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Christian charity bringing financial dignity, empowerment to refugees in Uganda

by Tola Mbakwe
jane uganda vision fund international.jpg - Banner image
VisionFund International

A Christian charity which helps bring people out of poverty by giving them loans to invest in small businesses has expanded its operations to a refugee camp in Uganda.

The Palorinya refugee settlement in Moyo is home to over 121,000 refugees and over 48,000 Ugandan nationals.

VisionFund Intentional, which is part of Christian children's charity World Vision, said more than 6,000 child refugees so far have been impacted by an equivalent of £46,000 in loans disbursed to parents.

The microfinance organisation also gives financial literacy training to those who join the scheme.

Martina Crailsheim, refugee microfinance manager with VisionFund International, told Premier the program has given people who have been through much hardship some financial independence. 

"When you get assistance, when you get food aid, when you get handouts, that's all great for survival. But at some point you really want to do more with your life. 

"So the little amount of money and the income they earn really allows them in to care for their family and not rely on any outsider.

"It gives you dignity and then empowers you."

The increase of violence in South Sudan in 2016 has seen over 1.3 million refugees, predominantly women and children, flee across the border into Uganda.

This is the first time VisionFund has provided microfinance services for refugees.

It will open a further three branches this year with the second branch planned in the coming months in Yumbe district to serve both Yumbe town as well as the Bidibidi settlement, home to over 230,000 refugees.

"Their lives and what they have lived through is heart-breaking," Crailsheim told Premier. 

"It's actually always humbling to me seeing that they haven't lost faith, and they're really in a tough spot."

She said helping lift out of poverty on these refugee settlements is the "Christian thing to do". 

"International assistance will cease at some point. Projects are fading out. Support from outside will trickle down," Crailsheim said. 

"So I think the best we can do is offer those women the capability, the capacity to go on, and help themselves and improve their lives."

VisionFund International has a network of 28 microfinance institutions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. 

Last year, its microfinance institutions gave loans to over one million clients, with nearly three-quarters of these going to women.

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