Updates from Ghana and Kenya

Updates from Ghana and Kenya

Who’s that lady?

Reader question! “I love the SIA newsletter. What is the story behind the pic of the beautiful woman with the lovely smile on page 6? Looks like she has a big tray of maize or something and I’m wondering if you can tell me her story.”

Tanya’s Response: I’m sorry that I neglected to add a caption to her photo. This woman is one of the 50 women who attended a sustainable agriculture training at Shape Lives Foundation in Ghana, sponsored by Spirit in Action. The woman in front is holding a tray of brown rice and the trees surrounding her are Moringa trees. Moringa is a highly nutritious plant and the leaves can be ground up and added to food as a vitamin supplement. (Read more about Moringa here and here.) Shape Lives has been integrating Moringa in with the rice at their demonstration farm to help improve the nutrition in their community. The plants grew well together and they are planning to train more women to add Moringa to their home gardens. The women who attend the training and help with the harvest get to take home some of the rice!

New Businesses in Nairobi, Kenya

Five new groups in Nairobi, Kenya received their initial $100 Small Business Fund grants in February.

The new business leaders: Back row - Wilkister, Pheris, Ann & Pamela. Front row-Tina & Josephine

The new business leaders: Back row – Wilkister, Pheris, Ann & Pamela. Front row – Tina & Josephine (Josephine is one of the local business mentors.

  • Ann Ayuma and her husband George Mungai and their daughter Phyllis Ayuma are the members. They chose the group Mwangaza which means light and they will sell cooked food.
  • A family group of mother Wilkister Akumu, father Ronald Omondi Okumu, and their child Juliet Ochieng. They chose the name Hekima – Wisdom for their kiosk.
  • Pheris Amati has an existing business of making bags with her husband Kennedy Adai. Their daughter Sela Obanda will join them.
  • Pamela Anyango is the group leader. She has a small shop and sells by the roadside items like tissues and diapers, and also cooks and sells githeri (beans and corn). Their groups name is Ebenezer.
  • Mama Tony Boutique is the name of their business. The leader’s name is Tina Violet Amati and she does hair but doesn’t have a place – she is a free lancer.

And a New Sewing Machine!

Caroline with her new sewing machine, working on a school uniform.

Carolyne with her new sewing machine, working on a school uniform.

Carolyne joined up with other two friends to start the God’s Favor Tailoring Group with a Spirit in Action Small Business Fund grant a year ago and their business is going strong. With the second grant installment of $50, in addition to reinvesting their profit, they bought a new machine and added to their stock. They are now able to pay school fees, eat better, and pay rent from their profits. Judy, who had taken her kids to stay with her mother in the village, said she would bring them back to live with her because life had improved. Alfayo, a high school student, is able to pay his fees and meet his other basic needs. The only down side so far is that because they specialize on school uniforms, the business went down once school started. However, they did get some new orders for other types of clothes around Christmas and Easter.

4 Quick Grant Updates!

4 Quick Grant Updates!

1. 35 Women Trained in Zambia

One of the women who received a small low-interest loan to establish her hair braiding business.

One of the women who received a small low-interest loan from Welfare Concern International to establish her hair braiding business.

(SIA funded Welfare Concern International, a grassroots organization, to coordinate a capacity-building workshop and small micro-loans for women in Livingstone in 2014.)

From Moses Chibanda, Director: In the last six months, we have trained 35 community women and we have empowered 18 of them with small loans.

Our biggest success has been to see the trained women being able to at least have two meals per day for their families and send their children to school, a thing that never used to happen in the past. Secondly, the women whom we have so far trained this year have been able to run their businesses successfully. This has been attributed to the training which we provided for them. Many have been able to also open their own savings accounts with the banks.

Community members, through the provision of capacity building training and micro-loans empowerment, are slowly drifting away from hand outs to using their hands to do something for themselves.”

2. A Safety Net for Widows in Kenya

Two of the three large fish ponds run collectively by the Tsindomdale Women's group in Kenya.

Two of the three large fish ponds run collectively by the Tsindombela Women’s group in Kenya.

(The Tsindombela Women’s Group in Kakamega, Kenya received a SIA grant last year to dig 3 large fish ponds and start a collective business.)

From Grace Makungu, President: We have over 500 fish in our three ponds. And 28 widows and their families have benefited from this project so far.

Birds were taking some of our fishes in great numbers because we didn’t have the net to cover the top and give protection. It is with our profit from the first sale of fish that we were able to purchase a fishing net ($380) and also save some profit ($200) with our treasurer. 

We are in the process of bringing the District Fisheries Department to see if they can provide future support to bring out project to a higher level. We are also planning to extend the project by utilizing swampy places at our member’s farms that lie dormant. If well utilized, the group can come up with giant results in the next few years, and that is our true dream.”

3. New SIA Partner to Empower Girls

(SIA just sent funds this week for Pastoralist Child Foundation to host an empowerment workshop and Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony for 60 girls in Samburu, Kenya. Here is more about their past successes.)

