What a great week here in Uganda! I've had the opportunity to deepen my existing friendships, create lots of new contacts to develop Bluseeds in Uganda and to meet up with some of our entrepreneurs. I can truly say I love to being here.
Traveling alongside the community workers of Wellspring, I’ve had the chance to meet many of our entrepreneurs and it has been wonderful to see how we really are impacting lives. Many of them I first met when they were just starting their businesses and it's very satisfying - and awe-inspiring - to see how they are blooming.
And they are, managing to cover their basic needs, and those of their families and more. But the tragedies keep coming here, and that can be very hard to see. For example, I visited Amida, a great lady who started a resale business dealing in charcoal and vegetables last year.
I asked her about how her daughter was doing, because one of the community workers told me that she was in the hospital. Her eyes started to swell and she began to cry. Last Friday, she told me, had seen the funeral of her 17-year-old daughter, a young woman that Amida had amassed just enough income to be able to send back to school again.
To make matters worse, her husband was recently a target of a violent attack and is recovering from serious injuries at home. Because of all of this, Amida has not been able to take proper care of her business, and the family income has decreased significantly.
For a moment, when I was with Amida, I felt helpless and something of a failure. Bluseeds, thanks in large part to our investors, people like you, provides “kick-start-investments”, just enough money so that entrepreneurs can start their business. We don’t have funds to support people like Amida who run into unexpected hardships. This is, however, something I'll be discussing with our board and for now at least, with the help of our marvelous local partners, we are doing the best we can.
Meeting Sarah, however, lifted my spirits. After realising that her original business idea, selling local fabrics, needed to be supplemented to truly succeed she hit on a new idea; suit rentals. The service is in great demand, as most people can't afford to invest in a suit of their own, and yet sometimes desperately need one for formal affairs, interviews and other similar occasions.
Sarah herself is now in a position where she can satisfy our 'four pillars' – daily food, basic medical care, education and a safer environment for her family - while also providing a much-needed community service. Her story made me smile, so as you can see, it's quite an emotional rollercoaster when I’m visiting “my” entrepreneurs!
As I mentioned, most of the week was spent networking and brainstorming with our local partners about how we can expand the reach of Bluseeds and better serve the would-be entrepreneurs who so desperately need our help. It's been a productive time, including a great session with leaders from Plan International, Uganda during which we discussed how we can partner together to expand existing local programs like Smartup Factory, a program that has helped 3,500 young people from Uganda learn new skills and take advantage of other opportunities.
It hasn't all been about work though! I've has time for rest and relaxation, including a great game of football with the Wellspring crew. It's probably fair to say they played rings around me, but it was all wonderful fun.
Today I have meetings to discuss the possibilities of expanding Bluseeds into Tanzania and other Eastern African countries, an exciting prospect indeed!
Until next time then friends, but don't forget, you can keep up with me on Instagram, where I'm chronicling my adventures in photo form every day!
Back home in my safe little European bubble, I'm still recovering from the trip, all the work I did there and, sadly, the side effects of my malaria tablets!
It's been three years since we began our work in Uganda. And I can see that, along with other local initiatives in the fields of health care, family planning, hygiene, housing and so on, that Bluseeds, in enabling individuals to start a business in their own community, adds an important additional element in the development of sustainable communities. Read on and reflect - and look forward - with me.