Tag Archives: People

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Launching KRMA-U.S. Partners Ltd.

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The learning curve is steep for those of us not technologically inclined, but I am determined. I’m trying to figure out LinkedIn. I’m learning about fundraising, and sending out e-mails that won’t end up in spam folders. Why all this effort? My motivation is 20 women in Kobulubulu, Uganda. I want the world to know about them. I want you to know about them. I want to share their determination to improve their own lives, and those of their children and the community.

Each week the KRMA women bring their 50 cents to the lockbox with three keyed locks, each retained by one of the women, and a fourth woman keeping the box in-between their meetings. At the end of the year, they paid their children’s school fees, and then they start all over. They want to get ahead, and show some profit, but resources are scarce in eastern Uganda and they have been unable to do so.

KRMA weekly meeting with lockbox

KRMA weekly meeting with lockbox

That’s where you and I come in. They have developed a proposal that builds on what they know best: small farming. They have chosen a product that survives their climate and has a known market: cassava, a root vegetable that doesn’t rot in the ground.  They have chosen two supervisors who, once you and I have provided the cost of bicycles, will check up on those who have received help in this agricultural project.

Take a risk on this ground level community- based project. I will be taking the funds with me at the end of July.

Although we are incorporated as a Maryland non-profit, we do not yet have tax deductible status. If we get it before the end of 2013 I’ll let you know if you provide me an e-mail. Please read on and help me help these women. Questions? Post them here and I’ll get back to you.

And thank you!

Gamboling Grace (Lois Helena Grace Stovall)

INFORMATION BELOW Re: Launching KRMA-U.S. Partners’ First Project in Uganda

In their book Half the Sky, authors Kristof and WuDunn note that what progress Bangladesh has made against its abject poverty can be attributed to its commitment to the education of girls and women.  A similar commitment is evident in the first joint project between the 20 women of Kobulubulu, Uganda and a support group I have started here in the D.C. area.

Several years ago, the founders of this women’s village savings group survived the rampage of Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army by discovering if they cooperatively worked and shared resources that they could avoid starvation and care for their children. Now, these women and others who have joined with them are ready to move from lives of subsistence to a cooperative approach to commercial farming which will help improve their standard of living, and those of their entire community.

These women need capital investment to make this goal a reality, and have pledged to dedicate the first profits of our joint project to payment of school fees to ensure that their daughters and sons can remain in school through secondary level and beyond.

We invite you to get in on the ground floor of this exciting partnership. It all began last summer when Lois Stovall and husband David Smock spent time listening and learning about the established patterns of disciplined savings and group acquisition of livestock by the women known cooperatively as KRMA.

This is not a micro-financing effort. There are no loans or payback. Instead, the “payback” will be incremental self-sufficiency and avoidance of dependency on foreign aid. Funds will be an investment matched by time and sweat equity. The women will each expand their previously uncultivated land allotment (uncultivated due to lack of resources) by one acre, for a total of 20 acres. They will raise a cassava crop that has an established market.

Our capital funds will pay for cassava plants, plowing, weeding, transport to market, and transit storage. Capacity building and accountability will be enabled through the purchase of a portable modem and computer for the on-site project manager, and two bicycles for KRMA’s monitoring team.

The project’s goals include re-investment of all profits over and above funds needed for school fees into KRMA. This will decrease the amount needed from the U.S. each year so that within 5 years the cassava project will be self-sufficient. This project design counters the dangers of dependency feared by recipients of foreign aid. It has the added benefit of equipping us as a support group to partner with the women of KRMA to repeat what we have learned to assist another village’s women’s cooperative in eastern Uganda.

I will be returning to Uganda (paying my own way, not out of funds raised) in July 2013 to hand-carry the raised funds and to ensure that accountability and reporting structures are in place to maximize the chances of success for this relation-based enterprise.

This is an all-volunteer organization. No funds will be used for compensation of our members.

We are applying for 501(c) (3) status but the funds we raise are not tax-deductible at this point. If you are interested in knowing more please post on this blog. Checks in any amount will be appreciated and may be made out to KRMA-U.S. Partners Ltd., and mailed to Lois Stovall. Leave a message here or my e-mail at lois@congregationsalive.com and I’ll send you mailing information.

Thank you for considering this opportunity!

 

We make each other strong

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Ginger, my 40 lb boxer-lab mixed 9 year old was afraid to risk falling on the treacherously icy steps this morning. And I was certainly not going to pick her up and take her out to do her morning business. Younger, heavier Desi, my beautiful English lab, bounds out and skids across the driveway coming to a stop when she hits the crunchy grass. I grimace, worried that Desi will twist her leg, as Ginger did a couple of years ago, and require surgery. Hmmmm. I never worried about my dogs hurting themselves when they were younger. Before Ginger got hurt. When I was younger. Before I had my own knee replacement surgery which makes me fearful of walking down those two slippery front steps as well.

Desi and Ginger

Desi and Ginger

Aging, and the experiences that come with it, can cause us to be afraid. I remember my elderly mother projecting her fears onto my brothers and me. Always a strong woman, she had become very aware of her frailties. It led her to become anxious about us, her middle aged children. An exotic trip to Bhutan with my husband? My mother worried the entire time we were gone. A trip to downtown Atlanta to see a friend while staying with my parents? Her cautionary comments exposed her fright.

Fear produces an out-of-proportion need to control – to control our environment, and to stop ourselves from feeling vulnerable. Abject fear is the only explanation I’ve been able to come up with to explain the comments and apparent convictions of certain Republican candidates and state legislators. I believe these men, and the women who share their beliefs, may have grown very afraid that the world is passing them by. They have good reason to be afraid. We will not revert to 1950’s ideologies. Women will continue to make progress. Perhaps not without a bump or two. But women’s surge towards equality of opportunity and responsibility will not be stopped.

Retrograde lawmakers and their supporters are not the only ones whose fears are stirred. Too often lately I find my disbelief at the discussions about how some legislators wish government to impinge on women’s choices concerning our bodies tinged with terror. Could women really sit by and let this continue? Can I sit by and do nothing? I carry quite a lot of wounds from the feminist fights of earlier decades and wonder at my layer of self-protectiveness which causes me to hesitate at the front stoop steps of public discourse.

But then I begin to read again from several of the poets of the 70’s and 80’s and am reminded that I am not alone. This may be a different era, but Marge Piercy’s poem “For strong women” still speaks to me: “Strong is what we make each other. Until we are all strong together, a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.”  The internet world of women, of all generations, can help us make each other strong. We write and connect and reach out and stand together. And our men join us in this effort.

A second message from the poem is that for women to be strongly afraid in the current political atmosphere is an appropriate response. And being strongly afraid compels me to reach out to others, and look for ways to make us strong together.

Shoot. Even my little Ginger knows about this need to reach out and get things done as a team. This morning she gazed up at me expectantly knowing I had the wherewithal to offer her an alternative so that she could get her job done without risking injuring her repaired joint, or mine. So I closed the front door with its icy steps,  walked to the other side of the house, raised the automatic garage door and whistled for Ginger. As it slowly lifted, Ginger scampered under and confidently stepped from covered carport to grass. With no steps to negotiate she squatted down and had her necessary morning pee.

Another poem, actually a prayer, reminds me that age and activism are important companions:

Bless me

with the wisdom of the crone

who values every one

of her days

but who has not forgotten

in the core

of her aging flesh

the way in which

you make

all things new.

from Night Visions, by Jan L. Richardson