Welcome to CCA’s international development blog page devoted to the Uganda/Malawi Coaching program. Enjoy the sights and sounds, the people and places as experienced by 3 credit union volunteers on the frontline of development.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Charlie's Photos - Journey to Queen Eizabeth National Park


Homeward Bound

Brad - Last Day at Fincoop

Today is our last day at Fincoop, we put the finishing touches on our Board Report and all there is to do today is retrieve some policies that I had emailed to me, thanks for your help Connie and Amy. Bruce and I got the report printed off and we gave a copy to Blessings I also gave him the policies that were emailed. Bruce and I went back to the hotel where we changed and decided to brave the markets one more time; we were a little more savvy this trip since we have a sense of the cost of the items. It takes time to get the price you want to pay you must be patient, stay in a good mood, smile and be prepared to walk if you don't get your price. One of the main things you need to be able to say a lot is no thanks, this has been essential since our route from the hotel to Fincoop takes us right through the heart of most of the street vendors and one of the markets.

Paul and Robert returned to Lilongwe around noon and we met them to catch up, they had some interesting experiences. We decided to go down to Fincoop early since Bruce wanted to visit with Tocho who was in the women's mentoring program and was stationed at Bruce's Credit Union.

The meeting with the Board went well, they asked questions and we had a good discussion on a number of issues. At the end of the meeting we made arrangements to meet the Board and Management for supper at 6:30 pm. The evening was a lot of fun, there was good food, good conversation and a lot of laughs.

On Saturday we had a debriefing meeting with the MUSSCO management which went well. They are a forward thinking group that is working hard to see the SACCO system survive and thrive.

We are meeting with the MUSSCO staff tonight for a farewell supper. I will be sorry to leave Malawi so soon, I miss Canada but I could stay here for another couple of weeks. This year has been real enjoyable.

Robert - Last Day in Malawi

Last night, Sylvester, Dickson, Fumbani (sp?) and Kingsley took us out for dinner at a golf course near our hotel. We had chicken gizzards for a starter and I had what will likely be my last Malawian Chambo meal for a while. The whole MUSCCO executive is an awesome bunch of guys!
Well… Today has finally come. I can't believe today is my last day in the "Warm Heart of Africa". I think I'm going to go walking around, take some photos and take in the last of the 25C weather.

Our almost-2-days-worth-of-flights start at 1:15pm this afternoon.
Blog ya in Toronto!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Robert: Bus trip to Lilongwe

Paul and I made it back to Lilongwe. We took an AXA Coach from Blantyre to Lilongwe, and the bus ride took about 4.5 hours. The distance between Lilongwe and Blantyre can't be greater than 350Km, but because of the road conditions (POT HOLES!!!) and road side police and immigration stops, it takes a very long time to travel on the highways. At the one immigration stop we encountered, two officers came onto the bus and demanded to see the passports of all foreign visitors. We showed our passports and I explained we were down here volunteering with MUSCCO and visiting SACCOs. I was asked to provide some piece of documentation I had never heard of, and got a little concerned… The officer told me to get the document in Lilongwe. A girl sitting behind us was questioning the officer's decision to see passport's for foreigners. I have to say, it is pretty odd to have to produce a passport to ride on a bus… The only thing I can think of is that the country may have an issue with immigration (ie: illegal immigrants).

We met up with Bruce, Brad, Dennis and Nicky at the hotel restaurant last night and shared stories with each other. It was nice to see everyone again and it sounded like everyone had a good time once again this year.

