Sweet Summer 17: Week 1, Day 1
This week we’re in Uganda, visiting our newest graduates of Sweet Sleep’s Economic Development Program. These women have, on average, 5 children — both biological and adopted. With no opportunity for an education in their childhood, they’ve had to resort to low-paying, hard, manual labor work to simply feed their kids one meal a day. Unable to pay school fees, their children will also have no opportunities as adults. And so the cycle continues.
Our first group of ladies used to wash clothes to earn a meager living. This involved collecting and carrying the clothes to the well, hauling buckets of water, and hours bent over the wash bins. They took their children with them to the wells, the smallest ones tied to their backs. To soothe crying babies, the women sing hymns and lullabies together, and to keep the little ones from wandering off, each woman lends a watchful eye. It’s a community effort, as an assembly line of wash bins is arranged, and soapy clothes are passed down the line. A full day’s work would earn a family about $0.80 — if the client could even pay. If the client was unable to pay, the women expressed they feel shame and their children feel abandoned, as the hope of a hard day’s work is dashed.
Our second group of women resorted to digging to earn a meager living. Although the name is innocuous enough, digging is, in fact, the lowest and hardest of all manual labor jobs and as such, is typically the last resort for the weakest members of communities: widows, grandmothers, and HIV+ women. Digging is the clearing large fields of bush with hand tools and pays about $0.90 per day.
Note: Living below the poverty line is defined as living below $1.90 per day. These women are living on less than 50% of the poverty line standard, and they’re doing so through hard manual labor. This inability to earn leads to child abandonment. Poverty begets orphans.
We’re so proud of these hard working ladies, as they have recently completed our business development training program, and are well on their way to being able to feed their children more than one meal a day, pay school fees, and even buy their children beds themselves.
After being trained in how to start a business, turn a profit, and reinvest to grow in scale, our groups were provided with startup capital to create a cooperative business of their choosing. Additionally, funds were provided to start an internal savings and loan program that will enable the individuals in the co-op to start small-scale personal businesses.
Our hymn-singing, clothes-washing group chose chicken rearing, and has purchased 150 chicks to be raised for poultry. Their short-range goal is to increase that lot to 300 chicks in three months. Their long-range goal is to split into branches and recruit additional vulnerable women into the new co-ops, expanding the vision and reach of the business, and improving the lives of others in their communities.
Our lively digging group has invested in the creation of a manufacturing and bottling company that produces and distributes a nutritious sorghum drink called Bushera. They even branded it with the name “Bamirembe Sweet Sleep”, which we are incredibly honored by! They’ve spared no expense in the creation of this product — from using new, unused bottles to hand applying professionally printed labels. They’ve thought of everything from natural preservatives to expiration date stamps, and they believe in the importance of using tamper resistant lids to ensure the highest quality product is sold. Their short-term goals are to market the drink not only to individuals, as they are now, but to also get their product into schools and markets. Long-range goals include purchasing a vehicle for bulk deliveries and expansion of market area.
These programs are working! They are changing the lives of the families employed by them, and they are getting the next generation into school. They are creating a sense of community among their participants, and they are giving hope and dignity to the parents who can now feed, clothe, and provide medical care for their children. Addressing poverty is more than providing a meal or paying school fees for people who cannot do so themselves; it’s about restoring human dignity, and these programs are doing just that.
We’re so encouraged by each group’s desire to expand their co-op by creating branches and recruiting additional vulnerable members of their villages. But as they do so, we need your continued support! It doesn’t take much to give a family the opportunity it needs to be completely self-sustaining. If you’d like to be part of creating a co-op and restoring human dignity, check out the ways you can invest and please give. You can’t imagine the impact your gift will have!
Ways To Give:
$1,500 – Start a cooperative business for 10 families
$500 – Start a savings and loan program
$150 – Help one family join a cooperative business
$100 – Provide Bibles for an entire cooperative business group
Help us start seven more cooperative businesses this year, providing 70 families and 350 children with economic stability and a hope for the future.