Ayoo Sarah and the VSLA Groups

Ayoo Sarah and the VSLA Groups

My name is Achan Aida Agnes a social worker of Meeting Point International following the VSLA groups in Naguru.

In 2017 after sharing the money saved, I managed to Identify one of our clients Ayoo Sarah, who was enjoying a success from the VSLA group’s activities.

Sarah joined Meeting Point International in 2006 after she was tested and found out to be HIV positive together with her husband. She is a mother of 6 children and altogether lives in a family of 8 members.

Life in this family was not good because of low income earning. The family used to eat once a day and sometimes went without meals. Her husband lost his job because of a health problem and it was hard for them. The business Sarah was doing needed a lot of energy but due to her sickness, she couldn’t continue operating the business of brewing local Waragi (a spirit).

Sarah joined the saving group in 2013, though Sarah went through many trainings about the VSLA she was not contented with what was taught. She believed that they were going to steal her money. In the first year, Sarah hadn’t saved well because she knew that they were going to steal her money. In the end of the year when the group was sharing, her money was so little compared to her group members who saved well.

In the second year (2014), Sarah decided to move together with her friends. She stopped doubting and started to buy all the shares hence saving well. At the end of the year, she was among the happy ones because she had saved a lot of money, together with her friends.

It was in the second year when Sarah’s eyes opened and realized that saving groups were so good. She could easily get loans from the group. Through financial literacy and Select planning and management, she managed to identify a business of selling water and soft drinks, setting up a stall for selling food stuffs like onions, tomatoes, bananas and many others.

In 2015 (her third year) after sharing the money saved at the end of that year, she managed to buy a popcorn making machine adding onto her existent businesses. She was now able to get Ugx 20,000/= per week from water, Ugx 20,000/= per week from selling food stuff, eventually making Ugx 40,000/= per week. She was able to run this business in 2016.

In the end of 2017, when they shared the money, she bought a motor cycle which operates in Kampala. She employs someone to operate the motorcycle and she collects Ugx 50,000/= from him per week and at the end of the month, she saves Ugx 200,000/= from the motorcycle business.

Sarah is now happy, she managed to rent a double room with electricity and she can cater for school requirements for her children. They are happy because they can now get their basic needs and they now have 3 meals in a day.

«Forced to kill my people»

In Uganda among the survivors of the horrors of the war. In a slum in Kampala they built a school by breaking stones and creating necklaces

by Alessandra Muglia – photographs by Stefano Schirato – video by Aldo Gianfrate

After a year and a half spent in the bush hostage of the rebels, Adelo was a ghost of herself. “I was 15 when they kidnapped me, but I already had two children, one just a month old. I left them to my mother. They forced me to kill and torture my people. They made me feel worse than them, a damn thing. They raped me, the Hiv came to me. I never thought I would survive all this. And let alone one day see our boys graduate and leave these huts to go to university ». It is almost noon, the sun is hot above the expanse of plates and red soil lying on the hill of Kireka, a suburb of Kampala.

Adelo smiles, then became Ketty, Ketty Adong. “I changed my name once I escaped from the forest,” he says, sitting on a bench in his brick hut in the heart of the Acholi slum. A shanty town without running water, sewers and inhabited mostly by ethnic women Acholi, the same rebels, the most massacred during the civil war that for nearly twenty years has bloodied their lands: the insurgents kidnap them to enlist them and make them they, the government, crammed them into inhumane fields before destroying their villages in search of the militia. Women arrived exhausted from the north, where the fighting raged, they found refuge on this hill overlooking a huge stone quarry. To welcome them Rose Busingye, Ugandan nurse, who dispenses care and attention with her International Meeting Point, an NGO local partner of the AVSI Foundation. Magnetic gaze, here it is venerated like a mother Teresa lay: it is the person who has “liberated” these women from the weight of inhuman experiences, as they themselves sing in a kind of welcome show. Women who have seen hell and now put it on stage, dance on it, let themselves be carried away and dragged to the rhythm of drums and calabashes. An explosion of vitality and enthusiasm that you do not expect. “At first they wanted to let themselves die – says Rose in Italian (she studied in Varese) – they did not want to cure themselves, they sold the antiretrovirals we distributed”.

