna in the restaurant the last few weeks. Lorna has been a bit busy with some voluntary work at the clinic helping her peers in dealing with prolonged illness. Catherine helps to run the restaurant along with her samosa business. She was happy too to receive her package.

Catherine at the restaurant she runs with her mother, Lorna

Aida K is not doing very well lately. She has been selling less and less of her chips because of the lockdown. She said that it has not yet picked up even after the lockdown was lifted but she will keep at it.

Aidah, the best chip maker in Uganda!

I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to travel and see these Mamas once again, and be able to touch base with them at their homes. I can feel the sense of relaxation around them now that the lockdown was lifted. Most of them are trying to pick themselves up and that is enough motivation for me. They are happy and each is carrying a bit of a smile on their faces, a sign of hope and betterness. This is one of the reasons I love doing this job everyday, because I get to experience a satisfaction and joy beyond comprehension. 

This is why I thank you for empowering us as we empower these strong women who support their families regardless. We will never stop appreciating you that is for sure and like most of them say, “May God bless you all” and one of them this week added “Surely may all of you be granted the desires of your hearts.” 

Rashida

Please stay safe, and for all my friends who have become family in the areas in and around Kelowna, my heart is with you.

Your truly

Andrew Echel

Director of Programs, Uganda.

ISEE Solutions Society.

August 1-8

Now that the lockdown restrictions have been removed in Uganda, Andrew is back to visiting the mamas and our other partners in person and is sharing an update with us once a week as he was doing before. -ed

Greetings to you all world,

I hope that you are all doing well. If not, I hope it gets better sooner than later. I still send our families and friends positive thoughts especially those being affected by the evacuations caused by the fires. I feel that the fire has gone on too long but we can only hope that maybe the rains come back soon to help in putting the fires off.

The lockdown was finally lifted here and people are starting to figure out work and their lives all over again. My first assignment after the lockdown was to ensure that I met with one of our old friends Peter Kiwanuka who runs the organization React Now Save Young Mothers. Earlier this year, I met with Peter to learn about his proposal to purchase a small piece of land on which he intends to build the organization a home for their vocational activities. He started lobbying for funds and was able to get ⅓ of the money he needed to purchase the land. The promise to make this contribution was met by one of his friends and he thereafter approached us with this dream. 

Peter and his wife, Flavia

I met him a few weeks later and we started to go over the plans and options. There was to be second phase, third, forth phases from which he would build slowly through the different resources he would encounter. Anyways, Peter was lucky that ISEE Solutions was able to show up for him and we contributed the remaining balance for the piece of land.

I was really happy that I was able to make the drive that took me more than 2.5hrs. It is actually about 70kms from where I live but it took me that long to reach my destination (Jinja District). I usually borrow my friend’s car to go this far because using public transport would take me up to 4hrs to get there. Public transport for me would mean at least boarding vehicles 3 times, with one being a motorcycle. The two would be public mini buses that normally would carry 14 people but now they are permitted to carry only 7. 

The one thing we Ugandans love when taking these long journeys is that we have stopovers where we buy roasted goodies like meat and chicken from. This is often the highlight, so I stopped like the tradition is and I got myself a few pieces of chicken and roasted plantain for the rest of the journey.

The other interesting thing about this journey is that you get to drive through Uganda’s largest natural forest called Mabira forest. The wind in that section of the road blows differently that’s for sure, so I was happy to drive through it another time. (It’s the freshest and most beautiful air in Uganda! It’s such a welcome change to the dry and smelly air that is normally around us. Curses when we are travelling to Jinja and end up behind a stinky old transport truck as we travel through the forest! – Erika)

The not fun part of this journey is the traffic jam that usually makes the journey longer, especially on the return home.

Purchasing land in Uganda is a different process than in Canada. It usually starts with searching and surveying the availability of the plot and when this is done, the buyer meets the seller to discuss. The buyer {Peter} picked out the plot he wanted that he thought would be easy for his location of the project. The owner called a few representatives including the local council chairperson, the head of village security and the secretary. These people are charged by the government with the responsibility to preside over such proceedings. They help draft the sales agreement for the plot and this helps to legalize the sale. As the buyer, Peter brought his own witnesses, his Board of Director Members who helped to sign the agreement.

The official land purchase agreement

I traveled with him and the team to deliver the funds but also to witness the signing of the contract or agreement. This exercise went on successfully and all parties were happy. Peter was even happier because apart from getting the property handed over to him officially, the neighbour to his plot had also brought in water and electricity. This meant that now the organization shall have access to water and power without spending a lot of money to bring those services to the land.

Peter, Flavia and the previous owner of the land

Peter shall now proceed with plans of buying construction materials to help in the construction process. He talked about using a small piece of the land to start making bricks because by doing so, he will save money on buying bricks hence reducing the construction costs. The bricks are made in a pretty similar way as Geoffrey makes his but this time it will be made using red dirt as opposed to Geoffreys’ clay.  Peter will, along with a few people, dig, heap red dirt and mix it with water. They will then make wooden cast boxes and a table on which the bricks will be made. This exercise is very tasking and it is very labor intensive. The hardest part is fetching water especially if the well is a bit far. After bricks are made, they are put out of the cast box and left to dry for a few weeks. The dried bricks are later piled into a kiln and baked for days using firewood. After the baking, the bricks are left to cool and then they are ready for use in construction.

He will have to venture into all possible ways to reduce his building costs. His pitch in the proposal was the fact that they would save a lot of money if they managed their own facility. They would be able to do more with the money the girls and boys contribute towards their study.

At the end of my assignment in Jinja, completing the purchase of React Now’s property, I was able to take Peter and his expectant wife for a little lunch as a courtesy from ISEE Solutions Society. They were really happy for the meal and Peter actually called me to see if I had reached Kampala safely. He was very thankful and appreciative for both the gestures and the celebratory lunch if I might call it that.

My second task was to ensure that all our Mamas get the Covid relief fund that was designated by ISEE to help Mamas pick themselves up after the lockdown. (This was to replace the money that the government did not supply to our mamas despite the promise made at the start of this lockdown. Thank you to everyone who generously donated to provide this emergency relief. -ed) I was able to send 95 percent of the Mamas whose phones were available and the rest I had to look for them physically. The Mamas were so happy and relieved when I called them up to deliver the message to them. They were so delighted at the end of the call. I will  look out for the remaining few who I was not able to catch by phone.

Otherwise the exercise went well and I am glad that we were able to come through for them in these tough times. The government has surely failed us in so many ways. They have failed to provide the people with the vaccines and relief finances. Statistics still show that less than one million people are vaccinated and with not much progress being done to secure vaccines many people are still dying. The government has allowed people to access their social security fund savings in order to help treat themselves or access treatment. This only means that if they survive, they will not have enough or even any money to survive during retirement.

Thank you for keeping up with us through these times especially with the ongoing fires and the pandemic at large. We appreciate all the time invested in this project, the constant support and comments. It is such an honor to do what I do and also get the opportunity to share it with you using this platform. I await to share with you again next week, please remain vigilant, stay safe and remain sociable because we need some kindness and love.

Report by;

Andrew Echel

Director of Programs, Uganda.

ISEE Solutions Society