Rhoda Anayo is a passionate entrepreneur, wife, and mom to six children, all of whom attend school. Her eldest son is a senior in high school and wants to continue his education at a university, but will first need to pass his exams at the end of this year. Rhoda’s husband grows sugar cane, which Rhoda is then able to sell at her savvy makeshift market stall.
Rhoda started her business in July of 2014 and now, over a year later, she has made 300,000 shillings (close to 90 US dollars). Compared to what businesswomen make in America per year, this might not seem like a lot, but in Uganda, Rhoda’s starting business is proving to be quite successful. She got this opportunity by borrowing money from the Village Savings and Loan Association Drop in the Bucket requires of her village, Dokolo Komuda.
The Dokolo Komuda VSLA works in a systematic way so that community members have a chance to start any business venture. The association began with each member paying 1,000 shillings per week (less than one US dollar per week) in order to build the total savings pool. Members can now borrow up to 250,000 shillings (around 70 US dollars) with a one-time interest rate of 20 percent. They have 30 days to repay the amount borrowed including interest.
For someone like Rhoda, who would normally just be a housewife doing daily domestic tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and taking care of her children, with the VSLA, Rhoda can now spend some of her time using her mind in an innovative way in order to make money and better provide for her family and community. Rhoda started her business by borrowing 100,000 shillings (almost 30 US dollars) in order to buy the necessary items to put together her market stall – flour, sweets, soap, bread, and other small items. She paid her loan with the added interest back shortly. She again borrowed 200,000 shillings (almost 60 US dollars) in order to increase her inventory and make even more profit. Rhoda makes 80,000-100,000 shillings per week, which means she is extremely successful based on how much she initially borrowed.
Rhoda is so grateful she was given the chance to start her own business. She has noticed that since her market stall was up and running, her family’s total income increased, making it easier to meet their immediate needs, such as schooling costs, clothing, food, etc. Her children can now have better lives and more opportunities. Rhoda has big plans for the future of her business. She wants to start cultivating rice in the nearby swamps, which would make her even more money and provide her community with a steady food staple.
Norah Aligoyi is 18 years and is in Grade Seven at Aakum Primary School in Katakwi district of Eastern Uganda. She has one brother and one sister. They all walk about one mile each day to get to their school. At school, they had to walk another
mile to get to the nearest water source. Norah told us “I’m happy that Drop in the Bucket decided to dig a borehole (well) at our school because it has relieved us from the burden of having to walk so far to fetch water. We shall save so much time
that we were wasting walking for water. I think this will help us concentrate on our studies and perform better. I’m also happy that I will get the opportunity to wash and bathe at school. We are so happy that we now have clean drinking water at our school.”
Sarah Awelping is currently a 19-year-old sixth grader at the Salam Girls’ School in Aweil, South Sudan. When she was 15 years old, she became close with a boy, Garang, from her neighboring village and over time, the two fell in love. They hoped to one day marry, but first, they wanted to focus on school since the war put them so behind in their studies.
Around the same time Sarah and Garang started their relationship, a 60-year-old man, who was already living with four wives, offered Sarah’s parents a large dowry of 100 cows for the girl. Sarah was only 15 years old at the time. She knew that if she was forced to marry the old man her life would consist of a loveless marriage in which her main job would be to provide the man with children until he grew tired of her and took yet another wife. Sarah became so terrified that she ran away with Garang.
In South Sudan, a dowry is one of the few times people can receive a large sum of money, so for the Awelping family, Sarah’s potential dowry was a huge deal. In rural South Sudan, 100 cows signify a great deal of money and for a family living below the poverty line, like the Awelpings, this size of dowry was life changing despite the impact it would have on their daughter’s future. Sarah knew it was her duty, but she also knew she did not love the man. Sarah was aware with how much girls suffer, as they are rendered powerless once they are sold as property to the highest bidder. Unlike marriages of love and trust, these arranged marriages leave wives in unfair, emotionless, and abusive relationships. Sarah says she couldn’t even imagine having to get permission from her husband every time she wanted to leave the house to run errands, since her husband would fear that she’d run away from the unhappy marriage.
