July/August 2016            




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In This Update...

  • WMI Interns Launch 2 New Support Programs
  • Annual Survey Results Document WMI Loan Program Impact
  • WMI Resource Fellow Ashley Van Waes Turns Over the Reins to Kirsten Miner
  • WMI-Sponsored Health Screenings and Family Planning Events 
  • 1,000 Solar Lamps Provided to Affiliates in Lewa, Kenya
  • Profile of A WMI Jumbo Loan Borrower
WMI Interns Launch 2 New Support Programs
This summer WMI's fabulous college interns took the lead in developing and launching two new initiatives that will provide much needed support services to women in the loan program.  The interns in Buyobo, Uganda: Noah Martin (Georgetown '17), Michael Chang (Princeton '18), Natalie Andrasko (Michigan '18), and Javier Eguiara (Deusto University '17) focused a significant amount of their time in the village on public health issues.
Village Health Team Support
Working with the Buyobo Village Health Teams (a total of nearly 100 local volunteers), which provide health/sanitation information and emergency logistical help to local residents, the interns set out to understand the most critical health problems facing the local community. Many of WMI's loan program members are VHT volunteers or live in rural areas that are served by the VHTs. With little regular access to medical care, the VHTs are frequently the only source of basic health training or emergency intervention for villagers living in rural areas: they are the m
Noah demonstrating how to take blood pressure for VHTs
edical lifeline for many rural families in the Buyobo area.

With his health training background, Noah took the lead on organizing the interns to purchase basic first aid equipment for each of the 8 parishes (composed of a dozen villages each) that the VHTs oversee, including 8 stethoscopes, 8 sphygmomanometers, 8 thermometers, bandages, and disposable gloves. With these new supplies each parish will be able to perform basic check-ups for patients, recommend clinical referrals or hospitalization, and monitor current illnesses. The interns provided basic first aid and blood pressure training for the all of the VHTs. The community found the training and supplies to a huge asset which significantly improved the quality of health outreach services in the villagers.

Mental Health Counselling
The culture in Uganda values inner strength and determination, which can deter people from speaking out on topics as culturally taboo as rape or HIV. The women and girls in Buyobo especially struggle, with many young girls dropping out of school by sixth and seventh grade due to pressure to get married early or to take on more household chores. WMI has made great strides in creating community programs to address some of these problems, but there is much more that can be accomplished.

During her summer stay in Uganda (her second internship there!) Natalie observed an important problem in the community that women wanted to address: ongoing counseling for HIV positive community members and sexual assault survivors. There are no readily available services to help sexual assault and gender violence victims heal. Deciding to act on this problem, Natalie created a counselling program and support network for sexual assault, gender violence, and HIV positive survivors.

The project is called HEAR (Helping End Abusive Relationships), and it gives survivors in the Buyobo community who have been silenced a chance to feel like they have a voice again. There is no program like this currently in place, and very few programs like this exist in all of Uganda. WMI allocated a budget for the interns to spend on community project development and Natalie led the effort to hire the AIDS Information Center in Mbale to provide a three-day course in Buyobo for local 20 women leaders there to be trained as HEAR counsellors. The topics covered in the extensive three-day training course included skills for supporting rape victims and their families, understanding gender and sexual orientation issues, community strategies for preventing and reporting rape and sexual violence. 
The community leaders who completed the program found it immensely informative and empowering: they have already begun to offer counselling services in the community.
In addition to the valuable on-site training and supplies that the Buyobo interns organized, they then decided to hit the ball out of the park with 2 legacy projects that will serve the community for years to come.

Boda Ambulance
The Buyobo interns spearheaded the effort to purchase a motorcycle-powered ambulance to serve Buyobo and all of Sironko District. Why a boda ambulance? Research indicated that f or every 100,000 live births in Uganda, 343 women are expected to die (UNICEF). This number is 150% higher than the world average, and 2,450% higher than it is in the United States. A major factor contributing to the discrepancy is the inaccessibility of urgent medical treatment: the most critical factor in patient survival after severe trauma is time until medical care is received. To reach life-saving medical care, rural villagers and mothers in labor must walk or travel on the back of a motorcycle over long, bumpy roads, which extends the time until treatment or forces many to just wait it out in their homes. Almost all rural villages lack any on-call emergency transportation.
Joined by their counterparts in WMI's Bethesda office ( Devoe Arnold, Bowdoin '18),Sarah Barakso Martin (Penn 18), Marlee Grant (GWU '18) and Madeleine Scanio (GWU '18), they created and posted a gofundme project to raise the necessary funds. WMI pledged to cover 50% of the $7,500 total project cost. With the receipt of a $100 check this week from a supporter who does not like to give on line, the interns' project has officially surpassed the $3,750 funding minimum necessary to acquire the boda ambulance.
This is huge success for the interns and for the women and families WMI serves. The entire community is looking forward to the commencement of the boda ambulance service, which will be managed by the VHTs and WMI's local partner, the Buyobo Women's Association, which will provide dispatch services. This is a high impact project that is sustainable - ongoing operating overhead will be covered by loan program income.  Based on community surveys and meetings, we anticipate high demand for the service and additional training for the boda ambulance drivers would be a benefit. So if you would like to contribute to the project to help fund this additional training you can still do so at: gofundme boda ambulance