They could only break stones to survive: 50 kilos of gravel for the equivalent of 70 cents in euros. And a whole day splitting her back is not always enough to take them home. A bestial effort for anyone, a massacre for these women with HIV or with already full-blown illness. But the Acholi slum today is also something else. Ketty, after telling of when she was Adelo, gets up, opens the door and proudly points out a big boy out there. Charles Carron meets us, jeans, T-shirt and deep black eyes. She is her eldest son, she is 18 years old and graduated in a very special high school: she built it herself together with other Rose women.
“Here we felt looked beyond our miseries and we were born again, we wanted the same for our boys,” says Doreen Angoon, 52 and 5 children, also from the North of the city of Gulu, and landed here after being kidnapped by Kony rebels. “In the other schools they insulted our children. Your mother has the HIV” they mocked them, sometimes even the teachers. This is why we said: “we must build our school”. And we succeeded ». In 2010, they began to create necklaces in recycled colored paper – strips rolled up like beads and then waterproofed with enamel – they sold 48 thousand, mainly thanks to the Avsi network abroad. “With our gravel we made the floors, erected walls,” adds Angon.

In 2012 the inauguration: the school is a modern mango-colored building on the other side of the hill, along Kireka road. State-of-the-art laboratories, spacious classrooms with wooden furniture, bathrooms with running water, reproductions of “The Sower at Sunset” and “First Steps” by Van Gogh and phrases like “teaching is the adult way of learning”.
The slum seems light years away. Many arrive after more than an hour’s walk and stay there until the evening to take advantage of the light that is scarce at home. Within 450 students, girls and boys together, 45 per class, half compared to 90 of the national average. Seven years after birth, it’s time for budgets. «Since 2014, they have reached maturity in 156, of these 78 are attending university – explains Matteo Severgnini, educational adviser -. The others could not access it because they were not able to pay taxes. ” Even if they work in the quarry every weekend, as many students do barefoot, from elementary to high school, to be able to pay the contribution for the school material. The tuition fees are covered for 352 slum students from Avsi with distance support. Another 100 students instead, of (relatively) affluent families, provide for themselves. The institute is also frequented by young people living outside the slums, now recognized as a school of excellence. «This year we entered the top 100 of the best schools in Uganda – 76ths out of 1592 – based on the results obtained for the final exam. A great result: nobody expected it from an institution that welcomes children from the poorest areas of the city and where it is forbidden to beat to teach ». An innovative method compared to the others where the “spare the rod and spoil the child” is valid (if you do not use the wand vices the child). “So much appreciated by the students that 80% of the 78 slum university students study pedagogy because they want to teach,” says Severgnini. The revolution of education (and of a society) starts from here.

 

by Alessandra Muglia – photographs by Stefano Schirato – video by Aldo Gianfrate

Published from Corriere Della Sera

 

How Selling of Traces is a journey to self-discovery

Selling of Traces, a journey to self-discovery

 Struck by how Aisha, Hanifa and Sara (three Muslim ladies of Meeting Point International) would gratuitously avail time to monthly sell Traces, we decided to go deeper to discover the reasons why they are so moved. Here is an abstract of what transpired in the dialogue with them.

By Andrea Nembrini and Rose Busingye

Left to Right: Aisha, Hanifa and Sara

– Why do you sell Traces? Why do you like it?

Sara

I’m a true Muslim, an original one. I joined Meeting Point International in 2011. I didn’t know what Traces was, but I started buying it, reading it and loving it. There are a lot of beautiful things in this magazine, which you can learn from. In particular, there are other people experiences, and when you read an experience that is different from yours, you discover more about yourself, about what you really desire for your life. As a consequence, I’m now studying catechism, I’m going for community school, because I want to learn more about it.

Hanifa

Even if I’m a Muslim, I joined Meeting Point International. This is because there were other people around me, but in my life nobody has welcomed me like at MPI. I was so surprised by the way they welcomed me and treated me. I used to have a lot of sorrows, my heart was heavy; but from the day I reached this place my life has changed. I’m now happy, and my family too.

So, about Traces: actually I don’t know English very well, and I even can’t read this magazine, but because of the friendship I got here, I sell it, and I love doing it. This friendship pushed me to sell Traces, but also to love this religion. Sometimes I think I believe in this religion even if I’m walking on the Islam path. I remain Muslim, but I love Catholicism.

Aisha

I joined MPI because I wanted to be happy like these women. One day there was a woman next to me with an issue of Traces, and looking to the pages of the magazine I could read a word: happiness.

