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"Your skin looks unhealthy – what do you eat?"

Beate Lühder and her husband are supporting a foster child in Uganda since 2015. Last year she used a vacation in Tanzania to visit the 10 year old girl in the neighboring country. 

Text and photos: Beate Lühder, Kindernothilfe partner

Those who travel to Africa under time pressure have already chosen the wrong approach. From the international airport to the capital Kampala, from where the buses to Katojo start, it is 30 km or three hours on foot, by motorcycle and bus cab. And the nine hours by bus from there to the office of the Nyamirama Project become twelve, because the road police justifiably criticize two tires, but the bus only has one spare wheel with it. In any case, I am glad to recognize Project Manager Junior among the patiently waiting people as I step out into the darkness!

The next day we drive to the office in Nyamirama in the very southwest of Uganda, where I get an explanation of the principle of the self-help groups that are supported there: As a first step, the staff members in the many poor villages of the region look for women who would join a self-help group and train them. These women start to save money in order to support each of them with microcredits from the small capital stock. In this way they build up a trade, pay back the loan and - if their trade/sale idea works out - put more into the village piggy bank. The additional profit then benefits the children.

Dancing women of a self-help group (Source: Beate Lühder)
Dancing women of a self-help group
A woman and children in front of a small mud house (Source: Beate Lühder)
The villagers live in small mud houses 

Self-confident, creative and educated: Mothers in women's self-help groups 

We visit the village where our goddaughter lives with her mother and three brothers and sisters in a simple, corrugated tin roofed mud house. All the children here now go to school, i.e. the mothers in the women's self-help group already earn the necessary money for uniforms and pencils themselves. Many of them and their children greeted me with songs, dances and even a play they had written themselves. Self-confidence, creative ideas and a lot of knowledge about nutrition, education and health create a whole new quality of living together in the village. Songs and dances take a big part in this. 

Where did I end up here? At the end of the visit I can answer this question: In the midst of all the self-confident, fun-loving people who like to share their time with me, give me fruit in a basket made by my goddaughter and shower me with love and questions. With my godchild I felt anxiety and maybe even overtaxed at first. It's good that she had many friends around her, and playing with soap bubbles together made the fear vanish very quickly. 

Saving works! 

I learned from another group, a Cluster Level Association (CLA), to what extent the economic status of women improves over time and what savings can achieve. These groups consist of representatives from different self-help groups in a region. One of these CLAs had built up a flourishing catering service for up to 100 guests, including the necessary logistics in the form of cooking utensils and plastic chairs. The CLAs form various committees: One of them determines, for example, which professions are needed in the region. At the same time, suitable young people who have dropped out of school and could learn these professions in five-month courses are tracked down. During my visit, I was able to get to know, for example, the works of future bricklayers, seamstresses and basket weavers. 

Boys from a bricklayer course, standing besides the wall they've built (Source: Beate Luehder)
Boys from a bricklayer course

Thanks to Junior's translation, we get into a good conversation and I am happy that the women dare to ask questions. One of them is: "Your skin looks unhealthy - what do you eat?" The questions show me that no white people have yet found their way here, but also how touchingly concerned the women are about their guests. They also shower me with gifts, this time masses of green food that can be cooked together like spinach. From their point of view, maybe the right therapy for me. 

The Kindernothilfe funds for the self-help groups and the CLAs are used for logistics, the trainers of the groups, for vocational trainers and training materials. Everything else was created by the groups themselves, starting with mini deposits in the common collection pot. 

4 persons are walking on a path over a green hill (Spource: Beate Lühder)
Green hills in the southwest of Uganda

We have supported an entire region 

I can only marvel at this Kindernothilfe program, which has been able to awaken such a valuable treasure hidden in the women for years. And ultimately, whole villages and even the entire region benefit from it. Does it sound arrogant when I feel a bit proud to have supported an entire region with our small financial contribution?