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The Village Savings and Loans Associations: Giving a second chance to the Financially despaired women of Hoima District

When Grace Kyamurya’s husband became chronically ill five years ago, the burden of taking care of her eight children fell solely on her back. The 45-year-old suddenly became a single mother, a burden that soon proved tough to bear.

“Out of eight of my children, six of them were attending school, including my youngest, Brighton Wamani. Being a casual labourer with no fixed source of income meant that money was hard to come by. The little money that I earned only covered a few basic needs. The financial situation was dire, to the point that the children often stayed home because there was no money for school fees.”

To make matters worse, her youngest was born with a skin disease, an unrelenting ailment that developed the older he grew.

Stella Katusiime – a member of the Twimukyangane Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) – is Grace's closest neighbour and friend. One day, in one of their weekly group meetings the members were asked if they knew of any child around them that was in serious need of financial assistance.

“In our group we have got a special fund that is dedicated to helping children to get back to school. It can be for a member of the group or someone outside. When the chairperson asked whether there was anyone that we knew needed our help, I immediately thought of Brighton and the situation that he and his mother were going through.”

It was at that point that Stella told them of her neighbour and child who were living in desperate conditions. She told her fellow members of how the young boy had a recurring skin rash and slept on the floor with a sack. When the savings group heard this, they asked Stella to come along with the boy in their next meeting. After witnessing with their own eyes what Stella had narrated to them the following week, the VSLA decided that it was their time to intervene.

“The first thing they got me was transportation to take my child to the hospital for treatment”, Grace narrates. “He had had this rash since he was two. Something needed to be done. They went ahead to buy my son a mattress so that he could sleep comfortably. The cold hard nights on the floor were no more. He also received scholastic material that included books and pens to help him get back into school”, she says.

Receiving this help from the VSLA became a turning point in Grace’s life. She sat and profoundly pondered about how she had been blessed. It was then that she decided she had to do everything she could to get into the group and start saving.

“I was fortunate enough to get a job in a school kitchen. After securing that, I immediately joined the Kunihira savings group, the VSLA that I have been a part of since 2019. I save 4’000 shillings a week. That money has enabled me to pay for Brighton and his five other siblings’ education. From the savings group I have also been able to pay for his treatment. As we speak, he is a healthier and happier ten-year-old boy who enjoys going to school. This is all thanks to the Kunihira VSLA that was established by the effort of UWESO.”