He had dreams but dared not mention them. Slowly, they fizzled off, and self-pity took shape. For a while, Martin Unza’s life was a gamble, a meal here and there; anything to survive. Some days food eluded him, and when he managed, it was never a decent meal. Despite being just 26 years then, Unza, a Ugandan resident of Ogojo Refugee Settlement in Adjumani District, had given up any hope that life would ever get better.
Then suddenly there was news, a rumour about the Market Oriented Skills Development for Refugees and Host Communities project by Windle International Uganda, in partnership with Uganda Manufacturer’s Association (UMA) and Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), with funding from European Union Trust Fund-Skills Development Fund (SDF) through ENABEL. “They said that Windle Uganda was taking young people for training,” he recalls. It was true. “Windle came and I applied for the course and then we were taken to Adjumani for training for 3 months,” he narrates two years later from his workshop.
It was a welding course that came with a hands-on experience at a welding garage. The group that excelled in the course was promised machines to start their welding workshop by Windle International Uganda.
Things Get Better
“When we were still waiting for the startup tools, there was a welding place where I used to go and work since I had acquired the skills,” he narrates. “The owner could give us between Ugx2000-5000 daily.”
This intense workshop made him even better, and when Windle International Uganda reached out with news of machines, he was ready.
Memories of the arrival of these machines that included a generator, various welding equipment and a rented space for six months had Unza’s eyes shimmering with tears. Hearing that the entire investment on him was about 30million Ugandan shillings motivated him even more. “This was a chance from God himself, I swear!” he exclaims.
Unza has taken to keeping the promise he made during the interview for the training with the Windle International Uganda panel. “I said that since I was young, I had interest in welding and I am going to also be assisting the community,” he smiles with a whiff of accomplishment. “I have helped the community, people come to me and I help repair their doors, I have helped people with disabilities in the community as well.”
He is not short of stories about the lives he has impacted after the training and equipment given to him by Windle International Uganda. “There is a woman, she is almost 80 years, her house was built but the door and window had been broken and I rushed there and helped,” Unza smiles. “I have also helped the schools around; recently I went to a school where refugees study and I repaired the broken windows, about ten of them.”
When not fixing things for the vulnerable refugee community, Unza is ensuring continuity of Windle International Uganda’s skilling intentions. “I also train other young people like Steven Asebasi and Nyal,” he again breaks into a smile. “They are interested in this work, they come and spend the day with me, I started training them for free. Their work is now perfect.”
Unza’s belief in philanthropy is evident; he knows that his life wouldn’t be any better hadn’t he experienced kindness himself. “If Windle had not come, I would now be a porter, working in people’s gardens,” he says.
Not today, Unza is a local businessman with a passion that knows no bounds. “From this workshop, we can make up to 200,000 a day,” he offers with subtle pride. “We save whatever comes and use whatever we need to improve the business. It is growing by the way.”
About the Project
Market Oriented Skills Development through Vocational Training was funded by European Emergency Trust Fund and the Belgian Government. The Fund was managed in Uganda by Enabel in partnership with Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES). It was implemented by Windle International Uganda as a lead partner and Young Women’s Christian Association and Uganda Manufacturers’ Association as sub-grantees. The project covered Adjumani Refugee Settlements in Adjumani district in three Settlements of Ayilo 1, Maaji II and Agojo. The general objective of the project was to ensure unemployed refugees and Ugandan women, girls and youth in Northern Uganda (Adjumani) are equipped with employable and marketable skills.