But that woman was going away, and I didn’t know how to find that magazine again, so I asked her to take a look. And I saw a lot of pictures, and in all these pictures people were happy. So I asked her the cost, and I bought my first Traces for 3.000 ugx (approximately 1 usd). Reading it, I was surprised because everything in that magazines was about happiness, the possibility to be happy even if you are in trouble. So when you read about these experiences of happy people, you also become happy. Not even one story in this magazine could make you not happy.

Even now it’s like this: every time I buy it – and I always buy it – it makes me happy. Traces made me also understand that religions are different, but often what separates us is just the way we dress; instead we are together, because God is one. This is what I’ve learned from Traces.

– Could you explain your love for this Catholic experience, for Traces despite the fact you are woman of Muslim faith? How can these two go together?

Sara

Rose told me about my value, which I didn’t know about before. So I understood that this Catholic religion does not segregate, it welcomes all religions. That is because of what Rose thought me: you have to discover yourself. It means that nobody should tell you: “Come here and be a Catholic!” You are the one to learn it by yourself, but after you have discovered yourself. When you know who you are, you decide what to be. And for me, after discovering myself, I decided to stay with these Catholics.

Hanifa

When I was suffering so much, no one was touched by my situation, nobody helped me. But here I discovered I was helped… Someone has loved me, someone gave me her friendship. I even don’t know how to explain it: one day I was crying all day long, and my children as well, they were going to a very bad school, they even didn’t receive their reports… Now I’m happy, my home has changed completely, my children go to school, they study in peace, they are happy.

So how could I not love this place, which brought to me all this happiness? How could I not love this magazine, which tells stories about this place?

Aisha

Usually I buy all the remaining copies (because I don’t want to waste them) to give them to my friends and family members. At first my father, who is a Muslim, asked me where I got it from; but now he likes it, I told him to ask me if there is anything he doesn’t understand. Often Traces is so beautiful that I buy more than one copy, because I know that the one who will receive it, surely will also be happy.

– When you are selling Traces, what do you tell the people you meet?

 

Aisha

First I read it very well, and I pay attention to those beautiful things which make me happy, which help me. And because I want other people to be happy like me. And people understand if you are selling something important for you. What I read in Traces is what I tell to the people I meet, I even show them the page where the point I like is. And people ask us a lot of questions.

Hanifa

I can’t read Traces because I don’t know English, but my children read it for me at home. They show me on which page the article I like is, and so when I’m selling I can tell people: “Look, it’s right here!”.

Sara

Before you sell it, you first go through, so you know the meaning of what you are saying when you are out of the church shouting “Traces, Traces!” And you have to explain, otherwise it’s just a name for the people, they don’t understand. But if you tell them your own experience, they will tell you: “Ok, I trust you, I’ll buy it”.

– What was your most beautiful experience while selling Traces?

 Aisha

The most beautiful thing for me is that when we are selling it; a lot of people come to us because we are Muslim, asking why we sell a Catholic magazine. And we can answer them: “Because we love it; because we are getting beautiful things from it, and we want also you to get them”.

Sara

One day I was selling Traces, and an old educated Catholic man came to me, asking me a lot of questions to embarrass me. He said: “You people, what are you doing? Is this thing from Uganda? Where is it from? Is the Pope aware about it?”. But I could answer very well to all his questions, I told him about Communion and Liberation, about Italy, and I told him that even the priest, during the mass, had given the announcement about this selling. At the end he said: “You Muslim woman, you have challenged me”, and he started looking for money in his pocket to buy one.

When I’m selling it, I’m feeling as if I’m selling gold, a very expensive thing!

Hanifa

Sometimes other people who are selling other magazines in the same place told us that our magazine is very expensive because is a muzungu thing [a thing for white people]. But they also ask: “How can you stay with this white people, hugging them like friend? I wish I would also be embraced in this way.”

So, we can answer to them: “Yes, the magazine is expensive because it comes from far, but we are also “expensive” and valuable, because of the friendship we are living.”

I couldn’t have reached this far without you

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I joined Meeting Point International (MPI) through Aunt Rose; she was a very good friend to my late mum. My mum passed on in 2001 when I was only 7 years old, and my dad passed on a bit earlier, by that time I was already sponsored. I started to live with my Aunt but five years later she passed on too, I was only left with my two sisters and two cousins, we have been living together since then with the support of our uncle. My two sisters were also sponsored by MPI which also gave us food like rice, cooking oil, beans, sugar and salt, maize flour among others.

