In January of 2017, I was lucky enough to return to Masese, Uganda in order to help volunteer for H.E.L.P Uganda. This grassroots organization has been running a primary school in the village for the past seven years and there are now 550 attending the school. My responsibilities during this trip was finalizing the microfinance program I co-funded which gives small business loans to women in the village. At the end of that trip everything was in order and we gave out six business loans. These loans ranged from $30 to $100 and helped 6 women start businesses.
14 months later, on March 8, 2018, I found myself on a plane heading back to Uganda for my third trip. Upon arriving in Uganda, we were greeted at the airport by Ronny, our Country Director of H.E.L.P Uganda, and we were off on a four hour car ride across the country to Masese. During our first day at the school, I was able to say hi to all the students and my friends whom I had not seen in over a year. Then we toured the new aquaponic center which is located at H.E.L.P. Primary school. It is the first aquaponic center in Uganda and the purpose of the center is to be able to sustainably grow crops as well as harvest fish. It is an incredibly impressive facility and we are excited to see how the aquaponic center impacts the village in the future!
Further on in my trip, I had to chance to visit the businesses of the six women who received business loans the previous year. One of the women, Caroline, was so impressive and has built an incredibly successful business. When Caroline started her business one year ago, she received a loan of 75 dollars in order to start a tailoring business. She operated outside of her house made from mud and would sew clothes one week and sell in a market the next week. Due to her hard work and great business mind, Caroline quickly was able to save enough money to buy a storefront in the village. This now made her business more efficient because she was able to sew and sell clothes at the same time. Soon she bought another sewing machine. She then began to get paid training other women how to use her old sewing machine. As this was going on, Caroline also decided to buy some chickens. Then she was able to trade the chickens up for goats. Eventually she was able to sell some of her goats and buy a cow. Caroline and her family was also able to move out of her home and move into a brick house. Soon Caroline plans on buying a third sewing machine and hiring an employee in order to increase productivity. This all happened within the first year of starting her businesses and because of a $75 loan! Caroline is just one example of how hard working the women of Masese are. Since Caroline is able to be self-sufficient with her business, she is able to pay for her children's’ school fees and feed her children every day.