This past Wednesday, I went out to a rural village in the Kamuli region called Buwaiswa to register grandmothers for my microfinance program. There were 57 grannies that came to be registered, which was good news. The bad news is that some of them openly expressed complete disinterest; they said they were just there for the free food.
Since the grannies are more vulnerable than even your typical microfinance recipient, we give loans to groups rather than individuals. These groups of 4-6 work together to develop an activity that will give them some sort of disposable income. The groups are placed into “teams,” which help ensure loan repayment. Only one group per team is allowed to have a loan at any given time, so a group has the incentive to repay the loan so that their friends can get help as well.
We allowed the grannies to group, and then we grouped them into teams. We took aside the first group from each team and interviewed them about what income-generating activity they wanted to pursue. Two groups expressed an interest in moving from subsistence farming to farming-for-business. One group wanted to raise and sell animals. One group wanted to split time between selling secondhand clothes and operating a pay-phone.
After we have this information, we will determine what they need to get started. Those startup costs become the loan principle.
After interviewing them, my work for the week was finished. My host organization, OGLM, runs an orphanage in Buwaiswa and there are about 50 kids there full-time. I stayed for two nights in the guest room of that orphanage.
It was about eleven o’clock on my first night when there came a pounding on my door. I opened it up, and about 15 of the orphans were standing there. The oldest beckoned and said, “We would like to sing for you,” so I followed him over to where they had set up drums. I sat down, they brought me bread and boiled water (it doesn’t get any better than that when you are worried about food-borne disease), and they played and sang and danced for me. It was the first time I’ve really sat back and said, “Holy crap, I’m in Africa.”
The next day, we went to ten different schools in the area to check up on the AIDS orphans that OGLM is sponsoring. There are about 20 kids per school that have their school fees, scholastic materials and uniforms paid for by OGLM. So, every once in a while we drop by unannounced to make sure that they are still attending class.
When I got back on Friday, I rested up a bit and then got to writing reports. In order to get more funding from FSD, my parent NGO, I have to write a ten-page report and developing an accompanying project budget to show that the money will be used responsibly. The absolute final deadline for the proposal is this Friday, and I find out if I am approved by Monday, so wish me luck.