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Gonzaga’s story

Last April, the Gay Lea Foundation funded an innovative development program seeking to create and nurture income-generating opportunities for hard-working and optimistic, but out of school and impoverished youth in Uganda.

Coordinated by the Salama SHIELD Foundation (SSF) of Kitchener, Ontario, and enthusiastically supported by local government officials and stakeholders in Uganda, the program has since successfully connected 45 youth with local female mentors already demonstrating success in agri-business through the charity’s micro-credit revolving loan (MCRL) program. The program also saw each participant provided with a $100 agricultural start-up loan and access to a newly established SSF Information Centre.

One year later, SSF’s combined relational and economic approach has helped provide the youth with the skills and resources they need to start a small, income-generating agri-business under the watchful eyes of their mentors and the SSF microfinance program team. One of the program participants, an exceptional young man named Gonzaga Kamumtu, spoke with SSF Founding Director and CEO, Dennis G. Willms, Ph.D., in Uganda recently to describe how the Gay Lea Foundation-sponsored program has changed his life for the better. This is his story:

“My name is Gonzaga, and I live with my mother in a rather distant village from Lyantonde Town. I am one of the young men who received a CAD $100 micro-loan from the Gay Lea Foundation grant afforded to the Salama SHIELD Foundation (SSF), and my life has improved beyond belief. What happened was that our father abandoned our mother and his children (all eight of us – four boys and four girls) and we have not heard from him since. I was forced to drop out of school in 2014 to help support the family. I am now 23 years old and know that I am trustworthy and hard-working. This is the reason one of the mentors, a woman called Esther Nansereko, who is engaged in Salama SHIELD Foundation’s (SSF’s) micro-credit revolving loan (MCRL) program, picked me to be interviewed as a small grant recipient from the Gay Lea Foundation.

After completing the lengthy interview process, where they asked me many questions about my life, even my knowledge of HIV/AIDS, I was trained by the SSF field officers, Peter and Stephen, on how to manage the loan. Peter and Stephen have continued to provide weekly support for my chosen income-generating project. I decided to start a piggery and began with the purchase of one male pig, one female pig, and three piglets. In a short period of time, two of the piglets died of swine fever. I immediately consulted a veterinarian who came to our compound to immunize the remaining pigs. Over the subsequent months, my herd has grown to 25 pigs (eight mature pigs and 15 piglets). My mother helps me with the feeding of these pigs (greens, cassava) and making sure they have sufficient water. We live in the “dry corridor” of Uganda (the southwest) and, as such, finding and obtaining water in boreholes can consume a number of hours in the day. The pigs need the water, not just my family.

My loan is repaid at the rate of 2 per cent /month, but we young people with loans do not have to start paying back until two months have elapsed (SSF has implemented a one-month grace period to make it easier for us to get started). I will be selling some piglets soon, but in addition, I have been able to pay back on a monthly basis with small monies.  I earn extra money as a boda-boda driver (a small motor-bike that operates as a taxi in the rural areas). I drive my boda-boda from noon to 5:30 each day. The rest of the day, I watch over my pigs to make sure they are well cared for. I also work with my mother in tending our small coffee plantation, and our growing garden of beans, maize, onions, bananas (matoke), and Irish potatoes.

Not having the opportunity to continue with my schooling, this opportunity to become a young micro-entrepreneur has changed my life. My mentor has said that I am excellent  example for other youth. For example, I have mentored one of my male friends who has decided to also start a piggery. He now has eight compared to my 15. I enjoy my new life, and as someone blessed by God (I am a Christian), I am now able to become someone who can support myself. I would like to have a wife someday, but this can wait until I get used to this new found place I have found myself in—with support from the Gay Lea Foundation and the support staff from SSF.”




About Salama SHIELD

The Salama SHIELD Foundation (SSF) is an international non-government organization (NGO) registered as a not-for-profit charity in Canada, Malawi, and Uganda. Since 1992, they have been working to address development concerns in Sub-Saharan Africa (Uganda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe) by partnering with communities in rural, resource-limited settings to co-develop strategies for HIV/AIDS prevention, food and water security, poverty relief, and technical training for youth. With a vision to create communities able and empowered to care, nurture, and support their members collectively and sustainably, SSF draws on scientific evidence, indigenous wisdom, and spiritual values to address and accomplish African communities’ development priorities. Salama is the Kiswhahili word for peace, safety, and security, while SHIELD is an acronym for Sustaining Health Initiatives, Enabling Local Development.


About the Gay Lea Foundation

The Gay Lea Foundation is the official registered charity and collaborative forum for Gay Lea Foods and its members, directors and employees to support families and communities in need. Since receiving charitable status in 2014, the Foundation has provided more than $957,000 in funding support for education, poverty relief and community well-being projects in Canada and around the world. The primary source of funding for the Foundation is an annual $150,000 contribution from Gay Lea Foods, which is supplemented by personal contributions from across the Gay Lea Foods family. Funding applications are assessed twice a year by the Foundation’s Board of Directors, which is comprised of Gay Lea Foods Directors, delegates, dairy producer members and employees.


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