Tag Archives: Kobulubulu

Please Meet A Very Special U.S. Partner

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When I left Uganda last year, I had the glimmer of an idea about wanting to support the women farmers of Kobulubulu. But one thing I knew for sure: I am not a loner. I do my best work when it is not just a solo effort, but a collaborative one.  And this enterprise, most fortunately, from its earliest days, has had the enthusiastic competence and superlative dedication of one Lindsey Holaday.

Some friends of mine think Lindsey is someone I’ve known for years. But no. This is an example of someone responding to an idea that connects deeply with something they care about. And they simply say, “yes.”  We met at a dinner party held by a mutual friend, and I was talking about my ideas. And, my need to have others join with me if the project was to get off the ground. Lindsey said, “I’ll help you.”  And indeed she has. We adopted the local Panera as our “home office” and met weekly to plan and discuss and encourage one another in the birthing of KRMA-U.S. Partners, Ltd. The project’s good fortune is that Lindsey is someone with tremendous talents and great experience.  She is accompanying me to Uganda. And I want to share with you why. Why, when she has never met these women who have so affected me, would she forego a vacation to an exotic location to travel with me to a place with no running water or electricity, to talk about growing cassava? Here is her answer:

Lindsey Holaday

Lindsey Holaday

“For me, the trip to Kobulubulu is an echo from my past as well as a vision of the future. I lived in Tanzania for a few years in the early 1970’s and instantly fell under the spell of Africa, as so many people do. While I traveled a good deal in Tanzania and Kenya, Uganda was ruled by Idi Amin and the country was unsettled enough to dissuade me from visiting there.

When I met Lois I was eager to become involved in the project and excited about going at last to Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa”, to meet the women of KRMA.

I am confident in the business model we have developed. It is based on principles of self-discipline, perseverance and long-term goal-setting, which the women of KRMA have already amply demonstrated.

At a more emotional level, I am inspired by the women we are working with. They have established a sense of community and mutual encouragement that allows them to help each other succeed individually – as family members do for each other – while maintaining a group ethos.

I have a lot to learn from them.”

Thanks to Lindsey for sharing. All I want to add is another quote from Lindsey in a letter I asked her to write about herself to the women of KRMA before I realized that she would be able to come with me:

“My great aunt, my grandmother, my aunts and my mother were all involved in helping women get the vote and gain other rights in this country. So I was brought up to believe it is our responsibility to help each other (other women) improve our lives however we can. I know that we will learn a great deal from one another.

I still remember a little Kiswahili so I will finish like this. This is something my Tanzanaian friend would often say to me and is perhaps a good motto for KRMA-U.S. Partners:

haba na haba, kujaza kababa”

Signing off from gambolinggrace until I next have internet, I’ll leave it to you, the readers of this blog, to find out what that particular phrase used by my colleague Lindsey Holaday means. Thank you all for supporting me and Lindsey in spirit as we board the plane for Uganda!

Kobulubulu Here We Come!

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Over 50 families have contributed so far to the cassava agricultural project we are sponsoring for the women farmers of Kobulubulu, Uganda!  We leave in less than two weeks and I will post whenever internet access permits the progress of our trip.

We’ve raised enough for Stage 1 which includes purchase of 20 acres worth of cassava “stems,” planting and weeding.

Cassava in cultivation in Democratic Republic ...

Cassava in cultivation in Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our first task when we arrive in the capital of Kampala will be the purchase of  two bicycles to take with us to the not-easily accessible village of Kobubulu. These are for the two women selected by KRMA to be project monitors. They will ride around and check on the progress of the agricultural project.

As you may recall from earlier posts, each of the 20 KRMA members will be clearing and planting cassava on one acre of land for the group’s benefit.  Many months from now, the first proceeds of sale will be used to keep the children in school by paying for their fees. Then the remaining proceeds will be reinvested in years 2 and 3 to reduce the amount needed from our supporters here in the U.S. (KRMA-U.S. Partners, Ltd.). Our hope is that in less than 5 years the women’s project will be entirely sustainable and we can move on, with the business expertise we have all acquired, to help another women’s cooperative in Eastern Uganda.

Below is a picture from our last trip when Anne Abago, who has agreed to be our volunteer on-site project manager, welcomed her sister, our host Veronica Eragu, to the family compound. I will not be surprised if we once again receive this lovely welcoming of cool water poured over our hands when we arrive in Kobulubulu.

Traditional welcome ritual of water poured over hands

Traditional welcome ritual of water poured over hands

I look forward to sitting around and having conversations with these two fascinating women who love the roots they have in the farms of Kobulubulu. They graciously interpret our western ways to the women of KRMA and help us understand the traditions and values of Kobulubulu.

