“Train Rural Women to Become Entrepreneurs”. This is the official project title for which I will be working in Uganda as part of Integrated Villages NGO. But what does it actually mean and will the project entail?
Well, it took me a while to figure this out. I remember my first Skype call with Godfrey (i.e. Integrated Villages NGO representative). It was difficult to understand what he was talking, as the internet connection was constantly disrupted. After moving his phone to various corners in search of a connection, we eventually managed to talk about the project. I need be honest, I didn’t fully understand what I would be doing over there, but I was really impressed with Godfrey’s high energy and passion. In the end I was sure that this is going to be an astonishing adventure and something my future grandchildren would love to hear stories of.
After contemplating for a month whether I should proceed with my teenage dream of volunteering in Africa, I came to the conclusion that now is the time to move fast. Very fast and forward.
In traditional impatient Agne style, without any consideration, I finished the call with Godfrey saying that I would love to come to Lwengo rural area; “Please let me know if you are interested.” Godfrey started to laugh and said; “Well Agne, it’s bit different here, we don’t really do thorough selections as you have them in the Western world. If you are willing to help us, just come over whenever you are ready.”
“If you are willing to help us, just come over whenever you are ready.”Godfrey (Integrated Villages NGO)
I don’t know why, but after this experience I liked the guy even more, despite him making me feel a bit stupid and naïve. Like a true corporate soldier, I handled it like a serious job interview without truly understanding the context.
Only later I figured out that they have 0$ funding and the three individuals, including Godfrey, working for the NGO are simply enthusiasts trying to give back to their community as much as possible.
Godfrey has an agricultural background and serves villages as veterinarian while in his spare time establishing the NGO. He has applied for multiple grants from international organisations, but never received anything. They don’t have non-profit experience and are therefore not considered trust-worthy according to the due diligence processes. Hmm…I think working for them will require remembering my marathon mindset Impossible shouts “I am possible” post.
More about the project
I will be working with three groups in the rural Lwengo area, each consisting of about 20 women making hand crafts from locally available resources. Currently they are making colourful beads jewellery from recycled paper which can be proudly called support for circular economy, fancy yeah?
Good news! This project already gained some traction, thanks to previous volunteers. One of them, a Canadian student named Shelby, volunteered there for two weeks. In that time she improved the product design of the bracelets, brought them back to Canada and sold a considerable amount to her friends and network. The profit went back to women in the Lwengo area.
I will be continuing where Shelby left off, all with the goal to create a sustainable business by selling unique hand-crafted jewellery from recycled paper. I truly believe this will require a strong entrepreneurial mindset, spiced up with creativity and out of the box thinking, adapting to local infrastructure. Identifying the target audience, understanding customer needs, adjusting and further improving the product design, crafting a marketing strategy and executing it whilst help build the skills and capabilities of the women in Lwengo. I think I will need to get a taste of all of that and probably even more. In the end, my key objective and KPI is to increase sales revenue, helping the local women to generate a constant income stream to support their families. Do you remember my blog post “women are multipliers..”?
This is the main reason why I am going to Uganda, but knowing myself I am quite sure I will generate more ideas along the my journey on how to get involved in the organisation. For example, developing Integrated Villages organisational strategy and a tactical plan. Follow me along my journey by signing up for my newsletter below and see where I will end up with my contributions locally. It would be an honour if you do!