|IN THIS UPDATE:
While most of Washington, D.C. sweltered through the dog days of summer, WMI was a beehive of activity and accomplishments. As you read though the exciting news in this Update, please keep in mind that it is your generosity that has made WMI's work possible:
1. Walt Whitman High Interns Volunteer with WMI in Uganda
Whitman Interns Bring Help and Hearts to Uganda
Whitman High School Interns with WMI Borrowers in Buyobo, Uganda
Fabulous! There is no other word to describe the nearly three week long internship that fourteen Walt Whitman High School students from Bethesda, MD undertook in Uganda this summer. Spending a week in Buyobo setting up an Internet Caf� and training students and borrowers alike to use the laptops donated by Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, MD, the interns became a part of village-life. Like magnets they drew crowds of small children wherever they went to carry out their myriad service projects including: assisting in the construction of a foundation for a new block of school rooms, teaching in the primary school, tutoring in the after-school English program, reading in the library program, planting trees and shrubs around the WMI building. The entire village of Buyobo was proud to host the interns and Olive Wolimbwa, WMI's Local Director in Uganda tried to sum up the experience:
APPRECIATION FOR WALT WHITMAN HIGH SCHOOL INTERNSHIP VISIT
Our sincerest greetings to you. On behalf of Bulambuli Widows Association, Buyobo P/S, Local Council of Buyobo community and on my own behalf, I wish to express my most sincere appreciation and gratitude for the visit of the Walt Whitman students.
To the parents of these children: thank you for allowing and facilitating your child to come to Buyobo. We are very much ware that this involved a lot of sacrifice in terms of money and time but we are grateful that your sacrifice has left a permanent impact in the lives of the people of Buyobo.
While with us your child did the following:
1. Helped in the construction of the foundation of a three classroom block at Buyobo P/S. for which foundation they had assisted in raising money.
2. Trained computer skills to the WMI members, school children and the community.
3. Connected wireless internet on the computers.
4. Taught in different classes at Buyobo P/S.
5. Taught pupils of the library class.
6. Planted flowers around the WMI office
7. Visited businesses of WMI members, their homes and local markets.
8. Freely interacted with the teachers, pupils and the community to the extent of taking part in our traditional dance (local drums/kadodi).
9. Visited Buyobo millennium clinic, found there Nurses but their biggest challenge was drugs
In addition to the above, they had earlier on raised money for teachers' tea of Buyobo P/S for three terms.
To our interns: Caroline, Ben, Madison, Olivia, Ted, Joey, Maggie, Sarah and Sarah, Neil, Alex, Curtis, Nicole and Jessica - we hope we were able to tell you at our Fare Well Speech how much we appreciate your work in Buyobo. You have very big hearts to come all the way to Buyobo to help our community and learn about our life here. You did not know what to expect and yet when you got here you became part of our village and our home and our family. You had enthusiasm for all the work you did. The internet caf� we dreamed of for years and now it is here. The new classrooms will give our children a clean and safe and quiet place to learn. Our students will not forget the lessons you taught them in school and library classes.
I hope you saw the determination and pride that our women have with running their businesses. We are achieving like we never thought possible. We are spreading our business practices and program to many other villages where women are beginning to succeed like never happened before. This makes our families become a team to make their lives better.
It is much quieter now that you are gone. We miss you. We hope you have taken some part of Buyobo with you because you have left some part of yourself here.
To the Walt Whitman Foundation: We thank you most sincerely for your contribution of $250 to the construction of the classrooms. Your students built the foundation with sturdy hands.
The impact of the intern contribution therefore will remain a permanent landmark in the lives of the people of Buyobo. Thank you, thank you so much again, not also forgetting to thank Robyn the President of WMI, Jim and Laurie the teachers and Montana who behaved freely like a born of Buyobo showing places to her friends and introducing people whom she knew to them.
We look forward to seeing them back again one day.
May God Bless you.
Chairperson Bulambuli Widows Association.
In addition to their work in Buyobo, the interns: conducted an educational survey with primary students in Kebale; planted trees at the schools they visited; visited In-Movement, an NGO offering arts programs to orphaned and disadvantaged youth in Kampala; and, toured the special needs school in Mbale run by the Foundation for Development of Needy Communities, the local non-profit that previously received instruments from Whitman students for its Youth Brass Band. With (mostly) good humor, the interns traveled the country from one end to the other, enduring long van rides over pock-marked dirt roads to get to their destinations.
The interns also had the opportunity to learn about Uganda's economy from two experts. They met with Allen Kagina, the Head of the Uganda Revenue Authority, and found out about the startling relationship between collecting tax revenues and a government's ability to provide services to its people. Mrs. Kagina was extremely generous with her time and WMI very much appreciated the chance for the students to hear first-hand about Uganda's economy. Tom Richardson, the IMF Rep to Uganda, and his wife, Christina Iverson, extended their warm hospitality to the students, hosting them for dinner at their home in Kampala.
It wasn't all work! Uganda is home to unique wildlife and biological research institutes. Traveling to the Ruwenzori Mountains the interns went gorilla trekking and all of them witnessed the truly awesome spectacle of the mountain gorilla, one of the planet's rarest wild animals, in its native habitat. On safari through the rugged beauty of Queen Elizabeth National Park they viewed an array of wildlife and had the good fortune to spot a resting leopard. On an island in Lake Victoria they toured the Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary, one of the world's only research facilities for injured and trafficked chimpanzees.
