Additional WMI Programs
Although WMI primarily provides microfinance services for impoverished women, many additional programs had evolved around WMI's activities over the years. These additional programs help support the women in the loan program, their children and families, and the communities where the loan programs operate.
Agroforestry Training - Trees for the Future, a partner of WMI's loan hub in Buyobo, conducted an agroforestry training which focused on the importance of protecting tree cover and taking care of the local environment. A demonstration was provided on how to make a nursery bed, and free seedlings were distributed to 100 women to plant in their home gardens.back to top
Building Construction - In 2009, WMI completed construction of a headquarters building in Buyobo, Uganda. It provides a venue for loan collection, training sessions, support group meetings and community events. The building gave WMI the capacity to add new services, store records in a secure location and expand services. The building also houses offices for a community non-profit that shared the construction expenses. The construction was made possible in large measure by a grant from the Towards Sustainability Foundation. In 2011, a grant from the U.S. Ambassador's Fund allowed for the installation of solar power in the building. This added enormous capacity, as utility power is extremely unreliable. Now community groups and WMI can use the building after dark, enjoy regular access to computers and charge mobile phones, making communication easier and more reliable.back to top
Cervical Cancer and HIV Screenings - RAIN Uganda (Responding to HIV/AIDS and Intervening for the Needy) has partnered with WMI's loan hub in Buyobo to conduct training on cervical cancer, and to provide two weekends filled with cervical cancer screening and HIV testing administered at no cost to Buyobo community members.
Cervical cancer is an ailment that frequently passes undetected among rural women as little is known about the cancer and its warning signs, and it can be difficult for women to reach health centers for treatment and prevention. Similar barriers inhibit rural women from accessing HIV testing centers, a problem that is compounded by the fact that a significant portion (10%) of the Ugandan population is estimated to be infected with HIV. Through the efforts of RAIN Uganda, 100 women have received training on cervical cancer, and 300 women have received free screening services.back to top
Internet Café - In August 2010, 14 interns from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD, brought laptops donated by Discovery Communications to Buyobo, Uganda. The interns installed an Internet café in the WMI building and spent the week teaching village women and children basic computer skills. George Washington University anthropology professor John Finch traveled to Buyobo in the summer of 2011 to update the computers' Internet connections.
Using a computer is a vital skill in today's technology-based society. With the help of this local Internet café, borrowers have learned this skill. Their ability to communicate, research information and type documents will help them improve their businesses.back to top
New School Classrooms - In 2010, interns from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD, raised over $4,000 in funds and helped lay the foundation for three new classrooms for Buyobo Primary School in Sironko District, Uganda. Some of the classrooms in the existing school had been dilapidated beyond repair. During the year, the ladies in the loan program, WMI supporters, village residents and local officials raised funds to complete the construction. The roof was put in place in May 2011, just weeks before WMI's next crew of summer interns arrived to paint and decorate the classrooms. Assisted by jubilant local students, the 2011 interns painted the classrooms with various designs including the water cycle, a map of Africa and local village scenes. The entire community dedicated the classrooms with much fanfare amid loud appreciation.back to top
Children's Library in Buyobo - The planned children's library in the building in Buyobo became a reality in October 2009 when 1,500 books arrived in Buyobo. From analyzing the data for the Fact Book, launching the pre-school pilot program and making field visits, WMI found that the local village primary school was grossly under-resourced. It has no books, pencils or paper for the students.
To help solve the problem, students in the Bethesda, MD, area conducted a book drive for WMI and received nearly 100 atlases from Pyle Middle School students. Christina Esposito and her Girl Scout troop led a band of volunteers, including many Carderock Springs, MD residents, in an effort to cover the paperbacks with plastic protectors, create a computer inventory and insert library check-out pockets in the back. Later, the villagers chose to convert one of the three new primary school classrooms into a children's library. In June 2011, WMI summer interns helped to paint the new library room walls, build and varnish the bookshelves, and relocate the books.back to top
Text Books for Buyobo Primary School - Through the efforts of Margot Van der Vossen and Brian Miller, Williamson Elementary School in Williamson, NY donated its "slightly used" reading and math textbooks to the village children in Buyobo. Brian, a high school science teacher, interned with WMI in Buyobo in the winter 2009/2010 and was determined to do something about the lack of textbooks in the school classrooms, where students are taught by rote memorization. Brian's mother, Lori Miller, went into action and secured the textbook donation from her school in New York. The donation included full sets of reading and math books for 60 students, grades 1 - 6. This generosity provided an enormous resource to the teachers and children of Buyobo. The Williamson educators told WMI that "it is very exciting to know the books will once again be in the hands of children."back to top
