From refugee to employer: Geofrey's story


When the war broke out in South Sudan in 1997, Geofrey (43) and his wife Flora fled with their children, leaving everything they owned behind, and found themselves in Northern Uganda as refugees.

There they were supported by the Ugandan government, NGOs and World Vision, and provided basic necessities.

With a family of eight children to support, Geoffrey recalls that it was still not easy. “We were troubled with poor sanitation leading to sicknesses and little medication due to the pressures of many refugees entering Uganda. We did not have enough food, water, and no proper shelter, amongst other difficulties,” he says, attributing their survival to God.

Life had not been easy during the past years, but along the way, Geofrey and other refugee members thought of forming a small savings group of 30 members (comprising 10 men and 20 women) and named it Opi Okweni Savings Group.

They were supported by World Vision to build strong structures within the group and provided training in 2015 on Start Your Business (SYB), bookkeeping, recordkeeping and more.

All members agreed to start some small income generating activities to boost their weekly savings and the group has been growing steadily since. “We are happy that the government of Uganda gave each family some land to put up temporary shelters and also do some small farming and animal rearing,” says Geofrey and his wife Flora. 

In late 2019, World Vision introduced VisionFund Uganda to many of the savings groups within the refugee settlements and Geofrey’s group was one of them.

His group was well trained on financial literacy (through VisionFund’s Embedded Education programme), a step to prepare them for a FAST loan.

After the group received the loan, Geofrey was amongst the savers who benefited from the first loans given to group members.

He received a loan of US$ 270 on his first cycle, which he used to take back his children to school, buy seeds for cultivation, and also purchase some animals. He paid it back on time.

The group entrusted him with a new loan of US$ 405 which he has invested in expanding his business by opening up a grinding mill for maize, purchasing a motorcycle for transporting his merchandise, and also to buy more animals to boost his asset base and income.

“I greatly thank VisionFund Uganda for the financial support given to my group where I am a beneficiary. I am so excited that from being a refugee I can now employ at least three people at my grinding plant. I can ably take care of my family’s needs without any more government support, and I am also excited that most people around my zone are able to use my grinding machine and pay me some good money that adds to my income,” Geofrey says.

Geofrey and Flora hope to grow their businesses further and buy more fixed assets to boost their capital base and see all their children complete their education in better schools within Uganda.

Geofrey with some of his school-going children
Geofrey with some of his school-going children



Story and photos by: Maxwell Aluma, Field Officer - West Nile Region, VisionFund Uganda