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Report Date: December 12, 2019

Report from BHW Uganda Partnership Facilitators Following Visit

Key people: James and Gorret Mayende  

great coupleOur time with James and Gorret was really good. Gorret’s health has improved significantly. As we reported last year she had a preliminary diagnosis of diabetes. She is managing this through diet and said that she is in much better health now. Among the many other things she does, she also has a small shop in the Namungodi Trading Centre, where James and Gorret have some land. Along with other grocery items she also sells popcorn and maize. 

James reported that 25 churches in their area are now co-operating in an endeavour to combat challenges from witchdoctors, cults and Muslims. This is a new development and is also the first time that we have heard of difficulties with Muslim people.

On a personal basis, James is looking towards retirement from teaching in 2021 and has also planted 2000 coffee trees on land they have in Buhoya. This is to provide income in retirement from teaching.

 

Recent Events

Micro-loan Programmes

We reviewed the micro-loan programmes in Busia and were able to look at a lot of information concerning each programme. James’ and Gorret’s son, Bonnke, had done an awesome job of listing the loan beneficiaries, recording the amounts received from loan recipients by way of repayments, the amounts advanced, and the amounts both saved and withdrawn from savings from the main loan programme. We have a copy of this schedule and details of the present borrowers in both the larger and smaller programmes.

The main loan programme is stable. It has around 140 people who are saving into it and around 45 people with loans at present. Of these, 10-15 have loans greater than UGX1M (US$270), with some as high as 3 or 4M. The others have loan sizes of around 300-500,000 UGX (US$80-$135). Each of these loan recipients have previously saved around a third of the amount that they subsequently borrow although we are aware that there have been exceptions to this. 

The funds repaid are kept in an account in Stanbic Bank but there is always a steady demand for loans. James and Gorret are often under considerable pressure to ‘relax’ the rules for people but resist this as those people often have proven unfaithful. 

There are and have been loan defaulters. We were not able to determine the number of defaulters and it is difficult to determine exactly how much has been written off in this loan programme. From the figures provided it would appear that in the year to July 2019 the loans in and out look like this:
Lent out                     21,915,000 UGX  (US$5,951)
Funds Saved             14,095,200 UGX  (US$3,827)
Loans repaid             10,093,600 UGX  (US$2,741)
Savings withdrawn    12,087,000 UGX  (US$3,282)

We do not have details of the full loan balances but the figures above seem accurate for the year reported on and the detail is good. This does not include the loans where capital is not yet fully repaid as some of the loans are being repaid over more than one year. The programme therefore appears to be reasonably robust.  

HIV/AIDS Micro-loan Programme

This is the smaller programme which we have reported on over the last two years. James and Gorret were very frank about the challenges faced by this group and the fact that, of the 39 people listed in the group, only about 5 or 10 were doing well and taking responsibility to pay. The others seem fatalistic about their condition and the predominant attitude is that ‘they might die tomorrow’. Therefore they are not willing to take a long term view. Only five of the group have taken the trees that have been offered and planted them. This is a real shame given that the tree planting which was started after John Vlaming visited in 2014 have done really well and, in James’ words, “ those trees have become a forest now.”

James even indicated that the District was willing to help them and provide some money to assist them with some income production so that they can stabilise. Apparently many in the group are not willing to consider this either and so don’t receive the money.  Because of this, this programme has penalties and strict repayment schedules.

So there is quite an uphill battle to change the mindsets in this group. Of the 39 who have had loans only three have repaid in full. 

On the positive side, Steven Sande, whom we have met and reported on earlier, is still the leader of this group and helps them. James’ perspective is that they are quite a hard fatalistic group where many of the people have been spoiled in the past by expectations of free things because of their status.  

Vocational Training

We had a really important discussion about vocational training and James and Gorret understand the issues around formal vocational training. For one thing, graduates often receive their qualification and then leave the area in pursuit of better opportunities and no one can blame them for this but the effect is that there is not necessarily an ongoing support for their community. 

They are proposing something like an apprenticeship arrangement where young people are trained by artisans, whether in tailoring, mechanics, building etc, and work for that person for a period of time. Normally people who are in this type of arrangement pay for it in Ugandan culture. The length of training would be around 3-6 months or thereabouts depending on the skills being developed. The idea is that they would then be able to find some paid work to support themselves and then be able to fund any further training for themselves. Gorret said that previously they had trained 10 girls in tailoring on the verandah of their house in Buhoya and that many of the girls were doing well now. 

This idea has merit and James and Jude, their son, are to put together a proposal which will probably involve some carpentry materials and tools and set up equipment for tailoring. They would propose to do this from land that they have in Namungodi Trading Centre (about 3 kms from Busia and just off the main road). 

Education Programme

James reports that there continues to be students at secondary and tertiary study; with 50 in secondary, 30 in tertiary and 10 in university. James discusses individual and personal circumstances with each candidate before selecting who is supported through the programme.  There are no primary students now as this was causing conflict within the church as to who would be chosen for assistance. If a young child is identified with special needs (e.g. deaf) then this child is given additional assistance. James has experienced some challenges with this as some of these children’s families, despite agreeing to encourage and visit their child, do not follow through. One family even left the child to go live in Kenya.

Five students are graduating this year from University however even with these qualifications it is difficult for them to get jobs. There are also many additional costs to study such as increased fees, length of courses and exam costs.   

During discussion about the budget for this programme James stated that he does not want an increase and keeping within this budget helps them to keep the selection process tight.

James considers that skills training such as metal fabrication, hair salon skills, tailoring and carpentry would be a better choice for some. Even here study courses have challenges as at times tutors are reluctant to teach students who are keen to learn more and they limit what they will teach (possibly to protect their own work positions). In addition, many of these vocational skills require equipment (machinery, products and tools) for the students to begin working for income.

