In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been in Masaka, Uganda taking part in the country’s largest fundraiser event, The Uganda International Marathon (UIM). This incredible event was founded by Henry Blanchard, a past delegate who attended our 1st Social Enterprise Conference in October last year. This was a fantastic opportunity to combine my love for running to support a good cause and see how Henry and his team at Uganda International Marathon is enabling social enterprises and charities in East Africa.
The Uganda Marathon is described as "A Race Like No Other", destined to be an unforgettable experience for all those who take part. Its supported by the local community with all the money fundraised going back into local sustainable projects.
Here are 4 Social Enterprises supported by UIM this year:
Masaka Vocational and Rehabilitation Centre (MVRC), is a centre that assist mentally and physically handicapped youths to learn a vocational skill so that they may be able to support themselves economically. This is one of UIM success story as they no longer require any further funding. They became fully self sustaining by from last year’s donations, which re- energised the neglected metal works and blacksmith program at MVRC. This allowed local established metal works business to use the fully equipped workshop to increase their production in line with demand. In return they pay rent directly to MVRC and also allow students to have practical lessons in the workshop for 2 hours a day during school term. The rent money covers the buying of scrap metal for the young people to practice on and also provides an extra income for the benefit of the centre as a hole. Also, many of the graduates from the centre now own businesses across the region.
Youth with a Vision Financial Scheme is a strategy to mitigate young unemployment by inspiring and empowering the disadvantaged young people to start up their own enterprises, to enhances their employability, become self reliant and lead production and sustainable livelihood through the provision tailored micro-loans and support. Currently, 10 youths have received mentoring and loans to start their own businesses in poultry, piggery, secretarial and craft businesses.
The Women’s Soroptimists Masaka is part of a global family of Women’s Soroptimists groups that improve the lives of vulnerable women from all backgrounds in their communities. Currently, Women’s Soroptimists Masaka support 68 Women and 18 children who are caught in the prison system. They provide the essentials of sanitary pads and nappies that allow for basic hygiene and dignity to be kept within the prison walls. Rather than relying on product donations, the organisation is currently trying to expand and have already brought and learnt to operate machines that allow them to make sanitary pads out of banana leaves, water and scrap paper. The plan is to be sustainable with the profits made from selling the excess stock. The profits made will pay for the raw materials used for the stock for the women in prison.
Creative Canvas Uganda was born from the work of Carson Buka, a local artist who came through troubled beginnings to support children from his community facing similar difficulties to those he had to overcome. Using the sale of his art to fund the kids through school, Carson recognised the need of a positive environment for these kids, and began using art therapy as a way for them to escape the difficulties of their lives.
UIM receives applications from hundred of applications in the region where the team will scrutinise each of the projects to ensure they are presented with a sustainable business framework. Speaking to the directors of these organisation, each one is driven by a passion to solve a social problem and choose to use business as a mechanism to solve them.
It has been incredible to witness how social enterprise is inspiring change across the country. Many people are benefiting from their impact in reducing poverty and unemployment in the community. That said, there is still a long way to go to enable them to fulfil their visions and challenges to overcome, i.e financing, mentorship and skill gaps are just some of the barriers holding back entrepreneurs in the region.
To find out more about UIM and their projects, you can visit their web site here. If you will like make a difference to these projects today, your can help by donating here.
Many of you may well be working for a social enterprise or will like to start a social enterprise in Africa or will like to grow your impact in the region. We will be very invested to hear what challenges and opportunities you are experiencing too? Do drop us your comments below, by sharing these insights we may be able to help each other.
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The Fourth Sector
P.s There is a community of social entrepeneurs forming in our facebook group, we are here to champion and help each other move forward with their businesses, so please join us here.