Today we have entered the town of Jinja. After heavy overnight rains, the central market offers us a muddy, puddle-jumping adventure. Stalls overflowing with fruits, vegetables, clothing, music and more are stacked one on top of another in an attempt to avoid the mud. The colors of the stalls and their contents are as vibrant as the smells are potent. Our mission is to find the businesses owned by members of the local Trust Group.
Our first stop is the stall owned by a soft-spoken seamstress who used her Opportunity International loans to buy her first sewing machine (which she had previously had to rent). She now has a growing business that includes one employee.
Down the line, tucked in a corner of the market, Mustula Sekitoleko’s business consists of two large wooden boxes filled with ginger root and onions. This mother of five children has completed three loan cycles with Opportunity and has expanded her business to include wholesale and retail, and provides ginger to a local soda factory. She dreams of breaking into the export market.
Resty Nabunje is a local business powerhouse whose good reputation hinges on the success of her wholesale store. With Opportunity loans, she has expanded and improved her business, serving local entrepreneurs with staples such as oils and sugar. When we enter, these items are piled almost to the ceiling of her shop.
After our visit to the market, we drive to the banks of the Nile and board a boat captained by Kenny, an Opportunity client who has used his loans to purchase the vessel that is currently whisking us upriver. A knowledgeable tour guide, Kenny has made a living taking visitors to the source of the Nile, where it’s fed by Lake Victoria. This spot marks the very first mile of the 4,000-mile-long river that flows into Egypt. Petite, multi-colored Kingfishers perch on overhanging branches, while cranes dive into the river looking for lunch. We get the opportunity to purchase a variety of souvenirs at an Opportunity client’s nearby craft shop, located at the boat ramp.
Tonight, the Insight Trip comes to a close. Reflecting back on the past week, it’s difficult to aptly describe the extraordinary people we’ve met and the beautiful places we’ve visited. Seeing the face of the Opportunity International operations firsthand–especially the hard-working and dedicated loan officers and the proud, determined clientele–has been life-altering. I encourage anyone involved with Opportunity to travel abroad to meet these individuals who awe me with their courageous and creative spirits. They remind me that people are resilient and capable of anything. I’m especially inspired to meet the women who are striving to make the world a better place for themselves and their children.
Seeing firsthand the end results of microfinance demonstrates the concrete ways in which these loans change people’s lives. The need is so great, even overwhelming, in places like Uganda. Yet the clients here seem to have found joy in the empowerment that comes from greater financial stability. And their joy is contagious to us all, radiating out to their communities, and now, to me.
Ugandan clients inspired and affected Alexandra Arch in numerous ways. Who have you met who inspires you? How has this inspiration impacted your life? Leave us a comment below.
This is Alexandra Arch’s last in a series of blog posts for Opportunity. Read more on Opportunity’s blog about her arrival in Kampala, her first visit with a Ugandan Trust Group, her experience meeting Ugandan schoolchildren and entrepreneurs, and her reports on agrifinance and meeting a rural Trust Group.
Archis 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 was particularly looking forward to shopping in the African markets and floating on the Nile.