In the last 2 years PCF has provided workshops for 132 girls and seminars for 70 adults. They have also sponsored 6 students to attend high school.

“With your support we’ll increase the number of workshops in 2015, educating more girls and preparing them for their very first celebratory Alternative Rite of Passage. This will be history-in-the-making!” [Tanya’s note: The girls are eager for this alternative to the traditional Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).] 

The girl’s workshops provide them with the “vital information needed to resist FGM and forced early marriages, and to adopt safe and peaceful Alternative Rites of Passage to Womanhood.

The curriculum also includes the importance of knowing about the female sexual reproductive system, HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, rape, resisting gender-based violence, as well as the importance of getting a formal education.

4. Empowering Students at Samro School

A poster in the computer room at Samro School encourages students to ask questions to learn more.

A poster in the computer room at Samro School encourages students to ask questions to learn more.

(SIA funded a water tank at Samro School in 2014 and will help with school fees in 2015. Some of the students come from South Sudan, where there is still much unrest.)

Report from Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge, Directors: “We thank God for the wonderful year though full of financial challenges. Most parents were not able to complete their school fees on time and that became a setback for us to meet the teachers’ salaries. We thank you for standing with us. Our teachers do their best to teach critical thinking and the students are developing in academics, spiritual development, and character development. We believe we are causing an impact in our society as we hear good reports of what our graduates are doing in high school. The first Samro graduates are joining university this year.”

**For a list of all recent grants, visit our Grants List page.

What is an OFSP??

sweet_potatoes_ciford_9-14

Women proud of their sweet potato harvest, at CIFORD Kenya.

OFSP? Orange flesh sweet potato. Or, as I call them, those vegetables that are really tasty baked and topped with butter!

While I’m used to the orange variety of sweet potatoes in North America, in Africa the white or yellow sweet potatoes are much more common. They taste similar but the white and yellow varieties are not nearly as nutritious as the vitamin A/beta-carotene-rich orange ones. It’s only in the last few years that the UN and many others have begun promoting the OFSP as a way to combat malnutrition and disease especially among women and children, who are particularly vulnerable to vitamin A deficiencies. The food we ate in Africa this summer was high in starch, with a few vegetables depending on what was in season – I could see the need for more vitamin-rich foods.

That is why I am happy to report that SIA is working with two partners who are promoting OFSP growth in their communities.

CIFORD Kenya, in Meru, Kenya, has been holding workshops to train farmers in growing, managing, and preparing OFSP. This work in their rural community is designed to both improve food security (ex. people have enough to eat all year) and reduce the environmental degradation of the soil. The CIFORD trainings are include classroom time and also get-your-hands-dirty practical time with farmers being brought to the CIFORD training garden for demonstrations. The OFSP helps protect the soil because its big leaves cover the soil, which reduces run off and erosion.

Many parts of the sweet potato can be used:

  • Vines are used as animal feed
  • The leaves can be eaten as the leafy green
  • The potato root can be boiled, roasted or made into chips, French fries, or flour
Crops planted by Bucece community members along the shores of Lake Mutanda. (Photo by Raising the Village)

Crops planted by Bucece community members along the shores of Lake Mutanda. (Photo from Raising the Village)

Also, Raising the Village has just completed a round of trainings in Bucece Village, Uganda with farmers who wanted to plant the OFSP seeds. OFSP can sell for much higher prices in the market because it is still rare to see them and because people know they provide a health benefit to their diets. The hills around Bucece are very steep and so the OFSP will be important for keeping the soil from running down into the lake.

Hopefully, next time I’m in Uganda I’ll get to try the local OFSP, eating it alongside the steamed bananas, rice, and boiled kale, and peanut sauce. Yum!

How do you improve education in Nairobi slums?

I left our meeting with the grassroots organization Progressive Volunteers feeling very optimistic. As I sat in their office in Nairobi, Kenya in July, they told me that the name Progressive Volunteers doesn’t just reflects that the local volunteers (including the PV staff) are helping other people progress. It’s also because “when you are making change in someone else’s life, it is also progressing you,” as Jeremiah Mzee, the group’s chairman, explained .

Since 2007 PV has recruited almost 100 young adults from Nairobi to volunteer to make their city – and especially its slums – a better, more peaceful place. This week, Meshack and Vaida from PV’s communication team share about their work in Nairobi’s informal schools.

Every child has a right to education. Education is life. It helps equip one with the necessary tools to face life’s challenges. Education also opens doors to opportunities that are otherwise impossible.

A school in Korogocho, one of the slums in Nairobi where Progressive Volunteers mentors work.

A school in Korogocho, one of the slums in Nairobi where Progressive Volunteers mentors work.

The children who attend the informal schools (those public schools that do not receive any government money) in the slums of Nairobi face many challenges in trying to get an education.