We're meeting with MUSCCO this morning to review our findings, have the afternoon off and going out for our final dinner with MUSCCO later this evening! It's hard to believe my time in Malawi has almost come to an end…


Unity, Discipline, Obedience

Brad: Day 3 at Fincoop

Today (Thursday) was a productive day for us at the SACCO we finished our report for the Board, we are meeting with them tomorrow (Friday) and then we will join them for supper. The rest of our group Paul, Bobby, Dennis and Niki should all show up tomorrow and it will be good to swap stories with them. Any way back to Fincoop, we worked for part of the morning and then Blessings Kam'mambala the Finance and Administration Manager came in to where we were working and let us know it was time to go visit their Market Branch. We drove to the Branch and it is almost right in the middle of the market, we met the Branch Manager Mavis who has been with Fincoop since its inception. After visiting the Branch Blessings then took us on a driving tour of Lilongwe which was great to see. We have only really just seen the road from the airport to the hotel because the road coming in from Mzuzu is the same road as the airport road. We toured the Capital City Area, the Government buildings, the place where the first president Banda was buried. Malawi has made a shrine for Banda and it is quite impressive.

The people of Malawi are taught the four principals of being Malawian they are Unity; Discipline; Obedience and Loyalty. The words are written on the four cornerstones around the shrine. Those are good principles to live by and it puts how we have been treated by our Malawian friends, however I don't think the obedience principle would go over to well in Canada. We like to criticize our government way too much. From there Blessings took us to the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre where we saw a Lioness, some crocodiles a leopard and other animals.

After lunch we finished up our report and I got a preview of the new banking system from the vendor. It looks like it will fit their needs and has some good features they can add in the future. I am excited for Fincoop because once it is up and running it will solve a lot of the issues they have.

It started to rain again just before supper and I say again because last night it came down so hard I am glad we are staying on the second floor. The rain reminded me of last year in Karonga, I don't know if the soil is that sandy or they have a great drainage system but there was no water lying around this morning.

Got to go and put the finishing touches on our report for the Board catch you soon.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Three Bloggers - Week 2

Charlie - Day # (I don't remember - lost track)

We just completed another day - I think its been a couple days since I last posted - yesterday we were at Kashongi SACCO for one day then today we were at SACCO #4 called the Kiragama Farmers SACCO - too tired to provide much in the way of details so I’m going to take the easy (picture) way out. We check out in the morning - do another half day at Kiragama - and then take off for Queen Elizabeth National Park (Google that) for a 2 day Team R and R (all 6 members of Team U will be there). I’m fairly certain there will be no internet access there so next time I post will likely be Saturday morning when we get back to Kampala.  Here’s a few pictures from our Kashongi visit. Bye for now.

Brad - Fincoop Day 2

This morning at Fincoop we met with Moses Nyamwera their IT Manager. Bruce and I already knew Moses from our time in Karonga last year where he was working he had just moved to Lilongwe in December. We kidded him that he had heard that Bruce and I were coming back to Malawi to work with Fincoop and he had to get a job with Fincoop because he missed us. Actually his wife is a nurse working at one of the government hospitals and he followed her to Lilongwe.  We worked with Moses for part of the morning; since he is busy with his banking system conversion he didn't have a lot of time. We then met with the Internal Auditor Andrew Tembo who is new to the position but is very knowledgeable in the audit field.

After lunch we had a little time to kill so we went back to the hotel for a few minutes and then ventured out to the store so Bruce could support the Malawi tobacco growers. I also took the opportunity to exchange some dollars to Kwacha man do you feel rich when you get MK 17,000 in bills. On the way back to Fincoop Joseph Banana tried to sell Bruce a painting or two, yes his name was Joseph Banana and he wore a yellow vest.  With tomorrow being a holiday we will have to find something blog worthy to do, stay tuned.

Robert - Day 2 at MBC SACCO

Paul and I spent our second day with Abigail and her team at the MBC SACCO. I've included some photos with this entry so you can see what the branch looks like (both inside and out). The branch shares the premises with two other organizations: The MUSCCO Regional Office and FINCOOP's Blantyre branch.  The branch has a cashier station, an area where the accountant works, Abigail's office (which houses the entrance to the cash vault) and a large board room that doubles as a back office room. The branch is a decent size, relatively speaking, but the layout of the branch is a little awkward. Paul and I worked our way through a mountain of documentation today (financial statements, policies, procedures, meeting minutes, etc.) to learn more about how MBC SACCO operates and to try to identify some areas where we could make recommendations to assist them.

