The market is the community center of the refugee settlements. It’s full of greetings, colorful kitenge (local fabric), laughter of women, the smell of drying fish and ripe tomatoes. Let’s journey inside!
In the midst of this global pandemic, we are also facing an unprecedented refugee crisis with over 70 million people displaced worldwide. After fleeing, 99% of refugees will remain in the country adjacent to their own, and the average time they’ll spend in exile is over 10 years.
That’s what’s happened in South Sudan. Two back to back civil wars, a short time of fragile peace, and now renewed conflict since 2013 led over one million people to seek refuge in northern Uganda.
Uganda, thankfully, is a unique host country, giving refugees land to cultivate and allowing them the right to work and the freedom to move in and out of refugee settlements.
But, even with these accommodations, life as a refugee can be extremely challenging.
The majority of Seed Effect’s members are women and, on average, each member cares for an estimated 5 children.
An average day in the refugee settlement starts early with responsibilities at home: mothers preparing breakfast, gathering water from a well, somedays caring for sick children, and on weekdays they are focused on getting kids off to school all without modern conveniences (no car, no paved roads, no running water, and little electricity).
Many, if they’ve been able to save enough, will also have livestock to care for and a garden to tend.
And then the work day begins.
In order to pay for all of these things – food, clean water, school, medical care, livestock, and a garden – Seed Effect members often run small businesses in the market to generate income.
Let’s go to the Market!
Since Uganda provides refugees the right to work and run a business, you’ll find a market in each refugee settlement.
While these markets aren’t typically as large as the ones you’ll see in the neighboring towns, they are often bustling with a variety of businesses from women selling produce from mats on the market floor to small restaurants and salons to larger and more permanent retail shops that sell food stuffs, clothing, and other imports.
When co-founder Missy Williams visited a refugee market in Uganda, she encountered a familiar face.
Stella had been a Seed Effect member many years prior in South Sudan and then, after fleeing, she joined a new Seed Effect group in the refugee settlement in Uganda.
Stella has a business selling onions, tomatoes, avocado, and other food items, and through her Seed Effect group, Stella has been able to find empowerment and stability.
“I have joined a Seed Effect savings and loan group so I can access loans to grow my business so I can pay school fees for my children. When I take a loan from my Seed Effect savings and loan group, I invest the funds in my business. Then from the profits, I use part of it to repay interest and the other part to support my family.”
Because of your faithful support, Stella is strong in the midst of uncertain times.
She’s been empowered to give her children a more secure future by providing them an education. And, even as she rebuilds her life in the refugee settlement, she is surrounded by community and has the support she needs.
“My favorite thing about my Seed Effect savings and loan group is the encouragement I get from the other members. It makes me strong.”
Without Seed Effect and the access YOU help provide to critical financial tools, these members would struggle to start new businesses, purchase inventory, and grow their existing businesses.
All the bare essentials can be found in the market, even restaurants!
With no chain restaurants or fast food joints, even global McDonalds, to be found nearby, South Sudanese refugees and Ugandans either have to cook all of their own food (which can sometimes involve catching, killing, and cooking a chicken) or visit a local restaurant.
Because of the amount of time it can take to leave work, head home, and make lunch from scratch, local restaurants are often very busy at lunchtime and are a critical support to the community.
Every meal is cooked over a rudimentary open fire and every single dish, utensil, cup, and cooking pot has to be hand washed from water gathered and carried from a well.
If you visited a local restaurant in a refugee settlement market, you might be offered beans and rice, posho (a cornmeal or sorghum based dish similar to cream of wheat), stewed chicken, goat, or beef, chips (french fries), or greens with g-nut sauce (peanut sauce).
Without access to reliable refrigeration, restaurant owners have to strategically plan for each day and ensure that they make just the right amount of food to support the demand but not too much so as to avoid spoilage.
Having access to a Seed Effect savings group, where our members have a safe place to save and access to credit to help support inventory purchases helps these restaurant owners plan ahead and successfully serve their customers.
Every meal prepared and dish served provides an essential service for the community and ensures these members are able to put food on the table at home and put their kids in school.
Thank you for choosing to empower these Seed Effect members, so that they can use their gifts to love others and provide for their families with dignity!
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