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Posts Tagged ‘sustainable’

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.

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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

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The saga of our partnership with USAID continues! We held a training of trainers back in March, where members of the USAID came out for a full day training with 6 senior VHT members to give a comprehensive overview of the information in the materials and how to use these materials when doing community outreach.

Below are some photos from the training. The next and final step will be to get the rest of the VHT staff trained which will happen in the next couple of months. February, March and April are digging, planting and harvesting season for beans and maiz (this actually gets harvested in June/July) so everyone is busy in their gardens and is not able to take a day away from this to come to a training, which we understand 🙂 In order to be successful we have to be respectful (of people, their time, culture and priorities)!

Enjoy the photos and head to our instagram @wmionline to see a video! Stay tuned for our blog on the training of the rest of our VHT members!

 

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VHT Members with the USAID trainers!

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VHT Members, USAID Trainers and our fellow celebrating a successful training 🙂

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Many innovations in clean energy, including biogas, have demonstrated incredible applicability and success within communities here in Eastern Uganda. We have begun exploring the feasibility of bringing home biogas solutions to Buyobo and the surrounding villages for the following reasons!

Challenges surrounding today’s energy sources are increasing:

Homes in remote villages rely primarily on burning firewood to power stoves used for cooking. In some cases, homes have supplemental power from solar panels to fuel small lights. However, the environmental and humanitarian impacts of so many homes and villages using firewood are getting increasingly severe.

The challenges with this significant reliance on firewood include:

  • There is a diminishing supply of trees which can be chopped for wood (especially due to the logging companies)
  • Reduced foliage makes the land more susceptible to landslides (especially during the ~5 month rainy season) which have ruined homes, villages, roads, and bridges across the region as well as killing many people in their path
  • Villagers must travel increasingly farther away from their homes to source firewood, creating sometimes dangerous and lengthy treks through unfamiliar forests

Biogas is a potential solution:

In order to reduce the dependence on firewood, one option is for homes and villages to install biogas solutions in their homes. Biogas is fuel that is produced by fermenting organic matter, such as cow dung and household waste (process diagramed below1). Household systems are typically small outdoor structures with pipes that run underground into the home and rely on cow dung as the organic input.

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In order to see biogas in action we visited Namisindwa a village on the other side of the mountain to see how their home systems were working for them! Below are some photos from our visit:

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homeowners put the cow dung here and it will slowly make its way to down to start its change from dung to gas! Surprisingly it doesn’t smell.

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A gas nozzle

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The gas pressure gauge inside a house

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the stove that is powered by biogas!

 

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A training school has also installed a biogas system to power their kitchen. They use a mix of human and cow waste

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One of two cookstoves in the kitchen of the training school which feeds 300 students everyday

There are several international organizations involved in bringing biogas technology to Uganda. To learn more about these efforts, called the “Uganda Domestic Biogas Programme (UDBP),” please visit www.heifer.org and www.africabiogas.org.

 

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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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