While there are some similarities between Canadian Credit Unions and Malawian SACCOs, there are some major differences! I think the biggest thing we, as coaches, need to be cognizant of is that the business rules that we follow in Canada are drastically different than the rules in Malawi. Paul and I had to learn how these SACCOs provide banking services to their members before we could make recommendations. I think I have a pretty firm grasp of how business is done now, and I hope that our recommendations to the MBC SACCO Management and Board are well received. 

In Malawi, the SACCO movement started off has a niche-banking system, with a very specific target market – the poor. Chartered Banks were not interested in banking the lower income class of society because it is not a very profitable sector and the risk associated with this sector was deemed excessive. The SACCO target market has changed to some extent and some SACCOs are trying to break this stigma of being the "Banker to the Poor" and operate as a real alternative to the Chartered Banks. The SACCO movement within Malawi truly is alive and well, and it is encouraging to see and hear about growth in SACCOs across the country.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Malawi - More SACCO's and rain

Brad - First Day with FINCOOP

After breakfast we walked down to Fincoop to start our day. We met with the General Manager Anthony Ngwira who has been with Fincoop almost since it started in 2004. He started as Manger under a contract from MUSCCO in 2006 and was hired full time as Manager in 2009. The Sacco has grown from 323 members as of December 2004 to 29,315 members as of December 2009. Their assets have grown from MK 7,189,000 in 2004 to MK 770,291,000, that is rapid growth and it has propelled them to the status of the largest SACCO in Malawi. 

Fincoop has a good mix of members with 17,723 being male, 10,180 being female and 1,412 being groups or businesses. They have made an effort to attract women members over the last two years and their efforts have paid off since the female members have grown from 3,531 in 2007 to 10,180 December 2009. They have adopted an innovative approach as they now have 4 mobile banking units that travel to the rural areas of the country to provide loan and deposit services. The units are crew cab trucks with secure caps on the truck bed; there is also a safe in the cap for the money. The truck travels with a Police escort and they have an arrangement with one of the banks to store the money overnight if they are staying out in the country. With this means of service they are reaching 95 mobile branch centres over and above their four branches.

Brad - Now on to Lilongwe

We started out for Lilongwe at 9:30 am after a great evening in Mzuzu, I was happy we were able to visit the city again it brought back good memories from last year.  We made it to Lilongwe around 1:30 pm and after we checked in (I got the same room as I had last week) we then took Davison out for a farewell lunch at Mama Mia after Lunch we was going back to Mzuzu that day. I will not forget the hospitality that Davison has shown us he is a remarkable individual. 

Bruce and I decided to walk to the golf course to have a look, but we only got half way and the skies opened up. We made it under an awning to wait it out, however after 20 minutes it was not letting up .  was tired so I went right to bed but at 3:30 am was awaken by a big storm. The wind was so strong coming off the lake it was blowing the rain right into my room; it was coming through the screen as a fine mist. The wind lasted twenty minutes then went away just as quick as it came, but while it was blowing I thought it was going to blow the room over. When it was done I was treated to a great lightning show over the lake, you gotta love the rainy season in Malawi.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Charlie - A Visit to the EBO SACCO

As I write this blog its early Monday morning March 1….electricity at the hotel has been off more than on this weekend. Here’s a few pics from the last 3 days (including our second SACCO - EBO SACCO. A very well run operation. Bye for now. Charlie.
Brad - Final DWASCO SACCO Meeting

Our time in Dwangwa has been great but with all the rain and the road conditions Davison could not take us to some of the places he wanted us to visit so we spent all our time at the Plantation. Oh well when it is the rainy season I guess you should expect a little rain. However we did get to visit the Ethanol Plant today and received a tour with a full explanation of their processes. It was a very interesting tour and the reason the Ethanol Plant is in Dwangwa is because of the Sugar Factory since they use the Sugar Factory's waste mash for their process.

