Gifting mothers is always tough. You aim to please. Is there a more pleasing gift to receive than one that speaks of inspiration, of kindness and of understanding? Giving a mother's day gift that lifts a mother out of poverty has to be inspirational; it speaks of your own heart. It beats those temporary gestures of kindness - roses, scented lotions, even that meal because it gives a fellow mother the opportunity to alter the course of her life in a society that still largely marginalizes and relegates women to second place socially, culturally and economically. We are asking you to donate to honor your mother or maybe her memory. But please do so after you read about our work below and the strides we have made.
THE PROBLEM: It was the Chinese leader, Mao Zedong who said, “Women hold up half the sky.” Today over 900 women supported by microloans from MCF are holding up their part of the sky with pride. After reading the book “Half the Sky,” by Nick Kristoff and his wife Sheryl WuDunn one realizes that in this 21st century, millions and millions of women only exist: they don't live. They don’t bother or even dare to look up to the sky, much less raise their arms and feel like they are “holding up” something as important as the sky that we all live under. In the U.S., 'the field' is not level, but legislation and hardwork have ensured that women can 'get on and play' but in Uganda and most of Africa, most women don't have access to 'the field'. How do we change that? Through empowerment! Economic empowerment that gives women a real opportunity and guidance to show that they have what it takes. MCF staff and mentors have looked at impoverished women in our microloan program squarely in the eye and told them that there is hope and that they can do it. And something amazing has happened. Over 900 women have been empowered! They seized the opportunity and like Olive below, have made it out of poverty they are on the 'field and playing'.
Olive, our microfinance beneficiary, was one of those millions of women who only exist. Illiterate, poor and married with five children, the whole feeling of holding up the sky was not in her frame of reference before May 2010. She and her husband had struggled to pay for the increasing cost of living. School fees were rising, and as they continued to have more children their daily expenses were steadily increasing. They worried whether or not they would be able to send all of their children to school or pay for medicine. Her children were attending Kengoma Primary School in Kabale, Uganda—a Mpambara Cox Foundation (MCF) supported school—when she heard about the call for women to come and listen to a proposed microfinance program at her children’s school. That program–Women In Support of Education (WISE)–was designed by MCF to help mothers like Olive keep their children in school. She was among the first women to show up at the school in early May 2010 and immediately knew she wanted to join a group.
THE SOLUTION: At about the same time in Rockville, MD, 20 women were getting together over dinner to learn about micro-finance and to support the first WISE group. After a briefing by MCF president, Anita, and WMI (Women’s Microfinance Initiative) president, Robyn, each of the invited guests donated $150 for each of the 20 Kengoma women. This kick-started the MCF/WMI partnership to empower rural women in Uganda. Now, almost six years later, that $150 has grown into a dream capital fund that is self-sustaining, banking over $50,000 per year. The fund is dedicated to the advancement of Elsie Lushaya Women’s Group (ELWG) – a group of impoverished mothers exclusively drawn from Mpambara Cox Foundation’s supported UPE (Universal Primary Education) schools in Kabale, Uganda.
The first WISE groups back in 2010 Photo: MCF
THE PROCESS: Olive survived the ‘peer-weeding’ process (a ruthless removal of those considered untrustworthy), underwent financial literacy training, passed the tests, attended planning meetings and formally joined a group of 20 WISE women in June 2010. The next month she received her first loan, 300,000 Uganda Shillings or $150 (at 2010 exchange rates). She made the all important “WISE Pledge”. The condition that her children were to remain in school and their attendance would matter—something she admits she never really fully understood at first. The loan would enable her to start her own business, she knew that this was her chance to help ensure her children would all receive an education. Olive then rented a small space in her neighborhood and began selling soda and beer to those living in her village. She began receiving shipments from beverage companies and selling the drinks both retail and wholesale to her loyal customers. For two years Olive continued growing her business with the loans from MCF, dutifully paying them back as scheduled.
Olive in her Nyakijumba shop Photo: JBlatter
On March 6, 2013, she qualified to became a WISER Woman—a program that introduces responsible borrowers to main-stream banking with surety provided by MCF/WMI. Olive underwent additional training and was able to borrow $600 or 1m Uganda shillings directly from the bank, effectively making her a millionaire in Ugandan currency. Now, Olive’s beverage store is filled from floor to ceiling with beverage crates. One expects that she would say she sells a crate every couple of days. “No,” she says with a pride-filled smile, “I sell a crate in a couple of hours.” How amazing!
MCF’s WISE has been so successful and exponentially grown. With your help we now add 40 women per quarter to the Elsie Lushaya Women’s Group (ELWG) that Olive joined back in May 2010. She is hailed as a success story in her village and is now a counselor to many other women that have since joined ELWG. As one of almost 900 women in 10 villages spread-out all over the hilly landscape, Olive remains illiterate but is no longer impoverished or marginalized. Each year she celebrates alongside her peers as they march through Kabale town in what is now a parade that aims to showcase these tough and hardworking women as beacons of success - empowerment!