Sarah felt so helpless and devastated with the arrangement her parents were making and even though the idea of running away was daunting, she knew it was her only option if she ever wanted to be happy. She understood that her parents could choose to never accept her back into the family, but she just wasn’t able to bear the thought of spending the rest of her life married to a man 45 years older than her who she did not even know, let alone love.
Sarah’s aunt strongly supported her decision and once other community members learned of the situation, they also defended her right to stay with Garang. While Sarah’s parents were initially upset that they lost the dowry, they eventually grew to accept and support her relationship with Garang.
Now, four years later, Sarah is happily married to Garang. She is still in school and dreams of one day becoming a doctor so that she can spend her time helping others. Looking back, Sarah is so thankful she made the decision to run away, because now she is able to choose how she’d like to live her life.
Jimmy Apunyu is a 15-year-old boy in seventh grade at Ating Tuo Primary School in Alebtong, Uganda. He and his older siblings are responsible for collecting the water his family drinks, and that his sisters and mother use for making dinner and washing clothes.
Jimmy’s family live in a village called Oyon Alwevi. It is less than one mile away from their school. But, because of the powerful intense and unsteady dirt roads, the walk to and from school can seem like it takes several hours. One day Jimmy and his sister stopped at a hand-dug well that they passed on their way home from school. It was very hot that day, so, they decided to take a rest. They drank the well water, poured some on their heads to cool off and played around in it. When they were ready to leave they filled up jerry cans with the water so they could bring some home with them.
An hour later, just after they returned home, both Jimmy and his sister started to feel sick. They had strong stomach pains that Jimmy described by saying “It was like my intestines wanted to climb out of my body”. Jimmy knew it was because of the water since it came so soon after they drank it. His sister said that she had been nervous about drinking the water at the time, but she was just too thirsty on the walk home to not stop for water. After a few weeks of feeling ill, Jimmy told the head teacher at his school, “I am sick with stomach worms and need help. Can we get someone to come to our school and help us.” One of the village elders knew the Uganda Program Manager for Drop in the Bucket who arranged for Jimmy and his sister to get medical attention. Two weeks, Drop in the Bucket built a well the Ating Tuo Primary School so that the school could have their own source of clean water well on the premises.
The medicine Jimmy and his sister were given quickly had them feeling better, and now that their school has a well, they won’t ever have to worry about getting sick from unsafe water again. Jimmy hopes to one day become a teacher so he can help other children to improve their lives.
Akok Aschai Deng was forced to move to Khartoum during the war a few years ago. She moved into a new home, started at a different school, had to make new friends and be taught in Arabic, the national language of Sudan, when she was used to school taught in English in South Sudan. It was a challenge to start her education all over again, but Akok was up for it because she loved school so much. Akok learned the new educational system and got really good grades while living in Khartoum. She even made it all the way to secondary school in just a few years. When the war subsided and she was able to return home to Aweil in South Sudan, Akok was welcomed with having to start school all over again, again! Akok was bummed that all her progress would be thrown away, but she held her head high and decided she was ready to start over from fourth grade, which is the grade she currently is in today.
When Akok finishes primary and secondary school, she wants to leave Aweil and go to the best college to study “Development.” She thinks that South Sudan desperately needs to advance and reform its policies so that people can benefit and live better lives. Right now, too many people don’t have clean water, electricity, enough food, and so much more. Akok insists that the most important way South Sudan will develop is through educating the people. According to Akok, South Sudan must start by educating girls “so that girls can feel in control of their lives just like boys already do.” Akok considers education to be the key to opening girls’ minds to new methods of living and feeling. That way, girls get to decide for themselves what makes them happy. These feelings of empowerment will then lead to a more equal society in South Sudan.
When Nobert Alupo was just shy of 7 years, her father passed away. Nobert’s whole family was devastated with grief and was unsure of how to support themselves without him. Nobert’s mother took his death the hardest and after only a couple of months, she abandoned her family. As the eldest sister, Nobert was responsible for taking care of her younger sisters who she remembers crying all the time because they were so sad about losing both of their parents.
