We are going to Lira, Uganda to do ground-work setting up a microfinance organization. The organization is called MAPLE, which together with some friends, I started at the UO in like 2006. Our website is on the right; it has more info about what we're doing and about microfinance. Shouts to Peter Dixon, Morgan Williamson, Rachel Breaux, and Ron Severson. without you all I'd be back in a cubicle or something right now.
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We got a grant from the Meyer Fund last year to set up the infrastructure of the program, but we can't use the grant money to do any lending cause that's just the rules. The money therefore goes to sending people to Uganda, hosting conferences, and marketing, among other things. We spent the last year doing mostly stateside stuff, and sent the first team (Derrick Ventling, Doug Gould, and Ron) to Lira last summer. Our whole platform is combining lending with basic business-skills education to enable entrepreneurship among the poorest of the world's poor. Our deal is about enabling people to better their own lives by providing them with the tools (as in skills & knowledge, not hammers and shovels) and capital they need make forward progress in making an income so they can provide for their families. We are in the process of becoming a registered non-profit (so please break bread if you think this sounds like a cause you'd like to help).
This video is not us, it's by the pioneer of this industry. If you aren't sure what microfinance is, this is a good place to start:
I was like this close to going last summer, but I backed out on the final day to decide because I got an internship at a Bank and thought I should do what a responsible adult what do. I then proceeded to spend the summer staring out the window, doing crackerjack nonsense watching the bottom of the banking industry fall out from beneath me. If I learned one thing from my stint in corporate America its that I don't want that life. I was bummed all summer that I missed a once in a lifetime opportunity, but then it came back around; so hooray for me. I finished school at UO in the fall and again had the opportunity to go to Uganda because I no longer had to worry about classes, or employment for that matter given the economy. So I graduated and had to start looking for a job doing something I don't want to do while people better and more qualified than me are being laid off. So, I bailed and went to Africa. I didn't want to go alone because it'd be no fun, so I had to find a partner.
For a few years now Pat and I have been talking about ditching out on all this and going on a travel adventure after I finished college. It kind of crystallized while we were screwing around on the beach in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico in 2007. I basically got two free tickets to Uganda to go do development work, so of course my first thought was my main man over here. It'll be the adventure we always wanted, plus an opportunity leave my little college project a little more ready for the next level.
This is the beach house we were staying at. Pictured are Patrick, our older brother Noah, and his wife Dena.
Our project is to go meet the right people (it's kind of on us to figure out who they are) and make a presence in the community there so that MAPLE continues moving forward in this community. We are trying to take this thing from T0 to T1/2, I hold no grand visions of us actually opening for business anytime soon. We are going to meet with the dean and some grad students from Makerere University Business School in Kampala to try and get them in on this as partners. We are also going to be looking into doing a stove project. This whole stove thing, I'm not sure what to expect.
In short, the stove concept is this: Most of the world cooks on 3 stone fires, like a campfire in your kitchen. This is bad. It uses tons of wood, releases tons of CO, and makes the inside of homes all sooty and unhealthy for the childrens. These stoves improve on all that.
Like this, but different: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_stove
Basically, I met this guy Nathaniel at a conference in Seattle a couple weeks ago who said he was getting ready to do a project in Uganda and he wanted us to be his ground team. Maybe it was just the cheap labor, or maybe I actually impressed him somehow. I don't know. From what I understand, we are going to be going out into villages and doing a little anthropology seeing how women use their stoves in practice. We then send this info back to the design team in Italy, so they can modify the stove to work better for how people use it. I'm sure there's more to it than that, we'll find out in Italy. I'm super excited about it.
Okay, next. We're stopping off in Tortuna, Italy, which is close to Milan, for 11 days. That is where the lab/factory of Worldstove is. They are going to train us to be the non-engineer experts on this stove, apparently. I don't really know what its all about, but life is uncertainty so we'll take it as it comes. Respond and react, as they say. It sounds cool, and a free trip to Italy is nothing to sneeze at. The point of this Worldstove thing is ultimately MAPLE could work with them as partners in this microfinance business, plus they talk big about sending me/us to other places in the future. Tanzania, South Africa, Haiti, and Europe have been mentioned. Again, who knows. Sounds cool though so whatever, nothing wagered nothing gained.
I think that's the general background on what we're doing.
- I leave Eugene March 1 for Boston.
- We leave Boston March 5th for London. Quick airport/carrier switch in London and we're in Italy from the 6th to the 17th.
- We then get back on our original leg and fly to Entebbe, Uganda. We then spend a week in Kampala, capital of Uganda. BIG city. (March 16-23)
- We then spend a week at a resort in Munyonyo, Uganda for the PCIA conference. It's about Clean Indoor Air. Stove thing. (March 23-28)
- Then we drive 6 hours north to Lira where we set up shop for the next few months.
- The plan is to leave Uganda in mid September and spend 3 days in London before going back home. that part may change if we get stir crazy and want to mix things up and rebook our tickets to spend some time somewhere else. Late summer in Spain and/or Greece, anyone?