MCF Women's Empowerment march through Kabale town Photo: MCF
WHERE YOU COME IN: Your donations help us expand the program to more women. While children are the center of our work, we cannot help the next generation escape poverty without the direct involvement and support of the parents. Olive is now committed to helping them get the best that she can offer thanks to counseling sessions from WISE. That is a true measure of success for a woman who just five years ago thought she would have to choose which of her children would remain in school and which ones would drop-out. “We continue to work hard to keep the family, happy, healthy, and educated,” says Olive. Looking at Olive squarely in the eyes, one sees a new found belief in self. Her dignity is secure. Her debts are paid. Her floor is cemented and her sales are soaring! Another important point that cannot be overlooked, her husband is a 'openly' supportive partner helping where he can to run the business.
Will you help us empower more women today? Your donation today, however big or small, will make a difference for other mothers like Olive for whom the opportunity of getting on 'the field' is still only a dream.
Thank you and Happy Mother's Day!
Dear Donors, Supporters and Friends,
The first month of the year has gone by quite quickly, hasn't it? Before we get firmly into February, we wanted to share our 2014 accomplishments with you.
MCF is turning 7 years old in 2015! We have come a long way since that day in May 2008 when we started programming in Kabale, Uganda. Lessons have been learned, successes celebrated and even a retooling of the way we do things. The greatest lessons of 2014 was understanding what it means to persevere and stand firmly with those we are dedicated to helping.
We didn't get this far without your help and so we owe you our gratitude and we pass along the gratitude of those in the Kiga community that benefit from our poverty alleviation work. This year, we bring you our inaugural "Annual Accomplishments in Pictures" report. Look for a more detailed annual report to be completed and e-mailed soon.
Thanks again for your support and we hope you join us in 2015 to continue making a difference through programs that deliver immediate impact thanks to our intimate knowledge of the communities where we work and our unique program design with stake-holder input. As a Diaspora-led organization with new partnerships and a reconstituted working team, we are positioned to bring greater change in 2015. But we need your support.
Wishing you all the best in 2015.
OUR 2014 ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Edison (on the left) is one of two students for whom MCF made primary and secondary school possible. For four years, he and Joram (on the right) have been the pioneer secondary school beneficiaries and they just recently completed their secondary school exams! They are now headed to 'higher' or the last two years of high school. I have known and mentored both of these brilliant boys since they joined our program.
This story is about Edison; it serves to illustrate the depth of MCF’s reach as a community program committed to bringing change at many different levels through unique programs that are solving the poverty problem.
Edison was a primary six student in one of the first MCF partner schools in 2009. Orphaned an at early age, Edison moved to the village of Nyakijumba to live with his aunt and attended a government school set on the side of a road. If you or I approached the school, a first impression would be just how dangerously it is nestled close to a thoroughfare that runs from Mbarara to Kabale town with cars, buses, trailers, and cyclists all zooming past the tiny school.
Edison, as one of the beneficiaries when the program started in 2009 with the commencement of a porridge program, was part of a 192 student body. There was no running water in the school. The cooking program relied on ‘water fetchers’ to provide all the water from a stream about 1.5 miles away to cook the porridge and wash all the utensils. The water fetchers proved unreliable, sometimes not showing up when it rained for instance. On one such day, Edison’s aunt, Esther, who had been hired as a cook asked Edison to go and fetch water before school hours. He rose at about 5 am that morning and went off to fetch the water. By the time the school bell rang, he had fetched enough water for the entire cooking day and was in his uniform ready for school!
His aunt suggested the MCF pay him a stipend to provide the water. The stipend of $10 per month would help him buy books , shoes, pencils and a mathematical set. For the next two years Edison did all the water fetching for the program at his school. Edison worked, fetching water, and never missed a day, rain or shine. If necessary, he made arrangements for someone else to help him or fill in.
In 2010, Edison sat for his PLE exams and passed well thanks to his own hardwork and our help in providing him the support he needed. MCF, impressed with how studious he was, how committed he was to the program, and just how hard he had worked during the school year to pass the exams, offered him the first secondary school scholarship: the Global Fellows Program, which consists of a leadership training program. In this program, MCF works to ‘expand horizons’ and mentor fellows to help them break from their limited tribal borders and learn to appreciate the diverse country that Uganda is.
Jan 2014 Expanding Horizons Trip for scholarship students to visit Kilembe Mines in Kasese (Edison is the tallest one)
With “Expanding Horizons,” Edison has traveled to over 10 Ugandan towns since 2011, learning about 5 different tribes of peoples who differ from his own. He has visited industry centers, mines, Uganda’s parliament, historic sites, the premier University of Uganda, and will this year travel internationally for the first time.
Edison at secondary school
Today, Edison has completed his “O” level exams. Compare “O” level to Grade 10 at the end of middle school. We know his resolve and we expect him to do well. MCF will then embark upon the journey to ensure that he completes his secondary school and enter a university to obtain a college degree. Edison aspires to become an engineer.
This Giving Tuesday will you help Edison and many others like him realize their dreams? It is because of you that children like Edison have made it this far. Help us get them further. We need your support.
