|Women who started businesses with microloans from Musana Community Development Organization in Iganga, Uganda.|
Judith is on the far right.
Judith stood beside me as I smelled a little white flower on small tree. In broken English, with a bit of a British accent, she said, “That’s a coffee bean flower. Have you ever seen one before?”
“No,” I answered. She showed me the little coffee bean next to the flower on the shrub and explained how they pick the beans and then roast them. Then she took my hand and said, “Let me show you some other things.”
I was part of a small group visiting the Musana Community Development Organization in Iganga, Uganda. On this day we were touring Buwongo, a small village where some of the kids who go to school at Musana come from.
In addition to providing education for more than 1700 children, Musana provides small loans for hundreds of women to develop small businesses so they can provide for themselves and their children.
I had lagged behind the group to take some photos and Judith hung back with me. Then she gave me a little tour of her own. First, we walked over to a sweet little mud hut with a few mounds of dirt beside it and plants growing out of the top of the mound. “That’s a sweet potato,” she explained. “Do you grow those?” I told her no, but I love to eat them. Then she asked, “What do you grow where you live?”
How could I possibly explain that I don’t really grow anything? I don’t need to grow my own food for my three boys to eat. And most of the people I know garden as a hobby. I decided to tell her where I live we grow lots of corn and sometimes strawberries. She understood corn but not strawberries.
Then she showed me a chimney-like structure surrounded by red bricks and told me about Solimo, a mother of seven, who started a brick-making business in her own backyard from a Musana loan. She now employs several men and even rebuilt her own home with her own hands (and bricks). As we continued walking she pointed out the trees all around us. We were walking through a banana plantation, also locally owned by a woman who was providing lots of jobs for the people in their village.
After that, we walked over to a hut with a woman sitting outside on the ground surrounded by baskets filled with what looked like peanuts but smaller and purple. They call them groundnuts or g-nuts. One of their favorite local dishes is mashed plantain with these groundnuts on top like peanut butter. The woman smiled and handed me a generous bag of these nuts. I learned later that groundnuts are one of the most important legumes grown and consumed in Uganda.
I realized we had wandered in a totally different direction than my team. I mentioned to Judith that we should rejoin them. She smiled and proudly said, “Don’t worry, I’m the chairwoman of the women here. I know where they are.”
She asked me questions and I asked her questions. She told me she had 10 children and five grandchildren.
I’ll forever treasure the short time Judith and I shared as we walked, talked and laughed together.
Later, I learned from the staff at Musana, that a few years ago Judith would have been too shy to talk with me. Now, her confidence had grown and she is a strong leader for the women. I have to mention we visited this project on International Women’s Day giving me a whole new understanding of the significance of this special day.
These women, by the way, combine their earnings and if a woman in their group hits a hard spot and needs money, they help her. Once a year they “break their box” and divide up their profits. A woman needs about $20 a month to provide for her family in Uganda. To me, this is a beautiful example of a true community of women doing life together and sharing their possessions as we’ve been learning about in recent messages at Flatirons Church based on Acts 2:42-47.
Judith then led me to a piggery where I rejoined my group and we watched piglets play in the mud. We learned about and met the woman who had started with two pigs and now had grown a successful business of raising and selling livestock.
I listened in awe on this tour as I saw the resourcefulness of these women and realized how just a small loan can make a huge difference in their lives, their children’s lives and the impact on the whole community.
Musana is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year!
What started with the hope of rescuing 80 children from dire circumstances in 2008 has shifted into a movement transforming the community of Iganga, Uganda. With the gracious help of so many, Musana is breaking the cycle of dependency in Uganda through sustainable solutions in education, health, and skill development, impacting more than 130,000 people annually.
Fun fact: Musana means “sunshine.” This became the name of the organization because the college girls who attended CU Boulder, and who started Musana in 2008, used to sing "You are My Sunshine” to the 80 orphans they originally rescued.
Jeannie Blackmer is excited about her newest book, Talking to Jesus: A Fresh Perspective on Prayer, and hopes this book will ignite a desire for a deeper, more intimate prayer life for readers and help others see how relevant the Bible is today. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband, Zane, and their three sons. For more information visit www.talkingtojesus.com.