Anne Abago and sister Veronica Eragu

Anne Abago and sister Veronica Eragu

The funds we will take with us on this trip will be deposited in the newly opened bank account for the 20 women. Again, as you may recall, up to this point they have kept their savings in a lockbox with three locks, the keys kept by three different women.  Now they are moving to an account requiring 3 signatories who must agree that every withdrawal is in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding we will be signing together.

The terms of the Memorandum of Agreement outlines our respective tasks and expectations. Already, the women have communicated to us a few of the issues of greatest importance to them: Respect, Transparency, Accountability, God Fearing, Social and Economic Development. I will be asking questions and listening hard to learn what it is about each of these issues that is important to them, and passing that along in a post on this site.

The Signing Ceremony is shaping up to be quite an event. I have been told that certain officials in the District are being invited. I believe the women will bring some symbols of their history in the refugee camps and remembrances of how far they have come. Perhaps we will share stories and dream together about where we all hope to be in the future. I will be bringing a few gifts of my own from the U.S. and will post about those, with photos, in the weeks to come.

Before ending today’s post I want to add one more word about our wonderful contributors. Whatever the amount contributed, each one is very special to us here at  KRMA-U.S. Partners, Ltd. I wish you could see the significant difference that even a small  contribution can make in the lives of these women, their children, and this community. And, following the model of those who have gone before us in the world of fundraising, we offer a special perk for those who contribute $250 or more: Your very own Kobulubulu chicken to name and cherish.

Let me introduce you to the first of the Kobulubulu Chickens whose photos have been taken this week (Gradiva is a hen named by our very first contributor, and the cock below is being named for the contributor’s father who raised chickens):

Gravida named by Bonna & Rick Whitten-Stovall

Gradiva named by Bonna & Rick Whitten-Stovall

DSC00403 DSC00432 - Version 2(All the chickens in Kobulubulu are “free range.” The danger is that the chicks may be carried off by wild dogs but we will hope that doesn’t happen to any of the chicks produced by “our” chickens!)

So far we have 12 families who have contributed $250 or more and will receive a photo of their chicken in the coming weeks. We will be posting a photo on this blog of each one, and the name the chicken has received.  Please let me know if you would like to have your very own Kobulubulu chicken to name!

I will be posting updates at this site whenever I have internet access. Since one portion of the funds raised will be used to purchase a laptop and portable modem, perhaps I will be able to post directly from Kobulubulu. That would truly be exciting for me. Until then . . .

Kobulubulu Ribere me Mon Association: Kobulubulu Unity of Women (KRMA)

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Joy in the midst of hardship

Joy in the midst of hardship

So now you know where the KRMA came from. The women in Kobulubulu would always refer to themselves by their entire name: Kobulubulu Ribere me Mon Association. But I had a little trouble rolling that off my tongue, so I asked if I could refer to them as KRMA.  They had a meeting about this and decided they liked it very much and have been calling themselves KRMA ever since I left.

This was my first lesson in the power of questions with this group of wonderful women.  I asked a question out of my own inability to pronounce their language. They took my question seriously, responded to it, and adopted it as their own identity. I have become more circumspect in my questions, recognizing that I had never realized my request would warrant such care-filled consideration.

As I read more about donor organizations and micro-financing efforts in Africa, I am growing even more aware of how very much I need to learn to “do no harm” in my well-intentioned desire to aid these well-deserving women in eastern Uganda.  As one colleague has said in encouraging me, “Your ignorance isn’t a reason to not move forward. They need your assistance and are offering you their trust. But be careful. Start small to give you and them a chance to develop your respective capacities.”

We are starting small. Adding twenty acres of agricultural development may seem to us a large undertaking, but it is a project that allows each of the 20 members of KRMA to develop one additional acre for which she will be accountable to the entire collective. Moreover, it is not my idea. I asked for a project that involved work they already knew how to do, that they believed would be successful, that would have a chance of producing enough profit to pay their children’s school fees and reinvest in the project so that it could become self-sufficient within five years. They worked hard to develop this proposal. Now it is my job to see if people here in the U.S. will help me to help them make it happen.

My job is small in the large scheme of things. We only need to raise $12,000 to get this entire year’s work done. And yet right now,  this undertaking feels huge to me.  I am not a professional fund-raiser. I’ve only raised 10% of what we need to get this project off the ground (although 50% of what I need to take with me at the end of July so they can begin Stage 1).

On the other hand, 7 wonderful people have contributed thus far, and several more have let me know they intend to help.  This first year, when we can’t apply for grant money because we have no track record, and haven’t yet cleared our 501c3 status will be our toughest I figure.  But as I gaze at the photo above, I remember the joy of these women who have been through so much.

How can I remain discouraged in the face of their courage, in the face of their joy?

I can’t.  And so I give thanks to each and every person who has taken a moment to read about the women of Kobulubulu.

Interested in contributing? Contact me on this page or by e-mail.

Thanks!