|U.S. Ambassador visits participants of SCORE project in Gulu, Uganda|
On September 17, 2012, a high-level delegation from the US Embassy visited some activities and beneficiaries of the SCORE project. The U.S. Ambassador Scott DeLisi, his wife Leija, the USAID Mission Director Leslie Reed, and the Uganda Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Tadesse Wuhib, visited SCORE-supported activities in Gulu, including the Pito Kic Tek (“taking care of orphans is tough”) Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). The visitors were accompanied by AVSI Staff members including Massimo Lowicki-Zucca, SCORE Chief of Party, Richard Okello Nixon, SCORE Area Manager North, and officers from the implementing partner Acholi Education Initiative.
The SCORE program, Sustainable, COmprehensive REsponses for vulnerable children and the families, is a highly innovative 5-year program, funded by USAID, and implemented by AVSI Foundation, together with CARE, TPO, FHI360 and dozens of local partners across 35 districts of Uganda.
Village Savings and Loans Association
During the visit, the Ambassador had the opportunity to interact with the members of Pito Kic Tek, just one VSLA supported by SCORE. VSLAs are self-managed and self-capitalized microfinance institutions, involving community members who pool savings and other assets to provide greater credit, savings, and insurance opportunities for members, who are usually not able to access formal banking institutions. Although young, the Pito Kic Tek association has already begun loaning funds to group members. Savings allows households to better handle emergencies, as well as to plan and manage future planned expenses. Saved resources also enable households to embark in income-generating activities which will ultimately improve their socio-economic status and social resiliency.
Youth Training and Apprenticeship
In addition to the VSLA, the Ambassador exchanged words with young people with whom SCORE is working to build and refine skills that will enable them to engage in economic activities, and with the goal of increasing the flow of resources to their households. These youth are out-of-school for economic, disruption of school attendance in their youth or other reasons related to the nearly two decades of conflict.
These youth are trained and placed in apprenticeships, after which SCORE offers the youth business skills training, mentorship and guidance on enterprise selection, business plan assistance, and support to link them to funding from financial institutions.
The Ambassador remarked that when empowered and supported, individuals in any community can care for and protect those in need. The community’s efforts to save and raise income shows that the people in Gulu are dedicated to rising out of challenging situations, taking the initiative upon themselves. To the young people enrolled in the project activities, the Ambassador underlined their importance for the reconstruction in the north, stating that their efforts to learn a new skill and to become young entrepreneurs attest to the “new North”, a region with hope for today and tomorrow.