Some photos tell the story

Dear Friends,

I feel guilty for having done such a poor job keeping in touch with you on this blog during this trip.  The internet signal seems to be weaker and weaker each trip making it almost impossible to get to my blog to write you coupled with  my exhaustion at the end of each day!  But enough whining.  Here are some photos to give you a look at what I’ve been up to..  I hope you enjoy them.

My sincere thanks to Page Patten who was with me for most of the trip and took these wonderful pictures.

Anna preparing the donuts she sells in the market place. One of two businesses she runs.

Anna preparing the donuts she sells in the market place. One of two businesses she runs

 

Karon, Page and the TGC goat presented to us by the women we supported in the VacNet literacy program!

Karon, Page and the TGC goat presented to us by the women we supported in the VacNet literacy program!

We were honored to receive this goat, a very expensive gift, from the women of the literacy program in a small village outside of Gulu, in the northern part of Uganada.  The woman on the right is the local volunteer peer counselor.  She is now running for Councilwoman in the local district.  She credits her experience leading the women of the village in the micro loan program (headed by our partner Vac Net with support by TGC)  with her personal growth and courage to run for office!  Micro loans provide not only economic growth, but personal growth as well!

 

 

Every trip I take to UG, I take half page printed cards to encourage the women borrowers.  Here is this years.

Every trip I take to UG, I take printed cards to encourage the women borrowers. Here is this years.

 

The chalk board where some of the women demonstrated that they could now write their names and more after taking the literacy classes TGC provided!

The chalk board where some of the women demonstrated that they could now write their names and more after taking the literacy classes TGC provided!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A brave member of the literacy class, standing, reading a story to demonstrate her newly learned reading skills.  TGC hopes to bring this program to other villages.  A woman who can't read or write can't progress as a businesswoman and can't  progress out of poverty!

A brave member of the literacy class, standing, reading a story to demonstrate her newly learned reading skills. TGC hopes to bring this program to other villages. A woman who can’t read or write can’t progress as a businesswoman and can’t progress out of poverty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Borrowers saying good bye!

               Borrowers saying good bye!

 

 

 

 

Good bye for now.  More stories to share when I return on Sunday.  Thank you for your interest in TGC and the poor but amazing women

who are working their way to a better life with your help.  Karon

 

 

 

The Industrious women of Uganda

February 2, 2016

Although I’m back in Uganda for the 8th time, I’m still stunned by the depth of the poverty but also encouraged and delighted by the tenacity and hard work of our borrowers.

thumb_IMG_0057_1024Spent the last two days attending the final repayment days of four of our groups and was touched by the gratitude of our borrowers and thrilled to hear the stories of how their lives have improved. One woman told me how she’s been saving for the two years she’s been in our program and that she has now bought land for a future home. “Me, I bought land” she reported with a sense of pride and amazement that reflected how impossible it seemed that she could ever accomplish such a feat just a short time ago. Most of the women are reporting much more humble accomplishments. I frequently hear, “I’m feeding my children well now”, “I can afford to send all my children to school now” or “I bought two chairs for my house.” Progress!

In addition to the material success that the women are experiencing, they are also growing as people. Juliet, one of our loan coordinators stood up at a group meeting and discussed the accomplishments of the group over the past year. thumb_IMG_0052_1024She was articulate, confident and a great contrast to the Juliet I met a year ago when I asked her to assume the role of loan coordinator; the Juliet who then could barely look me in the eye and spoke with barely audible, hesitant voice. The Juliet I saw yesterday was a changed woman!

 

Over the past few days I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and work with Maureen Businge, our new Program Director.   Maureen is a bright, energetic, delightful young woman with a degree in Micro Finance, experience in another micro finance institution and most importantly, a passion for helping others! She’s hard working and has jumped in with both feet, already making a contribution.   We are very blessed to have her in the organization. She is going to lead our growth in the next few years and allow us to help many more women.

Below, Maureen and I in our garden classroom at our hotel.

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Loan repayment day in Lwaboba with Maureen on the far right, already assisting with loans repayments.

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Today, we visited borrowers in their market place in the village of Kimwanga. It’s a large regional market that is open every Tuesday and attracts business people from all over the area. Many of our borrowers live in the area and sell at this market and then go to other regional markets on other days of the week reaching a broader customer base by moving to other geographical areas.

Here are some of the borrowers at their places of business:

Here is Mary Nambozo, one of our Loan Coordinators with her husband, Geoffrey in their shop.thumb_IMG_0135_1024 With their most recent loan they were able to by a small refrigerator for the business enabling them to sell cold drinks and attract more customers in hot Uganda. Her husband, son and daughter help her in her business as is common with our borrowers. The wife’s business quickly becomes a family business!

This is Anna Maboli selling a form of dough nut popular as a breakfast food. She also raises and sells goats like the one in the bottom right of the picture. thumb_IMG_0147_1024This was a terribly hot day and she, like dozens of other women, was cooking over a wood burning camp fire. The heat combined with the smoke made for a pretty tough working environment and yet they all, like Anna, smile and keep working

 

Turning Passion into Action

Turning Passion into Action

What an amazing couple of days we’ve had.   Yesterday we went to three loan repayment and loan distribution days. They have been days of seeing passion turned into action. So many women with a strong, deep and abiding passion to help their sisters .

The women in these three groups made the last of their payments on their cycle #1 and received their next loans.  In Lwaboba, out of a group of 20 women, 17 were able to buy some kind of livestock – many bought pigs, many bought goats—as a result of their micro loan!   The livestock is an important contribution to their economic stability, a form of savings for them; stock they can sell to pay school fees or when drought conditions result in crop failure. To have extra money to buy these animals is a source of pride for them and an indicator that their businesses are thriving!

In addition, to all this good news, I was stunned and incredibly honored when one of our loan coordinators, introduced me to her new daughter, who she has named Karon!!

Another of our groups, in Tororo, had struggled in their first loan cycle but bounced back beautifully and presented the perfect model of an effective loan hub!   There was a clear sense of community and commitment to each other; they were focused on repaying their loans but also to reaching for greater goals.   Their biggest commitment is to lift themselves out of poverty and to be sure that each of their sisters comes with them.  They have an amazing team leading them, all strong women with a strong dedication to making life better for all the members of their group. They are so inspiring! They have aptly named their group “The Winning Women of Tororo”.   That says it all!

Photos show:  me with some of the ladies in Tororo while distributing new loans,Karon with Tororo borrowersCarolyn teaching some new computers skills to Suzan, the group’s hard working Loan AdministratorCarolyn training Suazn

and a photo of Norah, the group’s dedicated Loan Coordinator:

Norah

Today was training day for our Loan Coordinators and Loan Administrators. As our front line staff here we always strive to give them all the training and tools necessary to do their jobs and always do a training session each time I’m here. This time, we invited a Ugandan expert in micro finance, Bukenya Muusa, President of Vac Net (Volunteer Action Network), one of our local partners, a young and very dynamic individual who has been providing micro loans to poor women for 7 years to facilitate the session.  He delivered an inspiring , thoughtful workshop which was well received by all the women.

Tomorrow, we head for Jinja to meet with another of our partners, The Pittek Ladies, before heading to the airport the next day for the trip home.  It was sad to say goodbye to our local staff and partners in this area today.  They have truly become friends and at the same time, the lure of home is becoming strong. We work hard while here and it’s tough to be away from home, family and our creature comforts call to us and then a woman will tell us how the micro loan has changed her life and it’s all worth it. What is so little to us, $50 or $100 is truly life changing.   How fortune I am to be able to do this work and to have these incredible experiences.