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.