Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Though not your typical sport, table tennis is a beloved sport in Uganda, which has some added benefits, such as High School and University Scholarships, for youth who prove themselves to be talented and dedicated. But how does a student in a village such as Buyobo get access to table tennis instruction, let alone a table tennis table? How can they come to play on the same “table” as youths from larger towns and cities, with more equipped schools and readily available instruction, such as in Kampala?

This is the question Kevin Mafabi, talented Top Table Tennis player and certified Level 1 International Table Tennis Federation coach, set out to answer when he proposed a table tennis project in partnership with WMI.

Laughing it off after missing the ball on her first try

He, and his cousin (WMI board member) June Kyakobye, have played table tennis for years, and have received University scholarships for merit in the sport. Both with ancestral roots in Buyobo, Kevin is a professional table tennis player and considered one of the best of Uganda, and June, competed in the 1996 Olympic Games, and the 2001 US Open. Table Tennis talent must run in their genes!

Coach Kevin and Assistant Coach Denise showing the students how it’s done!

And now, Kevin is passing the torch to the young generation of Buyobo!

After acquiring a table tennis table, several practice rackets, and a few dozen balls through funding from WMI, the pavilion of BWA transformed into an athletic training center, where Kevin and his assistant coach, Denise, instructed 76 students over their holiday break. Now, with the students back in school, and Kevin and Denise away, the students have begun training themselves under the supervision of Boy’s and Girl’s Group Teacher, Susan, and the training instruction of a talented older student, allowing them to self-sustain the project.

A student trying her hand at Table Tennis

Their training has not been easy, but they are dedicated! Students have been practicing daily, going through drills of balancing the ball on the racket, bouncing the ball up and and down while trying to keep it from hitting the ground, and other drills which involve racing relay races, along with various other exercises to keep them on their toes.

A student participating in a relay race

Kevin and Denise will be back frequently to check up on the progress of the students, especially with the interest all the students have shown, and the natural talent and abilities of several! With time, and lots of practice, we are certain we will have some future Professional, and maybe even Olympic, Table Tennis athletes from Buyobo!

Coach Kevin Mafabi, and assistant coach Denise with the many future Table Tennis athletes from Buyobo!

As WMI President it is a thrill to make an annual field trip to East Africa to visit the loan hubs and spend time with the ladies in the loan program.

Our Buyobo headquarters is providing financial services to over 2,500 rural women in the Sironko, Mbale and Bududa Districts of eastern Uganda – all of the loans are managed by our village-level staff.  Even though the meeting pavilion at out HQ seats 500, it can’t accommodate all the ladies during loan issuance, loan repayment and trainings. So WMI is building smaller, 250-seat meeting halls in our remote centers which have 10 loan groups (200) borrowers within a few kilometers walking distance.  The ladies in the remote centers pool their funds to buy the land and WMI finances the building construction.

Building a remote meeting hall that belongs to the ladies in the loan program is a huge source of excitement, joy and pride for them.  There are few buildings of that size in rural villages: the ladies are so proud to have a place to call their own where they can meet and conduct their activities.  It’s so much better than meeting under a tree. Plus, when you have a building it provides a meeting place for ancillary programs, trainings and support activities.  It is also very unusual for rural women to own land in Uganda so it is a big achievement for them.

In 2019, WMI finished building its sixth remote meeting hall, located in Mutufu, Buhugu, Sironko District.  Dedicating the building meant a ceremony of hundreds of elated village women singing, marching, dancing and cooking up a storm to commemorate the happy occasion.  Our HQ leadership team dressed in their bright gomezi and traveled to Mutufu congratulate the Mutufu ladies on their hard work and business successes.

20191205_105404

You may have heard of Maasai Mara, the stunningly beautiful, and wildlife-dense home of zebras, elephants, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, (among others) and the perfect place for observing the great animal migration. But did you know that Maasai Mara is also home to a large population of Maasai people, and residents from other tribes around Kenya? Well, not inside the conservancy land of course, but bordering the conservancies, there are small towns, and one in particular, called Aitong, is situated adjacent to Maasai Mara North conservancy.