He is wondering about the possibility of developing a vocational training school in Busia but is realistic about the challenges and costs associated with this. We explored skills training via artisans who are working and take students for payment as another option. James spoke of young people who drop out of school for various reasons and then are unable to return to education but can pay to work under someone who is self-employed with a skill. This training varies in length of time.    James agreed that while these students may not exit with a certificate, if they have gained skills and knowledge they can get some work and/or develop their own business. These students only require the training, the tools and a place from which to work or store their tools; some can also be itinerate workers. There is also the possibility that those who gain the knowledge and skills and have built their business in this way can also get some income from taking in young people who wish to learn (like an apprenticeship).

We interviewed two recipients of the education programme to help understand the situation and possibilities for skills training (see below).

James also spoke about the management process whereby pastors and students come for the education fees, sign that they have received the money and are then required to return with the receipts for these payments from the educational institution.  If this is not followed the payment is not provided for the next semester.

Church Planting/Oversight

James or Gorret are in Kween once or twice a month and are also involved in setting up and stabilising a church plant in the bush about 25 km from Jinja. This one is quite hard to get to and was set up after a request from some people who had been in the Buhoya Fellowship. James also continues to have oversight of the school in Sironko which was started by Gorret’s late brother. A school manager is now paid to run the school on a day to day basis. They are also actively involved in leadership training and development in Sironko, and are planning leadership training in the 2020 year in Busia, Namayingo, Bugiri, Bulambuli, Kween Amudat and Jinja where there are fellowships already operating and for which James has oversight. 

 

Personal Stories

Ajambo Maureen                             

now able to earnMaureen is a 21 year old who is married with two children aged 2½ and 1 mth. She began training in tailoring with a local tailor in 2018. She was required to pay a fee to this tailor and to hire a sewing machine for this training. Her mother helped her with this by hiring a machine however the owner took it away earlier than the agreed time and she was unable to continue with training.   

James and Gorret saw her gaining skills and also saw her unable to complete the training and so included her under the education programme. In February this year they provided 400,000 UGX (US$110) and her mother is helping her to pay this money back. She currently has only 30,000 UGX (US$8) owing.

Maureen spoke about how this has helped her. She is able to earn something little for the family with the tailoring she does. The new machine is much better than the original one they hired as the old one required a lot of maintenance and this one sews faster.

We asked about her plans and hopes for the future. She reports that she would like to be able to rent a place to work so that people can come to her and she can expand her business. Gorrett explained that Maureen’s mother has a business in second hand clothing.

 

Partnership's Influence within the Community

This is always hard to gauge within the context of a few days meeting. The fact that churches are starting to cooperate in the area, particularly given that James is a significant leader in Busia/Buhoya, is a good sign.

More than seeing ‘visible’ evidence we see a considerable change in our relationship with James and Gorret. They are such tremendous people and are very open with us these days about what is going on, whether it is good or difficult, and including things which are not working well. This is significant as the character of our partners is what drives community transformation.

 

Plans for the Future

Loan Programmes

Going forward James and Gorret are exploring a new initiative for the loan beneficiaries which would change the nature of the programme considerably. There is a new government initiative which provides capital advances of around 50,000,000UGX (US$13,575)  to ‘Circles’ (groups of 30 or more individuals) who wish to form a type of cooperative. The funds are borrowed by the group, which jointly and individually guarantee the repayment. The interest rate is very low. The groups then use the funds as individuals to improve their businesses.

They would look at structuring the loan beneficiaries into three groups. Our understanding is that the loan programme would continue in conjunction with this new initiative but with no further boost from Bright Hope World. The programme has some things which may not be attractive to some members, particularly the guarantee and liability issues associated with it, but it also looks as if it has some safeguards built into it which might mitigate some of these issues, such as the ownership of shares in the programme.

This initiative is still in progress and James and Gorret would like to explore it further. For the next year they would however like the existing boost of $4,000 to continue as the need is there but obviously expect that this will change when or if they are able to reorganise the loan beneficiaries into these circles. (They intend to begin with the formation of one such circle of 30 first.) We endorse this but are aware that it does raise some questions as to how the loan programme will continue into the future, i.e. what will happen to the loan boosts that BHW has provided?

Skills Training

keen to get involvedDespite time limitations because James and Gorret had been to a lot of funerals, we did interview their son Jude in relation to the proposed skills training. Jude is 25 and is married with one child. Presently he is also working in the Namungodi Trading Centre doing computer work for someone else. But he has also done some training in carpentry and joinery a year ago which he found good and would be willing to assist in the establishment of carpentry/joinery training in Namungodi. They would work making furniture such as tables and mirrors. There is not much competition in the trading centre and he is willing to train others as well. The demand for training is there but it would need some inputs to acquire equipment such as basic power tools - a jig saw, power saw, drill, grinder and router and possibly a welding machine and related tools so that they can also work with metal. Possibly a better qualified  trainer would also have to be employed. We discussed security at Namungodi but understand that they have land and the security is OK. This is a business proposal too and would make money. We think this idea has real promise and we have asked Jude and James to give a specific proposal.

We expect that there will also be a proposal for tailoring too, with a budget and what is needed. 

  

Prayer and Praise Points

1) They identify issues with witchcraft, cults and Islam in their areas of operation.
2) The difficulty with mindset change for the HIV/AIDS group and combatting the fatalism of this group. However, we think that if anyone can change the mindsets, then they can.
3) As James moves towards retirement from teaching clarity about their future as a family and the direction of the ministry.
4) Emerging leadership, which will support the vision and not simply receive training and then start competing works.