Saturday, 4 February 2012

London... snow!

A 10 hour flight from Entebee to London and not a bad night's sleep on the flight. Then we took the underground... that was an adventure. Lugging our suitcases and bags up and down a staggering amount of stairs, through tight spaces, on and off trains until we eventually arrived at The Royal Foundation of St Katherine, our accommodation.

The first meal was an English style breakfast complete with black pudding at a beautiful pub on Canary Wharf.

That night we went to the Lyceum Theatre in Covent Gardens and saw the Lion King... a spectacular show and an extremely special way to end our African adventure. Corey and Vanessa shown below and Brad my Uganda team mates were there to share the experience.

Saturday was a full day of debriefing and was terrific. Although it was long it really was worthwhile as we considered how we were going to continue this journey and share our experience on our return. Saturday we had a celebration dinner at Gordon Ramsay's The Narrows restaurant on the Thames river. It was a wonderful evening yet bitter sweet...

My flight to Manchester was cancelled due to snow in London and I spent the rest of the night changing my travel plans. I'm still going to Manchester however I'll be travelling first class on Virgin trains... travelling first class on the train will be a first experience for me... looking forward to the journey!

Friday, 3 February 2012

The Final Leg...

Our final SACCO to visit was Buyanja. It was started by 138 women in 2002. They're now coming up to their 10th anniversary and the membership has grown to over 1500. The manager Edson and the staff were terrific, each had a story to tell and all were committed to the success of the SACCO. I was so impressed I opened an account and am now a proud member!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Ahh the weekend!

Saturday and Sunday were relaxation days. We took this opportunity to go to Queen Elizabeth National Park and observe the many wildlife and birds that make Uganda their home. I can't describe how incredible the experience was. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and could feel the heat increasing as we drove through the park. We were greeted with cold cloths and fresh fruit juice. The Meweya Safari Lodge was impressive, and reminded me of the safari lodges I had seen in old movies.

We had dinner on the patio and the food was gourmet. We soaked up the sight of this beautiful country and gazed over the Savannah. We could see elephants in the distance as we ate our meal.

The first night I heard a disturbance outside my patio door. The rooms were single story and each had a patio area of a couple of feet. I had left my curtains open and could see shadows along the hedge. Although my heart was beating a little faster I knew I'd be sorry if I didn't look out to see what it was. I got up to see a herd of elephants not two feet from my patio... it was thrilling. I must have made some noise as one of the large female elephants looked directly toward my room. I was afraid to move in case she felt threatened. As I stood there I watched the young run in and out of the legs of the mature elephants, there must have been at least 7 in all. They were grazing on the small bushes out side my room. I watched for maybe 10 minutes until they were spooked by something and immediately ran through the hedges in single file, leaving a gap of about 2 feet in the middle of the hedge..

It was incredibly surreal... Brad, my partner coach slept through the whole episode and I was afraid he wouldn't believe me in the morning. However the morning revealed the hoof prints and just how close they had come to our rooms. I could never have imagined I would be so lucky as to see elephants this close and this intimately. Again I am reminded how blessed I am to be given this opportunity in life.

Friday - Cooperative spirit alive and well

Friday we visited with Nyakyera SACCO to see what progress had been made since they had coaches last year. It was inspiring to see the changes. Several of the recommendations were adopted and the SACCO is doing better. They took the suggestions of the coaches and developed them further. We met the president of the farmers cooperative in the new building owned by the SACCO but rented to the farmers cooperative to mill the maize into flour.

They shared their story with us and their food. We were given bananas, bread and butter, g nuts, jack fruit, pineapple and tea. It was wonderful!

This time last year the Nyakyera community didn't have electricity. They are now doing remarkable well and are even offering loans for solar panels to reduce energy costs for the community. The cooperative spirit is alive and well in Uganda.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Kebisoni Report

On Thursday we met with the Kebisoni SACCO to provide our report. The board, management and some staff were in attendance. It was a national holiday however the SACCO was open for the morning and quite busy as we began our report. I was a little anxious about how it would be received. This was my first attempt and although I was relying on Brad my partner I was still unsure how it would go over.
We began the meeting with introductions and immediately went to work. It was very formal and well structured. The board and management were very receptive and appreciated our recommendations. They were pleased to hear we thought they had good leadership and practices.
The real fun began after the meeting concluded. They invited us to drink some pop with them and explained when you are invited to share your are being invited to share in love. It was like being welcomed into their family.
Conversations quickly ensued. I met with some of the women directors, most of the board were either teachers or retired teachers. They wanted to hear about my family and called be a big women... this is a compliment. I told them about my husband Simon and the kids and grand kids. I shared I came from a big family and they were very surprised. In Uganda most families are smaller now, not like in previous generations, that's why it was so surprising to meet Reuben, the farmer with 12 kids.
It was a very special day, I feel truly blessed to have shared this experience with warm, caring, individuals. They are in fact a lot like our credit union board and employees. They want to help the members to improve their living, they want to do it in a caring and thoughtful way, bringing value to the relationship. They want to improve the economic condition of their communities and through their credit union and cooperative lift their families and communities out of poverty and into prosperity.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Full days and fleeting nights...

We have finished our second day at Kebisoni SACCO (credit union). It was another full day meeting with management and staff. Then meeting with a local member and his family. It was very special to be invited into his home to see how the credit union has helped him support his family of twelve, supporting all his children on the produce and proceeds of his farm. Through loans from the SACCO he has built his farm to develop multiple projects to increase the output of the farm. He has grown his farm to a fairly large size, enough to support his family and sell some of the produce to the local community. He grows coffee beans and is part of a Coffee Cooperative, he has a small banana plantation, oranges, and various other fruit, plus two cows.

I am exhausted at the end of the day... almost 2 hours trip to the credit union and back again each day. Today was especially long as we worked late on our report for the directors due in the morning. I hope I can get it copied in the hotel before we have to leave.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Road To Mbarara

We met our Uganda Cooperative Association group and had a good introduction into the role and goals of the central cooperative. Met a wonderful fellow Ivan, a tutor who delivers financial management training to credit union managers and directors. We completed our discussions over lunch at a local Indian restaurant... the food was excellent!

We left shortly after lunch for a 5 hour drive to Mbarara. Our driver John is educated and informative. As we drove along he pointed out areas of interest. We passed many soldiers who were deployed by the government as a deterrent against the unrest in Rwanda and surrounding areas.

The roadside is full of vendors or pedestrians on their way to their work or home. the fruit and vegetable vendors of which there are many, display their produce beautifully to attract customers of which there are few.
Uganda, or at least the little I've seen of it appear to be a nation of entrepreneurs. There is nothing you cannot find on the side of the road, mattresses, furniture, fruit, veg, and much more. Each of them supporting the development of their family and the economy.

The food basket of Africa is alive and well !