Map of the Conservancies in Kenya, with Aitong in the middle.

Aitong has many bustling shops, and is surrounded by plots of land sectioned off with lion-proof fences to protect livestock, one of the main sources of income in the area! The other biggest source of income is tourism, due to the close proximity of the game park. This includes the fee that conservancies pay to Maasai men each month for “renting” their land, the profits individuals make from running game tour services, and from sales made to foreigners visiting the town, especially the market.

Market day is once per week, and draws a large crowd from the surrounding areas. Some businesswomen and men have to travel through a public road that cuts through the Maasai Mara North Conservancy, often meeting wildlife on the way, while others cross bridges that may flood during rainy seasons, leaving them no option but to turn back. It may take them a long time to walk, or catch a boda (motorcycle taxi) there, but as the market is a large source of income, people will always brave the journey.

The women of Buyobo Women’s Association had the privilege of traveling to Maasai Mara North to meet with a group of women, called the Oiti Women’s Group, that were interested in beginning a loan program. The group is comprised of Maasai women, and others, who are already avid business women, but would like to expand their businesses.

Many craft and sell traditional beaded jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, earrings, along with other beaded crafts such as keyholders, and trinkets. Some of the women sell Maasai shukas (similar to a blanket, with plaid patterns of different colors) and clothes. Others sell coffee, tea, or snacks, especially during market day near where many men sell livestock. A few also run Agrovets, a highly profiting business that caters to the needs of caring for livestock.

Agrovet shop owned by one of the women from Oiti Group

The women of Maasai Mara speak Maasai language, and Swahili, so training for the new loan program was done through translators, as BWA staff speak Lugisu, Luganda, or another Ugandan language. Despite this language barrier, everyone still connected and learned a lot about each other. BWA taught topics of financial literacy, record keeping, and discussed all aspects of the loan program, which was well received by the women of Oiti.

The BWA team is extremely grateful to Oiti Women’s Group for hosting them and making them feel at home, away from home!

A few months back, Buyobo women’s Association hosted Geoffrey Oryema, a certified yoga instructor, freelance performing artist, and social activist, for a yoga session and short discussion with Boys and Girls Group.

YOGA_5

A native of Gulu, Geoffrey grew up in the war torn north of Uganda during the time of the LRA, where he “heard gunshots daily, and had to run for his life to survive”. He was abducted by Kony’s forces early in his youth.

YOGA_3

Because of his past turmoil, he has “come to appreciate living in a sense of peace, and promotes and creates peace in his community through his yoga, and dance”.

yoga_6.jpg

He teaches yoga as an outlet and form of expression, and as a platform to discuss other topics close to heart, such as treating other people with respect and kindness “especially those within your community, because you never know when you’ll need them”, and giving back to your community, among others, all of which he shared with the students of Boys and Girls Group.

YOGA_7

Boys and Girls Group had a blast stretching into yoga poses while reflecting on the wise words of Geoffrey Oryema!

 

 

Welcome 2019/2020 Fellow!

IMG-20181017-WA0014

WMI would like to welcome Kaycee Corcoran as the 2019/2020 Resource Fellow! Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she earned her BA in Sociology from Pennsylvania State University, where she also worked as a Research Assistant drawing data on political trends, in the Sociology Department. In 2015, she studied abroad in Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro, which sparked her love of international travel, and a longing to live overseas.

After graduating in December 2016,  she spent her time volunteering at a non-profit called Community Action Agency of Delaware County, where she enrolled eligible families in the Safe and Healthy Homes Program, a project that “provides education and interventions to promote healthy homes and prevent injuries”. She knew immediately that non-profit was the path for her, and in June of 2017, she was able to pursue her love of service work, and fulfill her longing to live overseas by embarking on her 26 month Peace Corps Service in a rural town in Eastern Uganda.

