When I was in Uganda I enjoyed meeting Stephen Tusilme and his wife Christine. They welcomed me into their home in the village of Busingiro in the Ibanda District of rural South West Uganda. Stephen told me the inspiring story of how a group of parents in the village are investing together in future of their children.
Stephen and Christine have seven children of their own and look after one orphan. Stephen was born in Busingiro to his mother Faith and father Baziro. However, his early life was influenced by the history of Uganda. His mother’s first husband was among the Asians deported from Uganda by Idi Amin. When Stephen’s father then married another woman his mother gave her property to the sons of her first husband, leaving Stephen with nothing.
Stephen told me how he developed a strong desire to have a piece of land of his own to construct a temporary shelter so that he could marry and have a wife and children in his own property. ‘When the passion developed,’ he said, ‘I started working on other people’s farms. When I earned some money I constructed a grass thatched house at my sister’s place. Then I started a business making and selling ropes and taking them to the market. I started making pancakes and baking bread as well, until I had earned enough money to marry my beautiful wife Christine.’
Stephen told me how he continued to develop various business enterprises, buying and selling maize and beans. He began to rent out other people’s land so that he could grow his farming business. Today he has ten acress of land with four cows producing 20 litres of milk per day, a small shop and two motorbikes that he hires out. As a result of his hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, Stephen has been able to educate his children through Ryamugwizi Primary School. One of his children, Patience is sponsored by Fields of Life.
Along with parents and guardians of other sponsored children at Ryamugwizi Primary School, Stephen established a SACCO (Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization) so that they could sustain payment for their children’s education once their sponsorship by Fields of Life comes to an end. The twenty parents established the SAACO in 2015, and have made regular savings ever since, which the SACCO has invested successfully in maize. This has produced a very good return each year so that the members have been able to buy piglets and goats while continuing to grow the SACCO profits at the same time. Stephen even showed me the books!
It was inspiring to hear how this group of parents had come together to invest in the future of their children. I asked Stephen of their plans for the future and he said the parents group has three main goals:
- To develop members of the SACCO
- To sustain our school
- To continue to educate our children when sponsorship stops
‘When it grows to the next level,’ said Stephen, smiling broadly, ‘we will be able to provide a cow for each member. Then, if we can get some technical support and advice we can become a regional SACCO to help more people to reach their dreams.’
Stephen and Christine are typical of so many of the people I met in Uganda. They are very grateful for the support of people from other countries such as the Fields of Life child sponsors from Northern Ireland, but they are determined to build self reliance and to sustain their families and schools for themselves. It was privilege to meet Stephen and Christine and to hear yet another inspiring story from Uganda.