Poverty and lack of basic needs at household level is one of the major drivers of vulnerability that Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs), their care givers and, People Living with HIV (PLWHA) have to address on a daily basis. ACET in partnership with We See Hope and Tear Netherlands has worked with caregivers through Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) groups in Gulu, Pader, Kitgum and Mbale to enhance incomes of selected households in target communities so that they are able to meet the basic needs of OVCs and PLWHAs.
This has been done through helping members develop the behavior of consistent saving so that they have the necessary levels of disposable income to have improve their household conditions. They have also been challenged to begin making small but sure steps to grow into investment. Resultantly:
- The behavior of saving – It has been observed that the VSLA members have developed the behavior of saving periodically. The members talk and converse about it is with gratitude and delight. This has increased their bargaining power and has enabled them to have constructive consumption using the savings they have accumulated to meet the vital needs of the OVCs and PLWHAs. They have been able to access school uniforms, school fees, books, pens and other scholastic materials and needs of the children and medical and nutritional needs for PLWHAs. At the household level, basic necessities like paraffin, salt, sugar, soap and match boxed were identified by members as necessities they are now able to procure for their families.
- Management of Small Business – There has been an increase in the knowledge among VSLA members on how to start and manage personal businesses and finances. ACET has observed that that some of the group members have taken advantage of the savings to begin small business. They have borrowed from the group and have invested variously. They are venturing into commercial crop husbandry, animal husbandry and commerce. This will lead to improved way of living of the OVCs and their households and PLWHAs. This is still in its early stage of development but should be an aspect that will be enhanced in the next project cycle.
- Importance of diversifying Livelihoods – There has also been an increase in knowledge of members about the importance of diversifying livelihoods among their households. The business education sessions on livelihood strategies have provided insight to members to also identify potential assets in their community that can be explored to earn a living and or be put to better use.
- Production Units – The older OVCs are now engaged in more productive work through hands on skills training that is helping to contribute to their wellbeing as well as increase household income. Some of them for example in Mbale, are now engaged in making snacks that they sell at school during break time to fellow pupils from which they earn and can support themselves in terms of school fees and other scholastic materials.
- Improved welfare of PLWAs – More households continue to benefit from the pool of the piggery project specifically in Mbale. The pioneer beneficiaries have managed to diversify their livelihood to now include dairy farming. Some families interviewed have revealed that they now own land and are able to take and keep their children in School.
- Empowerment of Community Members – The work ACET has done in the community through the VSLA groups has awakened and empowered the members especially women to the potential that they have and, has also showed them possibilities that they can take advantage of. They have developed commendable levels of self – esteem. They are generally articulate about what they have done for their households and what they hope to achieve and now that they have the means to meet the basic needs of the family without total dependence on their spouses.
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Moving forward, there is now need to help members in these groups take advantage of the synergies and strength in their numbers and competencies. ACET’s work over the months has shown that members of the VSLA have the desire continue growth of their business ventures so as to meet the increasing needs of the children as they become adolescents and young adults and, to sustain the improved standard of living of the PLWHAs and their households. This is an emphasis that will be pursued in the next financial year.