We stopped at the Standard Bank so Bruce could cash in some travelers cheques, while waiting for him (it took 45 minutes) Davison introduced me to the Chairman of the Supervisory Committee for the SACCO. Davison and I also went into the FMB Bank they wanted me to open an account and they were going to pay six percent on the savings account, that is less than the ten percent the SACCO pays.

On Friday February 26th we had our final meeting with the Board of Directors of DWASCO Employees SACCO. We started off the meeting with an opening prayer which is one of their traditions. Bruce and I gave our presentation with Bruce starting off reviewing the progress from last year and me reviewing the new issues that have come up at the SACCO. The SACCO is well run but they have their challenges especially with liquidity, they have a large loan demand and limited ways to raise deposits to fund them. After we completed the presentation we answered questions and discussed issues with the Board Members.  We enjoyed an evening of fellowship with the management and board of the SACCO. They were great hosts and we had lively conversations throughout the evening.

Robert - First Day at MBC SACCO

We spent our first day at the MBC (Malawian Broadcasting Corporation) SACCO today. We were greeted by Abigail – the MBC SACCO General Manager.  Unlike the Sunbird SACCO, the MBC SACCO is a common (or open) bond SACCO, meaning that it welcomes more than just members from a single institution. 

Abigail had participated in the CCA Women's Mentorship Program, which gave her an opportunity to visit Canada. She stayed in Manning, Alberta with her host at Horizon Credit Union. She also got to travel to Peace River. I told her that I felt sorry for her, having to travel hours upon hours to get to Northern Alberta! Haha! She did have to travel a very long distance to get there (Blantyre to Lilongwe to London to Ottawa to Calgary to Edmonton to Manning = MANY HOURS!!!) but she said it was worth it! She had a great time and really enjoyed the snow.
Henock (the Sunbird SACCO manager) picked us up this morning (Saturday) and we travelled to see the tea plantations near Tholyo (prounounced "cho-roh"). It was incredible to see the vast tea orchards. I took some photos, but the battery in my camera died half way through the trip, so I missed out on some.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Robert: Bad news, good news

The Bad News: It has been pouring rain here for the entire day today, which has made travelling around difficult. We went to the conference room at the hotel today to attend a Rotary Club (Blantyre) meeting, and no one was there. We checked at the front desk to see if the location had changed. She told us that the Rotary Club changed locations two weeks ago and that she did not know where. She made a handful of phone calls to find out where the meetings were, but she was unsuccessful. Foiled! I really wanted to attend a meeting. I'm going to ask around and see if anyone else knows, and try to attend next Thursday.

The Good News: Paul and I finished our report this evening! We're all ready to present our findings with the Chairman of the Board tomorrow.

The Children: Henock took us to Chifundo Centre 2 Orphanage today. It was in the Dilonde region of Blantyre. According to Henock, the Dilonde region is a very poor area of town. It was raining like crazy this afternoon and many of the roads had been washed out near the orphanage. We had to park blocks away, and walk through the water to get there; but we got there safe and sound! This particular orphanage is supported by the Presbyterian Church. It is run by one paid staff and many volunteers, and currently hosts about 25 children. We were told that the orphans' parents had either passed away or abandoned them. The children used to receive two meals a day (porridge in the morning and n'sima in the afternoon), however they had to cut the meals back to one meal a day because of financial constraints. The orphanage has not received financial support from the Government in the past, but we were told that this year, they would receive some financial assistance, which is very encouraging! Paul had brought toys, footballs, glasses, and various other things. We presented these small gifts, along with footballs (or soccer balls) to the children. We also made a financial contribution to the orphanage earlier in the day by making a deposit into the orphanage's bank account at Standard Bank. We presented the receipt to the coordinator of the orphanage and she thanked us. The children couldn't wait to play with the toys and soccer balls! They were running around, kicking and throwing the balls with each other, laughing and playing. Man, it was really cool to see the little guys so happy! Our financial donation will undoubtedly go a long way with this orphanage. The leader stated they the money will likely be used to reinstate their two meal/day program. Hope you like the pics!
Blog ya later! Bobby

