We spent the day with two Village Savings and Loans groups, deep in the villages where our honey farmers live. Both groups welcomed us with the most beautiful singing and dancing. Because we work all over Rwanda and Uganda, we have the chance to see many different styles of dance and music. Today there was man playing an instrument like a xylophone and singing. He was amazing. At both locations, the women escorted us from our car down the path to the tree where the meetings were held while singing welcome song using our names, yelling yi yi yi yi and waving tree branches in the air. It would really not be possible to feel more welcomed.
I interviewed several women in the groups to hear from them how the loans are impacting and changing their lives. Two women had stories that particularly shined.
Molly used her loan to start a restaurant. This doesn’t mean a building with tables and chairs, in this case, but a stand of some kind where food is sold. She used her profits to start buying a goat to serve at her restaurant and is now earning $5.00 per day, which is quite good relative to the average income in her village.
We bought beignets for the whole group from Hadolne, who used her loan to start that business. They were delicious.
Pasca used her loan to start a brick making business. She used the profits to start a roasted meat business. She is a widow that cares for 8 children, 5 of her own and 3 orphans and can now pay for school fees and school supplies for all 8. It is common for families in Uganda to have orphans they are responsible for.
These Village Savings and Loans groups we are working with in Rwanda and Uganda are having great success.
It’s energizing to hear the stories of people having innovative ideas and then having the opportunity to execute them. The loans are given along with training on how to start and manage a business. We are so grateful to the hardworking and committed project managers that spend their days guiding these groups in villages.
We finished off the day visiting Charles and his younger brothers James, Denis, Innocent and Francis. In the documentary about our work made two years ago, made by Sherwood Films, we met these boys and today we wanted to follow up on how they are doing. They were previously living on their own with, then 16 year old, Charles as head of the household. They had very little to eat. Their parents were abducted by the LRA and returned so traumatized that they couldn’t care for their kids. Charles was one of our first members of the Honey Farmers Cooperative.
I am thrilled to report they are all now in boarding school. Their mother is responding to medications very well and now remembers she has children and is asking about them. We noticed one huge change in Charles is that he used to worry about where food would come from and all of the things a father would have to worry about. Now he is worrying about test scores and other school related issues, like a normal 18 year old. I can’t wait to see what these boys accomplish. They are so brave and so strong. The hope is that they will be reunited with their mother as soon as she is well enough.