The Association is democratically governed by the members who elect a local executive committee at sub-county and District levels. Each District branch sends two delegates to a national assembly that elects a national board. All officers at the secretariat are appointed by the board which is the policy making organ of the association.
In West Nile, three districts of Moyo, Adjumani and Arua were covered by ESAU. In Moyo district, ESAU started operating in 5 sub counties including Metu. Metu Epilepsy Support Association was formed in 2001. The group was composed of People with epilepsy (PWE), the parents, guardians and care givers. The major uniting factor was medication and proper understanding of epilepsy.
About METU
Metu is one of the sub counties in Moyo District where ESAU operates and has been able to sustain her self socially, politically and economically. The word METU has a cultural background as a place of fortune where cultural leaders, medicine men go and practice traditional events. It is believed that incase of long drought spell, rainmakers converge in that place (METU) to pray for the rain. On 1st March 2002, Metu branch members held a meeting, elected their leaders, wrote a constitution and passed a resolution to begin a savings scheme. They requested for help through the skills given to them by ESAU and managed to get shs300,000 to buy medication. The money, which was put on the Association account, was used to buy medication and the rest was loaned out to eligible members. The money was topped up by shs500 monthly membership contribution which had been accumulated in the previous months.
METU has 4 parishes and 52 villages. The 4 parishes are well represented on the committee. To be a member of the Association, a membership of shs2,000 has to be paid and a membership card is issued. Legality of (Metu Epilepsy Support Association) MESA Metu Epilepsy Support Association is registered with Metu Sub County and is recognized as a CBO. It is allowed to carry out all her activities legally and in has the support of the Sub County in all her developmental activities.
The Association is guided by their constitution, their leaders who are elected every after 3 years of office and presided over by ESAU secretariat staff.
METU Savings Scheme
Any person who has a membership card qualifies to be a member of the scheme. However, to qualify for the loan, there are certain procedures one has to follow and some requirements have to be fulfilled.
These include
a) ESAU Membership card
b) Shs2,000 has to be paid for members and shs4,000 for non members
c) Must have a witness
The eligible member who fulfills all the requirements has to submit his or her application either verbally or in written form to the committee a month before the next sitting. Members always meet on the 3rd of every month. When a member takes a loan, there are important issues which the committee emphasizes to the member and the witness. These include;
a) The loan has to be paid in a period of 2 months.
b) The witness should be able and willing to assist the borrower to pay back the loan incase the former encounters financial problems.
c) The committee has a right to attach a members’ property incase of failure to pay back the loan.
d) Installments are allowed only within the specified period of 2 months
e) The members meet every 3rd of every month for those who took loans to pay and for the new applicants to access loans.
Status of MESA Bank Account
By 6th May 2010, the Association had about 10 million shillings. From this, 7 million shillings had already been loaned out and there was 3 million shillings on the account.
Determining how much a member takes?
This depends on how much the member requested for. However, PWE are always given a priority when giving out loans. But, PWE who have “bad epilepsy” are always given less money as their repayment capability is always low.
Secondly, peoples’ characters, activeness, creativity, how long a person has been a member, and personal or family assets are among the other factors which have to be considered before a member is given a loan.
The range begins from shs20,000 up to shs200,000 depending on the capability of the applicant, witnesses brought, assessment of the loans committee and member’s track record in loan payment. What do members do with the money?
All borrowers are encouraged to have personal or family income generating activities so that repayment can be easier. Most members are involved in;
a) Crop cultivation
b) Animal keeping
c) Bee keeping
d) Brewing of local beer
e) Small scale businesses among others.
These help members to generate money to pay back loans acquired in time and make members able to sustain themselves economically and access medication. Staff from the secretariat visited some of the beneficiaries and verified what members had said. Some of the members visited are reported below. One of the members visited was Mr. Kareode Lazerous, who is a person living with epilepsy. He is 35 years of age and has a son and a brother, all living with epilepsy. He was among the first beneficiaries in 2002 to get loans from the scheme. He put it to good use by buying bee hives. He started with 3 beehives but by the time of our visit, he had 112 beehives, 100 had bees and twelve were still empty.
He has managed to avail the son with regular medication, bought 10 cows and five goats. He has paid school fees for his children, constructed a house and catered for all his family needs. Lazerous produces a lot of honey, which he sells in wholesale to business people at 5,000sh per liter. By the time of our visit, he had 100 liters in his house waiting for his regular buyer and he had sold another 100 liters a week before our visit.
Mr. Kareode Lazerous as one of the brains behind the establishment of the savings scheme has acted as a role model to the rest of the members. During his term of office as the chairperson of METU ESAU branch, he has done a lot especially in conflict resolution, loan recovery and continuous progress of the scheme. He has now been elevated to the post of chairperson – Moyo Epilepsy Support Association. During last year’s visit by ESAU staff members to this branch on the 2nd of December 2016, they were overjoyed with the news of Mr. Kareode Lazerous having healed from epilepsy and doctors recommended him to stop taking anti epileptic drugs. He narrated to them how he constantly took his medicine without missing and he has been living happily for the last three years now.
For Concy Odeko, who is 50 years old with an 18year daughter living with epilepsy, she first got two loans of shs20,000 and later shs30,000 in 2002. She invested the money in agriculture especially in cassava growing and growing fruits for commercial purposes. The income got after selling cassava was used to buy a heifer and the rest to pay school fees. She has not found any difficulty in paying back the loan since she always takes what she can afford. The daughter’s health has improved so well that she has started a course training in tailoring after which she will be given the tailoring machine all sponsored by CHESHIRE.
Recovery of the Loan
If a member fails to pay, the committee gives one month to the witness to pay or if not the borrower’s property is attached. The committee goes to the sub county, reports the case and they are given a security personnel to go with in loan recovery missions.
The Disability Grant
The Disability grant is an initiative by the government of Uganda to support people with disabilities (PWDs) in Uganda. The grant is disbursed and supervised by the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development. The same ministry is also the lead agency but the grant is managed at the district level. In order to benefit from this grant, PWDs have to be in groups because they can not benefit as individuals.
Therefore, MESA being one of the few organized groups in Moyo district, they wrote a proposal and the district bought for them a milling machine worth shs3,300,000. Metu sub county gave the group a piece of land in METU town where a shelter has been constructed to house the milling machine. The group uses the same committee to manage, run and maintain the machine and the profits made are put in their savings scheme for expansion and sustainability.
The grant is meant to support income generating activities (IGAs) for PWDs and employment as a way of improving their income status. Activities supported by the grant include agricultural production, agro processing, trade, micro-credit savings and loan associations, and small scale industries among others. Political Support
Using the skills in advocacy and leadership given to the group by ESAU Secretariat, MESA has put them in good practice. During the previous LC 5 elections, the group organized themselves and invited one of the contestants for the LC 5 seat to address them. On learning the progress of the group, and their concerns, he pledged 1 million shillings which he delivered a week after.
As a result of all these, ESAU secretariat recently organized an exchange visit between Adjumani Epilepsy Support Association and MESA so that the former could pick some experiences and use them in the development of their own groups.
METU is one of the few ESAU branches that should be taken as a role model and as an example to the rest of the branches. Their determination, focus, good leadership, personal skills and innovation can be adopted and used by other branches to progress in livelihoods. It should be noted that good leadership, unity and co-operation are important factors in the effective progress of such schemes.