March/April 2012




In This Update:



 Annual Potluck Dinner A Huge Success


WMI held its Fifth Annual Potluck Dinner on Sunday, April 28th at the Carderock Club house in Bethesda, MD. With over 100 supporters in attendance the room was packed to capacity.  potluck The crowd was treated to the new 14 minute new video about the WMI program called Small Loan, Big Change, which was filmed by Erin Kelly (U-Mich '10) on location in Buyobo, Uganda during the summer of 2011. It captured beautifully the way the loan program is transforming the lives and communities of poor rural women in East Africa. The narrators of the video were WMI's Director and Assistant Director in east Africa, Olive Wolimbwa and jackline Namonye. Their special leadership qualities lit up the screen. Watching them and the other members of WMI's fabulous East Africa team in action helped viewers understand why the loan program has been so successful. We hope to have the video posted on the WMI web site in the near future.


WMI's President, Robyn Nietert, talked about WMI's triple bottom line. First, the loan program gets capital into the hands of impoverished women so that they can start businesses and it provides them with the training that they need to help make those businesses a success. Secondly, it builds the human capacity of the women-focused, Community Based Organizations (CBO) that WMI partners with to operate the loan programs at the village level. These CBOs eve love into a resource for the entire community and can help families access the goods and services they want and need to improve their household living standards. Lastly, the WMI loan program is bringing about structural change in the way banks deal with poor, rural women. In essence, WMI has engineered itself into the financial service value chain on the ground - networking village-level CBOs and local banks in a new configuration that had not been considered - and one that has resulted in benefits to its partners, its borrowers, and the greater community. It is a simple and flexible operating model that delivers a large and multi-faceted impact.


WMI was very fortunate to have on-hand numerous colleagues who had recently visited various loan hub locations. Bonnie Norman from WMI funding partner Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, talked about the businesses launched by the women in one of WMI's newest loan hubs, Shikokho, Kenya. Andrea Sedlock talked about how her organization, WMI funding partner Mpambarra Cox Foundation, combines the loan program with its educational outreach to village children in the Kabale, Uganda hub. Noah Martin from Walt Whitman high School gave the audience a brief on internship activities in Buyobo, while June Kyakobye talked about how the women's self-confidence has soared in Buyobo since the loan program started.   Ainsley Morris and Montana Stevenson visited all of the loan hubs during their 9-month tenure as WMI's Project Directors last year and their affirmed how the loan program is improving household living standards for village families.

The evening raised nearly $10,000 for the WMI loan program. This generosity and outpouring of ideas for additional funding sources was greatly appreciated. Thank you to everyone who helped make the evening such a success - especially to Kathy Staudaher and Sally Kelly who were the masterful organizers of the event.

 WMI 500 and WMI Giving Groups


Two special ways to support WMI were emphasized at the Potluck.  The WMI 500 is a group of over 60 women who have committed to support the organization at the level of at least $250 per year for two years. These contributions help allow WMI to continue to expand loan program.  The giving format allows WMI to have a dependable cash flow for budgeting purposes.  Each fall WMI holds a cocktail party for WMI 500 members at a board member's home.  This event allows members to socialize and chat about WMI's plans and progress in a more casual setting.  If you would like to join the WMI 500 we would love to have to you!  Please email Kathy Staudaher at: staudaher@verizon.net.

The WMI GIVING GROUP idea was started last fall by Donna Boxer of Chevy Chase, MD.  It is a group of five plus women here in the US who wants to sponsor a loan group of 20 women from first loan to independent banking, which requires $12,700 over a period of 36 months.  This sum covers the costs of the loans, training and support, and guarantee deposits that WMI pays banks to secure transition to independent banking.  Each of the first three years a group donates $3,500.  At the end of the third year the final contribution diminishes to $2,200.  Members of a giving group receive regular updates, photos and reports about a new group's performance.  Giving groups fund the annual donation commitments in a number of different ways:

  • Each member can write a check;
  • Hosting  a "Party for a Purpose" -  inviting friends to learn about WMI and view WMI YouTube videos, then asking for donations;
  • Collect and bundle donations from friends and family.  Doing this to honor a woman in your life for a milestone birthday or Mother's Day can be very meaningful;
  • Sponsoring a community fundraiser:  e.g., bake sale, run/walk or tag/book sale event; 
  • Starting a "dinner club" or "women's happy hour" to meet on a regular basis.  The group meets at someone's home and participants donate money they would spend at a restaurant to WMI instead.   It's a great excuse for getting together with friends!