In her first year in Uganda as a Peace Corps volunteer, she spearheaded and concluded a grant project with a local organization, in which they taught alternative gardening methods to combat climate change, especially drought, and methods of how to improve household nutrition through diet changes, and the provided orange fleshed sweet potato vines (a variety high in vitamin A) and iron rich bean seeds.

Additionally, she worked on the grassroots level with a group of women to introduce low capital income-generating products to fill community-wide gaps in access, such as bio briquettes (formed charcoal made from organic materials or charcoal dust), and potholders. Previously, the village had used gathered firewood due to the high costs of charcoal, and women experienced burnt fingers daily before they started sewing their own potholders, both of which are now small sources of income for the women in the group.

She is additionally a founding partner and manager of Beyond Culture LTD, a Ugandan based not for profit company which boasts a Fashion line, Music Label/Artist Management, supports a village orphanage in Mugiti, Uganda, and spearheads other social projects and fundraising events related to the arts, especially music.

She hopes to gain more insight into micro-finance and how micro-lending enables women in rural communities. This is the beginning of her 3rd year in lovely Uganda, and she is ecstatic to share the next 11 months with the women of BWA, the borrowers, and the surrounding community of Buyobo!

 

RAIN Uganda is a mobile medical clinic that works in partnership with AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHS) to provide free health screening services to communities, especially rural villages, such as Buyobo. Twice a year, Buyobo Women’s Association partners with RAIN Uganda to offer free medical screenings to our borrowers, staff, and their families, who otherwise may not be able to access the screening services elsewhere.

20190912_141545

This past month, RAIN Uganda made their way out to Buyobo for the day, with 11 staff members in tow, including 2 doctors, 2 midwives, 2 lab technicians, 4 counselors, and 1 one secretary.  Our compound transformed into a clinic as the medical staff got to work! They spent the whole day with us and our borrowers.20190912_141708

In total, 72 people came out to receive the different services, which included, cancer Screening, HIV tests, blood sugar screening for diabetes, blood pressure checks for hypertension, and blood tests for hepatitis B. Borrowers were also provided with medicine for de-worming. Usually, RAIN Uganda offers eye screenings and corrective lenses, but unfortunately, they glasses were out of stock this time!

20190912_141716

In addition to the screenings, the attendees were given a 30-minute health talk which focused on cervical cancer, and HIV/AIDS. They discussed causes, and transmission, and explained who should be tested, and the importance of testing. Additionally, RAIN Uganda answered all the pressing questions posed during the session, and the screenings.

This day was made possible by BWA and Rain Uganda, who both share the costs to see that these services are provided to the women borrowers and their families. Their generosity is highly appreciated!

20190912_151208

My name is Paddy Mukasa, and I am a Junior at the University of Strathclyde Glasgow, studying BA Honours Business in Accounting. I am a member of the Strathclyde Harriers (Cross country) team.  Originally, I am from a small town of Katosi, Mukono district in Uganda.paddy-mukasa-photo.png

During my freshman year, I undertook an internship at Crystal Water Solutions, a Malawian start-up. This company was founded by students of the African Business Institute, which kindly matched me to this internship. As this was a new organization, my main responsibility was establishing the book-keeping systems, which involved recording the daily financial transactions of the company in a way that allowed efficient record tracking.  The internship was a great experience because it provided me with entrepreneurial skills and improved my interpersonal skills, while also helping me to apply my classroom knowledge to a real-world business environment, which was a great milestone for me, both professionally and academically.

I am excited to be interning at Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI) in Buyobo – Uganda, for the months of July and August! Thus far, I have completed business case studies and have worked closely with borrowers to brainstorm ways that they can improve their business practices. Additionally, I have demonstrated to borrowers how to track their finances so they can maximize income and re-invest in their businesses, and I am currently analysing the savings habits of our borrowers.

I am passionate about the impact of microfinance in my country, and it is my goal to return to Uganda to make a difference in this field after I finish my university studies. This is an amazing opportunity for me to learn the intricacies of microfinance lending in rural areas, and about the daily activities of the women who benefit from the WMI loan program.