Its continuing to happen on the verandah of one of the grocery shops in a slum near Kampala – women and men carrying on with their financial savings in Namuwongo, a densely populated housing estate just a few kilometers from the city.
27 in number, of mixed ages belonging to the Kwatakumunno group meaning “help one another” in the local dialect have one purpose of saving to build a better future.
AVSI’s strong belief in economic strengthening initiatives especially for vulnerable people has proven to be a significant instrument to accompany families to self-reliance. This was the driving force for AVSI to establish 30 Village Saving and Loans Associations under the Distance Support Program alone, with more than 900 households involved. The participants are not only families under AVSI’s program but extend to those in the whole community, with a unified goal to educate households on savings skills so that they are encouraged to plan for their future.
One wonders how the activities of Kwatakumunno group have not attracted the attention of law enforcers in the area. The group is aware of the risks of the Coronavirus disease. They have been sensitized and are taking everything about this pandemic seriously.
And they found a workable solution to keep their savings schedules active even when their new way of meeting won’t bring them close to each other, and the impact of government restrictions imposed by the lockdown such as closure of schools, social distancing, suspension of non-food activities and limitations in transport is weighing down on the income activities of many families in the slum.
Anna, Florence, Rose and the other members know that this is not just an economic issue, but a way to continue adhering to their weekly appointments every Monday, to share messages of hope with families who are facing the effects of a lockdown with their already small businesses closed, causing uncertainty for a single meal on any day. It is a revolution for them to meet – their presence in the face of each other is an affirmation that things will improve.
They strictly adhere to the Government directives to keep distance of at least two meters away from one another, hand washing and as an extra measure, they have decided to wear face masks every time they meet in their new way.
“We couldn’t just push our schedules further - they explain - We found a way to keep our appointments using these safe modalities”.
Money is deposited by one member at a time as Florence registers the deposits and Esther counts the total amount, both of them wearing face masks. Another member, Rose stands right outside the gate to ensure everyone washes their hands with soap and adheres to all safety guidelines – even as they try to maintain the human connection they once enjoyed.
Rose Tumwine, the group’s chairperson tells us that the important thing is to keep the group active because dreams make you feel good. "There are those who save UGX 1,000 every week, others UGX 5,000 and some UGX 10,000”.
She explains that only 13 members managed to save “something” because the restrictions due to the pandemic have weighed on the economic situations of families.
Florence Naluyimba, also a member of the group was up by 6:00 am each day to make tea, coffee and porridge for boda-boda riders for breakfast. “The riders no longer come for tea – It was my main source of income and I am now out of business.".
Kwatakumunno is still a young group which started with nine mothers under AVSI’s Distance Support Program in January 2020. The group with a firm and steadfast determination has so far saved UGX 300,000 (around 70 euros), an experience we continue to learn from that when we love and encourage people to be protagonists of their lives, we navigate towards a better future for everyone.