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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.

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This year we have been blessed with the quality and quantity of interns! From our Spring interns (Hilary and Will) who worked on business case studies and how to make your own reusable sanitary pad workshops and community outreach, it has already been a busy year, but we are just getting started!

At the beginning of June we welcomed our 2019 summer interns who will be with us through the end of July. Their main focus will be on compiling on our annual Factbook, interviewing borrowers, working with our Byos Group and Girls Group and content creation.

Meet them below!

NoahCha

Hello! My name is Noah, and I am a rising sophomore from Irvine, California studying Finance at the University of Notre Dame. I enjoy playing basketball and making videos, and I am heavily involved with my campus’ Investment Club and Special Olympics team. I chose to work with WMI to learn more about how individuals in rural communities integrate into developing economies without access to traditional financial institutions. My goal over the course of this internship is to gain a better understanding of the nuances of developing economies and the potential growth opportunities they present.

GraceCollins

My name is Grace Collins. Originally, I am from the small town of Wyoming, Delaware. Currently, I’m a rising junior at Princeton University, concentrating in Politics with potential certificates in Ancient Roman Language & Culture and African Studies. On campus, I’m involved as the president of Whig-Clio, Princeton’s political society. I am also active on the Princeton Debate Panel, the Pace Center for Civic Service, the Glee Club, and the Katzenjammers acapella group. I’m excited to be at WMI because working here is a fantastic opportunity to learn about microfinance and its intersections with gender and economic equality. Additionally, as a student of the region, it’s a privilege to live here in Buyobo for two months and to learn so much from its residents. I’m also very excited to be carrying out a music teaching initiative at Buyobo Primary School while I’m here. Through this project, I will help instruct the students in musicianship and performance art alongside the school’s teachers. With a grant from Princeton’s Class of 1978 Foundation, I will be purchasing a set of new musical instruments including xylophones, tube fiddles, and drums for the students. From interning to teaching, I know that I will learn a lot in my time here, and I’m so excited for the rest of the summer.

KellyCollinsMy name is Kelly Collins. I just graduated from the University of California, Berkeley where I earned a B.S. from the Haas School of Business and a B.A. in Economics.  At Cal, I was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority, especially involved within the Philanthropic Committee. My Junior year I studied at the London School of Economics where I concentrated in Management and played on the school’s Field Hockey Team.  In the fall, I will be moving to New York City to begin my first job at Yelp as an Account Executive. The Summer Internship at the Women’s Microfinance Initiative has brought me to Africa for the first time. I am incredibly excited to be working with the Ugandan women, learning about them and their businesses. I hope to investigate how loans impact the scale of a typical business and the ability for women to provide for themselves and their families.  By speaking to borrowers and analyzing survey data I am aiming to draw conclusions on the effects of microfinance in communities of rural east Africa.  Moreover, I can’t wait to spend the weekends exploring other areas around Buyobo, such as Mbale, Sipi Falls, and Jinja, with my fellow interns!

 

CarolinePlouff

Hey y’all, my name is Caroline Plouff and I am originally from Birmingham, Alabama.  I am a rising senior at the University of Notre Dame where I study Political Science and Global Affairs with a concentration in European Studies.  Last semester, I studied abroad in Angers, France where I lived with a host family and took all of my classes in French.  I enjoy travelling, spending time with friends, and trying new foods!  I am so excited to be interning at the Women’s Microfinance Initiative this summer because I believe that grassroots level initiatives, such as microloan programs, can have a powerful effect on how we approach international development.  This summer, I am most looking forward to learning about the loan program in Buyobo and witnessing first-hand, the impact a couple hundred dollars can have on the lives of rural women and their communities.

 

Hi everyone! My name is Nora Tucker and I’m a rising sophomore at the University of Notre Dame! I am studying Computer Science, with a double minor in Catholic Social Tradition and Digital Marketing. Outside of my classes, I am involved in our wNoraTuckeromen’s boxing team, the engineering leadership council, and my dorm’s hall council as our faith life commissioner. I’m also in the pep band and I work in the Alumni Association. In my free time, I love to run and travel. I am originally from Libertyville, Illinois, a town about an hour north of Chicago! I have a sister and brother and I love spending time with my family and friends. I am thrilled to be in Uganda, working with the Women’s Microfinance Initiative this summer! I am excited about working with this organization because it empowers women financially and has had such positive outcomes for borrowers. I look forward to learning more about the inner workings of a nonprofit organization, especially one that has been so successful and become trusted by the community. I’m also looking forward to teaching lessons to the local boys and girls group that WMI supports, since I love kids and teaching! My first few weeks in Buyobo have been incredible and I can’t wait to see what I learn throughout the rest of the summer!