Charlie: Farmers grow businesses with group loans

I have to be honest. I really thought that during this second mission we’d see and experience much the same as what we saw last year. Boy was I wrong. Today was the first day at EBO SACCO also in the Bushenyi region outside of Mbarara. After the initial meeting with the Manager and the Chair where high prioity issues and challenges were discussed we were treated to lunch at a local eatery. The most interesting parts of our visits are always the community visits and tours that we do. Today we visited a local secondary school and two groups of farmers - one banana, the other poultry. This SACCO has an interesting loan strategy where they lend to groups of farmers as opposed to individual - as individually these farmers would not qualify for a loan - as a group they are able to pool their resources and all benefit from the financing to help grow their businesses. Kind of like a co-operative borrowing from a co-operative. - Charlie

Brad: Lake flies and lightning bolts

When we returned to the Lodge last night we were greeted by millions and millions of Lake Flies you can see them out over the lake and it looks like black smoke. Every once in a while they decide to come to shore and last night was that once in a while. They are harmless more of a nuisance than anything else; they are attracted to the lights so we were instructed not to keep any lights on in our rooms because the flies are small enough to get through the screens. I worked on my lap top with only a small battery powered lamp and I was still swatting flies. In the morning they were gone again.

We had a great lightning show over the lake at 2:30 am it was a great show that I watched for a few minutes before going back to sleep. I guess that during the rainy season this is a common occurrence it reminded me of the lightning shows back on the prairies.

We arrived at the SACCO at our usual time and we worked on our own for a bit until Davison came in and met with us for the balance of the morning. In the afternoon Davison took us to the Dwangwa Market for a visit. It is amazing what you can find at these markets, they have everything you need from food to cloths to repair shops etc.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Charlie: living and breathing co-operative values

As those of you who followed the blog last year know, at the end of our visits at the SACCO’s we meet with as many of the board members as we can. It's a final meeting where we review our findings and provide recommendations to them and their manager on strategies they may wish to undertake to address their operational, governance and other challenges. Today’s meeting with 6 out of 9 board members of the Burere SACCO was one of the best I have attended in the five I have been to, including last year. I know I also said this last year but its such a “co-operative” eye opener to see people who live and breath the principles and philosophies of the movement every day. What an engaged board we met with. We spent over two hours discussing our report and many other off-topic items which inevitably surface when a group like this has an opportunity to sit in front of two people from a far off land with help for their SACCOs and especially considering these will be people that they will likely never see again. The warmth and hospitality they exhibited to us is truly awesome.

The other great thing about today’s meeting was that it was held outdoors at the top of this little mountain village overlooking a valley where all sides of the surrounding mountains were covered with tea plants. We did a bunch of other things today including visiting “Harriet” and her SACCO (she was in Canada in June hosted by OMISTA CU and stayed with Tammy Christopher and her family). We also visted a primary school where our UCA rep Felix’s wife works. We donated a soccer ball to the very grateful teachers and kid’s there. The ball was donated to me from the Heart and Stroke Foundation  - I have a good connection who works there. she gave me four in all so I will be stopping at other schools to drop them off over the next few days (thanks honey). One more thing - it was hot today - like Africa kind of hot - my mellon is toasted. Bye for now.  - Charlie

Robert visits the Sunbird Tourism SACCO

Hello! Paul and I are currently working at the Sunbird Tourism SACCO main branch in Blantyre, Malawi. The SACCO Manager is Mr. Henock Chakhaza. He has three employees, one accountant (Getrude Chiomba) and two clerks. The two employees Paul and I primarily deal with are Henock and Getrude.
The Sunbird Tourism SACCO is a closed-bond SACCO, meaning that there are limitations as to which members of the community can join the SACCO. As the name would suggest, this SACCO is open to employees of the Sunbird Hotel chain. They have two branches: One in the Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe, and the one we are working at, which is in a tiny office, located in the basement of the Sunbird Mount Soche in Blantyre. There are seven (7) Sunbird Hotels in Malawi, which makes Sunbird one of the largest hotel chains in the country. All of the employees working at any and all of these hotel locations are able to bank with the Sunbird Tourism SACCO. The hotels have a courier system between their hotel branches, which the members and the SACCO staff are able to use to send documentation (new account, loan, deposit, etc.) and money (for loan payments, loan advances, deposits). So how does this all work? Good question…

