Opening a Savings Account in Uganda

Opening a Savings Account in Uganda
Rehema us tells about how the savings group keeps their funds secure, and their records accurate.

Rehema us tells about how the savings group keeps their funds secure, and their records accurate.

We sat on very small wooden stools and faced a group of about Ugandan 25 women sitting on woven leaf mats. In between us sat a green metal box with three locks. I listened with growing excitement as Rehema Mutesi told me and the other Small Business Coordinators about the Kasozi Village Savings Group.

If the women kept the profit from their business endeavors in their houses, the money would be quickly spent, with none of it going to savings. So, about two years ago they started talking to the local Spirit in Action Small Business Fund Coordinator, Godfrey Matovu, who helped them form their own micro-savings group. The 30 members meet once a week and commit their savings to the secure green box, in increments as small as the equivalent of 5 cents.

DSC05615Each transaction – how much each person has saved and how much they have borrowed – is recorded in a green ledger book. Then the money is placed in the green box, which is secured with three locks. Three different women have keys, and “the ones with the keys are not neighbors. They are all from a different place,” Rehema told us, assuring us of the safety of the saved funds. Then she added, above the loudly mooing cow, “and the person with the box also is not one with a key.” All these safety measures are important because at the end of last year’s saving cycle the box held over 3.8 million Ugandan Shillings (about $1,800)!

Each member can borrow a portion of their savings for a one-month period. They are charged a small interest rate, which is included back in the savings fund and disbursed to members at the end of the annual cycle. One of the group members took a loan this year to pay for a certification course in hair braiding. Now she is braiding hair in the village and in the nearby town, as well as mentoring and training some girls who have dropped out of school.

Canaan gives advice to the Kasozi savings group and encourages them. "You need to be organized and have strong leadership."

Canaan gives advice to the Kasozi savings group and encourages them. “You need to be organized and have strong leadership.”

I was impressed to see how these women were working together to encourage each other to save for those bigger expenses. Things like re-thatching their homes, paying for school fees, and medical expenses. I saw that the women supported each other emotionally too. They did a skit for us, showing how to care for a child with fever. They clapped for each other and laughed together. One of the members is a district counselor, but within the group she is on equal footing with all the others.

Before we ended our visit, Canaan Gondwe, the SIA Small Business Fund Coordinator from Malawi who also leads a savings group, stood up to give the women a few words of encouragement. Speaking from his own experience, he assured them,  “This is a journey towards economic empowerment. In five year’s time, you will never be the same.”

4 new grants. 4 thank you letters.

4 new grants. 4 thank you letters.

christmas honor ask_2014One of the best parts of my job is when I get to email grant partners and let them know that the Spirit in Action Board of Directors has approved their requests for funds. I work closely with each grassroots organization to understand, prepare, and refine their proposal, so it’s always a joy to tell them that they have SIA’s support to implement their community programs!

In the beginning of December, the Board approved four new Community Grants and I received four very enthusiastic and grateful responses to the good news. It felt only right to share their joy, so that we can all celebrate and pray for this good work!

1. Community Mobilization Against Poverty – Kitale, Kenya

Sustainable agriculture training. Model bio-intensive, organic farm. Seeds. For 200 farmers. ($3,000)

From Moses Mukongo, CMAP director:

On behalf of CMAP I want to thank you and the SIA Board for taking the time to review our grant proposal for the farmer training and education support in sustainable agriculture. We will be helping small farm-holder communities grow plentiful and nutritious food, without depleting natural resources and with sophisticated yet low-technology approaches to farming and marketing.

2. Progressive Volunteers – Nairobi, Kenya

Sewing machines and instructors for a dressmaking and tailoring training center for women living in Ruaraka slum. ($3,731)

Boyd, Tanya, and the PV team meet to discuss the potential of local volunteers to improve Nairobi's schools and environment. (July 2014)

Boyd, Tanya, and the PV team meet to discuss the potential of local volunteers to improve Nairobi’s schools and environment. (July 2014)

From Jeremiah Mzee, PV director:

Wish you could be around to see how happy our team feel after the grant’s award. Receive a word of thank you from my team and volunteers.

On behalf of everyone at Progressive Volunteers I would like to offer my sincerest thanks for the grant from Spirit in Action. Progressive Volunteers is only a small community based organization but it does know its local communities well. In much of the work we do, it is clear that often what local people need most are the skills and economic opportunities to better support themselves. We very much hope that the dressmaking and tailoring training centre funded with the grant goes some way to offering those opportunities for local people.

