Greetings from Buyobo, Uganda! I am in East Africa for six weeks on my annual visit and very happy to report that the loan program is thriving.
During five days in Kampala the WMI team met with PostBank (PBU) directors and staff to review the transition program operations. PBU reported that the process of graduating WMI borrowers to bank loans after 2 years in our rural loan is going very smoothly. WMI members have learned to keep accounts and use their skills training to build up successful businesses before acquiring bank loans. PBU continues to provide excellent service to WMI borrowers and we are expanding our partnership to better meet the financial needs of rural women.
We also met with the headquarters staff of other larger NGOs and government organizations to discuss partnering opportunities.
After the chaos that is Kampala, Hannah Kahl, WMI’s Resource Fellow, and I headed up to Buyobo and the quiet evenings of the village. WMI’s Country Director, Olive Wolimbwa, was here to greet us. WMI is entering the sixth year of its rural loan program – as increasing numbers of borrowers stopped by to greet us we felt like we were being welcomed home. The village is now a hub of activity as many women have built small shops surrounding the WMI headquarters building. For the past year, Hannah has been doing a fabulous job supporting loan hub operations in East Africa.
After a day of meetings, we headed out to visit the field operations of several other NGOs in the area with different development programs that have potentials for collaboration. Back in Buyobo the ladies started preparing the food for the upcoming graduation ceremony. Olive expects over 500 women – many from distant loan hubs. Honoring the women who are transitioning to bank loans is a highlight for the WMI community.
Then we started a round of visits to the local loan program sub-hubs and the receptions were overwhelming. Whether deep in the hills of Buteza or down the dusty road to Manafwa, rural women are singing their praise for the WMI loan program. And I can report to you that the expansion of the program during 2012 has yielded tremendous results – women are telling us their household living standards have vastly improved even after just 6 months in the loan program. The most oft repeated improvement was that dozens and dozens of women tell us they can now pay school fees for their children because of the profits they make from their businesses.
As you can see from the pictures, the reception we receive as we drive from one villager loan program to the next is overwhelming. Hundreds of women have turned out to greet us and thank WMI for believing in rural women. The chairwomen of the loan groups have given moving speeches appreciating WMI for recognizing that they are not ignorant or lazy – for recognizing that with a boost in the form of a loan and skills training, they can launch and manage successful businesses. They tell us how WMI has found them living deep, deep in poverty and provided the tools that have brought them into the daylight of improving life for themselves and their families. They speak eloquently and honestly from their hearts as they ask WMI to continue to expand the loan program to help all rural women achieve financial security.
I can report that your support of WMI is helping us provide a program that penetrates to one of the root causes of poverty – lack of access to financial services. Your generosity and commitment is indeed resulting in better lives for thousand of rural women and their families in a format that is sustainable and long-lasting. THANK YOU!
On the way to the Manafwa loan hub, WMI Country Director Olive Wolimbwa stops at her favorite shop in Mbale to buy gifts for the best savers during the last loan cycle.
WMI Assistant Director Jacklyne Namonye guards the van while we shop.
Manafwa women greet WMI President Robyn Nietert.
Manafwa borrowers sing a song of praise for the WMI loan program.
WMI team meets with members of the NGO Village Enterprise Fund in Sonoli.
Olive and WMI’s local coordinators discuss common issues with Village Enterprise Fund coordinators.
On the 3 hour trip back to Buyobo, WMI Local Coordinators Joyce and Grace Mangali purchase potatoes for the stew that will be served atthe upcoming Graduation Ceremony.
Robyn and Olive address members of The Hunger Project in their beautiful hall that is part of the Epicentre they have constructed outside Mable.
Women in the Buteza loan hub dance their way to the WMI van to greet Robyn and the trainers.
Buteza borrowers sing for the visitors.
Robyn addressing the Buteza borrowers.
The Buteza borrowers convince Robyn to join in the dancing.
Buteza loan groups present Robyn and the WMI trainers with gifts from their businesses.
Robyn tucks the evening meal under her arm as she wishes the women farewell.
Back in Buyobo the ladies prepare the rice for the midday meal for the upcoming Graduation Ceremony!