Summer is a busy and productive time for WMI, both in Buyobo and at its headquarters in Bethesda, MD. For the second summer in a row, high school interns volunteered in Buyobo, Uganda with the WMI loan program. They painted the classrooms in the new primary school buildings that last year's high school interns helped construct. Their wall designs ranged from a detailed map of Africa to the solar system. The interns taught math and English to students in grades P6 and P7 (the equivalent of sixth and seventh grades).
Through the generosity of its donors, WMI collected 500 pairs of eyeglasses in May, which the interns sorted by prescription and distributed to the teachers and borrowers in the loan program. WMI in Buyobo also welcomed George Washington University anthropology professor, John Finch, who helped improve the WMI Internet Café, which serves the village and which was started by last year’s high school interns. He interviewed village elders and is preparing a history of Buyobo and written record of how the WMI loan program has changed the economic opportunities for families in the district. Jackie Vourthius, a 2010 business major from UMD spent several months in the village teaching WMI’s local director how to automate loan program documents. Erin Kelly, a 2010 UMich graduate, is in Buyobo through July interviewing borrowers and making a short documentary film about their businesses. She is assisted by Ida Stuve, a third year student at University of Ediburugh in Scotland. In Bethesda, 8 college inters are analyzing borrower data and preparing an updated fact book on loan program impact, while two high school interns are updating the web site and researching micro finance issues.
On the expansion front, WMI is excited to announce the addition of a new loan hub in Shikokho, Kenya. Two more loan hubs (in Gulu and Kisese, Uganda) are on the horizon. Their addition will bring WMI’s total loan hubs to 10 in the next six months. All of the new hubs will be affiliated with existing community based organizations already operating in rural villages outside of the main towns in these areas. This helps ensure a solid local infrastructure to support new borrowers and ensure that the local women administering the program have sponsors right in the village who can provide input and guidance. The WMI loan program is thriving and expanding because of generous public support and WMI is so grateful to all of its donors. With your help, we are changing the face of poverty, one loan at a time.
Using footage from both Uganda and Kenya, WMI's new video - Building The Road Out of Poverty - shows the WMI loan program in action. Please take a couple minutes to check out the video on YouTube, which can be accessed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kA7bEgnYro
Colleen Rossier, a 2010 graduate from UVA with a degree in environmental science travelled to Uganda in January 2011 for a 3 week internship with the WMI loan programme. She joined Montana Stevenson and Ainsley Morris who have been in Uganda since the end of September working with the ladies on their transition to independent banking and preparing a banking manual. Colleen currently works for the US Department of Agriculture and was especially interested in local farming techniques, animal husbandry, and environmental stewardship. Click here to see a slideshow of her visit including many shots of the WMI loan program in action and village life.
If you haven’t already done so, take a minute to look at the latest blog post from the field on the WMI web site and you will see the smiling faces of some of the first Buyobo Motorbike Ladies posing with their hogs. http://wmionline.wordpress.com/. That’s right! WMI loans have empowered women to start buying motorbikes so that they can solve one of the most intractable problems rural businesswomen face: lack of reliable transportation. Rather than waiting for the government to provide a reliable transportation infrastructure, WMI borrowers are earning enough money to start taking matters into their own hands. The motorbikes are economical and can handle the rugged terrain. Women use them to transport goods, search for suppliers and markets, and provide transport to other borrowers who need it. The Buyobo Motorbike ladies are providing a resource for the entire village.
You will smile when you see how proud these women are of their accomplishment. Like Priscia Mafabi, with one hand on her cell phone, and the other balancing her motorbike, you can see that she is definitely taking care of business!
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