So, for example, let's say Paul Innes, an employee of the Sunbird Hotel Mzuzu, works and lives in the Northern region. If he wants a loan, he simply fills out the loan application, sends it in the courier bag from Mzuzu to Blantyre, and waits for Mr. Chakhaza and the Sunbird Tourism SACCO credit committee to review the application and either advance or decline the loan. If the loan is advanced, a cheque will be sent through the courier system from Blantyre to Mzuzu, and Paul will be able to cash the cheque and make his purchase.

Loan payments are made directly off of the staff's pay cheques. So if an employee had 1,250MWK owed to her at the end of the month, and her loan payment was 250MWK/month, she would receive net pay of 1,000MWK. This practice has kept the SACCOs delinquency and loan default rates very low, which is great! Paul and I are in the processes of piecing together our recommendations, as we will be presenting to the board on Friday!

Henock will be showing us around Blantyre tomorrow. The highlight should include the following:
  • Orphanage – where Paul and I will be donating soccer balls, among other items!
  • Presbyterian Church – apparently it is very large and Blantyre is known for this huge church!
  • Anglican Church – Paul is Anglican, so this will be really cool for him!
  • Tour de Blantyre – This isn't a location… rather, a reference that we'll get to drive around and explore this city.
Another highlight – I'll be attending the Blantyre Rotary Club meeting tomorrow at 12:30pm. I forgot everything that associates me with the Rotary club at home (idiot!!!!!) so I hope they take my word for it that I'm a Rotarian!

I have included two photos with this entry. The first is the view outside of my hotel room! Beautiful! The second is a picture of Getrude and the two other clerks we are working with. Getrude is on the right!

Okay! Back to work! Later,

Brad visits DWASCO SACCO

The first night in the Ngala Beach Lodge was good. I slept most of the night which for me was good because last year I think I only averaged 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night the whole time I was over here. Davison arrived in the morning to pick us up to go to the SACCO and when we got there he introduced us to the staff. We were given a working area in the Board Room and policies to read to help us understand the SACCO we are here to help.

After lunch we met with Davison, the DWASCO SACCO is a closed bond SACCO for the employees of the Lloyd Sugar Company out of South Africa. They have 4,255 members and of that 3,800 are men and 455 are women. One of the main issues for the SACCO is their lack of liquidity to fund member requests and they are looking at ways to raise either shares or deposits. They are talking to other related companies to have access to more potential members and they will be tentatively converting to the new banking system in June of this year that has cost this SACCO MK 3,500,000.

This SACCO is innovative in their approach to non interest income -- they sell paraffin for cooking, cell phone cards (Zane and TNM) and they also sell empty sacks for maize to their members. Since Davison has been Manager they have been named "SACCO of the Year" three times and Davison was named Manager of the year for District two.

Once the meeting was completed Davison took us on a tour of the compound within the Plantation where he showed us the first SACCO office which was one room and had four employees. We walked through the local market and past people's houses and to the church compound. They call it the church compound because they have all denominations from Muslim to Jehovah's Witness to Catholic. Davison stated that there are no religious issues other than each congregation trying to convert others to their religion and one church trying to sing louder than the church beside them.

That finished our first day at the SACCO.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Malawi - Brad Day 1 & 2

Meetings, monkeys, geckos and finally some sleep...
Our four-hour layover in Jo-burg was uneventful and the best part was we had to go outside to board our plane in the warm African sun. As luck would have it I sat beside Rosemary Kanyuka the Chief State Advocate for Malawi Ministry of Justice who I had a conversation with all the way to Malawi. Still no sleep for 29 hours so far but at least I know a high powered Lawyer in Malawi.

