Our trip to Uganda is with some of the members of our self-reliant groups. Our aim is to meet; learn from and build relationships with groups in Uganda.
Our first visit was to the Mbale United Association for Disabled People - this is a self-help group composed of people with disabilities. They are battling against incredible odds - no state support or help of any sort, no wheelchairs but managing on crutches made of broom handles, no resources - and yet we met a group of cheerful, resourceful people who are earning a living specialising in heavy duty canvas type products - tarpaulins, bags, covers for lorries and cars etc. Their products are good and people seek them out for work because of the reputation they have established. They have some impressive contracts - for example supplying the bags which hold equipment and drugs for treating HIV for a large NGO. They said, in answer to one of our questiions "yes we have competition from able-bodied people, but we are the best!" and "Disability is not inability"
Earnings are distributed equally amongst the members of the group. They are succeeding in spite of termites in their building, a stack of machinery which needs repair and parts they can't afford, not enough stock and accessibility issues for many of their members. The fact that they are supporting themselves financially in the face of all that was stunning - and an inspiration to show us what groups working together in an atmosphere of mutual trust and support are capable of.