May/June 2013 





In This Update...







WMI High School Interns with their Chaperones, Laurie Safran and Jim Cannon, and WMI Staff at the Guest House in Buyobo


On June 17th eleven high school students (8 from Walt Whitman High School, 2 from Bethesda Chevy Chase High School - both in Bethesda, MD - and one from a private school in Florida) arrived in Uganda as WMI interns and immediately got to work. The enthusiastic high school students have been spending their days teaching English, Social Studies, Math, and Science to P5, P6, and P7 (late elementary school) classes. During breaks and after school, the school children come to the yard of the Buyobo guesthouse to play ball, draw with chalk, and spend time with the visitors. Many of the elementary students have given the high schoolers endearing "friend requests" written by hand.  Some have received invitations from the children to their households.


water tank


In addition to teaching, the high school students have been working on creating a water bio-filter with the supervision of Mr. Cannon and Ms. Safran, their chaperones. The concept is inexpensive and will potentially be turned into a local business in order to provide more clean water to the region.  The filtering includes fine sand, course sand, and gravel.  The first of the filters will be placed at the WMI guesthouse for the usage of the local population. 


Following up on the clean water theme, the interns installed rain catchment gutters on the three new classrooms at Buyobo Primary that were built by prior interns, and helped construct a school water storage tank.  For the first time ever, school children will have access to clean water on school grounds.  This means they will be able to get a drink of water during the school day.  The interns have also planted coffee plants around the school.


Most of the high school students have taken to the new cuisine of matoke, beans, peas, ground nuts, and rice.  They have also seized the opportunity to introduce American classics to their Ugandan hosts, including grilled cheese and tomato soup as well as spaghetti with tomato sauce and garlic bread. The interns have enjoyed regular visits by community members during the evenings, including Olive Wolimbwa, WMI Local Direct, and Nelson Gutaka, a prominent village elder.


Olive organized outings for them to visit the loan collection centers in Sironko and the Mutufu market, a large, bustling place that sells everything from produce to second-hand clothes.  They also visited Sipi Falls and toured a coffee plantation, where they were able to shell, roast, ground, and drink their self-made coffee. The trip has also provided a chance for the interns to experience the workings of the WMI program firsthand as well as the culture of Uganda.




College Projects 


Located in Buyobo, Uganda for June and July, three college interns are busy at work in Buyobo, Uganda, assisting with WMI's operations at WMI's largest loan hub. Apart from providing general program assistance, the interns, Ian White (Notre Dame), Kristi Hill (Tufts University), and Britta Burgis (San Francisco State University), have been contributing consistently with weekly updates on WMI's blog. Through their blog posts, which contain videos, pictures, and stories, the interns have been able to portray accurate and accessible narratives of the borrowers' daily lives at work and with their families. The blog posts also include clips from the Girls groups, a program working with teen-age girls on HIV/AIDS awareness. Check them out! Blog link.

WMI College Interns



To continue the ongoing assessment of the loan program's impact on village families, the college interns will update last year's fact book to present new data in the ongoing longitudinal study of the most experienced borrowers. Through interviews and borrowers' completed questionnaires, the college interns will provide insight into how the loan program is changing women's business opportunities in rural areas and improving their access to financial services.


The interns are also working on a Testimony Booklet, in which they will compile 10 compelling testimonies about various women's journeys through the WMI loan program and the impact the loan has had on their lives and families. In Buyobo, where the loan program has been in operation for 5 years now, the interns are looking forward to hearing and documenting the significant impacts of the program in the women's individual voices.




Top Row: Tiffany Sun, Siena Romano, Meghan Reynolds Bottom Row: Tricia Woodcome, Alex Valentino, Chris Heagen

WMI's six stateside college interns assembled in Bethesda on June 1 to embark on their summer journey of compiling and analyzing what WMI's President, Robyn Nietert, described as, "more borrower data ... than all the past years put together!"  With such a staggering task ahead of them, these ambitious youth are rethinking how WMI organizes and presents its loan program impact information, which is gathered every 6 months from borrowers across Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. The team of six has overhauled the recording and organization of incoming data into new templates, and is now training its sights on reimagining the layout and content of the annual Fact Books.  Available on the website in August, the 2013 Fact books will focus on consolidating information into country-wide reports, analyzing regional trends, and highlighting trends in loan hubs that were introduced within the past year.  In tandem with the restructuring of the fact books, the website will also be reorganized to reflect the new fact book layout, with divisions by country.


The 2013 WMI College Summer Intern Team includes:


Chris Heagen (Bethesda, MD), a rising sophomore at Cornell University where he plans on double majoring in Economics and Information Science; Meghan Reynolds (Bethesda, MD), a rising sophomore at Dickinson College, where she will major in International Relations and minor in Arabic and Spanish; Siena Romano (Hardwick, MA), a rising sophomore at American University in Washington, D.C., majoring in Public Health; Tiffany Sun (Rockville, MD), a rising sophomore at Georgetown University, studying Government and Math; Alex Valentino (Falls Church, VA), a rising sophomore at Lehigh University, where he is double majoring in Finance and Computer Science; Tricia Woodcome (Lexington, MA), a rising sophomore at New York University, where she is majoring in Global Liberal Studies with a minor in Art History. Read more about the Bethesda interns on the WMI web site here. 



