Craig and I were greeted by the staff and a few board members, who are very gracious. After collecting some preliminary information it is time to visit some members of the SACCO. We don't need to walk far before we meet Olila Denis (Ugandans place and say their surname first). Denis used to be one of the young vendors running up to the windows of the busses. He started saving little bits of money in the Oyam South SACCO until he had enough to get a loan. The requirement (which I think Canada should adopt) is that you have to have a minimum of 30% of the requested loan in savings first. It serves the purpose of providing some security towards the loan for the SACCO, but more importantly, it teaches members responsibility by having a vested financial interest in any business venture/future loan. Denis used his loan money in order to buy a small store - approx. the size of half of most bathrooms, to give you an idea. It is on the side of the road and he sells small items that people need every day. He is making more money, without needing to be running up to the bus windows. He is continuing to save as well as pay off his loan. His next venture is to move down the street a little ways and open a larger store - a very bright young man with a bright future!
The next day we were invited to another members' home - he and approximately 300 others live at Ajalo Goro HIV/AIDS Group just outside of town. We walked there and were completely surprised when we were greeted by ALL who were holding beautiful tree branches which were a symbol of a blessing. They were all singing us a welcome song as we approached. These are children and adults who are either HIV-positive, or are orphans because of AIDS. They prepared some songs and poem readings for us - talk about tugging at heartstrings. :-( Such a beautiful group of people and we felt so incredibly honoured to be there. Here is a picture of some of the kids and I with a Canada beach ball that I blew up - we threw it up in the air all together and then they were keeping it in the air and were screaming joyfully.
We visited some more members as well who were very grateful to their SACCO - most of these people have never had a bank account ever before. Surviving is all they know, and now they are seeing their friends, family and neighbours all benefitting from getting a bit of a hand-up, so that they can better their lives. We visited other members, including a very astute lady who was able to have her daughter graduate school and carry on to University - without the SACCO she would not have been able to do this.
This particular SACCO is very important to its' members and I believe that we were able to help construct a plan for them to utilize so that they fix some of their issues and move forward positively. The Uganda Cooperative Alliance will check in with the SACCO as well so that our recommendations are followed up on.
As we spend our last day in Africa before heading back to reality, Craig and I can't believe the amazing experiences we've had. To Isaac (our Field Rep from UCA) - sorry I never got that motorcycle ride, but thank you very much for all of your insight and assistance with the SACCOs - you are doing a great job of helping them. The UCA is very lucky to have you. On a personal note, you are a brilliant young man and will go very far - I've enjoyed our time getting to know each other very much - I think we both learned alot about each other's country. I hope that you liked playing Angry Birds on my laptop - perhaps you'll get to further levels the next time I see you. :-)
To John from UCA - you kept us SAFE in a country where driving skills are so incredibly important. I could never be half the driver you are, and Craig and I sure appreciated the care that you took in ensuring our safety, while also bringing a few little bananas to throw out the window to attract the baboons for us. :-) You too are a bright man, and I hope that you keep on writing - your positive and inspirational nature is a great gift. Take good care of that beautiful new bride you have!
So before I sign off, here are a few more parting photos that are my favourites:
Making use of everything
Man praying in a Mosque
Alfred and his family in front of their home that
they've been building little by little with loans from
Lucy provided us with a beautiful lunch and we met her daughter
who was able to go to University
Are you looking at ME? :-)
Team Uganda - my new additional family.
Man stacking mud bricks
Lastly, I am dedicating this blog to Janet Hnatow. My coaching Partner Craig Barclay was spending time with us in London while waiting for his wife Janet to arrive the next day in order to spend a week of sightseeing together. Tragically she was killed in a car crash on her way to Edmonton to catch her flight to us. Needless to say our family, 'Team Uganda' was very shaken and feeling for Craig and his children. Here is a family photo that I thought would be nice to share. Even though we never met, Janet, the two weeks that I was with Craig I certainly heard so many great things about you - and feel like I really did know you. Each time he spoke of you and the plans for England that you were sharing with him, I was so envious that you two obviously had a great love. How beautiful that you were able to have that time together. Rest in peace.