Yesterday was another day of excitement, joy and sadness, as so many of our days in Kabale tend to be.
We started the day visiting our good friend Blasidia who is a severly disabled seamstress. We brought her a sample bag that we would like her to reproduce as a way for her, and the friends that she teaches, to earn some income. For our part we hope these bags will appeal to shoppers in the UK who can now have a small folded bag in their handbags for when they visit the supermarket.
From here we went to visit a community group of women and men who farm passion fruit, honey and tree tomatoes. This group is the recipient of an Obumwe Micro-finance loan which they have used to boost the value of their own savings fund. The group of 32 meet once a month; at these meetings they contribute around 4,000 shillings (about 90p) to their savings fund. The Obumwe loan coupled with their self-discipline and perseverance has allowed them to accumulate a fund of 6,000,000 shillings (more than £1,200). They now have a large passion fruit co-operative and around 30 active bee hives. As well as being a very successful group we can attest to the fact that they produce very sweet passion fruit and heavenly honey!
We then travelled on across some challenging roads to visit our friends at the Graeme Naish Memorial School. Alongside Africa has supported this school for many years, primarily because we love the way that the community does so much to help itself and does not rely on aid. In addition, they go out of their way to support a local Batwa community, who are usually shunned by other tribes. In fact, the head girl of the school is a Mutwa, which is a great achievement. Every time we visit the school we find that they have achieved much; this year they have rearranged their very limited space to accommodate a new P4 class. They have also acquired an acre of steeply sloping land upon which they plan to build dormitories for boys and girls and teachers accommodation, which will allow them to expand beyond P4 and provide better facilities for the teachers.
In the spirit of walking alongside our partner organisations in Uganda we agreed to fund the roofing of these new structures once the community has levelled the land and built the foundations and walls.
It was lovely to be able to see most of our sponsored children there and to be able to hand over gifts to the children and the school. In discussion with the school management group, PTA and teachers we identified the biggest challenge of the school as that of teachers’ salaries. Teachers at the school earn around 80,000 shillings / £20 a month, compared with teachers at state schools who earn 400,000 shillings / £95 per month. The ability of the school to pay higher salaries and so attract and retain more staff is directly related to the number of children that we sponsor there. At present this are only eight and this needs to be doubled.
On the way back to Kabale we stopped in at Blasidia’s tiny workshop again where she had the first sample of a shopping bag ready for us. It was exactly what we wanted and so we have placed a sizeable order with her – watch out for these on our return.