As of this month, we are reaching over 2,500 parents and children through our programs! Over 750 parents and caregivers are participating in micro finance groups and in Thrive programs. Your donations are helping parents to provide for their children, to keep their children safe and to ensure their children can live and thrive at home!
Trish Hartman, a board member of Thrive Uganda, shares her experiences visiting our programs in Uganda:
"I want to tell more about our visits to the villages. Sometimes we travelled down the winding washed-out roads that gradually just become a path in the woods. Often we were greeted by music and feasts the people put on for us. At first I hesitated to eat the food, for that was taking from those who have so little. I came, however, to understand that this is their way of repaying us, of showing their independence and dignity. The peanuts, mangoes, local meat and other offerings were particularly delicious.
Group members told their stories of how they were able to borrow money to buy land and seeds, to grow enough food for their families, despite the difficulties with the extended dry season, and they were optimistic that with rain coming soon, they would be able to grow extra to sell. Naluyima Sharon told her story,
“I thank Thrive so much. We used to rent. One day our landlord chased us away from his house. I came to the [Caregivers’ Group] and I took up a loan and we bought a plot. My husband almost stopped me from joining this group, but as I talk now he has realized the impact it has had on our family and he is also about to join. One day the authorities came and arrested us because we had no latrine so my husband felt bitter about the group….but now, when Thrive came and constructed our pit latrine my husband has doubled his joy for Thrive. Now we have our own house, we have our own latrine, we have our own land and no landlord can come to chase us away.”
Other members fixed their houses, paid school fees, helped extended family, or bought animals to raise.
“I thank Joseph and Paul (program staff). They came and brought iron sheets and helped us construct our pit latrine. Through the loans I took from the group I have some chickens that I rear at home and I have also invested money in the gardens to acquire adequate food for the family. So we now, through the loans, we grow sweet potatoes at a large scale. But because of the drought that has hit our village we have not been able harvest so much, but still we are investing. We thank Thrive so much for what it has done.” -Namirembe Sarah
The soil of the Kalangu region is very fertile, and everywhere there were coffee plants and mango and avocado trees growing abundantly where the pits fell.
Some villages are close to the road, and so they have been able to take loans to start roadside stalls to sell fruits and vegetables, or to start small stores, or businesses. One woman in her sixties glowed with pride as she showed that she had borrowed money to build a tailoring business, and she has placed a manual sewing machine on the porch of her tiny house, watching the children at play while she sews. I imagine it is something she has always dreamed of doing, and now her dream is a reality.
Trish Hartman, a Thrive Uganda board member, recently travelled to Uganda to see first hand how our work is changing the lives of children and families. She wanted to share her experiences with you here:
"In January, I travelledwith Jenny Martin to Kampala, Uganda, and then on to the tiny rural villages to observe the work that we are doing. The trip was incredible, for the successes were beyond my imagination. We were often greeted with singing, dancing, gratitude, and stories of how people’s lives have been changed by Thrive. We sat in on the meetings of the savings and loans groups, of which there are now 12, and we observed how the meetings run democratically, working together. Indeed the names of most of the groups are some version of “We work together”, or “Let’s Unite”.
Again and again, we heard people’s stories of how poor and powerless they felt before they joined Thrive, and how their their lives have improved now. One woman told us,
“I am privileged to speak, I have benefited so much. I never had a culture of saving, didn’t know you could save 200 shillings (10 cents Canadian). Before I just spent it on food. Now I have saved a lot. Last year I had a crisis and my parents’ house fell down. I was able to borrow money and we re-built the house. Before we could not have done that. “
As well, people spoke of how they are empowered now, how strong they are when they work together. They told us of their improvements in health and nutrition, and how they can access the money they need to buy seeds or land for food, to start small businesses, and to pay school fees for their children. Incredibly, no one has yet defaulted on a loan. People were eager to show us the pit latrines they had built with local bricks and iron roofing supplied by Thrive. Most families now have pigs and chickens they have bought withborrowed money, and they are able to breed them, to make more – animals and money and food.
Another woman told us, “Our group started in December, 2012 (the first group). At first there were only 9 members, when we elected our board members and formed our constitution, for people hesitated to join. They were afraid they would lose their money, for other organizations had ‘taken the money and ran’. But as word spread that the Thrive group was doing well, people began to come forward to join. Now there are 59 members. We work together, like our name, Kdegwambo, ‘We must work together’. We are doing a lot of things with money, but we are developing our talents as well.”
They performed a wonderful play that demonstrated, with humour, how difficult it was to start, but how lifesaving it is to have access to money when needed for health emergencies or school fees or other crises.
We heard that Thrive is special because it does not give out handouts, but instead it gives the families access to what they need to be powerful themselves. At times I was near tears at the people’s stories, of how Thrive has given them opportunities they hadn’t even dreamed were possible.
Since first piloting our microfinance program with 45 women a year ago, the program has grow to 12 groups and over 500 members! There is so much enthusiasm from the community that we can’t keep up. Participants are meeting every week to save money and to take loans to start up family businesses, to improve their living conditions and to send their children back to school. Participants are not only helping themselves out of poverty, but they are also developing their self-esteem, building friendships and learning skills in leadership and financial management.
The same families are participating in our integrated program model to help their children stay safe, healthy and in school.
Your generosity is making a tremendous change in the lives of children and their families. Thank you for your generosity and for a wonderful first year!
To hear the stories of the lives you have touched this year, keep following our blog!
We believe that children have a right to be protected from all forms of violence. That's why in addition to our work helping families provide for their children, we have started developing a program to respond to cases of child abuse. Through the program we are helping children, families and communities learn about child rights, and providing protection, support and legal aid to children and their families. This program has already made a difference for one family. Rebecca, a single parent to four children, shared her experience with us here:
“...Thrive sensitized us on Child Rights and Child Protection. We learned how to identify an abused child. So one day I was able to tell that my daughter had been abused by a man in the neighborhood. I took the matter to the Police and Thrive gave me financial support for transport and medical examinations. The man was arrested and is in prison, charged with child abuse. We are so glad that Thrive came to support our village.”
We are optimistic that by raising awareness and providing support to families, that we will begin to see more families and community members protecting the rights of children.
Over the last four weeks the Thrive team have been working on mobilizing women into Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA). VSLA are a type of microfinance where members meet each week to save money and loan it out to members. Members can access loans to set up income-generating businesses or to pay for family emergencies (i.e. medical care). It is these groups that will form the backbone of much of Thrive's work. We have three women's groups started in Namwanzi village, each self-governing and with approximately 15 women. They are Ggogwe Tusse Kimu, Lukindu Tokolere Wamu, and Namwanzi Central. The Thrive staff are busy teaching each group how to operate as a VSLA and conducting support visits to help groups with leadership, financial management and book keeping. The women are highly motivated and excited to participate in their newly formed groups. They are already saving weekly and making loans out to group members.