When I was a teenager I worked as an Electrician’s Apprentice. One of the highlights each day was the appearance of the local food truck, often called the “Roach Coach.” On Hope Haven’s construction site today, you will find more healthier fare than most food carts!
When two mothers with students at Hope Haven saw the flurry of activity in the neighborhood, they started thinking about business ideas. Then they heard that construction workers were complaining because there were very few options for lunch.
Alice Batamuriza and her friend, Solange Umuziga, decided to approach Liz Ingabire, Hope Haven’s Managing Director, to see if they could start preparing and selling food on the site.
Alice already knew Liz fairly well because her husband Goodman has been a long-time employee. While Goodman was very successful as IT Manager at Hope Haven, Alice said, “I wasn’t happy with my job and I wanted to help my husband support our kids more. I felt like this was a big chance for me.”
Solange was also looking for a change. As a mother of one who has never married, life has been hard. She lives with her mother and her daughter, Gloria, who has been at Hope Haven since preschool, and is in Primary Four (4th Grade) now.
Solange previously served in Hope Haven’s fields to pay for tuition but this was an opportunity to start her own business. She knew she could make enough money to pay school fees and even have some left over. She said, “This is a better job for me because I make more money. When the construction started, my life got better.” Now she is her own boss and is learning a lot about business.
As equal partners in this new venture, the two ladies are on site by 5:00 AM every workday, with flashlights and small solar lamps to run their food station. For Alice, this means getting up at 4:00 AM to walk to work.
Solange and Alice work together until 4:00 PM, and one of them has to make it to the Kabuga Market regularly to buy supplies. It is no small feat to make this 7-mile-roundtrip journey without a vehicle but they make it happen.
The new business partners worked with Hope Haven’s General Contractor to create a reasonable, while profitable, fee structure. They offer a light breakfast and hearty lunch option each day. Workers’ food purchases are tracked and deducted from their bi-weekly payroll.
Solange and Alice laughed with me as they recalled the surprise on some construction workers’ faces when they received their first wages with the food deduction. They knew the terms in advance, but it still surprised some to see the food deducted. But while these ladies may be newcomers to the food business, they have a lot of life experience and they structured their business to succeed.
Now that workers have settled into a rhythm on this massive construction site, the food station has become a welcome fixture and a practical service—a win-win for everyone involved.
This booming construction site is filled with fathers and mothers who are learning and earning. When I interviewed two fathers, Merikiyoro and Benard, they were over-the-top grateful for specific on-the-job training and construction skills they are receiving. Now, they own personal tools which they proudly bring to work each day. The dignity they feel as part of this team and project is clear. Every time they bring their student to school, they will take pride in knowing they were a piece of this beautiful puzzle.
We love helping our families through various types of employment. It is especially exciting when someone launches a new business. One of Hope Haven’s stated goals is to develop “job creators” and Alice and Solange are well on their way!