3. Pastoralist Child Foundation – Samburu, Kenya

Girls Empowerment Workshop for 60 girls. With an alternative rite of passage. Campaign to end female genital mutilation. Education = Empowerment = Equality. ($3,506)

From Sayydah Garrett, PCF Founder and President:

We are so pleased with this exciting news from Spirit in Action!  On behalf of the staff, board, mentors, volunteers, and especially the communities we serve, a most heartfelt thank you! God bless you! We will certainly fill out all the required information in a timely manner and return everything to you. May we take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy holiday season.

4. Samro School and Samro Polytechnic School – Eldoret, Kenya

Tuition for 10 elementary students (including boarding for 4 students). Tuition and boarding for 6 tailoring students.($5,660)

One of the Samro Polytechnic students in the tailoring classroom. With clothing made by students hanging on the wall.

One of the Samro Polytechnic students in the tailoring classroom. With clothing made by students hanging on the wall.

From Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge, Samro Founders:

WAW!!!!!! This is indeed great, great news. Praise God indeed. God bless and keep you.

Merry Christmas!
The SIA blog is taking a break next week.

**For a list of past Community Grants, visit our Grants List.

*See* Spirit in Action! New video!

*See* Spirit in Action! New video!

SIA Volunteer Extraordinaire, Carmen Hernandez, created this beautiful film for us using footage and photos captured by Boyd Cothran during our visit to Africa (Summer 2014). Her aim was to show what we do, and how we try to have a positive attitude in all our endeavors. Thank you, Carmen!

(For more of Carmen’s non-SIA work, visit her website: http://www.isntitbeautiful.co.uk)

Huh? Can you say that again?

Huh? Can you say that again?

How many languages do you speak? In the U.S., the answer is generally “one” or, maybe “two.” In the countries I visited this summer (Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda), the answer is likely to be “at least three.”

Jamarose Onyango is the treasurer for the SIA merry-go-round savings group in Nairobi. She translated from the local language into English for us.

Jamarose Onyango is the treasurer for the SIA merry-go-round savings group in Nairobi. She translated from the local language into English for us.

As our coordinator in Kenya, Dennis Kiprop, explained to me: “We first learn our mother tongue. The one spoken in our village. In schools, we are taught in English.” English is the common language between the countries and even elementary school instruction is in English. Then, along the way, they usually also pick up the national language. In Kenya, this is Swahili.

Looking at the national languages in Malawi and Uganda gets more complicated, though. There is great linguistic diversity in these countries and each language group wants their mother tongue to be the second official language. Perhaps surprisingly, English has becomes the neutral language, the one without ethnic identity.

Winkly interprets the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative member testimonies for us. (Malawi)

Winkly interprets the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative member testimonies for us. (Malawi)

And so, wherever we went our conversations were a beautiful mix of many languages. In Malawi, the local language is Tumbuka. To greet people you say: Muli uli? (How are you?), pronounced more like “moody oody,” in my understanding.

The partners we met spoke to each other in Tumbuka. Then there was always someone to interpret for us, from Tumbuka into English. That person would also translate what we said back into Tumbuka. Sometimes the small business owner would know English and we would talk partly in English together. Interestingly, numbers are almost always said in English, even when the rest of the conversation is in Tumbuka.

Ruth (left) and her mother Catherine. Ruth was our interpreter when we visited Small Business Fund groups in Kasozi Village, Uganda.

Ruth (left) and her mother Catherine. Ruth was our interpreter when we visited Small Business Fund groups in Kasozi Village, Uganda.

Every place we went we had a designated interpreter for us. That person was always someone other than our local coordinator so that they didn’t have to both interpret and facilitate the meeting.

There was even translation that happened when we were all speaking English! At the Small Business Fund Coordinator’s Conference we had people from five different countries all speaking English, which made for a stunning array of accents.

Nalu, Dennis, and Boyd fill their plates and share a laugh at dinner.

Nalu, Dennis, and Boyd fill their plates and share a laugh at dinner.

One dinnertime discussion centered on the apparent subtle pronunciation differences between the words “walk” and “work.” To my American ears, those are completely different sounds! However, once you lower the vowels, as in British English, work doesn’t sound like “werk” anymore. And then, in the African accents I’ve heard, Ls and Rs are often interchangeable. (Meaning I can be confused if someone is named Alan, or Aaron.) With those two changes, you can see how “walk” and “work” could be similar! We all had a good laugh, using finger gestures to represent walking or working as we tried to figure out what people were saying!

Years ago I had plans to learn Swahili. It was going to be great – I could learn one language and impress partners in many different areas. Soon though, as you can now guess, I realized that Swahili wouldn’t be enough. Instead I just celebrate the many languages and learn at least the greetings, pleasantries, and words of gratitude in each local language. So, Jambo! Muli uli? And, webale very much!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...