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Be Inspired: A Traveler Meets Opportunity Uganda’s Microfinance Clients

By Debby Farrington

Debby Farrington, a supporter of the Women’s Opportunity Network (WON) is visiting Uganda with her 16-year-old nephew Matt Statman. Yesterday, Matt sent us a post about meeting teenage students in Kampala, and today, Debby reports on their visits with Trust Group clients and some very inspiring women entrepreneurs.

Today, we visited a Trust Group meeting and some very special clients of Opportunity Uganda.

Teddy Ajiku, the Insight Trip coordinator for Opportunity Uganda, picks up my nephew Matt and me at our hotel and we go to a Trust group meeting in a local restaurant, which the group rents once a week for this meeting.
Ruth is their loan officer and the members say she is very good and that they really like her. The group speaks mainly in Luganda (a language spoken through much of southern Uganda) and then, at the end, in English. Because I am a member of the board ofOpportunity International, they ask me a number of questions about the organization. After we eat lunch, Teddy takes us to meet other Opportunity Uganda entrepreneurs. They all have inspiring stories to tell, but two women in particular have a lasting impact on me:

  1. We meet a woman who sells bananas on the street, whose loan enabled her to move into the metal shed behind her location and expand into groceries. She wants to expand to another location soon because her son, who’s at university, and her brother will both be able to help her. Her husband died three years ago in a minibus accident (which is common here) and she had three children to send to school. She talked to me in a direct way, and we really connected and related well as I listened to her explain the challenges of growing her business and supporting her family.
  2. We meet Jennifer, who runs a very small stall in the market fixing people’s hair and selling cold drinks. The four of us sit inside her 4×5-foot stall, relaxing and talking. Jennifer’s store was recently burgled, along with several others in her row. The thieves had cut holes in the ceilings in order to enter them. Her freestanding hair dryer and her sink had both been stolen. The landlord promised to put in a concrete roof by Christmas, but sadly, this still hasn’t happened.
    While we’re talking, Matt notices movement on the blankets in the corner and it turns out that it’s Jennifer’s nine-month-old daughter Agnes, who is sick with dehydration but seems to be getting better now. Jennifer’s two other little girls also have names starting with ‘A’: Anita and Angela. From what we know, Ugandans adore children and seem to have very big families. Teddy says she comes from a family of nine!

The two- and three-year-old girls play together inside the stall while the grown-ups talk. The store is small but we’re finding this visit so relaxing and serene that we spend a long time here, talking with Jennifer. We’re having quite a lovely time, and we really feel we are beginning to get to know the people of Uganda.

This was a very long and busy day — but it was inspiring and we learned a lot. Teddy drops us off that evening at our hotel and we can’t wait to tell our friends at home about the wonderful people we met in Uganda.

Matt Statman has a fundraiser on OptINnow for the clients of Opportunity Uganda. Also, visit theWalk for Uganda page to read more about past Insight Trips and to donate to other fundraisers for Uganda. Through a generous donor pledge, all donations to Uganda will be matched up to $25,000.

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