Victims' Support Fund and On-going Counsellor Training
Natalie decide to start an emergency fund for women who have been sexually assaulted so that they can get free transportation and treatment in Mbale, the nearest city, where emergency medication is available to prevent them from contracting HIV and where treatment is also available for other health needs that may arise after their assault. In a village where many live on a dollar a day, it can be overwhelming to arrange and pay for the $2 round-trip transport and medical treatment in the traumatic aftermath of an assault.

Creating a gofundme project, Natalie raised over $1,500 to create an emergency fund that can cover the
Natalie with the map she created of WMI's Uganda loan program locations.
costs of a victim of sexual assault getting transport and initial follow up services from medical professionals in Mbale.

Now women will be able to contact one of the 20 trained HEAR counsellors for consolation, advice, and logistical support in dealing with the assault. Post exposure prophylaxis, or the medication taken after experiencing a sexual assault to prevent the survivor from contracting HIV, is not readily available in free clinics. AIDS Information Center, the same organization that is conducting our Buyobo training outreach, provides the medication for the low price of 10,000 shillings, or $3. The emergency funds will cover the cost of transport and medication as well as other ancillary services the HEAR counsellors in Buyobo deem necessary.

For HEAR to be a successful and sustainable program, it is necessary for continued training every six months to update the new Buyobo counsellors on their skills, discuss any problems that have emerged, and train new women who are interested in becoming counsellors. The gofundme project raised the funds for the first 6-month update and after that income from the loan program will provide for the continued training.
Annual Survey Results Document WMI Loan Program Impact

The Bethesda college interns managed a massive data analysis to document the loan program's impact. They reviewed over 4,000 records to develop a nuanced picture of the wide-ranging outcomes.
For the ninth year in a row, WMI survey results show that the loan program continues to a have a significant impact in reducing poverty and improving household living standards for rural families. Monthly incomes double, triple and even quadruple after women launch their businesses. Before taking a loan and starting a business less than 10% of women earned more that $60/month. After launching their businesses, 90% of women earned more that $60/month.
The impact on savings is even more dramatic. Saving is virtually impossible for households with no regular income. After launching a business women are able to save on a regular basis and savings increase in Uganda were over 800%!


WMI Resource Fellow Ashley Van Waes Turns Over the Reins to Kirsten Miner

It is with teary eyes that we say good-bye to Ashley, WMI's Resource Fellow in Buyobo for the past year. She was much beloved by the BWA staff and community. Under her guidance the Buyobo team became experts at utilizing computer-based programs to manage all loan program operations. Through her efforts the Ruby-cup  menstrual management program was introduced in Buyobo, expanding   the women's access to the feminine hygiene products. She worked with WMI's banking partners to improve loan program services and financial access for the community at large. We are grateful for her commitment, clear-sighted decision-making and unfailing good humor in helping improve loan program operations.
For the past month Ashley has been training her successor, Kirsten Miner, who we feel very fortunate to welcome to the team. Kirsten is a Washington State native and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Washington in Public Health and Women Studies. During college she developed a keen interest in the intersection between economic policies and their effects on population health and wrote her undergraduate thesis on the effects of conditional cash transfer programs on health outcomes for women and children in Central America.
Following graduation, Kirsten served for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia's Muchinga Province, where she focused on implementing malnutrition intervention and malaria reduction programs, as well as conducting health education campaigns. She also worked extensively with girls' and women's groups and partnered with local NGOs to bring reproductive health services to local clinics. Kirsten is joining WMI from her current position at Seattle's Center for Infectious Disease Research.

WMI-Sponsored Health Screenings and Family Planning Events

WMI continues to expand the successful partnership it has forged with the Mbale-based medical professionals at RAIN Uganda who provide rural health screenings. Through its long-running loan program in Bududa District, near Konokoyi, WMI had the necessary infrastructure to organize a health screening event there for 355 women and men in the surrounding villages. On one day in July, RAIN professionals were able to screen, provide testing, counselling, follow up recommendations and health education to 355 people in the surrounding villages.
Meanwhile back in Buyobo in Sironko District, WMI partnered with Marie Stopes International to bring family planning education and options to village women. A record crowd turned out for trainings on family planning alternatives and to receive resource information. WMI offices were turned into confidential consultation rooms and nearly 30 women were able to receive on-the-spot family planning services.
Because of the huge success of these health interventions, return visits from RAIN and Marie Stopes are planned for the fall. We have learned that good health and the ability to operate a successful business go hand-in-hand. WMI plans to continue these type of health outreach programs wherever feasible.

