Friday, January 24, 2014

What do you see?


What do you see?

What do you see? Do you see an older car? Something that needs repairs and much needed maintenance? Something we’d scoff at at home as too old, too drab or too much past its prime? Something to walk past at any car lot as a might have been rather than a might be?

Or do you see something else? Close your eyes. Consider for a minute if it was your only car – or your first car – or maybe even your future? Now what do you see?

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll see what Maneno Night and Ajiga Richard saw, and what they opened my eyes to. It’s not a car you see, its opportunity. It’s a future. It’s an education for your children, a business to employee your family and a much needed service for your community. And without the help of Koboko Town Council SACCO, who gave you the loan to buy this car, you’d still be walking and, as Richard told us, you’d still be idle.

Koboko sits just about right on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is within a short drive of South Sudan and people from both countries come to Koboko and often on to Arua, Koboko’s larger neighbour to the east, for much needed supplies and staples. And to do this they need transportation. Most people here in Koboko, and in Sudan and the DRC, have no cars. A car is much too expensive a luxury when you spend 90% of your time just taking care of the bare necessisties that we take for granted, so you walk. You walk in 35 degree heat and 85% humidity, sometimes for miles, just to fetch water for your family.

Menano Night and Ajiga Richard saw this and saw opportunity. If they could just buy cars they could start car for hire businesses that would help themselves and help their neighbours at the same time. And to do this they turned to their SACCO for help. And help they did. With the car loans they were given they each purchased one and then a second car, and they now both run busy car for hire businesses in Koboko. They’ve provided jobs for their families, are sending their children to better schools and are improving the lives of their neighbours – all because of the help they received from their credit union.  

Yesterday was another busy day for Audrey and I as we finished up our visit with KTC SACCO. We spent all of yesterday meeting with the staff of the SACCO to discuss any number of issues that drilled right down to day to day operations and specific files and scenarios. Audrey was able to provide some great advice and direction on HR and Finance issues and I hit it off with the three loans officers. It turns out we have far more in common that you would think and they were eager for my advice. It was a long day but the most rewarding yet.

Then today we were taken out into the town to meet Richard and Maneno. Maneno is a full time school nurse but she also owns a small drug store and now operates two cars for hire and is able to employ two full time drivers. And Richard, who did odd jobs before and told us he was far too idle, now has his own two-car, car for hire business that employees he and his brother.  And both say it was only through the support of their SACCO that they were able to achieve the success that they have.
We then drove out into the countryside …….. WAY out into the countryside, to meet Mr Aleh Ben. Mr. Ben is a founding member of the SACCO and a retired government agent and is the elder of his family. He and his family are practicing new ways to approach sustainable farming and he gave us an extensive tour of his home, his farm and introduced us to some of the members of his family. His wife prepared a lovely meal and we've never felt so welcome.  

But all good things must come to an end. We zigged on the way back when we should have zagged but we eventually made our way back to Koboko to pick up our bags and hit the road for Arua where I’m now spending the night. This is just a stopover however, on our way to Murchison Falls National Park in the morning. CCA is giving us a day off and is taking the entire team to a national park and game preserve for a day of R&R! I can’t wait!

More to come
Signing off from Arua in western Uganda
Meeting with Maneno Night at her drug store 

Maneno and the SACCO staff in front of her new car

Richard and his brother


Meeting Mr Ben at his farm
The lovely lunch served by Mr Ben and his wife
We were quite a novelty and children came running to catch a glimpse of the Mzungo 

 More kids came running to see us!
 The drive into Arua - at last, warm running water and electricity!

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