Sozo Children is a non-profit that works with children, but also within in a community–a village, in Uganda. In a quick elevator pitch we might explain that we are fostering sustainable efforts, whether that’s through entrepreneurial opportunities, life skill classes, and job creation.
But, “sustainability” has become a bit of a buzz word these days among giveback brands, small businesses, and social media campaigns. So, what does that look like? What does that really mean?
We believe it begins with empowering individuals. Sustainability and empowerment walk hand-in-hand.
Empowerment is a process that challenges our assumptions about the way things are and the way things can be.1 If you’ve ever had a coach, teacher, or mentor invest in you, point out your gifts, or encourage you to aim higher, then you know what a difference one person can make.
Carol has lived in this village for the past 18 years. She has been a Christian for 10 of those years and leads in her local church. She is passionate about her corner of the world—her community, her neighbors, her home. Carol has a humble plot of land, where she grows crops in her garden. Most notably, she grows onions. She has the sweetest smile and the most hospitable spirit. She told us that it’s the people in this village that make it so special.
Each person holds value and unique skills, but sometimes people need a little extra support to help achieve their goals.
We’ve recently partnered with Work For Life, an organization that helps individuals create businesses to alleviate poverty through their Entrepreneur Development Program. Our staff in Uganda, saw that savings groups were already meeting in the village and knew it would be a great opportunity to introduce the Work For Life training.
There are currently two savings groups each made up of approximately 20 men and women. Carol joins her neighbors on Tuesday afternoons to catch up with the group and receive encouragement, trainings, and discussion about purposefully saving. The Work For Life training covers topics like how to market your products and how to relate to customers—it’s a very interactive class.
Angella, our Financial Administrator realized many participants in the group were scared to invest and use their savings. She saw people with great products and produce, but they were hesitant to embrace nearby opportunities to market those potential businesses. She believed the Work For Life training classes could open eyes to new opportunities.
“I didn’t want to burden others by telling them about my onions, but Angella encouraged me to share and be proud of my work,” said Carol.
Carol had been growing onions for a while, but when she started bringing them to sell to her savings group—she sold out in ten minutes. She sells each bundle for 1,000 Uganda shillings ($0.27 USD).
“This is a community where people love one another, serve alongside each other, and work together.” Carol explained to us. These classes are creating a spirit of togetherness and an encouraging environment to share about their latest endeavors—whether that’s brightly colored woven baskets or making bricks.
It doesn’t always take a radical action to change, but if you work with what you already have and gain some new perspective then radical change can occur. Our goal is not to create dependency, but to emphasize the gifts and talents that are already present in the individual.
Now, people outside her immediate circle have been contacting her because they have heard about her onions. Carol’s biggest desire is to be a leader in the community and give back to the people she loves so dearly. We are sure that with her strong faith, radiant joy, confidence, and ambition she will continue to make the world around her a better place one onion bundle at a time.
Carol is just one of many we hope will be positively impacted by the Work For Life curriculum. We hope to see many other community members embracing opportunities to share their gifts in the future.
1. Page N, Czuba C. Empowerment: What is it?. The Journal of Extension. 1999;37(5). https://www.joe.org/joe/1999october/comm1.php/comm2.php. Accessed February 20, 2019.