EthanSeideMy name is Ethan Seide, and I am from Bethesda, Maryland. I am a rising sophomore at Princeton University where I study Operations Research Financial Engineering with an emphasis on machine learning and optimization. I compete on the cycling team, ski team, and club tennis team. I am also a member of the robotics team where we are currently working on constructing an autonomous drone. Ultimately, I would like to found a tech startup that helps people in the developing world, and I believe WMI can help me brainstorm ideas. I came to Buyobo to study the benefits of microfinance and learn about village life in Uganda. I also believe that as an aspiring engineer, I can offer a unique viewpoint in Buyobo. I would like to teach the children in the village about engineering and sustainable energy by doing a project with them. I hope to inspire the children so that in the future they start their own projects to help the community.

Hello! My name is Hilary, I am 24 years old and from Leicestershire in the UK. My family originates from Ghana so I have two places I call home.

hilary

I studied Law at the University of Manchester in the North West of England, the three years flew by and following my graduation I found myself as a paralegal for a small but delightful law firm in the same location. Having realised my interests were instead peaked by developmental and human rights issues I decided to gain more experience in the field. I undertook a three-month volunteering experience in Burkina Faso where myself and 11 other volunteers worked to advance women’s rights in the rural village of Réo. We achieved this by educating young students and rural communities on HIV, domestic violence, sexual health and hygiene.

By working with WMI I hope to facilitate in the long lasting change to the lives of the women and young girls here, which has been made possible by the loan program. It will also be a great opportunity to assist with the introduction of reusable sanitary pads to the local area, which I also worked on during my time in Burkina.

I also enjoy knitting, baking and travelling. My most recent adventures took me to Melbourne, Australia where I met a string of people, took a thousand too many photos and camped under the stars with the local wallabies. I then toured New Zealand in a giant green kiwi bus. East Africa has been on my list of places to visit for a while and from the moment the plane landed I have not been disappointed.

Following my time in Uganda I will be taking a hop, skip and a jump over to Ghana where I will be working with the International Federation of Women Lawyers  (FIDA) in order to assist lawyers in the protection of women’s rights through 3 main projects. These projects entail gender inclusion and equality, the creation of better access to justice by increasing awareness to women of their rights and finally a research project into the education and literacy rates in a rural village.

In the meantime, I particularly look forward to getting to know the women of WMI and seeing how their business success continues to foster change within their community.

 

My name is Will Kuenster, and I have just arrived in Buyobo for my two-month stint as a WMI intern. I am originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, so the weather in Buyobo has been a welcome reprieve from the cold and snow!

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in December with degrees in Finance and Risk Management. During my senior year in Madison, I was a volunteer intern with Wisconsin Microfinance, which operates small loan hubs in both Haiti and the Phillipines. Through this experience, I came into contact with Robyn and found my inspiration to make the journey to Uganda. Upon returning to the states, I will be starting a job with Deloitte as a Management Consultant in Minneapolis.

During my time in Buyobo, I will be conducting a series of case studies on the successful businesses built by our borrowers, ranging from Pharmacies to Schools to Tailoring Shops. The goal of the studies is to gain an in-depth understanding of their day-to-day operations and see how their businesses fit into and impact their daily lives. Our secondary goal, if possible, is to work alongside the borrowers to brainstorm and implement new ideas to help the businesses improve and grow.

I look forward to sharing the stories of these amazing women!

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WMI President, Robyn Nietert, blogs about her annual field visit to WMI loan hubs in East Africa.

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Visiting the loan programs WMI collaborates on with Lewa Wildlife Conservancy on the Laikepia Plateau in northern Kenya is a great opportunity to see an innovative approach to involving local populations in the management of scarce resources.  Lewa is a pioneer IMG_3413in the concept of community conservation.  They believe that the welfare of local people is key to a thriving wildlife heritage and have invested extensively in the livelihood of their neighbors with programs that focus on education, healthcare, water, microfinance and youth empowerment.  Of particular importance are programs that focus on women’s groups.

