The Ganako Women’s Community Organization, one of WMI’s partners,  reaches 250 women in five villages in northern Tanzania. GWOCO keeps an office in only one of the villages. But in reality, the entire communities serve as their offices. When visiting other villages, the staff often relies on schools and village governments to lend meeting spaces, but that doesn’t always work out.


Martha, the GWOCO secretary (left), counts a loan repayment in a forest clearing in Sumawe Village. 



A few weeks ago the staff arrived at Gongali Primary School to fill out loan applications for 35 borrowers. The teacher told the women they would have to wait a few minutes for a classroom to be available. But the borrowers wanted to get right to it, so they sat down in the grass and started work right there until the classroom was free.

On a recent trip to Sumawe to collect a loan installment, the staff and borrowers found themselves locked out of the village office that they usually use. The borrowers confidently led the staff around to a forest clearing behind the office, and held the entire meeting there. A few coins were briefly lost among the leaves, but they were recovered and the rest of the meeting went off without a hitch.


Even GWOCO’s official office is fully integrated into the community. A new friend wandered into the office one day during work and had to be herded out. 

WMI’s partners don’t always work under ideal conditions, but they do always get their work done. Whether in their own office, a borrowed classroom, or a forest floor, the ladies of WMI are ambitious and determined. We are proud are team is able to be so adaptable and impactful in the community!


Beyond the Call of Duty

Jess Littman, currently working to create economic and development opportunities for women in rural Tanzania as the 2016 GWOCO Fellow, shares how her experience extends far beyond her work into the heart of the community. 


Levina’s oldest grandchild, Ima, feeds a piece of cake to Kim.


Working in a Tanzanian village is never just about work: everyone here is part of the community. As the WMI Fellow for almost a year now, I have been welcomed into village life far beyond the office.

Recently Levina, the Treasurer of WMI’s local partner organization in Tanzania, celebrated the confirmation of her daughter, Venosta, and a young girl, Katie, whose care and support she has taken on as part of her community leadership.

Levina hosted a mass in her backyard in a tent overflowing with friends and family. In addition to prayer and a sermon, we sang songs and danced in celebration. Venosta and Katie wore bright colored dresses and glitter in their hair, and received gifts from their loved ones.


Leonila (left), chairwoman of one of the loan groups, dances with the choir.

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This month 40 women joined the WMI family in Tanzania. They are the Tumaini (“hope”) group in Tloma and the Ebeneza group in Gongali. They will providing their communities with milk, clothing, bricks and more from their small businesses.


Martha (left), GWOCO Secretary, and Eliminatha (right), GWOCO Chairwoman, debate who will get to hand off the next loan to the borrower (middle).

The borrowers are delighted to be joining the program and moving towards financial independence. Agnes from Gongali will be selling kitenge, a fabric that comes in beautiful colors and patterns and is worn by all the women here. She traveled to the nearby city of Arusha the day after receiving her loan to buy her first stock of kitenge.


Agnes signs the group loan agreement.

Amy from Tloma has been working for one of our local staff members for a while. Now she is using a loan to start a salon in the village. Amy is going to make our borrowers as stylish as they are successful!


A borrower from Gongali receives her very fist loan!

The borrowers who are starting out in Tloma have an average annual household income of just $265. After a few loan cycles, most borrowers in this village are bringing in almost $1,000 a year from their business – a quadrupling of income! We hope you’ll join us in wishing our new groups the best of luck as they start and expand their ventures.


Buyobo is excited to welcome a new addition to the community: a motorcycle ambulance! The initiative to develop the ambulance program was developed through a partnership of Buyobo’s Volunteer Health Team and our team of WMI summer interns, including Noah Martin, Natalie Andrasko and Michael Chang. Thank you to all those who donated to the ambulance fund!

The Volunteer Health Team is a group of 80 dedicated community volunteers who support health efforts in Buyobo and the surrounding areas. The VHT identified the need for an ambulance to take patients to area clinics, particularly pregnant women in labor. Delayed access to health care is one of the primary factors responsible for maternal mortality. An ambulance can drastically reduce transportation time from a patient’s home to a local clinic and has the potential to truly save lives.

Motorcycles, colloquially referred to as “boda bodas”, are a major source of transportation in Buyobo and around Uganda. These vehicles are often able to tackle the region’s tough roads better than a car and they consume significantly less fuel. We purchased our ambulance from PULSE, an international non-profit that manufactures motorcycle ambulances specifically for use in rural communities. You can read more about them on their website: http://pulse.ug/.


Our team of drivers demonstrating how the ambulance transports patients

Buyobo is lucky to have identified three excellent volunteer drivers to respond to emergencies. Our drivers are Walimbwa James, Makwasi Sam and Wobwomba David. These dedicated men will be available day and night to drive patients to the nearby Budadiri Clinic or the Mbale Hospital, about 25 kilometers away. They have completed a two-week training and are now fully certified by Pulse to operate the ambulance safely.

In order to develop a sustainable program, the Volunteer Health Team and the Buyobo Women’s Association have teamed up to form an Ambulance Committee. This team manages vehicle maintenance, dispatch, and the ambulance operating fund. The Buyobo community agrees that the best way to maintain the program is via a cost-sharing measure. Patients will pay a small user fee that will contribute to fuel and upkeep of the vehicle, ensuring that the service will continue to be available for many years.


Interested onlookers

We could not be more encouraged by the outpouring of support for this project. Those generous donations not only purchased the vehicle, they created an operating fund that will keep the program up and running for at least two years. This ambulance is a lifesaving measure that will certainly help many patients for years to come. We are so excited and encouraged by your support.