Children's Books for Siaya, Kenya - In March 2011, 58 boxes of children's books donated by WMI supporters in Bethesda, MD, arrived in Kenya. The books were picked up and transported to the WMI loan hub in Siaya, Kenya by Rev. Fr. Richard Odhiambo Oloo of ASEMBO IFABS Project, which operates two children's centers in the Siaya area. Free shipping on British Airways was provided courtesy of Jim Cannon, president of Toto Communications, and husband of Whitman teacher Laurie Safran. Jim traveled to Buyobo, Uganda, in 2010 as a part of the Walt Whitman high School internship trip. This book shipment to Kenya brought the total number of children's books donated to WMI village hubs to nearly 5,000! WMI volunteers Kathy Staudaher, Alison Ewing, and Meris Sparrow organized the book donation project, and dozens of students and parents volunteered their time to sort and label the books.back to top
Teacher's Tea and Bun Program - The summer 2010 high school interns launched a Bun and Tea Program for the teachers at Buyobo Primary School. The program provides a bun and cup of tea every afternoon during lunch for the teachers to enjoy. Many teachers walk a long way to get to the school and have no lunch during their breaks, so these snacks provide much-needed energy. Funding for the program has been continued by private supporters and the Buyobo Women's Association.back to top
Eyeglasses - Teachers in Buyobo, Uganda, were having trouble seeing clearly. Vision correction is uncommon in the country because eyeglasses are very expensive. WMI supporters in suburban Maryland responded to this growing problem by donating over 500 pairs of eyeglasses to Buyobo. In June 2011, WMI interns sorted through the donations, and opticians throughout the area helped code the eyeglasses with the correct prescription. Donation boxes that were set up at area schools, including Whitman High School and Pyle Middle School in Bethesda, as well as at other Bethesda/Chevy Chase locations, were filled to the brim. Much-appreciated sunglasses were also donated. WMI's U.S. high school interns, who were traveling to Buyobo, brought this first supply of donated eyeglasses with them. The ladies were thrilled with the glasses and enjoyed the process of finding the perfect fit. They used an eye chart to determine which glasses were closest to their prescriptions. WMI borrowers were also able to select eyeglasses. Each year, WMI will continue to collect and deliver donated eyeglasses to local teachers and to women in the loan program.back to top
Blood Pressure Monitoring Program - Wellness Corporate Solutions of Bethesda, MD donated a blood pressure cuff and educational material to WMI, which kicked off a blood pressure monitoring program in May 2009. WMI staff offers screenings and tracking of blood pressure to WMI clients and provides healthy eating advice and simple solutions to high blood pressure. The WMI Program provides the first opportunity for many of the women to have their blood pressure taken. This increased awareness is the first step to disease prevention.back to top
Fuel-Efficient Stoves - The Bulambuli Widow's Association (BWA), WMI's partner in the loan hub in Buyobo, introduced a fuel-efficient stove (F.E.S.) distribution opportunity in Buyobo. By developing a relationship with International Lifelines Foundation, the BWA arranged stove deliveries to WMI borrowers who wanted to become saleswomen. The first shipment of 81 stoves arrived in May 2009, and the stoves were sold immediately.
An F.E.S. eliminates almost all of the smoke from wood-burning cooking and utilizes one-third the amount of firewood as open flame cooking. There is a large demand in the villages for this type of timesaving and cost-cutting product.back to top
Advanced Business Training - WMI has partnered with MAPLE Micro-development, located in Mbale, Uganda to provide advanced business training to all WMI Local Coordinators. MAPLE is dedicated to reducing poverty, empowering women, and fostering self-sufficiency across generations by providing community groups in East Africa with a range of financial and educational services. WMI's local coordinators serve as liaisons to their own communities around WMI's headquarters in Buyobo, as well as liaisons to all of WMI's rural loan program partners throughout East Africa. They visit WMI's other affiliated programs on a quarterly basis to conduct 2-3 day business trainings for new borrowers. MAPLE's "training of trainers" builds upon the coordinators' existing framework of business knowledge so that they can incorporate this knowledge into the trainings they conduct quarterly, as well as pass it along to the WMI businesswomen in Buyobo whom they visit on a monthly basis.back to top
Girls Group Program - WMI launched a 10-week "Girls Group" program in Buyobo - it has since been duplicated in other village hubs with great success. It empowers and educates young teenage girls on healthy behaviors and responsible life skills, especially those having to do with pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV/AIDS. In these sessions, girls engage freely in conversations about reproductive health, which are integrated with games and activities designed to correct common misconceptions and help them protect themselves against unplanned pregnancies and infections. It also discusses unhealthy relationships - ways to avoid "sugar daddies" and even riskier behavior that can lead to prostitution. The theme of the program is that resisting these types of negative pressures and making sound life decisions requires three important skills: being educated about the risks and pressures that exist, building a support system that can lead to making good decisions, and gaining the confidence to stand up to pressures that one may encounter.back to top
Clean Water Initiatives - Access to clean water is a serious, on-going problem in rural African villages. During the summer of 2013, WMI's high school and college interns in Buyobo, Uganda, under the supervision of their ever-ingenious chaperone, Jim Cannon, completed several innovative clean water initiatives. The rain water collection tank fed from the gutters they installed on the new school classrooms at Buyobo Primary is now providing drinking water to the children during the school day. The bio sand water purifying tank, built in a repurposed plastic oil container and installed at the intern guest house, is filtering local water into clean drinking water! This bio sand water filter is a proto-type that can be constructed inexpensively by ladies in the loan program for use at their homes and businesses. Both initiatives have brought much appreciated improvements to local community's supply of clean water.back to top