These informal schools are severely under-resourced and under staffed. The teacher student ratio is typically 1:40. This ratio shows that although the children have access to an education, it is substandard. It’s not an odd thing to find 3-4 students sharing a desk. And you will often find a room partitioned into four classes, with 1st-4th grades all in the same space. You can only imagine the confusion that occurs when the classes are on. The very minimal supervision at the schools leads to many students missing classes. Most of the pupils see school as a chore. This has brought about a high drop-out rate especially at the beginning and at the end of each of three school terms.

Eric, a volunteer from PV, mentors students at Emmaus Educational Centre in Lucky summer Area in Nairobi.

Eric, a volunteer from PV, mentors students at Emmaus Educational Centre in Lucky summer Area in Nairobi.

The founders of Progressive volunteers saw the challenges that these pupils faced in getting a quality education. PV came in to try and remedy the situation. With help from partners such as Global Giving Foundation, the local administration of the Kenyan government, parents, community leaders, and other community-based organizations (CBOs), we have developed a mentorship programme that uses volunteer mentors to act as “big brothers and sisters” with the aim of guiding these students towards a constructive life.

The mentorship program places volunteer mentors from PV in one of the many informal schools once a week to holds sessions on different topics every week. The topics cover health issues, self-empowerment, drugs and alcohol abuse, academic issues, self-esteem, and awareness issues. We are also planting trees at some informal schools to increase shade and improve the environment.

[Tanya’s note: When we met with the PV team they stressed how important these local mentors were to the students. It is a big motivation when the students hear success stories from people who they can relate to and identify with.]

Jeremiah from PV gives a talk on Gender-based Violence at Precious Star High School in Mathare North Area.

Jeremiah from PV gives a talk on Gender-based Violence at Precious Star High School in Mathare North Area.

With this structure in place we hope to give each child in our district an opportunity to empower themselves.

When the standard of education goes up, the students start seeing things differently. They will in turn become ambassadors who champion for the right of a child to go to school. This will go a long way in empowering them and the community at large.

I highly recommend checking out PV’s blog!
To support PV directly, visit their campaign on Global Giving.

Boyd, Tanya, and the PV team meet to discuss the potential of local volunteers to improve Nairobi’s schools and environment. (July 2014)

A reminder of goodness in the world

A reminder of goodness in the world
The MAVISALO Maize Mill cooperative helps bring food security and prosperity to rural Malawi.

The MAVISALO Maize Mill cooperative helps bring food security and prosperity to rural Malawi.

Have you heard those stories about people pulling up to the coffee drive-through window, ready to order, only to find out that the person in front of them has already paid for their drink?

What a gift! And often, that person turns around and pays for the person behind them – passing along the gift to another fellow café-goer.

My friend was part of just such a chain of giving in Minnesota. The chain was 19 links long when she got to it, each person wishing the stranger behind them, “an awesome day.” It was something that was fun; that brightened her day. For those who heard the story, it was a reminder that goodness exists in the world.

An Example from Malawi

MAVISALO members working the maize mill. Maize is the staple crop, and milling it into a coarse meal significantly increases the market value.

MAVISALO members working the maize mill. Maize is the staple crop, and milling it into a coarse meal significantly increases the market value.

This sharing of the gift – passing along the joy – is built into the very fiber of Spirit in Action grants. Sharing the Gift can take many forms, though I haven’t yet heard of a Kenyan coffee giving chain yet. Until then, here’s an example from Malawi:

Manyamula Village Savings and Loans Cooperative (MAVISALO) members have benefited greatly from the 2013 SIA grant to collectively purchase a maize mill. (Read more about the maize mill here.)

The co-op rents out the use of the mill, providing a good source of income to the group. Funds from the project – the total profit from 2013 was an impressive $600 – have added to the capital base of the loan fund in order to meet the high demand for low-interest loans among MAVISALO’s members.

What about Sharing the Gift?

The next generation of piglets will be passed on to vulnerable families in the community.

The next generation of piglets will be passed on to vulnerable families in the community.

Social assistance is part of the mandate of the MAVISALO and so some of the income also helps to pay secondary school fees for orphans and vulnerable students from the community. That is part of Sharing the Gift and paying-it-forward to benefit the community in the long run by education its youth.

“The other most important activity done with this fund,” reports MAVISALO leader Canaan Gondwe, “is the implementation of the Pig Pass On Project in the eight zones of the cooperative.” At the end of the year the cooperative had enough in the social fund to purchase twelve pigs!

The piglets are now in the care of the zone leaders, who are charged with watching and breeding them. Canaan Gondwe, who is experienced in pig rearing, is also helping to insure that the pigs are healthy and growing. Once the pigs have their first offspring, piglets will be given out to the most vulnerable households in each zone.

Pigs represent a big investment in Malawi, much more than a cup of coffee. This Pig Pass On Project, then, is a huge gift given to those in the community who need it most. The MAVISALO members realize they have received a great gift through SIA and they in turn are helping families with HIV/AIDS, widows, and orphan-led families to give them a chance to thrive.

How’s that for a story to remind us of goodness and generosity in the world?

More about MAVISALO:

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