Since the family was already below the poverty line before Nobert’s dad died, they didn’t have much to go on. The siblings relied on their extended family members, like aunts, uncles, and grandparents to support them. However, no one in their family was well off, so daily necessities like food, clothing, schooling costs, and shelters were a struggle to manage. Luckily Nobert’s aunt was able to pay for the girls’ educations. However, being a girl made an already hard life that much more difficult for Nobert. As she matured, Nobert found attending school to be quite challenging during her menstrual cycle since her aunt couldn’t always afford to send her pads and since at that time, there was no sanitary water near the school. Every month, she would miss out on learning, simply because of her gender. Nobert is so thankful to Drop in the Bucket, who provided a sanitary well at the school. “It has been of help that Drop in the Bucket has protected a well for the school, water has been brought closer and constantly available which has lessened the burden in times of emergencies,” Nobert says.
Ngor Garang Tong is a 5th grader at Salva Kiir Primary School, in Aweil Town, which is in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan. His school is one of several in the area where we have recently worked on projects. Ngor has a small afterschool business of shining shoes and said he uses his money to help his mom feed his family of himself and six siblings. He told us he is trying to save more money so he can build his family a safe and secure house. Ngor said he loves school and attends every day, without ever missing. His favorite class is English. Ngor is very focussed on working hard at school and getting the best grades he can. He told us when he grows up he is going to become governor or community leader.
Juliette Alum is 18 years old and attends Omoro Secondary School, in Alebtong, Uganda. She hopes to be a teacher one day.
Juliette is thankful for her many opportunities, as she realizes that most girls in her culture do not get the chance to attend secondary school. She and many of her classmates stay at the school full-time since their villages are too far away to commute. However, there are no dorms at Omoro Secondary School, so the students sleep in the classrooms and bring food from home to cook.
Before the well, the students were constantly facing the challenge of getting clean water. Seeing the extreme need, several other organizations tried to drill for them and failed to reach water. This happened on four separate attempts. Now that the school finally has clean water, the students are free to focus on their studies. The well water is not just for drinking, the students also use this water for other things such as bathing, cooking, drinking, washing clothes.
The school administrators now expect this school to grow considerably in size because of the water. They even hope to be able to build dorms for the students in the near future.
Charity Atem is 16 years old and is a student at the Alela Modern Primary School in northern Uganda. Drop in the Bucket has been working at the Alela Modern Primary School for several years now and has spent time with the head teacher, a man named Christopher Elem.
Charity is doing very well at school and her test scores are excellent, however her parents recently decided they could no longer afford to pay the school fees for both her and her brother. They decided they wanted to get her married so that they would only have to continue paying for her brother’s education.
The bright 16 year-old was extremely frustrated by the whole situation and is exasperated by the fact that her community, and many others in this area think it is wasteful to spend money on educating girls. When you talk to the parents they say that the girls will get married and stop working once they have children, so therefore educating boys is far more of a priority. But as we have seen over and over again in the developing world, educating girls is one of, if not the most effective way of moving communities out of poverty,
According to data collected by UNICEF educated women are more productive at home and better paid in the workplace, and more able to participate in social, economic and political decision-making. Also educated girls are likely to marry later and have fewer children, who in turn will be more likely to survive and be better nourished and educated. Another key point UNICEF makes is that educating a girl dramatically reduces the chance that her children will die before the age of five.
Christopher Elem, the head-teacher at Charity’s school decided that losing a student of her ability and potential was unacceptable, so he went to her parents and told them that he would take them to court if they denied their daughter the opportunity to get an education, and fortunately they relented and allowed her to stay in school alongside her brother.
For Charity things are going well. Because of her head-teacher’s intervention, her parents allowed her to return to class and she recently passed the national exams. She’s headed to high school next term and hopefully a bright future. With education everything is possible for these children.
Kenyi Openi is 14 years old. He has three brothers and one sister, and is in 7th grade at Jalimo Orphanage Primary School, in South Sudan.
Kenyi says that the well Drop in the Bucket drilled has changed his life. Before the well, his family was collecting water from a muddy, unprotected hand dug well, which would also dry up at times. Pupils would often get water from the roadside puddles for washing and drinking. Recently, Kenyi’s best friend got very sick and was missing a lot of school. He had a number of concerning symptoms, including severe diarrhea. The local doctor examined him and determined he boy had Bilharzia worm, which he had most likely contracted from these dirty water puddles. Now the children have as much clean water as they can drink and no longer have to use these dirty sources.