It has been 17 years of sponsorship right from Primary to university, I went to Naguru Katali primary school, St Maria Goretti SSS Katende and then Makerere University where I was able to complete my studies in Bachelor of Journalism and Communication which took me four years with the help of MPI that provided me with school fees along with scholastic materials, how couldn’t I be more grateful for such an opportunity?

I faced challenges throughout my education journey; it was never a smooth road because when I finished secondary school, MPI informed me they could not pay my full tuition and at that time my uncle didn’t have enough money to top up the rest of the tuition, my elder sister had just got a job and she could not contribute that much. At that moment, I could not see reality just as it was, It was impossible but with simplicity; I regained the awareness of what reality was asking me, my sister contributed the little she could and I solicited some money from close friends, I had to struggle with transport from home to the university on a daily basis. There were times when I could stay home because I didn’t have money for the taxi fare but, I am extremely glad because I had the opportunity to study till this far. I was able to complete my degree in Journalism and Communication, come January I will be graduating all thanks to MPI. With what I have studied; I can be a public relations manager in any organization, write news, stories for a newspaper, do photography, shoot and edit videos.

Many thanks to my sponsor, Gini Lorella, to whom I owe a lot more than what I can say. Thank you for supporting me since way back, I couldn’t have reached this far without you. Thank you very much! May God bless you abundantly for your love and generosity. I am so glad that I was introduced to Meeting Point International years ago, it has been a blessing to me and my family, I wouldn’t have made it.

Thank you so much, Meeting Point International. May God bless and keep you all.

ADEKE IRENE

By Lumanyika Jude Bright

My Story by Adoch

Adoch Mary Clare in the Meeting Point International Office
Adoch Mary Clare at Meeting Point International Office

My name is Adoch Mary Clare Ochira. I am 22 years old and completing the university level soon. I was only 16 years old when I joined the Meeting Point International sponsorship, and by then I was in senior four which is a candidate class and waiting to go to the next level of education which is the advanced level of education in the high school. It was during that period when my father lost his job, and my hopes of sitting my final examinations suddenly dropped. My mother was unemployed she could not support me at school and my whole family depended on my father’s job. It was a hard time period for me and in my family since it was an extended family whereby I lived with my siblings, cousins and other family members.

We are twelve, six females and six males, I remember being in class at school when a teacher walked towards me telling me that my mum was outside and she wanted to greet me. It was then she told me about being enrolled in the program. I began once again to hope in my education, I was overjoyed about the news and I managed to sit for my examinations. I performed very well, I got the first grade. With my good grades, I was able to join the advanced level where I studied history, economics, geography, subsidiary mathematics and general paper. With no time, I reached the candidate class which is the final class in high school. With God’s grace, I was able to excel again, I was among the top five students in my class, and I obtained three principle passes which enabled me to join the university.  I, therefore, applied at one of the top five universities in Africa and the best in East Africa which is Makerere University Kampala and I was given a vacancy. I, therefore, started pursuing a bachelor’s degree in arts in social sciences. I majored in public administration and minored in criminology.

The university was quite challenging because it was a new environment and it required a lot of hard work due to high competition and also need to perform well. It also needed a lot of self-drive in order to excel. I really worked hard and I can say my performance was good throughout up to the final year. I currently fall into the category of second class upper and I hope I have maintained it. I am now working as a social worker at meeting point international, I chose to be a social worker because I wanted to interact more with people because I believe that with this I can be able to learn a lot from people which increases my knowledge about society. It is four months now since Meeting Point International offered me an occupation as a social worker, I have learned a lot starting from the way I stay in front of the reality of the children that I am following, to the awareness of myself. I feel very grateful to ISP through Meeting Point International for giving me this opportunity to study because not all people can manage to reach this level of education because it is expensive and also not easy. I pray that the almighty God bless you for your great deeds. And that you may continue to support many other people.

I love fashion and design and I hope to venture into this sector in the future. My greatest inspiration and role model is mother Theresa because she had such a great heart and she was selfless. I also hope to emulate her good character so as I can touch lives out there.

By Adoch Mary Clare Ochira