Having met the stringent standards of the U.S. Peace Corps as a worthy partner with creditable progams, MCF welcomed, with great delight, our first volunteer - Kasia - onto our team in Kabale. She will be teaching literacy (reading and writing skills in English) to P4 level students at Kengoma for the next year and a half. Our work in Uganda involves improving schools to make them more effective and having a long-term, committed and trained volunteer such as Kasia will make a significant difference in the classroom and in the lives of our beneficiaries (she received three months of compulsory training in local cultural sensitivity on arrival in Uganda).
Kasia is not new to Africa or Uganda. She taught Computer Technology and English for four months in eastern Uganda at the Kaliro Primary Teacher’s College, where she also conducted workshops with the teachers on Positive Behavior Systems and with the students on HIV and malaria. Kasia’s experience, skills, and enthusiasm are a combination that will certainly benefit her students, the Kengoma staff, and MCF. We are very fortunate to have her.
Kasia is not your typical American Peace Corps volunteer, having grown up in Poland and immigrated to the U.S. at age 10 with her parents. Sensitivity to living and working across cultures comes naturally to her, and she possesses a keen desire to immerse herself in and learn from the people she has come to serve. “I love different cultures and being immersed in them,” writes Kasia. “Prior to Uganda, I studied abroad in Costa Rica for six months in 2011, where I studied Spanish intensively. I also backpacked through Costa Rica and Panama for two months before coming to Uganda. I have also visited Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.” A 2012 graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Kasia’s maturity, enthusiasm, and warm personality seem the perfect fit for Kengoma and MCF.
At just 24 years of age, Kasia is not only fluent in Polish, Spanish and English, but also speaks some Luganda and Lusoga—language skills she plans to use to attain fluency in Rukiga! Yet Kasia’s passion for languages and culture are also matched by her love of music, travel, and socializing. “There are many places in the world that I dream of living in,” says Kasia. “I also love all sorts of music and enjoy going to live concerts in my free time. I love being in company with my friends back in the States and I love the outdoors. Camping, hiking, swimming, and discovering natural and beautiful places are my favorite things to do.” Her goals are to be totally engaged in life wherever she goes, which includes living a healthy, happy lifestyle.
It is our hope that Kasia represents the first of a long line of Peace Corps volunteers to come, thus pioneering a mutually advantageous arrangement that will benefit everyone involved—MCF, the Peace Corps, and especially the Kabale community as a whole. It is a win-win situation all around.
Join us as we welcome Kasia and together with you work to make her experience valuable while helping kids learn in a new and exciting environment with a long-term U.S. teacher. Welcome Kasia! And thank you for your interest in our work.
As the children at Rushakyi Primary School end their school year (the school year in Uganda extends from February to November), we would like you to know that your contribution helped the Mpambara-Cox Foundation provide 67,000 cups of porridge in 2012!
It all started with you! Your contribution helped us continue an efficiently run program in which we buy food items - firewood, maize porridge flour, milk, and sugar; provide training to and pay our parent cooks; transport food items; buy cleaning supplies to clean cooking and feeding utensils; procure utensils to replace broken ones; monitor and evaluate program delivery; and in the end, put a smile on the face of a school-child, DAILY! Now isn't that 'food for thought'?
Thanks to you, our GlobalGiving supporters, we managed to feed an entire school for an entire school-year! In the large scheme of things, it means we are positively impacting an under-developed nation by impacting a school-child, a family and a community.
More importantly, we are a beacon of hope in a place where hope is hard to come by. For those living in abject poverty, education is in crisis and the opportunity to go to school continues to be a gift. Consider the facts:
Source: United Nations Millennium Development Goals
In Africa, it is a celebration to end the school year because unlike the American education system where every child automatically goes from one grade to the next, the Ugandan child ends the school year and walks home on the last day knowing he or she might never see the inside of a classroom again. They only hope that they can re-enroll and join school the next year. The end of the school year is therefore a time riddled with ‘ifs’.....if parents decide to send them back for another year, if crops don’t fail and there is some extra income to pay the $10 school fees, if they can buy a uniform, book and pencil, if they can efficiently juggle daily labor activities, if there isn’t a sick family member, if, if, if....
Our goal this holiday season is to remove the provision of a daily cup of porridge from the list of 'ifs’ - if there is porridge next year.
Our program is helping children attend school and to date, Rushakyi Primary School has the steadiest attendance of area schools and the least sick days for the student population. We are making a big difference because every incremental year in primary school makes a huge difference.
Source: United Nations Millennium Development Goals
By working in remote and poor schools, MCF is changing lives and giving impoverished children hope for a better future through education. The goal is to give every child in our partner schools the opportunity to gain the critical life skills of numeracy and literacy. No matter how difficult the conditions are for the children at Rushakyi Primary School (and they are very difficult), MCF strives to create a conducive environment for them to learn in a step-by-step program plan. Alleviating short-term hunger is the first step to helping them achieve regular attendance and increased concentration.
For the 326 school children that have gone through an entire year, MCF together with you would like to remove the provision of porridge next year from their long list of ‘ifs’. Will you support MCF again this holiday season as we continue to put a smile on the face and hope in the heart of a school-child through a cup of porridge?
We cannot do it alone, we need your support!
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