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My vision for women’s refugee microcredit and education project

Microcredit meeting

My vision is to help empower and give voice to the people in my community. My vision is for them have the opportunity to live beyond subsidence farming, to have enough economic security to afford food, medical care, safe housing, safe drinking water, education and more. As one lady said, as they’ve become stronger economically they “now have hope.” I’d like to see this continued.

I work with women Congolese refugees living in a settlement in Uganda. The women range in age from 21 to 68 years old. Using mostly my own money, I have given approximately 100 individual and group microcredit loans. The women meet regularly to advise, encourage and support each other. As they have worked together, repaid their loans and been able to improve their living conditions, they have gained confidence, taken leadership roles, sent their children to school, created farming co-ops, given their own small microcredit loans, and done community work.

Recently, they asked for adult education and currently we are in the planning phase of providing pilot classes for approximately 25 women. These classes are targeted for older adults who have, for the most part, “aged-out” of the opportunity to receive an education. These adults, especially women, are often overlooked by societies that focus mainly on the young. The classes given will include a speaking knowledge of English. This will allow them to better communicate and negotiate with buyers that come into the camp in large trucks to purchase produce such as maize, beans and rice at a low price. These buyers are able to buy produce cheaply because the women do not have the means to take the produce to the nearest town. My hope is that these classes can be given cheaply, which will allow us to reach more people and, if successful, that the classes be expanded within and outside the camp – maybe even to the DRC.

I want to give voice to these women by telling their stories. They are physically isolated, the Internet is not available, and the closest town is three hours away by taxi. Essentially no one but their family and friends know they exist. I have posted some information at but would like to improve my writing skills and expand my audience.

I want to tell the story of Sofia. Sofia is a leader in our microcredit group. She is approximately 45 years old and a widow. She fled the DRC in the 1990s with her surviving children after her husband and two older children were kidnapped and presumed dead. Since then Sofia has struggled with depression. Sofia arrived at the camp not knowing how she would provide for her family; she had never build a home or farmed. She has become a successful businesswoman (as compared to others in the community) and has been able to send her four surviving children to school. It was Sofia who asked that classes be offered to the women.

I’d like to bring information to the community from outside the camp, information that would help them interact with other individuals and organizations – for example, World Pulse. During our 2008 visit to Uganda it became clear to me how cut-off from world news they are. While we visited Obama’s inauguration took place. Everywhere we went people saw us and yelled “Obama.” There was extensive Obama coverage in the newspapers. Later, during a meeting I asked the ladies if they knew who Obama was. They all said no.

I want to be a Voices of Our Correspondent because the training and mentoring would teach me the skills to better report about my community and the various places I’ve traveled – including a 2011 trip to Bunagana, DRC. I’m sure my writing and speaking skills would improve along with my confidence. Having my journalism published and read would accomplish my goal of telling others about these people, but equally important it would increase awareness of our programs so we can form partnerships.

In closing, I will continue to listen to my community, ask them what they need – not tell them what I think they need. Remind them they are strong; encourage them to speak out and to lead.

Ladies formed a farming co-op
Listening during a meeting
While fleeing the DRC baby Ruth's mother was killed. Eighteen year old Angela picked up Ruth, who was only a few months old, and has been caring for her ever since.
Bunagana DRC. Our administrator's father had a dinner for us. This is his extended family. The area has since experienced renewed rebel activity.
Girl living in Bunagana DRC. I've often wondered what has happened to her since recently the area has had renewed rebel activity.
Sofia - project leader and the one who asked for adult education


Aminah's picture

God bless you

You are doing such wonderful work.
Kudos to you for starting this up and loaning your money to help them build a life.

Wish you all the best for continuing on this VOF journey. If anyone deserves to go on, you do.

Often times, when we sit here in the comfort of being connected to the world, news and information at our fingertips - we forget there are so many people out there who are struggling to meet basic needs like water and food.
Good on you for being the voice for the refugees. I feel ashamed of being sorry for myself, my pain - which is nothing really compared to what so many people endure in there quest for survival.

You keep writing and make people like me to really understand humility.


PeopleWeaver's picture

Thank you

Thank you for your kind comments.

I understand what you meeting about feeling sorry for ourselves. I have suffered from depression and when I think of Sofia, loosing her husband and two children, I feel ashamed - she has something to be depressed about. But the bottom line is many of us feel depressed and that is a reality. Feeling ashamed will only make us more depressed. (I know you didn’t say you get depressed.)

Listen to this - it is often difficult for me to visit the camp. The accommodations and food can be uncomfortable for me. Sometimes I get grumpy because it’s hard to get hot water and to shower…then I think of the people living right outside my door. I do have a great appreciation for hot showers, the microwave, etc. now.

Thanks again and have a great day.


CeXochitl's picture

I'm so excited for you!

I am awd by how much you and your colleagues have already accomplished! Your passion, your caring and your vision are inspiring. I look forward to reading more of your work. Good luck!

PeopleWeaver's picture


I appreciate the positive and enthusiastic comments. Makes me smile and gives me confidence to carry on.

BTW – I added this to my website today. Angela’s story is one of the more touching. I didn’t edit what she wrote much. Recently she walked several miles so she could use the phone to ask us what she should do with one of the baby goats, donate back to the microcredit or what. We told her to give the little goat to one of her sisters so they can start breeding. To me the fact that Angela asked shows how hardworking and honest she is.


I feel moved by what you have said here, Jeanne. You clearly have a strong vision and have been prepared to make sacrifices to make your vision a reality. It is clear that you have already made a big impact on peoples' lives.

I am a believer in micro-finance as a way of empowering people. I personally lend money via DEKI, you're probably familiar with this organisation. I am left wondering if they could perhaps help you to reach a greater number of people?

I think you have used your voice well here, telling not only your story but using it to represent others who don't have one in this digital age. I urge you to continue with your wonderful work whether you are chosen as a correspondent or not. Thank you for sharing your story and good luck.

PeopleWeaver's picture



I just looked at the DEKI website. It's a lot like KIVA. Both are much more extensive then our peopleWeaver site. The thing about using these sites is I can't focus on the Kyangwali people.

BTW - the pilot adult education classes in Kyangwali started last month. I haven't heard too much yet because our administrator, Benson Wereje, is a finalist for a Echoing Green Fellowship. We've been busy trying to get him a VISA so he can come to the USA for his final interview. It would be a big deal if he got this Fellowship. There were 3,000 applicants so even getting this far is amazing.

Thanks for your encouragement.


Mila's picture

Thank you!

Hi Jeanne,

It is a pleasure to get read your piece again this week. You an excellent candidate to be a correspondent--passionate, motivating, and a clear and descriptive writer. Thank you so much for all of your work.

Good luck and all the best,

PeopleWeaver's picture

Thank you


Thank you. I'm sitting here smiling, it's always nice to hear encouraging words.

Good luck to you!


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