1,000 Solar Lamps Provided to Affiliates in Lewa, KY

WMI's partner in its north-central KY loan programs, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, helped organized the distribution of 1,000 solar lamps to women in the loan program and rural community.  Off-grid households in Kenya spend approximately $200 a year on kerosene to fuel kerosene lamps, making it costly and also producing hazardous fumes to users and dangerous conditions for accidental fires. 70% of Kenyan homes still use kerosene as the main source of lighting - mainly in rural areas.
Through the generous donation of Kevin McLean of the non-profit Sun24, WMI was able to deliver 1,000 solar lamps to rural households within Lewa's scope of operations. These rural homes received a solar light each to provide power within their kitchens and common areas so that children can study in the evenings and women can cook in their kitchens after dark without being dependent on traditional carbon-based lighting options.
The lamp recipients are participating in an on-going survey to analyze the overall impact of switching to solar lighting sources. Survey results will contribute to the overall body of knowledge on how to accomplish reductions in the use of fossil fuels.

Profile of A WMI Jumbo Loan Borrower

Demand for WMI loans remains strong in all of our loan hubs throughout Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. As the loan program matures, we continue to develop new products and services to meet the evolving needs of the rural women we serve. As women expand their businesses and continue to grow their operations they have requested larger loans. The typical maximum loan WMI offers is about $250. In order to meet the demand for larger loans we introduced a pilot "jumbo loan" program last year offering loan amounts of $500 to a limited number of experienced borrowers.

The jumbo loan program has been extremely popular. In certain cases we have increased the loan amounts to $1,000 in order to provide businesswomen with the liquidity they need to improve their operations. The local loan committees vet jumbo loan applicants carefully to try to make sure that the loan amount aligns with the business' ability to utilize the borrowed capital effectively. This is a profile of a jumbo loan borrower:

Age: 45
Business: Bogoya (banana)
Location: Sinoli Park, Uganda
(about 10 miles from Mbale)

Allen Neumbe grew up and currently lives in the Bulumolo village in the Sironko District. She is a single mother of six children and has always enjoyed running. Allen currently manages a handful of successful enterprises, and her main source of income comes from her bogoya (a species of banana) business. In this business, she buys bunches of bananas at wholesale rates from teams who cut them in the plantations and takes them to the market to sell at higher rates. Allen and her family members also run a restaurant in Sinoli Park, Sironko District.
Allen joined WMI as a borrower in 2008. Before becoming a borrower, she made around $60 a month and her bogoya business was her only source of income. Following her involvement with WMI, and most recently the Jumbo Loan Program, Allen's monthly income has increased to around $200 a month. Allen has used her successive WMI loans to expand her bogoya business and to build her own small restaurant building. Being a part of a WMI Jumbo Loan Group ($500 loan) has also made it easier for Allen to generate income to pay school fees and to provide food for her children. Furthermore, she has been able to purchase the materials to construct her own house, furniture and bedding for her home, and her own dairy cow.
Apart from being a part of the Jumbo Loan Program, Allen's success can be attributed to her awareness of current market prices and demand along with her disciplined saving and record keeping. Allen is able to maximize profits because she knows the right prices to buy and sell her banana bunches at the various markets she frequents. When asked about her record keeping Allen was adamant about tracking her expenses and revenue weekly. It is clear to her that consistent record keeping is essential in keeping track of her finances. Allen estimates that she regularly saves around $60 a month.
Allen's biggest challenge is the cost of transporting her banana bunches. While at the moment she doesn't have the funds for a motorcycle or a car, she plans to save enough in the future to be able to purchase her own vehicle to avoid paying transportation fares.
A year from now Allen predicts that both her bogoya business and restaurant will continue to expand. She plans to develop her restaurant building further by constructing a larger seating area to accommodate more people.
Other than the WMI Loan Program, Allen frequently uses the Keep Buyobo Clean municipal garbage bins and is very proud of how well they keep the streets of her community clean. Allen also has taken advantage of the medical screenings provided by the RAIN Uganda health outreaches. She appreciated the eye testing, HIV and cancer screenings, and praised the counseling made available through the outreach.



WMI is extremely grateful for all of the support provided by our donors. Your commitment and thoughtfulness has allowed WMI to continue to expand and bring the benefits of economic opportunity to thousands and thousands of village women throughout East Africa.  One of the most frequent refrains WMI President, Robyn Nietert, hears when she visits the far flung WMI loan hubs each year is: "Thank you for remembering rural women."  A heartfelt thank you to each and every one for making our outreach to the rural women of East Africa a reality.


Gratefully,oard of Directors 

Robyn Nietert          rgnietert@aol.com  

Betsy Gordon           betsygord@mac.com
Deborah Smith        deborahwsmith@yahoo.com

June Kyakobye        jgkyakobye@yahoo.com

Trix Vandervossen   trixvdv55@gmail.com 

Jane Erickson          ericksonjn@verizon.net
Terry Ciccotelli         terryciccotelli@gmail.com 
Contact Information
phone: 301-520-0865                   
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