Today’s second day in Kampala was spent visiting two other groups of people who were initiated into our economic development program this past February. And much like day one, each person we visited shared stories with us about how their businesses are changing their lives.
Even to us, as we hear these success stories, it’s easy to lose sight of all that has gone into these programs. As with poverty, we’re learning there’s so much more to the story, and while it looks easy, I can assure you, it is not. The program participants are, for the most part, individuals who lack even the most remedial level of education. For these people, even the most basic business concepts are foreign and must be taught.
We could easily be tempted to throw money into these projects, but that will not lead to sustainability without first providing this much needed training and education.
The task of teaching concepts like profit, loss and savings fell to our two amazing Ugandan staff members, and they have done a wonderful job of preparing these eager students for the challenges that lay ahead.
We were surprised to learn how consistently every woman in our programs spoke of savings. They’ve been taught much more complicated tasks, like forming a co-op, with officer positions and checks and balances. They’ve received extensive instruction on animal husbandry, mushroom farming, and bookbinding. But the concept of savings, which we assumed to be innately understood, was something they had never been exposed to. Up to now, everything they did had been centered on mere survival. No thought had been put into budgeting revenue to yield a savings, then investing the savings into changing their circumstances.
It’s so important to remove our Western eyes when determining how we are called to help improve lives of others.
It doesn’t necessarily take huge organizations, government intervention, or even very much money. Often times the simplest piece of information is all that someone lacks. On the other hand, we must never underestimate the treasure and talent that lies just beneath the surface of abject poverty. We’ve seen that when one has so little, the little things in life grow in magnitude. Things like community support and peer accountability become the cornerstone of actions and decisions. And when a person works so hard to survive, you can rest assured they will work even harder to thrive, if given the opportunity.