Doreen with one of the members of the Microfinance project. This woman and her husband now have a small farm, with plans to expand, and have been able to send their children to school.

Bulumaji microfinance project

Valence and Doreen, who both have degrees in community/international development from Makerere University in Kampala, are well aware of the impact a mother can have on a child’s values, happiness and outlook on life. Their mothers have been integral in shaping them to become the generous, open-minded and confident people they are today. Which is why Yofafo’s projects at Bulumaji are so close to their hearts.

With the help of community-based volunteers, Doreen runs Yofafo’s microfinance loan program. The project was initially set up for women only, and mostly supports widows and young female entrepeneurs who would not be approved for a loan from the bank. Soon, men began to see what a wonderful job the women were doing with their loans and the impact it was having on their families, and asked to be involved as well. YOFAFO recognised the fact most microfinance projects run by NGOs are for women only, and realised the program could be even more powerful if it was extended to men.

Right now, there are over 120 active members of the program, with loans ranging from the equivalent of $US50 to $US500. To ensure the success of the program, Yofafo provides education and support in the area of financial management, and loan applicants must demonstrate their ability and commitment to saving before they are approved. Those who are approved are placed in groups of five, with each person in the group guaranteeing the other. So if one person can’t make their payment on time, the others pitch in to help out. Almost 99 per cent of loan repayments are made on time.

Individuals and families are using the loans to set up small businesses, such as tailoring, agriculture and second-hand clothes sales. The money they have been able to make from their small businesses has meant they have been able to send their children to school, and some have even been able to build themselves a house.