Oftentimes in the development world, an outsider may be tempted to offer money or goods to people lacking resources; however, it is significantly more valuable to empower communities from the ground up to solve community issues. As the old saying goes, “Give a Person a Fish, and You Feed Them for a Day. Teach a Person To Fish, and You Feed Them for a Lifetime.”
Over the summer, Johnathan, Sean and Flavia, came to Jinja as students from SUNY Geneseo. They were paired with Phoebe Education Fund for Orphans and vulnerable children (PEFO) to create a sustainable, community-development project working directly with a group of elderly women in Budondo. During their community assessment, the team found that many of the jajas (grandmothers) expressed that they wanted to be empowered in their business skills to increase their income. Oftentimes elderly people are faced with the challenge of generating income needed to provide things like food, education, and healthcare. In Uganda in particular, many elderly people face problems finding employment; maintaining their strengthen, physical ability, and health; and caring for their children and grandchildren.
Throughout their time together, the jajas explained to the SUNY students that they had practiced skills in things like crafts and tailoring, but that they lacked the business knowledge and key practices which greatly prohibits their ability to generate income. After learning of these challenges, the SUNY team, along with their colleagues at PEFO, designed a project to teach the elderly these necessary skills while also working to provide them with a platform to promote their products. The goal of the project was to empower the women with the tools and skills needed to run a successful business. With a group of about 30 jajas, the students organized a series of business classes focused on financial bookkeeping, marketing, and production-related skills such as finishing and quality-checking. The jajas were taught necessary business skills that they can also share with other members in their community. The jajas began production of a variety of crafts that were upheld to new standards and monitored through record keeping. Additionally, an online shop was created in conjunction with a new PEFO website to serve as another means of opening the market. The Jajas plan to have a physical market as well as an online market to sell their products.
Through this initiative, the jajas said they feel more confident with their newly acquired business and craft skills. The grandmothers have been keeping better physical records of the costs and profits from their businesses. Since the students have left, the jajas continue to meet weekly producing quality crafts and selling them in town. Since then, they have been preparing a catalog to be placed on the website. Through Flavia, Sean and Jonathan’s efforts, they were able to “teach them to fish” and create lasting, sustainable impact through educating and empowering the group of grandmothers in Budondo.