WMI has prepared a complete "How To Kit" with step-by-step information on starting a group.  If you would like to organize a WMI Giving Group, please contact Sally Kelly at: Salkelly@earthlink.com 

WMI 's Newest Loan Hub in Northern Uganda: Atiak

In April, WMI launched its newest loan hub located in Attiak, Uganda, just 20 miles from the South Sudan border.   Many of you have read about the KONY 2012 campaign - Attiak was in the midst of the 20 year insurgency that devastated much of Northern Uganda.  WMI's CBO partner there is Blessed Watoto and the Head Coordinator for the loan program is Sylvia Akello.  She provided WMI with this written statement on the need for r a loan program in the region.  The content is very disturbing; but, we are encouraged that bringing the loan program to this area can help rebuild the lives of the impoverished women and families who live there.

 sylviaReport on Attiak by Sylvia Akello:

Before this war, though it started when I was still young, I know from stories and past experiences that people were in position to go to the garden freely and to move from place to place freely. Education of children was also easy because the rebels did not disturb them. For me I grew up in the war, in those days if the rebels find you in the garden digging they either slaughter you or kidnapped you. Children at school were abducted to become child soldiers and sometimes teachers were slaughtered and even there are cases of teachers being fed to the students. Children's rights have been completely ignored by the rebels. Rape and defilement was rampant and small girls were taken to old men to be their "wives". So many people have lost children, parents and relatives in this war. You find now that there are so many problems. People were advised to go back to their village. They are all subsistence farmers, but some now don't know how to dig or they have become lazy from the camps. There is also lack of labor so you don't always get enough from the garden to eat and sell. There have also been problems with land wrangles, people fighting day and night over land. After the camps people were sent back to their land and found that others were trying to claim it as their own. This has brought more death and sent people to jail. Without the war people would have stayed peacefully on their land passed down from their grand-grandparents. Back to education, garden work does not usually help with school fees or medical care. Some women have now started to sell some small foodstuff like beans, tomatoes, fish, etc for school fees. But this is very little and is not enough to sustain families and pay school fees. So much of this is because of the war. To me I feel that if the war was not there, the women would not need so much of this kind of support, but we are seeing that there are so many widows, also women are married to uneducated men that cannot provide much for the family. High birth rate is also a problem. Someone might have 6 kids who are their own and then 6 more dependents. They all need clothing, school fees, medical care, etc. Women need to grow their businesses to sustain their growing families. Prices of goods are also rising day and night. Life is very expensive. Women are struggling to get a way of helping their family members to survive. These loans can change lives!  

Hannah Kahl Joins The WMI Team in Buyobo

WMI is funding a new position in Buyobo for a Resource Fellow to assist with the administration and growth of the WMI loan program for a period of 6 - 12 months. We are very happy to announce that the first WMI Resource Fellow has been selected: Hannah Kahl. She is a native of Martha's Vineyard, MA and is currently working with Earth Birth in Atiak, Uganda as a community organizer. WMI opened the new loan hub in Ahannahtiak in April with Hannah's assistance. 


Hannah is a 2006 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH with a Bachelors in anthropology.   She graduated Cumma Sum Laude and was admitted into Phi Beta Kappa (undergraduate honors organization).

The trip to Uganda planned by Hannah and her colleague was profiled in the October 12, 2011 edition of the Martha's Vineyard Times:


"This winter, Lila Fischer of West Tisbury and Hannah Kahl of Chilmark will travel to Uganda where they will work at Earth Birth, an international women's health collective.  The center serves a community of people who have been displaced and traumatized by war, in an environment where there is an extreme shortage of material resources. Ms. Fischer and Ms. Kahl will be working there for at least three months, but possibly longer, Ms. Fischer as a midwife and Ms. Kahl as a social activist.


Ms. Fischer and Ms. Kahl have been friends for most of their lives, from when they did gymnastics training together as kids on a cross-country road trip together after college... Last November, Ms. Fischer graduated from a 13-month program at Maternidad la Luz, a midwifery school based in El Paso, Texas, becoming a Certified Professional Midwife. She met Olivia Kimball, one of the founding organizers of Earth Birth, at a midwifery conference last fall. "I also had this idea to go to Uganda because my cousin, Nathaniel Scott, is there working with US AID," says Ms. Fischer.


Ms. Kahl majored in anthropology at University of New Hampshire. "That was a really important time in terms of the direction I'm taking now," she says, "because I met some guys from the Sudan who became my good friends, and I started being interested in that area." 


After college, she traveled and worked. "I took a job doing community organizing in the lowest income parts of Boston. That was another big moment for me, seeing what resources and education can do for people who are victims of the system or feel like they're victims of the system." Later, she and another friend, Kate Hubbell, bicycled from New Hampshire to El Paso to visit Ms. Fischer. From there, Ms. Kahl went to work for the Center for Social Leadership at San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico, and now she is back on Island for a few month."


Hannah will assist Olive and WMI's East Africa team with building their management capacity and setting up systems and procedures to supervise all loan hub activity. She will visit all loan hubs and assist with budgeting and program operations.


The Greater Contribution Grant
karon and friends 

karon and friends

In April, The Greater Contribution,

a non-profit organization in California dedicated to fighting poverty, provided its second grant of $12,000 to WMI since the beginning of the year. This past January, WMI's founder and president, Karon Wright, traveled to Buyobo, Uganda with a contingent of TGC supporters to witness the loan program in action. WMI is grateful for TGC's extremely generous ongoing support of the loan program.


Thank you!



The WMI Board of Directors



Robyn Nietert        rgnietert@aol.com  

Betsy Gordon         betsygord@mac.com
Deborah Smith       deborahwsmith@yahoo.com
June Kyakobye       junekyaks@yahoo.com


 Trix Vandervossen  bvandervossen@imf.org
Jane Erickson         ericksonjn@verizon.net
Terry Ciccotelli        terryciccotelli@gmail.com