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Recently I had the opportunity to sit with 12 of our lead coordinators to talk about budgeting, savings, and personal financial planning. Often, budgeting isn’t the most fun topic (especially when we realize how many different expenses we have!) but the BWA women excitedly and actively participated in the discussion.

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During the session, we reviewed the importance of:

  • Setting short and long-term goals; giving us a framework to envision how the money we make and spend today impacts our future
  • Creating a personal financial picture; equipping the women with the ability to understand the “lay of the land” when it comes to their personal finances
  • Establishing strategies to proactively manage expenses; developing plans to save regularly, including tactics to reduce extraneous spending to achieve goals more quickly

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The value of recording your inflows and outflows of money was one of the biggest takeaways from our discussion. Each woman had multiple sources of income that they received at varying times per year, ranging from their salaries as teachers to their multiple yearly harvests from their garden.

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And naturally, each had multiple different types of expenses occurring throughout the year. The “simple” practice of writing down these various income sources and expenses was eye opening for many of the women – as it is for so many people. By only keeping this crucial personal finance information in our heads we can often misestimate our financial situation and as they say here “eat money without realizing where it is going.”

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After two hours of discussion about goal setting, savings management, and personal financial planning the lead coordinators now have an outline to share and will continue to use this template as a training tool for current and future borrowers. Small steps and encouragement towards active management of their personal budget will help empower each woman to be confident in their financial situation and achieve the goals they set for themselves. It was a pleasure starting this dialogue with the coordinators and demonstrating the power of budgeting!

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Kenya Loan Groups Innovate!

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Leaders of the WMI loan groups in the Maasi community of Ngarendare, Kenya have innovated well beyond all expectations.  Receiving their first loans 4 years ago, the group members have developed successful businesses and are now pooling their profits to start a local “Table Bank”.  As spokeswomen Pamela and Ndiagui explained to WMI president Robyn Nietert, more village women wanted loans and training and the experienced borrowers decided to follow the WMI model and start a new loan group of 20 women in 2018, each of whom will receive a $100 loan from the Table Bank.  With their WMI training and track record of success, the loan program leaders expect to extend business opportunities to more rural women who want to take control of their economic lives and be proactive in creating a better future for themselves and their families!

This is the type of critical ripple effect impact that a village run loan program has on the community.   It is difficult to measure using any type of linear methodology but the import is clear: these women have been empowered and have developed the confidence to take the loan program concept to a whole new level on their own!

To live and work in any developing country patience, flexibility and innovation are key to be successful. The Buyobo VHT demonstrated these three qualities flawlessly once they heard that the Director at the USAID Mbale office had resigned and that we had to wait until a new one was implemented to move forward with our training.

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After learning of this, we had a meeting and it was decided that Winnie and Alfred would do the training on the materials and that USAID staff would come in the new year to do a follow-up assessment/retraining.

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Mr. Wesamoyo, Winnie and Alfred after the training 🙂

The training was a hit! Out of the 84 Buyobo VHT volunteers we had a 45 show up. They all found the material helpful and we realized that we actually need more to fully support Buyobo sub-county (that request has been made).

Our goal is to touch 1,000 people before USAID comes back and for the VHT volunteers to come to the retraining with questions that they have gathered while working in the field so that the USAID staff can answer them. Cheers to collaboration!

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VHT’s who were able to make it to training! Keep in mind these are all volunteers and they all traveled despite the terrible road conditions that day ❤

 

Software in Buyobo

Being in Buyobo sometimes it is crazy to think that this is 2017. Before I continue, it is important to note that while the WMI program has had a HUGE and LIFE CHANGING impact for the community, it is still a village in eastern Africa and there is still a lot of work to be done. This setting provides an interesting back drop for a software engineer team to have clients.

That is right, WMI and BWA is having a software built to not only help manage our finances but also help manage our data so we are better equipped to help our borrowers in a more effective way. The lovely engineers who came out to Buyobo last week were Elvis and Joel, both in their early-20s and at the helm of the Ugandan start-up scene. Elvis and Joel have worked with Milly (our Finance Manager), myself and the previous fellow, Kirsten to perfect the software and make it fit to what we do. We are hoping that this will be ready to go before the end of the year and plan on having Elvis and Joel back out for the launch!

USAID & Buyobo’s VHT

It’s not about what you know but who you know. Use your connections. Reach out to people first and see what happens. This is all advice I have heard over and over throughout myself and I have applied it while working here and it has worked wonders! A couple weeks back I reached out to my friend Archie who works for USAID in their community health and knowledge sector to see if we could do a collaboration.

Archie and I set up a training for two of Buyobo’s Village Health Team leaders (Winnie and Alfred) to go over information regarding HIV, nutrition and family planning. Out of everyone in the room, I think I learned the most- especially when it comes to nutrition for new borns here in Uganda.

Now the plan is to do some community organizing to get this information out into the villages. USAID recommends group of 25 with one leader from that group to go over the information. We are going to work backwards- figure out how many people will attend these trainings and organize them by location. Form there choose leaders from those groups and organize a big training and then they will go and share what they have learned with their communities.

Thank you USAID for all of the free informational materials, your time and knowledge!

Back: Stephen

Front (left to right): Archie, Mark, Alfred, Winnie, Caitlin, Agnes

10 Years and Counting

The whole of July and beginning of August have proven to be very exciting! We had our quarterly loan issuance for our borrowers and it was fantastic seeing all of the woman excited about themselves, their families and the future. Now that we are 10 years in, it is hard to imagine what Buyobo was like before BWA and WMI. Our executive board here in Buyobo is stacked with amazingly strong, intelligent, hardworking and respected women who are a huge reason for the success of the program and their borrowers. They themselves started as borrowers and were the pioneers here in Buyobo who were ready to start their own business and become financially independent back in 2008.

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The Board plus our fantastic staff that make BWA tic!

If you were to tell Olive, Agnes, Jackie, Grace and Irene that in 10 years’ time they would not only be directing BWA but would lend a total $4,494,848 to 11,918 women, they would laugh, shaking their heads in disbelief while responding with the Ugandan “ayyhhhh” – but that is exactly what they have done! Because of this, Buyobo and surrounding communities are stronger and more prosperous. We invest all of our profit back into the organization which has allowed for community projects to extend farther than the women and our board mentors smaller lending programs that are looking to do the same thing as us. Talk about women and community empowerment!

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July Issuance (these are just some of our lovely borrowers)

I would like to end this post with a toast to BWA, its borrowers, WMI, our partners in Uganda, the US and across the world that have backed and partnered with us to allow us to grow into what we have become today. We don’t plan on going anywhere and we hope that you feel the same!

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Olive, ready to hand out loans to our borrowers!