I realize that the title of this blog site suggests that I would be talking about my business development work here; however, I have not really discussed my projects much at all. To be honest, I don’t even know if my own parents are entirely sure of what my work here involves. Well, I think I’ve mentioned that I’m teaching a business development class to our girls. I’ve created the curriculum that includes important topics for starting and running a business and being financially literate like savings, how to create a business plan, customer service, loans, and how to manage money wisely, among many other topics. Once a week, we meet to discuss and practice these concepts. Two other days of the week, I teach women from the Lukodi community similar topics.

Our young women from ChildVoice range in age from 16 to 26. Most of them have not completed primary school and none of them have attended high school. Their educations were disrupted by the war, and now many of them feel they are too old to ever return. Even though the girls may not be able to get a formal education now, they desire to run small businesses so that their children can have the educational opportunities that they were robbed of.

The girls have made great progress in their lessons so far and after meeting with them to help record their business plans, I am so delighted by their business creativity! If half the young Americans their age had the ideas and ambition that these girls do, we’d have a lot of wealthy teenagers. At home, some people might have capital but lack the bright ideas for a good business. These girls have the bright ideas, but lack the capital. Out of this need came the development of the ChildVoice Loan Program in which the girls would have the opportunity to apply for a microloan (meaning simply, a small loan) to go toward the start-up costs of their small businesses. For as little as $50, one of the girls could have the basic materials needed to start a hair salon in Northern Uganda. I’ve never been one who believes in “hand-outs” for fear of breeding dependency. These are what people in the world of economics would call a “hand-up”—providing an education and other opportunities for someone to improve their situation in life. One difference between a ‘hand up’ and a ‘hand out’ is that the beneficiaries have to work for what they have; it is not simply given to them. In this way, our girls will learn to function in a formal financial system and more importantly, they will become self-sufficient.

The implications for these loans are much further reaching than just an opportunity to have a small business though. They can help provide better healthcare, education, higher gender equality and the revitalization of a whole post-war society. According to a study mentioned on Opportunity International (a Christian microfinance organization), women and girls create more developmental change for each dollar invested in them. As a matter of fact, it says “the gains that women achieve are three times more likely to be invested in their children–providing a powerful generational multiplier that accelerates economic growth.” These young women are among the most vulnerable in Uganda society, but despite their past experiences and present realities, they show resilience and determination to create a better future for their children and their communities.

So, I pray that as the girls prepare to leave the ChildVoice center soon, they leave behind the bad memories of the past and move forward with the knowledge and resources to create that better future for themselves and their children. If you feel like this is something you would like to learn more about or be a part of, here is the link to our project on Global Giving that I just posted (http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/childvoice/). As a lender, you will receive regular updates from the girl whose business you support. Then you can tell your friends you started a business in Uganda! Who knows, maybe they’ll want to help too? 😉

“If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness.” Isaiah 58:10

Betty is baking bread rolls for the bakery training. Many of the girls want to start a bakery when they leave the center.

The girls practicing their hair salon skills.