Business Expansion

Some borrowers in Tloma village, Tanzania, appear to be on their way to becoming moguls. After years in the loan program, borrowers are diversifying and expanding their businesses to maximize their profits and services for the community.

Tecla used her first loan to open a shop in Karatu town, near the village. She trained her sons to help her early on, and that proved to be an important decision when she started another business and was able to leave day-to-day shop operations in her children’s hands.


Levina (left), the Treasurer of our CBO partner here, interviews Tecla about her businesses. 

Once Tecla had made some money from the shop, she was excited to start expanding her house. She started making bricks in her backyard for the construction, and it occurred to her that she had enough natural resources there to make extra bricks and sell them. Now she focuses on the brick business – she sells 10,000 bricks every dry season – while her children serve customers at her shop.


Tecla holds up one of the 10,000 bricks that she expects to sell this dry season. 

Yohana also used her first loan for a shop, but when taxes went up recently, she no longer felt that the shop was profitable enough. Instead of giving up, she sold her stock and store and used the money, as well as a follow-up loan, to buy dairy cows. Now she sells milk from her beautiful brick house, which she is continuing to improve with her profits.


Yohana poses in the garden of her home. 


Unlike most residents of their villages, whose homes are made of mud, cow dung, and sticks, Yohana and Tecla have both built brick houses with their business profits. This is Yohana’s beautiful home, surrounded by her garden and cowshed. 

Business Trainings

After weeks of preparation and organization, we have kicked off business skills training sessions here in Tanzania! WMI aims to give not just money, but advice and education on how to run a successful business. That way our borrowers are guaranteed to make their loan repayments easily, and put money aside for themselves.


Vicky, our Chairwoman for Buger village, reads stories of businesswomen who got into trouble because they did not keep good records. In one story, a woman accuses her husband of stealing from her because she forgot to write down her expenses, and then forgot she had spent the money. 

WMI has designed eight activities to teach eight different business skills. The staff of GWOCO, our Tanzanian CBO partner, trained the chairwomen of each loan group in the activities, and now the chairwomen run the trainings for the borrowers.

After the day-long training for chairwomen, one chairwoman told us, “I really enjoyed this training – we should do more!”


At a seminar for group chairwomen, the GWOCO Secretary, Eliminatha, leads an activity while the chairwomen take notes. 

The first activity is writing a household budget. Each woman comes to the meeting with her budget. The chairwoman and staff review the budgets with each woman and give advice. Then the chairwoman leads a discussion about the importance of household budgets, and how to do one properly. The borrowers discuss unnecessary expenses that they can cut. After we did this training in Tloma village, one borrower said, “I did not understand what a household budget was before, but I get it now.”



On the right, the Chairwoman of our groups in Buger village and our Treasurer review household budgets with the borrowers on the left. 

This month, the borrowers will do a recordkeeping activity. We try to emphasize the importance of records at all of our meetings. The recordkeeping activity includes examples of what can go wrong when businesswomen don’t keep good records.

Next month, we will do a teamwork and trust activity including trust circles, which the chairwomen got a kick out of at their training. After we go through all eight WMI activities, the chairwomen and staff here will come up with their own activities.

Do you have ideas for business skills trainings? Let us know in the comments!

Mallembae (hello) from Buyobo!

Week two has been quite a productive time. Tuesday was the official beginning of our teaching at Buyobo Primary School and our teaching roles are as follows. Natalie is teaching P5 English, Michael is teaching P7 Mathematics, Javier is teaching P5 PE, and Noah is teaching P7 Science. The first week of classes went off without a hitch, and after getting our Ugandan accents dialed in, both the interns and students have been having a great time.

On top of our schoolwork, we have had quite a busy week getting the rest of our community development projects off the ground. So far, the biggest news is the installation of two brand new, heavy-duty goal posts for the school, to help kick off the school’s recreational program. This new addition combined with our purchase of soccer balls, jerseys, and field flags will allow for the start of our first annual soccer tournament. Hosted by WMI at Buyobo Primary School, it will showcase the athletic talent of students both at Buyobo Primary and Bulambali Parent School through a friendly competition. The program will be primarily run by Michael Chang, an intern, and player for the Princeton University soccer team. His experience coupled with organizational support from the rest of the intern team should lead to a successful developmental program and tournament.

In addition to the recreational program, boys group has gotten off the ground quite quickly. With financial support from the Bulambali Women’s Association, the group was able to purchase an adolescent dairy cow in order to start an entrepreneurship program for the boys. The program will teach young men basic business techniques and the value of responsibility. The group hopes to see their cow’s milk sold in market, and have proceeds support the activities of boys group.

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To complete the weekly summary, the intern team has been working to improve village health on both a mental and physical level. Specifically, Natalie, has been working to price out and gauge interest in the community for a counseling service catered for victims of sexual abuse, and those experiencing stigma for having HIV/AIDS. With Natalie’s efforts, we hope to see a sustainable program established in Buyobo by the time we leave, so that these stigmatized issues are addressed in a healthy and appropriate manner. In addition, Noah has been working to develop a curriculum to help train the community health workers of the Village Health Team in basic skills of first aid and CPR. This program will occur in junction with the local clinic and will result in a VHT trained in basic first aid so that they can provide immediate care to patients and safely move them to the nearest hospital. The program hopes to address the growing need for medical assistance specifically in rural parts of Uganda.

Uanyala (Thank You),

WMI Buyobo Intern Team

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