Overjoyed New Borrowers in Tloma Holding Up Money From their First Loans
Recently, WMI's partner and the main force behind the loan hubs in Tanzania, Judy Lane, traveled with WMI summer intern, Siena Romano, to the village loan hubs there to check  on operations. Alailelai is an extremely isolated village in the Ngorogoro Conservation Area. The families living in Alailelai belong to the Maasi tribe and are traditionally nomadic. The culture places a high value on cows, to the extent that young calves often sleep with the Maasi in their bomas. (A boma is a collection of houses; the Maasi live communally and their family structure is very fluid). Because the Maasi today are leading similar lives to their ancestors hundreds of years ago, much of their economy is based of the trading of goods and animals, so they do not have any experience with fixed businesses, bookkeeping or finance. Also, the women in the tribe are not commonly raised to be leaders. Instead, they are raised to be wives and mothers.
With these challenges, Judy and Siena met with individual women who received loans last year, talked about their business plans, and discussed how make each woman's businesses more productive. The noticeable enthusiasm and persistence of the individual women is indicative of why the loan program in Alailelai is still so successful despite its cultural challenges. In May, 40 new borrowers listened intently during the business training and then received their first loans.  The experienced borrowers want to continue to expand the loan program to include more women in their tribe.
Tloma Women and their Business Plans 
Jackie Namonye Conducting a Training Session in Tanzania's Newest Hub in Tloma

A new hub was also added in Tanzania in May. In the village of Tloma, Judy and Siena took baseline surveys of the women in order to gain a sense of their living standards and life style. Unlike Alailelai, which is entirely Maasi, the ladies living in Tloma are not necessarily from any one tribe, although many are of Iraqw ancestry. Villagers living in Tloma are slightly more modern - they live in permanent houses and education is more accessible. Judy and Siena also appointed the most active women in the program to be the local leaders responsible for overseeing and supporting their fellow borrowers. The women were extremely excited and receptive to WMI's program and took an active role in the meetings. After a successful visit from Uganda trainers Olive Wolimbwa and Jackie Namonye, Siena and Judy were able to present the first loans to the women in Tloma.


Tloma Women Receiving their First Loans


Overall, as WMI's program expands, more and more women are gaining access to financial capital, allowing them to work their way out of poverty and build a better life for themselves and their families. The recent activity within the WMI programs in Tanzania is extremely encouraging; it is obvious these Tanzanian women want a better life, and are willing to work for it.






Nemburis Empapa, Tanzania 


Born in the neighboring Maasi village of Alchenemelock, Nemburis Empapa is now 42 years old but came to Alailelai when she married her husband Empapa at the age of 18. She is one of Empapa's five wives. As  one of eight siblings. she walked two-hours each way to the primary school in Alailelai. For six years Nemburis would walk from 5:00 to 7:00 each morning in her search for knowledge, grateful that her family was allowing their daughter to go to school as many Maasi families do not see the value in educating women. Although she did not graduate, she was one of the few children in her family to receive any primary-level schooling. Nemburis has seven children, six of whom she sends to school; two of them are already attending secondary school.


Nemburis' business consists of selling sugar, tea, goats, and strings of beads for other women to do beadwork. While she had her business for six years prior to joining the loan program in January 2012, she feels that WMI has made a huge difference in her ability to provide for her family. Not only does her increased profit allow her to afford her children's school fees, but when her child was sick last month she was able to send him to the hospital. While Maasi husbands and wives often keep their money separate, Nemburis and her husband both contributed to covering their son's medical expenses - a major source of pride and empowerment for Nemburis as a mother. Her son's illness put some financial strain on her recently, but she is saving her money from her profits, with the plan of building a small house for herself in the future.


Nemburis truly takes advantage of every opportunity that WMI has offered her and claims to see a positive impact on her entire community, even those not directly involved in the loan program. Nemburis is already seeing her life improving as a result of her involvement with the loan program: since receiving her first loan she bought, and now personally owns, four sheep and one donkey. Nemburis hopes that her business will continue to grow; it is clear that she is very excited and grateful for the success that she has experienced so far. 



Josephine Emanuel Sillo, Tanzania




Josephine Emanuel Sillo is the Head Administrator for the new loan program in Tloma, Tanzania and was born 62 years ago in Mbulu District. Her warm smile coupled with an apparent instinct for leadership made us confident she would be the perfect leader for the first group of Tloma women. When she was growing up she had a big family of two brothers and five sisters, but her parents made sure she graduated the primary level. When she was 16, Sillo married Emanuel Sillo, a respected forest officer in regions around Arusha and Morogoro. She had her first child when she was 18 years old. Now, she is a proud mother of six and grandmother of 11.