IMG_5004WMI partners with Lewa to bring business loans and skills training to the women who live in villages surrounding the conservancy.  There are currently 1,800 women in the loan program operating small businesses that include: retail shops, butcheries, flour mills, hair dressing and tailoring, poultry rearing, buying and selling cereals and livestock keeping. These businesses not only allow rural women to develop their own business potential but as the enterprises grow they create jobs for other women.  In IMG_65162018, WMI funded the addition of new loan groups in each of the 4 sectors surrounding the conservancy.  Women leaders have emerged to chair the groups and supervise loans.

Visiting these businesswomen to learn more about their financial needs and family life is a riotous affair that involves singing, dancing IMG_4124and very proud descriptions of their businesses operations, revenues and how the increased income has dramatically impacted their household living standards.  The women are very savvy about both their business and personal finances.  Owning a business has given them the tools and incentive to be proactive about their family’s economic well-being.

For a rural woman, operating a successful rural business is not a one dimensional undertaking.  Access to affordable health care, a reliable water source and educational opportunities for their children impact the ability of these women to focus on their business operations. IMG_6426

This year WMI funded counseling services for rural women who felt stressed by the myriad responsibilities they faced.  The women told us the counseling sessions were enormously helpful. Some were having issues with priorities set by their husbands and the counseling sessions helped them learn how to have a fruitful discussion instead of simply arguing.  Others were overwrought by the educational and career choices their children wanted to make and the sessions helped them learn how to listen and respond constructively to their children’s concerns.  IMG_4354Our team was struck by the universality of the women’s concerns.  We could relate to the anxiety created by family arguments and their relief in finding constructive ways to handle the stress.

I am so impressed by the dedication and effective outreach provided by the Lewa Community Development team.  John Kinoti provides excellent leadership at the top. Purity Mwenda oversees loan program operations and connects with the women in the loan groups on a very personal level.  She is a confidant, mentor and IMG_4348cheerleader all rolled into one very effective role model.  The liaisons who meet with the loan groups regularly and deposit collections have gained the trust of the women they serve.  The bottom line is that this loan hub is having a powerful impact on the women and their families and is making significant in-roads in poverty alleviation at the bottom of the pyramid.  WMI is continuing to work with Lewa to expand the loan program and provide additional services so more women in the area can start businesses and receive the support they need to make those businesses a success.

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Making my 12th trip to WMI loan program hubs in East Africa, I am delighted to report that the impact of the loan program continues to grow.  We first traveled due west 4 hours from Kampala to the Mubende area where we partner with the Buesessa Community Development Association to off loans and training.  The ladies were enthusiastic in their welcome and so happy I had made the trip that they presented me with many lovely locally-made baskets. They readily escorted us to tour businesses that lined the main roadside.  Business owners reported earning $100 – $500/month from hair braiding salons, dress design and tailoring, shops and sales of maize and beans.

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The lovely women of Buseesa greeting me with hugs and gifts

Many women in the area were refugees from the Rwanda genocide.  As children and young adults, they fled violence and chaos.  In western Uganda they found stability and a chance for a new life.  They were not resettled by an international agency; they did not receive government subsidies or support.  They persevered by virtue of their own hard work and determination.  WMI is proud to be able to offer resources that help their businesses expand and thrive.

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Borrower in her domain helping and greeting customers

The welcome at our WMI HQ in Buyobo was overwhelming. Women’s businesses now dominate the main road through town.  Catering, small restaurants and snack stalls have become common – prepared food is big business in Buyobo.  Household improvements are visible everywhere, from brick houses, to satellite dishes to cows grazing in yards. And, women now dress very smartly!

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Robyn, Jackie (Assistant Director in Buyobo) greeting Olive (Director) during our annual celebration

Our annual celebration for the community was the largest ever, drawing more that 700 women and their families, as well as community leaders and guest speakers.  A day of singing, dancing, marching, musical performances, and speeches ended with a feast catered by our own staff.  What a wonderful way to acknowledge the ongoing accomplishments of the women in the loan program in eastern Uganda, which has now spread throughout Sironko and into Bulambuli, Manafwa and Bududa Districts.

