SPRING 2018






 donate          visit our website

  • Annual Mother's Day Week-End Matching Fundraiser - May 12 and 13 
  • Mushroom Project in Southwest Uganda
  • Petrol Business Thrives As Tanzania Loan Hub Expands
  • Living Goods Teams Up With WMI to Reach Village Women 
  • WMI President, Robyn Nietert, Joins St. Andrews' Social Enterprise Committee
  • Demand for Computer Services in Villages Creates Business Opportunities
  • Tribute to WMI Supporter, Kristin Singer
  • Empowering Samburu Women in Northern Kenya
WMI's annual giving campaign is scheduled for Mother's Day week-end, May 12 and 13.  All donations made during this 2018 annual giving campaign will be matched!  On Mother's Day week-end, your donation dollars will go even further and have more impact in fighting rural poverty. Donations can be made via the WMI website:  Donate
During those two days we hope you will have a chance to take a few minutes to make a donation to WMI so that we can continue the important outreach services WMI provides to East African village women and their families.
Individual donations comprise just over 50% of WMI's annual income.  Your support over the years has been a critical factor in making the WMI loan program a success.  Thank you for your kindness and your commitment to WMI's ongoing mission of changing the face of rural poverty, one loan at a time. 

WMI is partnering with the non-profit Rukundo International to assist women entrepreneurs in Southwest Uganda in launching a mushroom growing enterprise. The inaugural program being introduced in the community is a women's co-op mushroom growing project. Rukundo has secured a piece of land for growing the oyster mushroom, which is by far the easiest and least expensive mushroom to grow. The Mushroom Training Center (MTRC), adjacent to Rukundo's facilities, has been operating in the community for over 10 years. The MTRC will provide training for the women, monitoring for the project, and a secure market for the mushrooms. 

The benefit of mushroom growing is that it can be done with low capital investment, it requires minimal space, and it is environmentally friendly. Locally available agricultural wastes can be used as substrates to grow the mushrooms, ensuring ecological sustainability. The prevalent cool climate in southwestern Uganda is especially conducive to successful mushroom growing.

Profits can be expected after only three months, meaning that the project has the potential to be self-sustaining after only six months. The women participating in the co-op, on average, support their families on less than $2 USD per day. The extra income from the mushrooms will help them to provide basic necessities for their families, as well as pay school fees so their children can go to school. 

The high nutritional and medicinal values of oyster mushrooms can make a significant difference to the health of the local community. Mushroom growing in impoverished areas can contribute to economic growth, while achieving lasting improvement for family and community well-being.
I n 2012, WMI began working with Rachel Blackmore, director of the British non-profit, Weston Turville Wells for Tanzania (WTWT), to add a women's microfinance program to WTWT's clean water and food security programs serving Maasai communities in the National Conservation Area around Ngorongoro Crater.  The partnership has flourished and the loan program there has been very successful.  

On her recent visit to Tanzania, Rachel, and WTWT's Local Director Ponja, were returning by car from a visit to one of the remote villages we serve when, upon hearing a hissing from one of the tires, Ponja mentioned that they did not have a spare - he had lent it to a friend the prior week and had not had a chance to replace it.

Rachel asked if they should call a garage in the nearest town (three hour's drive away) to bring a spare, but Ponja answered, "There is no phone network".  When Rachel asked how far to the nearest signal, Ponja answered, "20 kilometers".  And finally when Rachel asked what they should do, Ponja decided, "We will drive on it".

Fortunately, they hadn't bumped along very far when they saw a Belgian couple that Rachel had chatted with at a scenic overlook earlier in the day.  It's very unusual to see Europeans driving without a local guide so they had spent a few minutes exchanging pleasantries.  The couple remembered Rachel and kindly lent out their spare, then followed them back toward town.  Along the way, the couple explained that earlier in the day they had bought fuel from a Maasai woman, which surprised them, as they expected to pay a man. When they offered the money to her husband he laughed and pointed to his wife as the person to pay. They asked if it meant that women were in control here? Rachel replied, "Only when they have a loan and their own business".

Rachel later learned from the local staff that this woman is called Naihiki and she had a WMI/WTWT loan and has a business selling fuel to rangers and tourists. The local staff also buys from her and explained that she is one of two wives who were struggling to feed their children because their husbands drink too much local alcohol. Since obtaining a loan, training and follow up support and starting her successful fuel business, living conditions have improved for the entire family.

Coincidentally, Rachel later met Naihiki coming to grind her maize at the village grinding machine, along with her da
ughter. Naihiki explained that she buys fuel in the town, brings it up by bus and then carries the cans on her donkey to the road for her customers.

Rachel reported that she attended several loan group meetings on her winter visit. The women were enthusiastic about the success of their businesses and said many more people in the community are requesting loans.  Rachel told us they asked for WMI's support in expanding the loan program and WMI has agreed to provide additional funding in 2018.  Each of the loan groups gives itself a name and the picture left shows some of the women in the loan group called Naidimi, which means "Capable".


