Beautiful children- the reason we do work!
We've all heard the saying "it takes a village to raise a child". Well, in our case it takes a world to support a refugee. That doesn't quite roll off the tongue in the same way, but you get the point!
Ndejje, our village on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda, is a resource poor community that is home to many refugees as well as poor Ugandans. Our thirteen staff members work hard to educate and care for about 200 adults and 150 children. (as a side not, that is one of the things we are most proud of: we have 13 paid staff members! Three years ago we had five volunteer staff, none of whom were paid. Now, thirteen refugees and local villagers earn a living wage, most of which is spent in Ndejje, where they live.) But, there is always more that can be done and resources are sparse. So, we rely on volunteers, other local NGO partnerships, and international NGOs. We have really learned how to stretch our resources.
We thought our generous supporters would be interested to see how we stretch every schilling and leverage partnerships.
Women are the backbone of our community. Women head many of the households in our community. But, opportunities for employment are scarce especially for refugees who have myriad challenges in their new country: language barriers, interrupted education, past trauma such as war and physical or sexual violence, little or no extended family in the area, and the stress of knowing resettlement could come at any time. A large part of our mission is to help women gain skills and empower them to use them to support themselves and their families. One of the first programs we started was a women's collective. But, the women knew they needed more.
They knew what they needed and we were able to find a partner who could provide it. The Finnish Refugee Council (FRC) has funded a business class at the HOCW compound for several years. At the end of each course, the students are encouraged to create a mock business plan and present it to the FRC staff. One recent group of graduates proposed a mushroom growing business. FRC was so impressed with the idea and the effort put into it that they told the women if they saved half of the money needed to start the business, they'd grant them the other half.
Saving money is a challenge for women who struggle with finances the way our refugee community does. Luckily, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) had helped us set up a Village Savings and Loan (similar to the Grameen Bank model) a few months earlier. It took almost a year, but the women were able to save the hundreds of dollars needed.
The women started their business but it was slow going and we soon realized to really get it going they'd need more resources. Neither HOCW nor the women had the necessary resources. But, two volunteers from Slovenia had an idea how to get those resources. They saw an opportunity to apply for a large (for us!) grant from the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (International Development Cooperation) government and found a Slovenian NGO, KROG, who was willing to partner with HOCW to sponsor the application. The application was a truly a group effort! We were able to make our case using data from a survey done by volunteers, including medical and pharmacy students from our partner Rosalind Franklin University of Medical Sciences in Chicago. And we got it!
It's hard to imagine how empowered and encouraged this group of women feel as they've watched their dream come to fruition. They feel like the whole world is supporting them, encouraging them to succeed! We could not be prouder of these amazing women. We are so grateful to everyone who has been a part of this process, especially our Global Giving supporters. We credit our partnership with Global Giving and all of your generous support with all of our growth over the last several years. Thank you again!
teacher Brenda & Ellen with "Most Helpful" student
volunteer med students at HOCW's HIV testing day
SO many kids at our latest children's program