The interns are organizing their photographs, videos and thoughts recorded in their journals in order to create a new web page about their experience for the WMI web site. It should be ready in a month. In the meantime, take a look at this short Powerpoint presentation just posted to the web site to get an idea of the terrific contribution these young adults have made to rural communities in Uganda. WMI is grateful for their intrepid spirit, hard-work and enthusiasm! http://wmionline.org/newsupdates/WMI-Uganda-Trip.pdf
This trip would not have been possible without the three terrific chaperones who accompanied the students: Whitman teacher, Laurie Safron, her husband Jim Cannon, and Whitman alum, Montana Stevenson, who recently graduated from UVA. Their inspired leadership and organizational skills kept everyone on track and enjoying themselves while making a huge contribution to the villages they visited.
College Interns Complete Analysis of WMI Program
Working diligently throughout June and July and into early August, WMI's college interns in Bethesda, MD analyzed data gathered over the past two and a half years from over 400 WMI borrowers. Based on the accumulated data, the interns were able to prepare several Fact Books that provide an intimate portrait of WMI borrowers and an accurate assessment of how the loan program has transformed their lives, improved living conditions for their families, and positively impacted their communities. Check out the Fact Books on the WMI web site to see how your support is changing the face of poverty in East Africa: http://wmionline.org/dataanalysis/profile/profile.html
In addition to preparing the Fact Books, the summer interns sifted through two years of reports prepared by WMI Local Coordinators after monthly visits to borrowers' businesses or homes. The Local Coordinator Reports (LCRs) take note of: family health and welfare; domestic relations; business operations, progress and challenges; and, the status of the borrower's book keeping. After analyzing the data from the LCRs, the interns prepared papers on four critical areas that have been significantly impacted by the WMI loan program: Health; Gender Relations; Child Development; and Business Operations.
These short research papers are rich in personal details. They provide a compelling argument that WMI's small loans, which are administered locally under highly structured guidelines, have far-reaching and multi-faceted impacts that help borrowers escape the cycle of poverty. You will enjoy reading about borrowers' challenges and triumphs in these papers posted on the WMI web site at the following link: http://wmionline.org/dataanalysis/profile/profile.html
Grant News from Boeing and the IMF Civic Program
The Boeing Corporation Foundation (yes - the Boeing Corporation!) recently approved WMI for a $14,000 grant for borrower training and education. WMI very much appreciates Boeing's support of its efforts to expand financial literacy opportunities for borrowers operating very small businesses in rural villages.
Microloans are most effective as a poverty alleviation tool when coupled with business training and financial literacy. Indeed, when WMI President, Robyn Nietert and Local Program Director, Olive Wolimbwa, visited with President Obama's grandmother in Siaya, Kenya last January this was exactly the point she emphasized. A long-time local activist, Mama Sarah was very supportive of WMI's mission, but cautioned against issuing loans without accompanying business training for borrowers.
In presenting its grant request to the Boeing Corporation Foundation, WMI was required to explain how its loan program fills a gap that is not being met by other organizations and how it demonstrates innovation, best practices, scalability and sustainability. WMI believes it is in the forefront of introducing unique village-run microfinance programs that achieve sustainability in record-time and feature extensive financial literacy training that is extended throughout the community by peer-to-peer mentoring. Boeing's support of WMI's vision and mission will help many more impoverished rural women receive the training they need to become self-supporting.
Other wonderful news on the grant front: In late July, WMI received a grant of $10,000 from the International Monetary Fund Civic Program for the expansion of the loan program. The funding will allow WMI to widen its lending program beyond the villages currently served, so that it can combat rural poverty on a larger scale by offering more loans, training and support to impoverished rural women. A representative from the IMF Civic Program announced the approval of WMI's grant application at the May Potluck Fundraiser and WMI was extremely grateful to receive the award last month. The IMF Civic Program provides support for extraordinary outreach projects worldwide. It focuses on initiatives that target women, children and families.
Bududa Pilot Program Receives Visit from U.S. Partner
This past April WMI expanded the loan program to the village of Bumwalukani in the Bududa District of Uganda - about 30 miles southeast of Buyobo, in a pilot project that partnered with the Arlington Academy of Hope, a model school in Budada founded by John Wanda, a native Ugandan who emigrated to the U.S. 10 year ago. The AAH school in Uganda is supported by individuals and educational institutions in Arlington, VA, where John now resides. This summer John returned to Bumwalukani and he prepared this short summary of his meeting with the first 20 WMI borrowers in the village:
During my visit to Uganda, I met the first group of women who are recipients of microfinance loans from the Women's Microfinance Initiative (WMI), a Bethesda, MD organization that AAH is partnering with. This group of 20 women are engaged in all kinds of businesses in the community, from supplying vegetables and foodstuffs to the school to raising poultry, engaging in petty trade, and even supplying uniforms to the school. I was there when the first batch of 100 uniforms for lower classes were delivered by one of the women in the group. The women in the group are diverse, passionate about their work, and intent on expanding their businesses. I was impressed to see these women in action and grateful that AAH, through WMI, has given them this wonderful opportunity. A second group of 20 women has already been formed and they received their loans on July 1.
Loan Groups Added to Successful Pilots in Bududa, UG and Siaya, KY
In April, WMI launched three new pilot loan programs in Bududa, UG and Siaya and Ol Moran, KY by partnering with three separate NGOs that were already active in these villages. All three programs have been operating smoothly, with 100% loan repayment, and very efficient Local Coordinators, all of whom have requested the addition of follow on loan groups. Responding to the borrowers' excellent performance and to the local demand, in July WMI added a new loan group in each of Bududa and Siaya. A new loan group will be added in Ol Moran in October, and if Bududa and Siaya continue their excellent track records, two new groups will be added to each of those villages in October.