Maria belongs to the Karimojong ethnic group, which has been identified as the poorest ethnic group in Uganda. The Karimojong people have faced great hardship due to environmental issues, insecurity, marginalization, illiteracy, poor health and poor infrastructure. The Karimojong district is the far north eastern part of Uganda and has a semi-arid, harsh climate. The people of Karimojong have traditionally been hunters and gathers, yet, droughts have made food security in the region an issue, and the people are largely dependent on the United Nations World Food Programme. The district has also been characterized with rampant civil direst and violence due to cattle raids. Despite hardship, the Karimojong people have distint traditions, that make Maria and others proud.
“Our tribe is different, we eat different food and come from very far away. We also are good at raising animals. We dress different, too. We wear beads on our neck and waist,” says Maria with pride.
While Maria isn’t able to follow all of the Karimojong traditions in Namatala she does raise animals like her family did in Karimoja. She is using her animal rearing skills to raise pigeons, which she sells for income in Namatala.
SALT, SUGAR & COOKING OIL
When her husband, Paul, died of tuberculosis, Maria left her village to find work in Namatala. Paul had supported the family through his job as a hawker selling small home items to passing cars. Maria moved to Namatala, and found work sorting damaged beans from coffee. This paid her rent, but the children weren’t able to go to school because there was no money for school fees.
Maria’s story changed when her daughter was allowed to go to school at Child of Hope, the partner organization of 1000 Shillings. Child of Hope identifies the poorest families in Namatala, and educates one child from each of these families for free. Because of Child of Hope, Maria’s daughter was able to enroll in school. Soon after, Maria began selling Chenga, broken rice, to women in Namatala. Through extremely hard work and saving her money, Maria was also able to build a small one-room home outside of Namatala where she lives with her two children!
Maria would like to use a business grant from 1000 Shillings to start a small shop at her house so she can be closer to her children during the day. She wants to sugar, salt and cooking oil – items people use everyday.