We met Dixon the MUSSCO operation Manager at the MUSSCO office in the morning for a quick briefing before we head out to our respective SACCOs.

MUSSCO negotiated the purchase of a new banking system from Kenya that all of the SACCOs will be converting to within the next two years. They scrapped the banking system they were converting to last year since it did not give them the capacity they needed. Each SACCO now has a policy on Gender and HIV and Dixon stated there has been some movement on gender.
The trip (Lilongwe - Dwangwa) was uneventful but the scenery is beautiful since it is the rainy season here and everything is so green and lush. We arrived at Dwangwa and went in to meet Davison the SACCO Manager Bruce and I will be working with and went to the Kasa Club for something to eat. Made it back to the hotel and crashed around 10:00 pm, awake for 38 hours so I slept pretty well.

This Lodge (Ngala Beach Lodge )is right on one of the beaches on Lake Malawi and I have a great view of the beach and Lake Malawi right outside my door. There is a family of monkeys that run from tree to tree. Chris says they are pests since they eat their garden vegetables but the tourists like watching them. The other neat thing that they have here is two gecko lamps at the bar that three or four real geckos hide under to keep warm and attack insects that are attracted to the light. They were fun to watch scurrying around eating bugs it was great entertainment.  Stay tuned for stories of our first day at the SACCO in Dwangwa.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Uganda/Malawi Coaching Mission - Day 1

Our three bloggers have arrived in their respective African countries after a few travelling hiccups due to snow and ‘lost’ travel documents. Everyone arrived safely and while struggling with slow internet connections have managed to share some of their experiences so far...

Malawi – Robert - “The Credit Union movement in Malawi is alive and well!”

Happy to report that credit union numbers have increased from 70,000 to 100,000 in the past year, Paul (my coaching partner) and I are working with two SACCOs in Blantyre, South Malawi. A day of hectic driving through potholes, fog, people, livestock and being on the ‘wrong’ side of the road was rewarded with beautiful scenery of lush green hills and a delicious meal of Chambo, a white fish delicacy of Malawi. Tomorrow begins with an early meeting at the MUSCCO regional office and then a meeting with the Sunbird Tourism SACCO, with no fear of more chaotic driving, as the SACCO is housed in our hotel.

Uganda – Charlie – A snapshot of Day 1

Sorry everyone but the internet access here is brutal.

Another short night. We got in at 9:30pm (local time) which is 8 hours ahead of most of you. John Katwaza (our driver from last year was at the airport to pick us up). I don’t have a lot of time as there are others who need to use this hotel computer, so here’s a "snapshot" of things that stuck with me from

Day 1

- great debrief meeting with the UCA and a nice lunch.

- a 5-hour drive afterwards to Mbarara in west Uganda - more beautiful country side than the east.

- John is an amazing driver, thank God, anything less won’t get you to where you need to go around here.

- I stood on the equator (really).

- bad year for potholes - tons of them and most are big enough to squeeze a Volkswagen into them.

- side of the road vendors - lots of sweet potatoes, fresh tilapia and I mean fresh.

- a maybe 5-year-old dragging his maybe two-year-old sibling into stalled traffic to try and touch the hearts of the white people in the truck for some spare change - parents in the distance watching.

- no one fazed by the thick deep red mud that is everywhere right now due to the heavy rains the night before.

- saw the Uganda president’s motorcade whiz thru the city - very cool.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Three Bloggers...

As Brad and Robert prepare for Malawi and Charlie for Uganda, the blogging has begun!  The long journey of planes and trains (and an assortment of other transportation) commences as most coaches leave for Africa today. 

This is a return journey for all coaches.  Each team of two will be visiting a new area of Malawi or Uganda and meeting new credit union managers and staff.

Our three bloggers report of excitement in meeting old and new friends, the anticipation of assisting the growth of credit unions in these developing nations and also the hope of escaping some of the infamous Candian Winter!

We will catch up with Robert, Brad and Charlie daily, posting their words and photos as the Uganda/Malawi Coaching Program gets underway for 2010.  Check back soon...