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Borrowers are now able to construct permenant homes

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One of our lovely borrowers in Buseesa

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WMI Ladies preparing food for our annual celebration

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Satellite dishes can be spotted all around Buyobo

2018 Summer Intern Wrap Up

From Lilia:

This summer spent in Buyobo interning for WMI has been such a rewarding and informative experience. It was so hard to say goodbye to all the incredibly hard-working and kind women I got to know this summer at BWA, and watch the trees and mountains pass for the last time on the car ride out of the village, but I know I will come back some day.

Now that I’ve spent a few weeks back at home reflecting on the summer, I realized that I’ve really learned a lot over the past few months, and not only in the ways I expected. On the job, I learned all sorts of new business related skills, like data analysis and graphic design, but I also learned some Lugisu phrases, how to be more flexible and creative due to the the temperamental internet situation, and how important it is to reapply sunscreen after spending a few hours around town conducting interviews with WMI borrowers!

Some of my favourite memories from my internship come from the time spent with the kids who are a part of the orphan outreach program. I loved playing new games with the kids each week, whether Cerina and I were the ones introducing them or the kids taught us. It was really sweet to see the kids reading and colouring on rainy days, and I love that I got to take home some of their adorable pictures. Also, the girls seemed to really enjoy giving me makeovers whenever they got their hands on my hair – which was essentially any time I sat down. It was one of the most refreshing parts of my week, to be around a whole bundle of kids having a good time, giggling and running around with so much energy. One memorable afternoon, one of the youngest girls got a scrape on her forehead, so I took out the first-aid kit and patched it up with a band-aid. Then, all of a sudden, EVERYONE then needed to have a band-aid on their head to look as cool as their friend, and before I knew it, all the band-aids were gone from the box, and on every girl’s head! I like to think I started a fashion trend in Buyobo that day…

I also really enjoyed designing and putting together the Fact Book, which allowed for a lot more fun and creativity than I had expected. It was interesting to see the whole process through from beginning to end, compiling all the data and calculating the statistics. It was eye opening to be seeing first hand the effects of the loan program, interviewing borrowers, visiting businesses and talking with the BWA Board of Directors about their experience with the loan program, and then realizing those effects could be multiplied more than 12,000 times across Uganda and Eastern Africa – it really put the value and success of the program into perspective for me. Looking at the statistics and data, and knowing the reality of empowered women and families they reflected was very encouraging. I especially enjoyed getting creative with the design process to take that information we compiled and calculated, and make it exciting and accessible for others to read. I am looking forward to seeing the published version very soon!

Over the last two months I spent in Buyobo and exploring Uganda, I met so many kind and welcoming people, and saw beautiful natural wonders I won’t forget. I can’t thank the women of WMI and BWA enough for the opportunity to join their team and work alongside them this summer, and I know I will be back to visit before I know it!

From Cerina:

I have officially finished my internship with WMI. Upon reflection, I can honestly say that Uganda delivered in ways that I could never imagine! Firstly, I had more contact with local people than I have ever had when travelling in a different country; which made me feel very in touch with and attached to the country as a whole. I believe that I saw all of Uganda’s sides, as opposed to only those that are readily in a tourist’s sights. My internship was more than data entry and videography, it was building a relationship with the children who we hung out with weekly, learning about the realities of running a business in a rural landscape, and seeing firsthand how passion and hardwork can shape a community. It was a privilege to take part in the work that WMI is doing if only for a summer.

The second aspect of my time in Uganda that really exceeded my expectations was the natural beauty of the country! There were so many things to see, and so much to do. In just two months I hiked to the top of six waterfalls, went tubing and white water rafting down the Nile River, went on a coffee farm tour, went on a safari, watched the Fifa World Cup from bars, went sightseeing around Kampala and still managed to sunbathe by the pool most weekends. I have never thought of Uganda as a tourist destination before, but now I truly think it should be on the top of everybodies bucket lists.

I owe a huge thanks to WMI for making this summer happen, I will never, ever forget my time here!!!

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Cerina, Lillian, Ashley, Marissa, Lilia