Josephine does intricate beadwork, a staple of traditional Iraqw clothing that women in the Tloma area have been making for hundreds of years. She dries the hide of a sheep and arranges thousands of beads in a beautiful design of symbols and colors. Each symbol and color has important meaning and represents a central  aspect of Iraqw traditions. Usually, these traditional clothes are a women's skirt and top that she sells mainly to tourists. Because of her unique skill, Josephine's business has been active for a long time, over 20 years. She believes the loan program will significantly help her business by providing funds to of restock her bead supply on a regular basis.  It will also allow her to manage her cash flow better and create a business budget.


Now that she has received her first loan, she is looking forward to seeing her business flourish. With her increased profit she first plans to improve her house by adding tables and chairs in the sitting room.  Later she hopes to add on more rooms so that she can rent them out to others. Some of Josephine's greatest pleasures in life are tending to her vegetable garden and spending time with her grandchildren. 




Girls Group with translator Wabule Susan and WMI Fellow Hannah Kahl


In March, WMI began a 10-week "Girls Group" program in Buyobo designed to empower and educate young teenage girls on healthy behaviors and responsible life skills, especially those having to do with pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV/AIDS. In these sessions, girls were encouraged to engage freely in conversations about reproductive health, which were integrated with games and activities designed to correct common misconceptions and help them protect themselves against unplanned pregnancies and infections.


Girls strategizing on how to prevail as positive role models in a game of snake tag
Girls running from "risky behavior" in a lively game of group tag

At the start of the program, girls voiced common misconceptions about sexual health, including that taking oral contraceptives could render a woman infertile. Sadly, we also found that many of these girls face immense pressures to engage in sexual activity. One of the most common scenarios is "sugar daddies," older men that give younger girls gifts (i.e. a new phone, new clothes, money for food) in order to win their favor and solicit them for companionship and oftentimes sex. Other more subtle solicitations may come from street vendors or even minibus drivers who take advantage of girls by offering free food or fare. These gifts can be difficult to resist, especially for girls who come from poor families and who may believe that accepting gifts will improve their quality of life.


To address these issues, WMI maintains a theme in its programming that resisting these types of negative pressures and making sound life decisions requires three important skills: being educated about the risks and pressures that exist, building a support system that can lead to making good decisions, and gaining the confidence to stand up to pressures that one may encounter.


(Left to Right) Phina, Bridget, and Anna Mary with their Certificates of Achievement at Girls Group graduation


A graduation ceremony was held on May 22nd to celebrate the girls' completion of the program. We culminated the program by playing a game of group tag that illustrated the challenges of avoiding negative pressures, followed by a game of snake tag that illustrated the positive effect a single individual or role model can have on the community. We discussed how the girls can act as role models to their peers and family members now that they are equipped with valuable knowledge about reproductive health. The girls expressed their appreciation for the program, citing that these discussions helped them gain the confidence they need to stand up to risky behaviors. Which is why we are also happy to announce that WMI is continuing the program with another group of girls who are starting in June!



Instruction from
Trees for the Future
on how to make a nursery bed
Lines of women waiting for cancer screenings in Buyobo


















Had you been an onlooker outside the WMI offices in early May,, you would have witnessed long lines of eager women stretching many yards, smartly dressed health workers sanitizing equipment at 8:30 am sharp, and an energetic speaker guiding community members around local gardens, planting seeds.


The enriching events this past Saturday were the fruit of two new partnerships between local organizations and WMI: Trees for the Future, an organization that empowers rural communities to protect their environments and preserve traditional livelihoods through tree planting, and RAIN Uganda, whose mission is to provide education and health resources to village women throughout the area.


Mathius Lukwago, the Trees for the Future representative who came to Buyobo, gave an informative presentation on the importance of protecting tree cover and taking care of the local environment. He spoke about the dangers of cutting trees, how to plant trees, and how to make a nursery bed. His interactive presentation to an audience of 100 women was met with much curiosity and enthusiasm by the Buyobo community. He also gave every woman in the audience a handful of seeds to plant at their homes.


RAIN Uganda completing HIV/AIDS testing

Buyobo was also very excited to welcome RAIN Uganda back to our community (they came in early April to provide cervical cancer education) - so excited, in fact, that 300 women showed up to receive the services they were offering. This time RAIN Uganda brought midwives and health technicians to provide cervical cancer screenings and HIV testing at no cost to our community members. Our visitors worked tirelessly from 9 am to 4 pm to screen a total of 130 women. RAIN Uganda also conducted a second round of screenings the weekend of May 11th.



The women received results within minutes for both the cervical cancer screenings and HIV tests. Many women expressed relief - stating that they had come to the event expecting to test positive, and were surprised and reassured to receive negative results. All expressed gratitude for the services offered, asserting that difficulty of access and fear of high costs had prohibited them from visiting health centers for testing in the past.



WMI's college interns in Buyobo recently submitted the following three photos for a photo contest run by GlobalGiving, a charity fundraising website. These photos will be posted on their website and be voted on, alongside photos from other organizations.  GlobalGiving will then generously donate 1,000 dollars to the organization whose photo receives the most votes.




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