Today combined some of the best of the best.
The 12 members of the Mutungo Stars Trust Group graciously welcomed us to their weekly group meeting this morning. They were eager to share the work of their businesses, which include all types of retail, as well as hair salons, mechanics shops and transportation services. Trust Group members Michael and Emmanuel were especially keen to show off their boda bodas (motorcycles) which not only seem to serve as a status symbol for them, but also provide a valuable means of earning income. Because it would be tight to turn a boda boda around in the group’s meeting room, we were quickly whisked away by the Trust Group’s chairperson, Anne Turigye, to travel a pocked dirt road that led to her craft shop.
Anne is a soft-spoken, gentle, round woman with short cropped hair. She is passionate about what she does and loves to guide visitors around her delectably packed shop housing shelves of jewelry, statuary, baskets and other assorted crafts. Anne makes most of these items herself, creating colorful beads for earrings and necklaces out of newspaper. She also buys and makes crafts out of a local material called sisle, a reed that is used in weaving. Anne has received more than five loans through Opportunity International, with which she has financed additional materials to increase her inventory and secure space for her shop. Her loans have enabled her to begin planning for the future in the hopes of breaking into the export market as well as increase her local supply. A mother of three, she lives behind her shop, and her family occasionally sits up in the front room and helps her bead.
Although she has no formal training in arts and crafts, she says, ”I feel it inside me and sing while I work.” Our group was more than happy to buy some lovely souvenirs from Anne to take home, and we suspect it was a good business day for her…
Our next visit this afternoon was a Trust Group member who runs an infant, pre-, and primary school in Kampala. What an absolute pleasure it was to not only see the thriving Naguru School, but also to meet its one-of-a-kind founder Rosemary Namande. If the charisma and kindness of a headmistress determines a school’s educational value, this one is pure gold. Currently serving over 1,200 students, Rosemary reports that more than 500 of them are orphans, and many of them were left on the doorstep. The school property featuring expansive classrooms that surrounding a large courtyard and includes dormitories and administration offices.
Rosemary, as quick to smile as she is to embrace you, has received and repaid more than 10 loans from Opportunity. With her loans, she has improved her school grounds and employed more than 30 teachers. Her outreach moves beyond the school’s perimeter: Rosemary also trains local women in skills such as cooking and family planning, as well as actively caring for a number of children undergoing AIDS treatment.
It is important to remember the grave need for educational finance in Uganda, since 50% of its population is under the age of 18 and schools like Naguru are meeting this need in an unprecedented way. Rosemary is making the kind of difference that has no end. She embodies a quote hung up in the school’s administrative office: “Aspire to inspire before you expire.”
A personal highlight of my day was using my Polaroid camera and interacting with the Naguru kids, who were thrilled to see their images slowly manifest before their eyes. I was laughing hard at their antics. As we were pulling away from the school, my last sight was a boy standing with his arms outstretched to the sky, holding his picture, hopping on one foot with his head tilted back laughing.
Alexandra Arch sends us her reflections and insights from her Insight Trip in Uganda. Arch is a freelance writer based out of Bend, Ore. An avid outdoor enthusiast, she also is trying her hand at operating a farm and raising animals. The author is particularly looking forward to shopping in the African markets and floating on the Nile.