Living Goods is a non-profit operating in Uganda and Kenya that is a building sustainable distribution platform for products designed to fight poverty and disease in the developing world, such as simple treatments for malaria and diarrhea, safe delivery kits, fortified foods, clean cook stoves, water filters, and solar lights. Recently, two dozen women in Sironko District joined the ranks of the Living Goods sales force.

Living Goods had heard about the WMI loan program and contacted us to hold a training event and product fair at our 500-seat pavilion in Buyobo. They were extremely impressed that such a spacious pavilion and high quality audi-visual system was available in a rural area outside Mbale. Living Goods announced a training event for new saleswomen to cover rural areas and many WMI ladies heeded the call! Since they live and work in villages they thought being able to add Living Goods products to their business lines would enhance their profitability. After a two day training, they made their initial sales during a community event held at the pavilion.

In addition to the benefits provided by the training and distribution of healthcare products, Living Goods paid a fee to use the pavilion, latrines and kitchen facilities, generating income for the loan program. WMI has always envisioned the physical infrastructure we build as first serving loan program needs but then being available to the community and other non-profits as a community forum and revenue resource. By having buildings serve these multiple purposes, WMI is able to leverage the investment we make in the communities we serve to help support and expand the loan program.



WMI President, Robyn Nietert, met with students at St. Andrews Episcopal School to help select social enterprises that the school will assist with funding and operations input. She is a guest speaker at the school's International Development class where she introduces students to WMI and its outreach mission to village women in East Africa.

The funding provided by the International Development and Social Enterprise class at St. Andrews through its student competition provides a lifeline to aspiring small business entrepreneurs in Haiti and South Africa.  With virtually no access to investment capital available to poor, young adults in these countries, the St. Andrews outreach fund is making it possible for fledgling business men and women to launch or expand micro-enterprises that focus on both revenue generation and community development through job creation.   

Partnering St. Andrews students with their Haitian and South African counterparts to develop a business plan with a social mission and then pitch the concept to a panel of experts vests the students in the outcome of their projects and gives them a chance to work side-by-side with young adults whose lives will be transformed by the opportunity to receive funding to start a business.  WMI is pleased to be a part of the school's innovative approach to introducing high school students to the concept of social entrepreneurship.



It is a common sight to see village women walking down remote dirt roads chatting away on their cell phones. Wireless technology has penetrated almost every corner of rural East Africa. As people become more comfortable with digital communications, the demand for their use grows. That creates opportunities for new businesses.

Young women starting out in the WMI loan program are spreading the idea of stationery stores that provide copying, printing and computer services. Many of them have had computer training through some type of office or government position and they leverage that know-how to start a small business. It is typically younger women that have the technical training but they lack business skills training so the WMI loan program is an excellent way for them to bridge the gap.

One such young woman is Peninah Nakasal who lives in rural Bududa, Uganda. She showed interest in joining WMI, but as she was young, the loan hub Chairwoman, Betty Bigale, said she took time to monitor her and make sure she was a hard working lady before approving her entry into the loan program. Peninah has a stationery shop that provides computer services and copying and is doing well. She has stocked the shop, arranged it well and is friendly with the many customers who stop by to chat during the day. Peninah also works part-time as the Community Development Officer dealing with orphans and needy children, so she is well-known to the local community. Her office skills, computer proficiency and community network are helping her build a solid business base.



Kristin Singer, an ardent long-term supporter of WMI, died last week after a long and courageous battle with cancer. She owned of a small business in Freeland, Michigan that grew from a shoebox operation into an international crafting product supplier, eventually involving her children in her business. Like WMI and the rural women we support in East Africa, Kristin was passionate about helping to empower women to start their own businesses, just as she did. She asked her friends to consider making a donation to WMI in her memory. 

WMI is grateful for her forethought and for the many donations made in her honor. Their tributes show what an inspiration she was to her friends, family and co-workers, and we send our most heartfelt condolences to them.



Empowering Samburu Women in Northern Kenya
Dorothy and Nadoisit

If you haven't had a chance to watch our 30-second video on WMI's initiative to empower Samburu women working with orphan baby elephants at Reteti, in the remote Namanyuk Conservancy in northern Kenya, please take a few seconds to do so.  You'll be glad you did!  The program promotes community conservation, benefiting both endangered wildlife as well as local indigenous populations who share the land and natural resources.

Thank You!

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 every one for making our outreach to the rural women of East Africa a reality.
The WMI Board of Directors  
Robyn Nietert    Betsy Gordon    Deborah Smith     Jane Erickson  
      Terry Ciccotelli     Trix Vandervossen    June Kyakobye  
Contact Information
phone: 301-520-0865                   
Join our mailing list! wmicontact@gmail.com