Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kirsten's Post

We have had limited internet access so here is a quick update. So far
this has been an incredible journey with lots of insights,
frustrations, beautiful and inspiring people, and many unanswered

We left Kampala on Tuesday and went to Lira in Northern Uganda today.
We drove over the Nile River to get there! We had a really interesting
day in Lira. Half the day in this village with this amazing group of
women who are part of a group called Savings and Internal Lending
Communities (SILC). SILCs are a group of no more than 30 people in a
community who form a group with operating guidelines and a buy in and
serve as a “bank” and group savings. These are people that don’t have
enough money to receive loans from banks so they form their own
lending community. With this group of women, each member contributes
1,000 shillings per week which is less than $0.50 per week. They have
to attend a weekly meeting and are fined if they are late or do not
attend the meeting. If a person in the group has an idea they can then
borrow money from the SILC. (Some of us agree this policy should be
implemented at Mendoza meetings!!) Typically the loans are for no more
than 3 months at a 10% interest rate. They also can use their saving
on collective goods. For example, this group bought 8 cows that they
collectively share. There was actually one man in this SILC group. But
this particular SILC mostly women and really empowers them in the
home. Interestingly enough, having a woman treasurer is one of the
rules that some SILC groups has implemented due to trust issues in the
past. Women and children are the ones fetching the water, doing the
farming, preparing the meals etc. But this group of women were able to
get what they needed for their homes and work together. We then went a
visited their bore hole (well) which was broken (unfortunately no
longer a surprise to our group at this point).

Yesterday we met with the Lira CRS group and a district council
chairman and the water committee. Today we traveled to two villages
and gained more insights. One interesting thing we have learned in our
travels and meetings with each group is around the control the Ugandan
government (specificially the Ministry of Water and Sanitation) has
over the materials used for the bore holes and wells. Unfortunately
the pipes that the government requires typically break down after two
years and the villages do not have the funds to replace them.

Our remote travels have led to some internet connection issues, so
please stay tuned for more updates. As a quick advertisement for
future postings, here are some of the group highlights:
- Greg was offered (and declined) a local village wife
- Our group became the first white visitors to a remote village
- With the help of some locals, we summited and admired the beautiful
scenery of Uganda from Mt. Abim

We will report more from our last two days at the next internet connection!

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