RIVER FUND HIV/AIDS FAMILY SUPPORT WOMEN ASSOCIATION is a Community Based organization established in 2006. Its office is situated at Christ the King parish, Kitgum Town Council, Kitgum district, Uganda. It has a total membership of 30 women who have volunteered to help sensitize and restore hope to the traumatized community (orphans, child headed families, people affected with HIV/Aids) as well as improve the nutrition of malnourished children.
Key focused areas of intervention include; Training People Living With Aids (PLWA) on long term Survival skills, Care of malnourished children through providing food stuff, Counseling of married couples on coping with the Aids pandemic situation in their families, Home visits of PLWA, Educating mothers on providing proper and balanced nutrition using locally available resources and Initiating livelihood and economic strengthening schemes for PLWA that do not demand too much energy.
In 2011, the Association identified the most vulnerable household of women living with HIV/Aids and supported them with goats to boost the economic wellbeing and household nutrition.
This report is of the monitoring visit done and a follow up of the goats distributed. Visits were made to the two groups and this is a success story from Dicwinyi Women group, one of the groups that received the support in Kitgum district. The group has a total of 30 women. The initial number of members who received support from River Fund Women Association Kitgum was 10. The 10 members who are all living positively received training in Life skills and were later given 4 she goats. Now the number of members rose to 30 women who not only have the goats to boast about but also their Village saving and loan Association activity that has enabled them provide for their families and have time to share with one another, their social capital.
Benefits from the goats received.
Having these goats has given us a number of positive impacts. Acen Margaret, the group secretary tells us their story.
The goats have helped us learn how to exercise team work. We have been looking after our goats since we received them in June ourselves without necessarily employing any man to look after them for us. We have made a Roster for looking after the goats in which one person looks after them for a whole one week then another member takes over. This is on a rotational basis and it has helped us learn team work and the sense of responsibility.
We were never trained on rearing goats and as such have been looking after them the local way. We usually give them salty water to enable them become addictive and want to come and drink from the same source. This is to prevent them from running far and getting lost since we do not tie them being a dry season. We have and are still learning how to rear and manage goats.
The goats have helped us to become innovative. Before receiving the goats, we already had this group but were majorly for counseling and sharing ideas on how to overcome the challenges of HIV/Aids. However, when we received the goats, we decided to start saving some money as members to help in some expenses like veterinary services since we had no money as a group and had no idea that we would receive goats in the future. We therefore started a Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA) and this has attracted other women who were not part of us who received the goats to join our group. We are now 30 in total in the saving activity.
With the formation of the VSLA, we are able to loan money to members and this has helped them to cater for our household needs as well as pay our children in school. We have also learned how to manage finances at the household and group level though not in big amounts. Our single saving value per sitting is 1000 shs. And a maximum of 5000 shs and a welfare fund of 200 shs. Per sitting.
The goats have enabled us to carry on with our initial objective of counseling and sharing with one another as we face challenges in our day to day lives as people living with HIV/Aids. Some of our members have been falling sick quite often and sometimes we thought they would give up with life and die but being in this group has given us the hope and courage to nurture what we have and as such encourage other members to live on to enable us see our children grow and finish school.
We have also learned how to manage groups and settle problems that arise between members of our group without the involvement of local leaders. We now feel for the wellbeing of every one and when one is down with sickness, we as members check on her family to ensure that the children are going to school and are eating. We have developed a sense of solidarity and love for one another.
We have also been blessed and one of our goats has produced twins. If we are lucky we shall have three more goats produced in May because three of the goats we received are expecting now and are due to deliver.
We have not been able to share the goats among ourselves. We received four (4) goats but we were ten(10) in the group. As such we have decided to rear them together as a group. One member gave land on which we put up a shed for the goats.
In addition, when we received the goats in June, two delivered twins each and the other two one kidgoat each making a total of six kid goats. However, they all died after delivery leaving us with the four we had been given. We would be having eight (8) delivered goats but we have only two now since the other 6 died.
The recurrent ill health of the goats makes them unable to deliver healthy kid goats. This means we have tospend on veterinary services and vaccines for the goats to be treated. We have been able to de-worm the goats, treat them of diarrhea and a dog bite. One of the goats was bitten by a dog at night and was treated now it is well. Although we have been able to treat the goats, the services are expensive and our little saving sometimes is not enough to meet the costs.
The goats’ shed is more of a makeshift and thus cannot protect the goats from dogs and thieves although wehave not yet had any incidence of thieves breaking in to steal them. We managed to put up a grass thatched shed for the goats to stay in but this is getting destroyed as some poles are now broken and the grass need to be replaced.
Some of the group members have been sick for long periods. Two members were hospitalized for 2 months andthis made us the members worried that they could die since they were and are still very weak. The sickness has impacted negatively on us due to the schedule for looking after the goats and the saving exercise. We had to come in for the sick and tender the goats for them meaning the work load increased and the period for rest reduced as we were left only eight (8) of us to care for the goats.
The VSLA activity that we are also carrying out has to some extent helped solved our domestic financial needs. But this is overweighed by the too many needs to be solved by money. For example, many times when we go for our routine treatment at the ART clinic, we are often given the ARVs but as for other drugs for opportunistic diseases, we haveto pay for at the pharmacy of the hospital since they are not given at the ART clinic. This means if one has no money, then one has to go without and then fall sick. Sometimes because of our condition, we need to eat good nutritional food but we do not have the money. This means, our diet continue to be poor since we cannot afford the expensive foods with high nutritional values.
We request that if possible, the group is supported technically on how to rear and manage goats to help us monitor and report cases of ill health early enough to avoid death as has been the case in the last year.
We also lack the basic skills in VSLA component especially in the record keeping. We therefore requestthat we are rendered training in the principle to help us carry on well.
The goats that we have now are not enough. If any, more goats should be added on what we already have toenable every member to have at least a goat.
We also request for support in vegetable growing. We lack the seeds for the different variety of vegetables. If given, this will support the members’ household both for consumption and commercial purposes.
We request that if possible, some support is given to us to construct a permanent goats’ shed since a memberhas given land on which the temporary shed is erected for protection from dogs, breaking in by thieves and also from the bad weather.
The livelihood project has been of help to some groups while others have not been able to tell their storyas a result of failure to keep their goats as a group or due to the death of some of the goats they received.
The project has had a number of challenges as told by the different groups during monitoring exercise. Somemembers have shared the goats amongst themselves with the hope of easy management of the goats but have failed to have anything to show.
Some groups like Dicwinyi Women group have benefited and if given more technical support, will reap bigfrom the project.
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