Today we visited with 7 women and discussed their business plan proposals. (I will update with the names later – I’m out of town and didn’t bring that file! duh!) It looks like we’ll be seeing around 20 ladies, so remembering who is doing what is going to be tricky! I’ve asked Christine to make me photocopies each day so that I can write notes to myself when I get back to Father’s House, otherwise I’ll never remember! I think half of the women we’re seeing are ones we’ve given grants to in the past, so those will be easy, at least.

The market for the paper beads is very flat (at best), at least for the necklaces. It seems to me that other items made with them, especially bracelets, purses and earrings, are doing ok. So our main challenge has been to move the women out of that business and into something that a) has more profit, and b) has a steady market. The beads are a LOT of work – the photo below shows beads drying. It takes about 5 coats of varnish to be ready to craft the jewelry, not to mention the many hours of cutting paper and rolling beads. All for about 1,000 shillings each at the market, if they can even sell them. The US and UK markets are saturated with necklaces as well – many people have been coming here in the past couple of years, and they all seem to bring beads back to sell.

Beads drying on a rack

Our business plans are now favoring the hawking of, or a stand for, fresh produce, especially in two locations: on the main walking thoroughfare through the community; or down in the slums themselves, at or near the lady’s home, where fresh produce normally requires a fairly long walk to obtain. We have several ladies who have already made good businesses from this. While it does require going to the Nakawa market on Mon, Wed, and Fri each week, EARLY in the morning, to get fresh supplies, it is much needed, and it is a product that must be purchased often. A number of the ladies are looking for grants to get started in this one way or the other, or to expand what they’re already doing by bringing in more/varied produce, as well as little dried fishes that are a staple.

Agnes, who we met on our very first visit, has a new produce stand in a great location. She didn’t have much yet – one of her (7) kids had gone to the market for her and hadn’t gotten back. But I know she’ll do great, as she has with everything she’s done so far.

Another area that is popular is cooking food for those passing by. Call it a “walk through”. Some of the ladies make items for the morning and lunch, and some for the dinner and later night folks. (People are walking around until quite late at night, trying to do the errands they can’t do while they’re working long hours in the day, and usually 7 days of the week.) Popular dishes are a maize/bean mixture, fresh fruits cut into individual servings (like jack fruit), or posho with beans.

This is Morette. We gave her a grant to add a second cooking pot of her maize/bean mixture. This will more than double her capacity, and she was almost sold out when we visited with her.

One great thing we have discovered is that 3 of the ladies that we’ve given grants to in the past have been able to buy small plots of land in Namuwongo! Now, don’t think of your one acre lot and big house – these plots are teeny tiny, the size of your living room, or two bedrooms or your deck. But they can build a house (there are no loans here – you build when you have money, and stop when you don’t, but you are debt and rent free when it’s done), and be free from the pretty tyrannical landlords. It’s a very big deal!

The green plot of shorter grass behind Christine and the lady helping us with directions is land that a two-time grant recipient, Rose, has bought.

It was a good day! I’m sunburned and tired, but it is just so great to see how far our old friends have come, and to know what a difference a small grant can make for the new ladies. Of course, we can’t help all 20 this trip… That’s the only discouraging thing. I’d like to give them all grants! But we’ll do what we can, pray about who most needs help now, and visit the ones we weren’t able to help again next time. In the meantime, if you feel inspired by these wonderful women and want to donate for a grant, please let me know! We have all the business proposals, and can pass that on in our next wire transfer!

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