Aisha Nabukaasa is a mother of four, with her eldest son studying in Kampala. She is unemployed and often struggled to meet her children's school dues in time.
Her friend encouraged her to join a group, Nalwana Development Association, which would lend her money for her children's school fees.
Since the children were in school, she was able to work and pay back the loan. According to her, the loan has also instilled in her a working culture as it prompts her to work and pay back in time to be able to borrow again.
"I did not know anyone could borrow money," she exclaims. The only borrowing she knew of was the one in the village where the lender would come and embarrass you in the presence of everyone in case you delayed to repay.
Located near Ndejje in Luweero district, Nalwana Development Association has helped many people in the area to start income-generating activities.
It started as a savings organisation, but also gave birth to other projects like soap making and farming from which members have benefited.
Leotimah Nanyange, the brain behind the association, is not keen on taking credit for it. "We all own it," she says. The appaling living conditions of the residents had driven them into despair. As a result, Nanyange had always yearned to make a difference in their lives.
The single mother of six was born in Kibaale district, but relocated to Ndejje in 2004. She experienced first-hand the difficulties that come with raising school fees.
Nanyange also noticed that around her, many people wasted money.
An organisation called I-CARE International came to the village teaching the locals about saving. They invited local leaders to attend the training.
"We learnt a lot from the training," she recalls. Nanyange liked the idea and sold it to three of her friends in the village. They would later start meeting under a mango tree with a metallic box as the savings bank.
The four spread the gospel across the village and encouraged more people to join their savings association. Together, they later started the village savings and loan association.
Thanks to Nanyange's massive mobilisation, the group grew to 30 members and bought a safe. They agreed to meet in Nanyange's sitting room as they looked for a bigger meeting place.
The group also came up with a constitution by which the members would abide. Notable among the rules is that every member is required to save sh2,000 every week.
The members were also required to contribute sh500 weekly to the welfare fund, which is used for the day-to-day running of the organisation and pay the one staff that was hired to man the office.
Thanks to that money, they have been able to rent an office, despite the fact that it is too small to accommodate all of them.
They also erected a semi-permanent structure in Nanyange's compound where they would meet. This welfare fund is the same they used when one of the members falls sick or loses a relative.
Currently, there are 60 members, both men and women and the group is still growing. They registered as a community-based organisation in 2011.
They later bought tents from the welfare fund, which they rent out to earn an extra buck. "The proceeds are shared among the members at the end of the year," Nanyange explains
According to Abdu Matovu, the chairman, the group is widely known in the village and in the sub-county because of the way it has changed the lives of the members.
"Whenever NGOs come here, they are eager to work with Nalwana Development Association. The group members are so eager to help people around them, in aspects like farming," he says.
Members are required to save sh2,000 as stamp savings, but those who can afford can contribute up to sh10,000. For those who have more to contribute, they save under the voluntary fund, where they are free to withdraw anytime they wish.
However, the weekly sh2,000 stamp savings can only be withdrawn at the end of the year. Nanyange says they restrict withdrawals to ensure there is always money to give out as loans. A loan attracts a 10% interest.
"If someone does not save, there is no problem," she says. However, that would have a bearing on the amount of money they receive at the end of the year.
Apart from the savings association, members are also involved in soap-making and ginger-growing
businesses to improve on their livelihoods. When one member has a unique skill, he or she shares the information with the rest of the members.
In the soap-making businesses, they make both the liquid and bar soap. They then share the profits at the end of the year, when they hold their annual general meeting.
Yusuf Nandutu, a resident of Nalwana, joined the group with half-an-acre of land. Thanks to the loan facilities, she can now have three acres of land, where she grows crops to earn more income.
With the farming income, she has been able to send her three children to school. "My dream is to expand to six acres of land," she says.
Those members that are not able to attend the weekly meetings are required to pay a fine of sh2,000 at the end of the month. This is because others meet and discuss ideas on their behalf.
According to Yusuf Ssenyondo, the association's loans' officer, some borrowers default on their loan repayment. However, members are advised to reinvest the money into what they had borrowed it to do.
Those who are not able to pay back in time are given more time to repay. "We are careful not to push them away," he says. If they continue saving despite being loan defaulters, it is better for the organisation.
Besides, the loans can be recovered from their annual savings. Another arm of the organisation is the home development fund from which women have greatly been helped to buy home utensils, while others have even erected houses.
Women can make an optional contribution of sh10,000 to the home development fund once a month. With the total money collected, one does shopping in Kampala for one recipient every Tuesday.
"The money, deposited with the home development fund, is never withdrawn; its sole purpose is to develop homes," says Nanyange.
Each member benefits from this fund three times a year. When one's turn to receive the money comes, they are advised to draw a shopping list.
Although Nanyange has seen many lives improve, she has a dream to upgrade from the safe to a bank. She sees the organisation building its own structures and bringing more members on board.