Before they learned how to make soap, the 30 young adult members of the Kuny-derot group didn’t have many options for earning an income. After three days of soap-making training they received a business start-up kit, and now the South Sudanese refugees have a reliable source of income.
In refugee settlements in northern Uganda, Canadian Lutheran World Relief is working with partner organization The Lutheran World Federation Uganda (LWF Uganda) to provide youth with employment training and support to begin small businesses and earn an income.
“We work the business so we can become self-employed,” says Sarah Nyumac, Kuny-derot’s secretary. “It can help us in the case of sickness or school fees.”
In December 2016, LWF Uganda hosted soap-making training for the group, whose name means ‘self-employment’. The provision of a start-up kit, consisting of jerry cans and the chemicals needed to make soap, helped the group launch their business.
Choosing soap-making was strategic. As a product that is used daily, the group knew they would have a ready market. Kuny-derot sells a 20-litre jerry can of soap for 35,000 shillings, or about $12. Though the group is young, they are hopeful about the future and would like to open a retail shop and have each group member begin their own business.
Savings groups offer opportunities to grow, diversify businesses
Kuny-derot has also started a Village and Savings Loan Association (VSLA) which will help individual members grow and diversify their own businesses in the future. Over the course of a year, VSLA members contribute savings and have the opportunity to take out loans. For every 10,000 shillings, approximately $3.00, that a member of Kuny-derot borrows, it is paid back with an interest of 1000 shillings per month. At the end of the year, the group’s accumulated savings and loan profits are distributed to the members.
Forming VSLAs offers members opportunities to access savings and credit services in areas where financial options are limited. LWF Uganda provides VSLAs with the training and items they need to be successful, such as records books, bowls for counting money, a stamp pad and a savings box, among other items.
For members of Evergreen, a group of 15 young South Sudanese refugees who were trained in how to make candles and petroleum jelly and who are also part of a VSLA, the combination of the income from their new business and the VSLA savings means they are able to send their children to school and buy food to supplement their rations.
“We’ve earned money, gained knowledge, and are now able to stand on our own resilience,” says Viola Kiden Faram, the secretary for the group and a member of the VSLA.
The group, whose name was chosen because they are young and still growing, received start-up kits with materials to make both candles and petroleum jelly.
“We do these things to save money and help our families,” says Jane Dropia, the group’s advisor. “Thank you [Canadians] for the support, which has benefitted us.”